Five Questions to Ask When Shopping For an HR Consultant

Eric Mochnacz
September 25, 2023

As your startup or small business grows, you reach a point where you need professional HR support.  However, you may not need a full-time HR professional. Rather, work with a strategic, outsourced HR consulting firm like Red Clover.  Partnering with an outsourced HR resource is a more cost-effective and practical solution for your small business. When your goal is to build a strong human resources foundation for your business, asking the right questions as part of the vetting process makes all the difference.  

1.) What is Your Experience? 

An effective HR consulting partner has length and breadth of experience.  Your assessment of their experience should be based on the amount of time they have worked in human resources and their experience across the different HR business functions. Depending on your business’s specific needs, you need to decide if you need a generalist or a specialist.  A generalist has high-level, general HR knowledge to apply to all aspects of the HR business function.  A specialist is the solution if you need someone to focus on specific HR subject areas like compensation, recruitment, or organizational restructuring.  Understanding your business’s specific needs helps ask the right questions to measure the experience of the HR consultants in consideration.  

2.) Will You Be the Only Person Working With Me? 

The size of the firm will dictate who you speak with as part of the initial sales process.  At some firms, you may speak with the consultant who will be assigned to you.  In other situations, you may speak with a member of the leadership team or a business development professional.  If you don’t meet your assigned resource during the sales call, a qualified, experienced HR consulting firm will have a client onboarding process where you will meet the team member(s) assigned to work with you.  One way to be confident in the resource that will be assigned to you, especially if you won’t have the opportunity to meet them in advance, is to ask about the company’s recruiting process, criteria for hire, onboarding structure, and learning and development programs.  Additionally, complete research in advance of your sales call to learn more about the firm and its people so you can be confident you’re in good hands, regardless of who you are assigned to work with.

At Red Clover, how we staff engagements is dictated by client needs and internal metrics.  If small businesses choose to work with us, they have a devoted lead consultant who manages the entire engagement but may be assigned an additional consultant to support specific pieces of the engagement.  And even then, your consultants have direct access to the expertise of the entire team should one of us experience something outside of our area of expertise.  

3.) Do You Work Onsite or Remotely? 

The debate between staying remote or mandating a return to office rages on.  Since an effective HR consultant serves as an integrated part of your team, it’s reasonable they be present to support your team, however your company defines presence.  Employees will expect their new HR partner to be accessible, and if you require your workforce to be present in the office, they will expect the same of the human resources.  Some companies decide to work with HR consultants to develop their philosophy and approach to in-office, remote, or hybrid work.  It’s important you select a consulting partner whose philosophy aligns with yours and understands the different legal, ethical, and compliance implications related to your approach to work location.  

4.) What Types of Clients Do You Typically Work With? 

Although human resources concepts have general applicability across all industries, there are consultants and consulting firms who have direct experience in specific industries or with specific workforces.  For example, there are HR consultants who have direct experience working with union workforces and understand the collective bargaining agreement process.  If you have a union workforce and are looking for HR consulting support, it’s critical you only vet individuals or firms with demonstrated union experience.  

Red Clover has proven experience in the construction and IT industries, but we work with a diverse population of clients across all industries.  We have a team of people who can pivot between engagements and apply HR expertise across all areas related to the employee lifecycle, ranging from onboarding, to compensation, to termination and everything in between.  If you’re a small business or start-up with a non-specialty workforce, working with an HR consulting firm with generalist experience (with some specialty areas) is the potential solution for your organization.  

There is a benefit to working with industry-specific consultants if your industry is hyper-specialized.  If you have very specific needs, clearly identify those needs through your due diligence process and confirm the firms you are vetting can meet those specialized requirements.  In this case, a generalist firm may not be the best resource, so focus your search on firms with direct, practical, demonstrated experience in your industry.

5.) What Services Are Included? 

The service and scope depend on a number of factors, again related to whether you’re looking for a generalist or specialist firm.  A generalist firm that offers full-service HR can manage the entire function and probably has experience across all aspects of the employment lifecycle.  There are other consultants and firms that focus on a specific area of human resources, like Recruitment Process Outsourcing or compensation.  Their scope is most likely limited to their specific specialty area.  Articulate your company’s needs clearly in your initial discussions so the proposal specifically addresses what is in or out of scope so you can be sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck and working with the right HR consultant for your company.

Now that we’ve prepared you with the right questions to ask, you’re ready to take the first step and give us a call and ask us these questions so we can be your proven, vetted HR consulting partner!

Photo Credit – Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

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