If you are looking to trust someone with your HR, you trust them with two important things – your business and your people! It has become increasingly popular to outsource your HR (or to engage a Company rather than having your own HR Manager, for example). This is often a very good idea as it is cost-effective and enables you to get on and run your business with confidence. It is also a good idea as this area of business is constantly changing. However, BEFORE you do this it is worth asking some questions…

Is the person you are working with professionally qualified?

If you are entrusting such an important thing it makes sense to make sure that the person you work with is professionally qualified. Clearly there is the issue that they have done the necessary training and they have PROVEN it but also that they are bound by the professional code. If you engage a big Company and they give you access to a “telephone help-line”; how do you know the person you are speaking with is qualified to help you? Would you work with un-qualified accountant or lawyer – why do this with your HR consultant?

Does the person have a broad skills and knowledge base?

Many HR consultants come from industry and many have worked in big HR departments. This means that they have good skills, but it is worth checking out whether they have experienced a broad array of HR matters? Some, for example, have spent much time dealing with traditional recruitment matters like recruitment (because the business may have 100’s of employees with a high turnover). It is a good idea checking whether they have experienced most if not all areas of HR?

Does your HR consultant keep himself/herself up to date- continuous professional development?

It is normal practice that all professionals are required to continually develop their skills and knowledge- has your consultant done this and how?

Do they have experience of working with businesses of different sizes and types?

You may be a small business (maybe even a micro business). You may be fall into the category of an “SME” and employ up to 250 staff. Whatever size of business you are, you should check whether your HR consultant has experience in businesses of different sizes: many things within different businesses remain the same but many things can be different. In a bigger business there may be many more managers taking responsibility but in a smaller business, it is often the “owner manager” who must wear different hats- has your consultant worked with these different types of challenges? So, has he or she worked with different types; let’s face it an engineering company will have some similarities with a hairdresser (for example) but many differences. Finally, if you are a family business, check if they have experience working in that area- family businesses do face up to specific HR challenges, not least of which could be ensuring ALL employees are treated the same!

Do they have any specific experience/qualifications in employment law?

OK you may say “we are looking for an HR consultant not an employment lawyer…” BUT if we had a “top ten” of issues within business when dealing with staff, employment law problems and concerns would fill most of this list! It is important that your consultant can navigate this difficult area with confidence

Do you get a “trusted adviser” or are you getting a help-line?

A help-line is, by definition, helpful or it should be but is that good enough for you? OK so you don’t want to be spending hours or days talking to someone about your employee issues but when you do, would you prefer to talk to the same person each time? If yes, you need a named adviser; a bit like the bank giving you your own Account Manager or probably more accurately, having your own accountant. An employee problem is often stressful; after all we are not dealing with machines so when you need help, do you really want to be speaking to someone with whom you haven’t spoken before? Of course, this doesn’t mean they aren’t competent, but they don’t know you and your business – if you want more personalised support you need a “trusted adviser”.

Are you kept up to date?

Employment changes- fast! It is more important than ever that you keep your processes,systems and skills up to date as the adage “ignorance is no defence” certainly applies. Before you engage any supplier,check how they keep you up to date (assuming they do) and how they do this? Before forewarned is forearmed. Just reflect on the changes we have seen in recent times- changes to discipline and grievance, changes affecting contracts, flexible working, shared parental leave, holidays and paying overtime, BIG changes around data protection and,of course, Brexit….this is just a sample. Have you been made aware of any of these and if not, are you sure you comply or could you be facing up to a claim?

Do they provide training?

It is essential that all those working with employees have the right skills and knowledge. There are all sorts of reasons for this but the main one is that, if you are entrusting the management of your most important (and costly) resource to your managers, you should ensure they know how to do things correctly. Failure to follow correct procedures when handling staff matters can lead you into an Employment Tribunal and the “it was my manager who did it wrong” will not hold water… you will be expected to show that you have attempted to do everything you can. It is also good business sense; your people are your most costly resource, you should want to get a return on that investment…. training will help with this. Is your provider able to deliver focused, certified training which will help in this area?

Do your employees know more than you?

This is not about whether which HR provider you choose but one of the reasons you may choose to use one in the end. Information (these days) is easily available and on many occasions employees will research “their rights” and in many cases try to use their knowledge against you. Often,they may be armed with correct information but often it is incorrect but how do you know this? Having a “trusted adviser” onside gives you much more power in these situations and that “peace of mind” is the biggest reason why you would engage one. It isn’t about creating a “them and us” culture; more about surrounding yourself with quick easy and accurate sources of information and guidance: one final thought, would a “help-line” really give you that?