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Written by Anita Patton, Director of HR at C&A Benefits Group, LLC

It is not uncommon for a small independently owned and operated business to limit the number of management level employees it hires in order to reduce payroll and other expenditures. This decision is usually driven by sound business reasoning and financial necessity.

Often times, small business owners are great at assessing the operational needs of their companies (staffing, equipment, inventory, supplies) since these elements have an obvious link to the all to precious bottom line of their organizations.

However, the one FATAL FLAW most small business owners make is failing to factor in the importance and value of great human resource support as a critical need for the business. The monetary impact that HR consulting contributes cannot always be measured in direct dollars added to profits but rather for the dollars we prevent from being deducted from profits due to poorly managed employee situations or legal non-compliance.

The current pandemic has been instrumental in demonstrating how a lack of guidance in this area can paralyze key decision-makers and delay time sensitive responses to unexpected business and employee issues.

As business owners look ahead to the coming months, it is never too late to add expert HR support to the business plan.

If you are thinking about contracting with an HR provider I would like to recommend……Key Questions you should ask a potential HR partner before you sign on the dotted line.

  1. What is your HR experience and specific HR credentials?

What you want to hear…… The individual should be able to relay multiple years of experience in the HR profession (5+ years) supported with a degree and/or specialized HR certification; such as those provided by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or The Human Resource Certification Institute.

  1. What experience do you have in supporting small business entities?

What you want to hear…… The individual should be able to speak to the unique challenges of a small business; such as limited financial resources, limited access to competitive services, limited access to legislative updates and  compliance requirements, staffing and retention needs.

  1. How can you help me and my business?

What you want to hear…… He/she should be able to clearly define how they will assess the current HR status and future needs of your business. Great consulting begins with a process of gathering detailed information in order to formulate the best strategy for your business.

  1. What services are included in your fee and what services will be an additional charge?

What you want to hear…… You will want to have an idea of the essential HR services you would like to have and conversely, those which can be optional or negotiable as part of the service fee. Review a list of C&As HR services.

  1. What other services can you provide besides basic HR consulting?

What you want to hear…… Contracting with an HR provider than can offer additional services such as benefits management, payroll processing, applicant tracking and paperless new hire onboarding, may allow  you to leverage discounted pricing by bundling more than one service.  It may also allow you and your employees to have one point of contact for multiple services.

  1. Will I have one specific HR contact, or will my requests be handled by multiple individuals?

What you want to hear…… Some HR service providers can provide consulting support but will do so using a call center format. This means you will often speak to a variety of HR professionals who will not have detailed knowledge about you or your people. Search for a provider that will offer you the ability to have one specific HR advisor. This is the first step to forming a long-term, trusting relationship with an HR partner that will be invested in getting to know you and understanding the needs of your company.

  1. Do you have customized pricing options to meet my specific needs?

What you want to hear…… The best HR providers will have more than one fee and services structure because they realize that one size does not fit all. As with all major purchases, shop for the best value and expertise that you can afford.

  1. What makes your company unique in the HR services industry?

What you want to hear…… The HR industry is no different that any other business segment, in that the art of the sell is alive and well. The potential provider should describe specific characteristics or functions that differentiate their organization from the competition. But buyer beware! Don’t just take them at their word. Request references from current clients, research the company on the internet (including social networking sites) and ask your peers and business contacts to share any information they may have about the potential provider. Make a list of the services that are important to you (i.e. exceptional customer service, convenience, ease of use, accessibility) and be diligent about seeking the right HR partner for your business.