When you engage an HR consultant, you expect them to take your human resources headaches and challenges off your hands. In the process, an ideal HR expert will help take your business to the next level. But what are the qualities they need to do this?

We’ve identified six key characteristics we think an outsourced HR consultancy should always have.

HR quality 1: Commerciality

Probably the most important characteristic of any HR consultant is commerciality. In business, time and money are everything. Your HR consultant needs to be able to assess risks, limit costs and make accurate calls quickly and decisively. They need to be able to understand your bottom line so they use their judgement to make effective commercial decisions. That never means acting unethically or breaching the law. Even putting the morality of this aside, the commercial risk of doing so is far too great. But it does mean being able to weigh up the pros and cons of different HR strategies and then having the judgement to choose the one that delivers the best long-term financial outcome.

HR quality 2: Leverage

An effective HR consultancy isn’t just one person. Nor is it simply a group of senior human resources practitioners who charge high rates and only want to be involved in the strategic decisions your business make. I think a good HR consultancy should consist of a team of HR professionals who operate across all levels of the business. They should have the capacity to perform every one of the HR functions you don’t have in-house – from the strategic to the administrative and from the day-to-day to the once-off projects. I say this because every business has different human resource needs. In fact, even the same business’ HR needs will change from time-to-time. Any HR consultancy you engage should be able to account for this and should have the in-house skills, expertise and experience to deliver what’s in your best interests, no matter what they are or how they evolve.

HR quality 3: The human touch

Believe it or not, the clue is the name: human resources is about humans, not just numbers. Every HR decision you make will directly impact on people in your workplace. In that sense, it’s unlike any other of your commercial functions. I think that means your HR consultants should be human too. They should understand the workplace culture, and know how to treat people tactfully, sensitively and with empathy. They should have the experience and astuteness to know what makes people tick and what they need to do to motivate them or change their behaviour. And they should be able to bring people into their confidence without ever being unprofessional.These are qualities you simply can’t – and won’t – get from off-the-shelf and highly automated HR solutions and one of the reasons why it’s always worth paying for a professional HR consultancy.

HR quality 4: Flexibility

The one constant about business is that there are no constants: your strategy and ambitions get modified, customers or clients come and go, staff turn over, new markets open up, new roles are created and the opportunities and risks vary and evolve. An effective HR consultant knows this and can change and grow with your business.I think the best way they can achieve this is by choosing an HR consultant that’s neither too small to cope with change nor too large to be nimble. Putting it another way, they should be small enough to know your business intimately but large enough to have all the skills and knowledge they need to serve you as you change.

HR quality 5: Curiosity

Speaking of which, I think a good HR consultant should be staffed by a team of forward-looking, curious and engaged people who are genuinely interested in and motivated by what they do and are prepared to keep learning. The field of HR changes all the time and your advisers need to be the ones who keep up with it.
But I think their curiosity should extend beyond just their individual area of expertise. They should also be curious about both business and the world around us more generally. That way they’ll be able to frame any advice they give in a broader context rather than solely within the confines of human resources.

HR quality 6: Collaboration

The final vital skill your HR consultant should have is the ability to collaborate. They should act as a true business partner – someone who gets where you’re coming from and helps you achieve it. This means understanding your vision for the business and working out what they can do to make sure it happens. It also means listening to your concerns and challenges and responding to help you overcome them. But as a true partner, your HR consultant should also be thinking about what they can do to proactively help your business, whether that’s in introducing new efficiencies, helping you stay on top of risks or being one step ahead of the changing regulatory landscape. In short, it means seeing themselves as an integral part of your team and understanding that your future and their future are intertwined.

Are you ready to find your HR consultant?

If your HR partner has these six qualities, they can help drive your business forward so that your staff are productive, your risks are managed, your costs are kept down and your goals are met. Catalina Consulting is a professional HR Consulting firm, offering a wide range of services including custom HR solutions. If you would like to know how we can help you take your business to the next level, get in touch today.