Human resources consultants ensure that an organization’s human capital serves the best interests of the company. By creating and developing a human resources model specific to the organizations that hire them, human resources consultants work to ensure that the company is effectively using its personnel to achieve its stated goals, while also ensuring the workforce is operating at a high level of productivity and efficiency.
HR consultants are generally called in to advise companies on a wide range of issues involving its workforce. For example, new companies may use their services to establish company policy and procedures and ensure they are complying with applicable laws regarding their employees, while in larger companies their services may involve establishing grievance mediation processes. In some cases, they may even go so far as to make recommendations for reorganizing a department’s leadership structure.
HR consultants, either independently or through a consulting firm, may be contracted to address specific issues, and remain on retainer until the issues are resolved. They may even be contracted to completely overhaul a company’s human capital, in which case their contract may extend anywhere from several months to more than a year.
Regardless of the reason for their consulting efforts, the goal is always the same: to leave the company with an efficient and productive HR department.
Human Resources Consultants: What Do They Do?
HR consultants must be adept in IT, accounting, sales, marketing, finance and, of course, human resource management as to fully understand issues and inefficiencies in human resources and how to remedy them.
Most HR consultants are educated and experienced HR generalists or specialists, as this type of HR career involves possessing a deep understanding of everything from organizational management to labor laws to equal opportunity employment and beyond.
Some HR consultants market themselves as generalists, thereby attracting smaller companies who may need basic services related to recruiting, hiring, benefits, performance management, and training. Other consultants may choose to market themselves as HR specialists and therefore offer more strategic services that are of importance to larger operations.
The job duties/responsibilities of HR consultants often include:
- Advising management on the administration of human resources policies and procedures
- Serving as internal consultants by analyzing a company’s current HR programs and recommending solutions
- Developing, revising, and implementing HR policies and procedures
- Ensuring HR programs and services are in compliance with established policies and procedures and state/federal laws and regulations
- Preparing and maintaining reports related to specific HR projects
- Assisting with the development and coordination of recommended changes regarding workflow
- Developing methods for compiling and analyzing data for reports and special projects
- Conducting audits of HR activities to ensure compliance
- Presenting training sessions related to specific HR programs
Desired Competencies for Today’s HR Consultants
In addition to possessing advanced business and human resources skills and knowledge, successful HR consultants must possess a number of competencies:
- Self-confidence: HR consultants must be sure of themselves if they are to impart their wisdom and know-how on others.
- Theoretical and practical knowledge: They must have the experience necessary to understand what solutions have worked in the past and about how to improve upon past mistakes.
- Ability to explain ideas and concepts in a simplified manner: HR consultants understand complex ideas in HR, but they must be able to simplify and explain problems and solutions in terms everyone can understand.
- Ability to improvise: Because organizations are always evolving and changing, HR consultants must be able to foresee and implement multiple solutions.
- Excellent listening skills: Before solutions can be discovered, problems need to be fully understood. Therefore, HR consultants must carefully listen to the needs of their clients as to implement solutions that address their specific needs.
- Trustworthy: HR consultants must be able to develop a strong relationship with their clients, and to do so they must display integrity as to build trust.
How to Become a Human Resources Consultant: Education and Certification
To be able to succeed in HR consulting, individuals must be armed with a solid education and plenty of experience. A career in HR consulting, therefore, typically begins with the completion of a bachelor’s degree in business administration, business management, finance, human resources, or a related field.
Because of the competitive nature of this business, however, it is common for HR consultants to advance their education through the completion of a master’s degree in a field related to human resources.
A popular pursuit has become the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resource Management, as it provides a foundation in not only HR-related topics, but in business concepts, as well, thereby preparing students to become versed in topics related to finance, leadership, marketing, and management, among others.
An MBA in HR Management provides students with a comprehensive course of study in areas such as:
- Human Relations
- Management Information Systems
- Human Resource Management
- Marketing Management
- Financial Management
- International Business Management
- Organizational Behavior
- Business Ethics
- Strategic Compensation
- Strategic Management
Professional certification for HR consultants is an excellent way for these HR professionals to set themselves apart from the competition and distinguish themselves as leaders in the profession.
These HR experts often seek professional certification focused specifically on the field of HR consulting:
- Human Resource Management Institute (HRMI)
- Certified Human Resources Consultant (CHRC)
- National Academy of Management Consultants (NAMC)
- Certified Resources Analyst, Human Resource Certification
Salary Data for Human Resources Consultants
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual, mean salary for consultants was $90,860, as of May 2014, thereby revealing that companies and organizations are willing to pay a premium for the services of qualified HR consultants. The top 10 percent in this profession earn more than $148,110, reports the BLS.
The top-paying states for business consultants, as of May 2014, were:
- New York: $102,420
- Massachusetts: $101,090
- Virginia: $101,040
- Maryland: $98,700
- Washington: $98,280