What questions should I ask a Consultant before hiring them for Fractional HR work? 

Human Resources has become a strategic component of any business. As startup and scale-up organizations are expanding, it may be necessary to consider a fractional consultant in lieu of a full-time hire. Additionally, consultants can be a great addition to an existing team in order to temporarily increase capacity for a specific need or for a surge period in the business. Below are some considerations when selecting the right fit consultant for your organization:  

What goals are you trying to achieve? 

Consider whether your needs are more strategic or tactical in nature and choose an appropriate resource. Ask questions related to who the actual point of contact will be (request an interview with that person) and what support staff is available to assist as needed. In general, consulting firms will have a deeper bench of expertise than a single-person consultancy but you will also be likely to get more direct attention from a direct consultant. While tactical skills may be important to the work needed day to day, a good HR Consultant should also think strategically. They should be able to align Talent & HR initiatives with the key strategic business goals as well as provide insights into long-term workforce and HR planning.  

As you evaluate the resource you will be assigned or the individual Consultant, ask the following to determine qualifications: 

  • How many years of HR experience? 
  • What industries and types of positions have been supported? 
  • Which areas of HR are they most proficient in: Talent Acquisition, HRIS, Onboarding, Employee Relations, Performance Management, Total Rewards (Compensation & Benefits), Compliance, Strategic HR, Employee Engagement, or Learning & Development?
  • How do they keep up to date with changing regulations and HR practices? 
  • What types of outcomes have been achieved for similar organizations? 
  • How much time and at what times will the Consultant be available to the Leaders and employees? 
  • What standard service level commitments are part of the vendor relationship? 
  • What costs and timelines are associated to the proposal? 

Once you have vetted the core qualifications above and matched them to the needs you have, you’ll want to consider additional criteria such as:  

How will the consultant impact the culture you are building within your company? 

  • HR often sets the example for how people work and communicate in the organization. If your fractional HR contact is not aligned to company values, it is likely not a good fit.  
  • Does the communication style in the vetting and selection process align well to the key leaders and employees they will be supporting? 
  • As this Consultant may be delivering policies and procedures, it is critical that the style of HR advice is aligned to the goals of the organization. Use hypothetical, behavioral questions to determine this: 
  • If an employee was late to work more than 1 time each week, how would you recommend a leader address the issue? 
  • An employee has not completed their open enrollment information and the deadline is quickly approaching, how would you address the situation? 
  • A leader is accused of creating a hostile work environment by a team member who leaves an anonymous complaint, what would you do next?  

Finally, ask for references from past clients who have worked directly with your assigned contact and then request information on the following: 

  • How did the Consultant perform against assigned MBOs (Management Business Objectives)? 
  • Did the Consultant meet agreed upon timelines and budgets consistently? If not, how were misses managed and communicated?  
  • What areas of expertise within overall business acumen and Human Resources or Talent Management did you benefit from during the engagement? 
  • What do you wish you had known prior to engaging this Consultant to make the engagement even more impactful? 
  • Were service level agreements adhered to consistently? 
  • How did the Consultant handle confidentiality and sensitive issues within the company including protection of private data? 

Once you’ve vetted a few Consultants against these core criteria, you’re ready to move forward. Set clear expectations and ensure that all commitments, timelines, service level agreements, and costs are delineated in writing and signed by both parties. While cost and timeline will always be critical factors in selection, communication style, core qualifications, and cultural alignment should be your most important criteria as you hire a fractional HR Consultant.  

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