Human resources consulting can refer to a number of professional functions. The first that comes to mind is the professional recruiting firms, or “headhunters.” These consultants work from one side of the field or the other: they are either paid by a business to fill a specific slot or they are paid by unemployed individuals to help with the resume, the interview skills, the job market targeting and with specific interview opportunities. Recruiters will tell you that the internet has made random forwarding of resumes and cover letters relatively meaningless. That is not always true, if your experience and skills closely match the job description AND if the business is not a monolith where every one hundredth resume is actually scanned.
That is one form of human resource consulting. There are human resource consulting firms that provide some or all of a company’s human resource functions on an outsourced basis. The most radical example of this is the full service consulting firm that will find the employees, actually hire them and handle all payroll, benefits, tax withholding responsibilities and other employee issues as an outsourced service. The business pays a negotiated fee for this service and for the employees who come with it, avoiding responsibilities for payroll, benefits, tax withholding, hiring and firing, and so forth.
Human resource consultants will also contract with a company to do an analysis of the company’s business functions and personnel assets. They may develop a reorganization plan that is designed to maximize company efficiency and personnel use. As this may well involve layoffs, the consulting firm will also handle personnel separation, management briefing and change management. In this scenario, the human resources consulting firm is executing an entire functional realignment of the business.
There are human resource consultants who are experts in collective bargaining. They will do an analysis of wage scale and benefits for the business and the industry in general. If possible, they may try to create a salary structure that provides classification and equity along the lines of civil service rankings. Part of this planning process would involve developing detailed job descriptions.
Often, hiring practices in traditional companies can get out of hand when a department manager requests additional help and provides a vague job description with no salary level attached to it. As firms grow, it is important to try and standardize hiring practices. Human resource consultants can accomplish that in a single stroke through a company-wide analysis, report and reorganization. The reorganization may simply mean title changes and moving a few personnel and their assignments around between departments. But of necessity, as businesses grow they lose their personalized character that they perhaps began with when the doors first opened.
Human resource consulting can be a fascinating field. Walking into a work environment with a license to make it better is a real challenge. It can also be a potentially explosive situation, requiring substantial personal skills to go with the organizational tools that the consultant was handed in school.