An overview of the rewards, challenges, and benefits to employers of being an HR consultant

Practicing human resources as an HR consultant is significantly different than being an in-house HR practitioner. If you’re considering making that transition, it’s important to understand those differences, including what makes it rewarding and beneficial, but also its challenges. Jouta has been in the HR consulting business for nearly 15 years, with some of our consultants having been with us for 10 years or more. To help provide perspective on the pros and cons of being an HR consultant, we asked each of our consultants to answer the following questions.

What are the most rewarding aspects of being an HR consultant?

HR consulting as a career can be rewarding in several ways:  

  • Being involved in projects from start to finish
  • Seeing the impact of the work we’ve done and/or facilitated
  • Building relationships with a diverse range of individuals and teams
  • Collaborating with clients in a partnership – combining what they know with what we know to create HR tools that support their unique businesses and organizations
  • Developing/implementing creative and innovative solutions
  • Coming across unique HR situations, which leads to continuous growth and learning
  • Being repeatedly challenged to reach out of our comfort zones
  • Diversity and variety of clients, employees, and projects
  • The flexibility and balance that goes hand-in-hand with project-oriented work

What are some of the challenges of being an HR consultant?

As with any career choice, along with the rewards, there are challenges:

  • Juggling a number of different clients at once
  • Meeting timelines with competing priorities
  • Getting projects back on track when client priorities, and/or circumstances out of their control, arise (e.g., COVID-19, changes in leadership)
  • Quickly getting to know the client, their industry, and their culture
  • Not having the ability to put things off; if you commit to delivering something at a given time, you need to get it done
  • Feast or famine – With the concern of not having enough work in the future, it can be easy to take on too much in the present
  • Unless you work with a team, it can be challenging (if not impossible) to have all the necessary knowledge to address the inevitable unknowns

How can you overcome or minimize the challenges of being an HR consultant?

The good news is that there are things you can do to help address some of the challenges:

  • Hone your project and time management skills
  • Take advantage of tools and apps
  • Set achievable milestones for larger projects to avoid feeling overwhelmed
  • Clarify with clients at the outset how you/they will stay on track (e.g., commit to timelines, and build in where they need to provide input and be available for meetings, etc.)
  • Do what you can to understand your client in advance (online research, website, social media), and prepare questions prior to your first meeting
  • Know that although you will build long-term relationships with some clients, at other times, it’s for a brief season and the relationship ends when the project does
  • Work with a team of consultants, rather than independently, so you can share the workload, and draw on one another’s knowledge and experience

What are the benefits to employers of outsourcing to an HR consultant?

It is also important to consider whether becoming an HR consultant is a good choice from an employer-demand and associated financial perspective. There are many ways employers can benefit from engaging an HR consultant or HR consulting firm, including:

  • HR consultants have a broad and diverse range of experience in a variety of organizations
  • HR consultants provide just-in-time, focused HR support
  • Outsourced HR consultants aren’t immersed in the day-to-day minutia of the organization, and can generally focus/deliver projects much more quickly than in-house HR staff can  
  • HR consultants bring the right level of expertise for the need
  • Depending on the need and HR consulting firm chosen, employers may get the benefit of the knowledge, experience, and creativity of an entire team
  • Employers pay only for what they need, when they need it
  • HR consultants can provide support, mentoring, and coaching for in-house HR teams and management, helping build capacity for the organization

As a team of experienced HR consultants, there’s no question that we enjoy what we do, and are driven, in part, by the powerful impact we can make. The rewards can be endless if you learn how to effectively manage the challenges.

If you have further questions about becoming an HR consultant, feel free to reach out to Jouta!