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What to expect from a qualified HR consultancy and how to choose the right one for your small business.

Your business is growing and you feel great about it, but with every new staff member you find your desk drowning in more paperwork and your inbox clogging up with even more emails.  You have more holiday requests to manage, more sickness and absence to record, more staff files to put somewhere safely; and you have staff needing your help left, right and centre.

The ‘look into HR support’ entry on your to do list is nagging away at you. You simply must get to it soon, but where do you find good HR support and how will you know when an HR consultancy is right for your business?

At citrusHR we speak to many prospective clients who are a little at sea and don’t really know exactly what they need from an HR consultancy when they first speak to us. Usually the only thing they know for sure, is that they need some form of HR help, pretty swiftly. And nine times out of ten this is because the lack of HR support in their business to date has meant they have a pressing issue to deal with.

We’ve compiled this guide to help you ask the right questions when looking a qualified HR consultant so you can be ahead of the game and get the HR support you need, before an issue arises.

8 things every small business should look for in an HR consultancy…

1.          They understand small business

First and foremost, as a small business you need HR consultants who understand the details of running a small business, which really does vary a lot from working in a corporate firm. A great number of HR consultants gained their HR experience working in a corporate HR department. This doesn’t necessarily prepare them for the very different world of small business HR.

We advise checking that the HR consultants who will be looking after your business have practical experience working in a small business. You might also like to check if they’ve worked in your industry and even ask for references from the businesses they’ve worked in.

2.          They’re qualified members of the CIPD

The CIPD is the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development and is the governing body for HR professionals. By using an HR Consultant who is a Chartered Member of the CIPD, you can be reassured that they have the required skills and experience. The simplest way to check this is to ask for a copy of their membership certificate, which should be less than a year old.

3.          They are on hand to help when you need them

Much of the time an HR consultancy is called on when a business hits a problem that they can’t handle alone, and much of the time, an HR service is peace of mind that they are there if and when you need them. So when a prospective HR consultancy or service say they’re “just a phone call away”, make sure they really are.

You want to know that in an emergency you can get straight through to a qualified consultant. Not a call centre. Not an admin person. But someone who can give you qualified advice.

One way to see how responsive a prospective HR consultant is, is to see how quickly they get back to you when you first get in touch. And on the off chance you can’t get through first time you should expect them to ring you right back to help.

4.          They offer a full HR service

We recommend looking for an HR consultancy who can help with things that aren’t necessarily related to employment law. Such as recruitment, training and health and safety. And, if they can’t do that, see if they have a network of professionals at their finger-tips that they can put you in touch with.

5.          They offer pragmatic, real-world solutions

A poor HR consultant will simply quote employment law at you when faced with a problem. Employment legalese is not only unhelpful, but is potentially dangerous if you misunderstand what they are saying.

A good HR consultant will put the employment law and the solution to your problem in plain English and explain exactly what you need to do without confusing you.

Test this out by asking a question about a recent change in employment law, such as the National Living Wage or their thoughts on the Brexit effect on employment law. You’d expect a proficient HR consultant to have an informed opinion and draw on their experience to demonstrate how employment law rules actually apply in practice. This is where an HR consultant with experience working in small businesses will really stand out.

6.          They’re honest with you

This may be hard to ascertain at the get-go. So seeking references and hitting it off with the HR consultant are both good indicators of an open future relationship.

You are looking for an HR consultant who will tell you if you’ve done something wrong and are about to breach employment law. Many small business owners are head strong and the easiest course of action for an HR consultant is to agree with you and tell you what you want to hear so that they stay in your good books. But if it lands you in an expensive tribunal further down the line, you will be a lot worse off, and it won’t be their fault, it will be yours.

So make sure you don’t hire a “yes-man”.

7.          They focus not just on the employer, but the employee too

Similarly, try to check that the consultants are invested in your whole business and they don’t just think about you – the employer – but your employees too. Sometimes what appears to be best for your business may not benefit your employees, and could come with all sorts of repercussions you may not have thought of.

When an HR consultant offers you advice, they should be clear as to the potential risk of each course of action, both for you and your employees, so you make any decision armed with all the details.

8.          They love what they do

As with any part of your business, you want passionate people who love what they do working for you. It’s no different when you outsource something. Especially HR consultancy.

Can you tell if the person you are talking to about outsourcing your HR is really passionate about it? Or do they sound like they are simply going through the motions?

How to choose an HR consultancy

There’s a lot to think about when finding an HR consultant who is likely to be a good fit for your business. It’s never one-size fits all when you are dealing with people. We know from our experience at citrusHR, that we are really right for some businesses, and not right for others. Hopefully this blog provides you with some food for thought when it comes to choosing the right HR consultant. And remember, there are HR services that offer more than just consultancy, as we do. Here’s some more info on the questions you can be asking when looking for the right HR software for you and your small business, if you think you need to save time on HR admin with HR software in addition to HR consultancy.

You can find out more about our team of qualified HR consultants right here, or get in touch on 0333 014 3888 or via  We welcome the opportunity to discuss whether our HR consultancy and service is a good fit for your business.


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