What does an HR consultant do?
An HR Consultant is an external (to the organisation) HR professional who is brought in to a business on an interim basis to help with something – be that a project, maternity leave cover, cover for a role that’s hard to fill, or just extra cover during a busy period.
HR Consultants will have enough experience behind them that they can come in and hit the ground running – that is, with no formal induction or training. They simply roll up their sleeves and get started on the task at hand.
What’s more, if the Consultant works for a consultancy like Hunter Adams then they will have access to its back office and a full range of templates and precedents, not to mention a strong network of experienced colleagues.
How do I become a self-employed HR consultant?
To become a self-employed HR consultant you first need to have some in-house HR experience under your belt. That’s not to say all HR consultants have years upon years of experience or are incredibly senior; but if you’re going to be going into businesses and advising them on HR you should ideally have some broad generalist experience behind you.
Once you have the necessary experience and you decide you want to be self-employed – great. Go for it – what an exciting step to take. However the thing you need to consider carefully is – how will you find your clients. Unless you are very, very experienced with a long career’s worth of contacts behind you; you may struggle as a one-man-band. It’s not impossible, but you will need to consider things such as marketing, administration and finance if you’re working for yourself.
What many HR consultants opt to do however is work as an employee of an HR consultancy. This means they get all the variety and experience of consulting but without any of the stress of trying to line up their own work. They can simply rely on the reputation of the consulting company to ensure they always have an assignment on the go, and on the odd occasion where they don’t; they can support the internal project team until their next assignment comes along.
At Hunter Adams this is how we work. We directly employ around 30 of our HR consultants, so they are our staff. This means our clients can rest assured that their assignment will be completed as the consultant is not looking for work whilst working for them. It also means we really get to know our consultants and can ensure the assignments they take on are a good fit for them and vice versa.
In addition to our staff consultants, we also have an extensive network of associate consultants (who are self-employed). These tend to be more senior / experienced HR professionals, and whilst they are technically self-employed, they work for us under the Hunter Adams brand. Like our staff however, we tend to know our associates very well having worked with them many times
How can you become a career HR consultant?
As outlined above, if you have enough experience behind you then you can certainly become a career HR consultant. This essentially means you would never work permanently in-house. Rather, you’d undertake a series of interim / fixed-term assignments for different organisations.
Self-employed Consultants can earn more than employees, but with this increased income also comes the responsibility of invoicing clients (and waiting for payment), arranging tax payments, national insurance contributions and pension contributions, and – most importantly – sourcing clients and assignments through marketing and business development.
What makes a good HR consultant?
A good HR consultant should have enough experience behind them so that nothing they come across is completely new to them. They should have a solid generalist experience, as well as considerable specialist experience if they are going into an organisation to undertake a specialist assignment (for instance this could be in Reward, Diversity and Inclusion, or Learning and Development).
A good consultant will have worked in enough organisations to be able to hit the ground running in any organisation – the client is not paying them to find their feet, they have a job that needs doing.
As with any HR professional, a good consultant should be a people person who can quickly develop relationships with stakeholders at all levels across the organisation. They should be empathetic and approachable with excellent communication skills.