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Best fit: HR advice to suit your business

2 July 2013

Karen is the director of a community education organisation. The size of the organisation prohibits having a full-time HR manager, but Karen has worked closely with an external HR consultant over a number of years to develop and implement solid people-management practices.

Here, she talks about the value of outsourcing her organisation's HR function.

We're a small organisation, with only around twenty-five employees at any one time. Most of my team is part-time (either three or four days per week), which adds some other complexities. From time to time, we've considered employing a dedicated HR advisor or manager, but with the size of the organisation, we really couldn't justify it.

We've been working with our external HR consultant, Chris, for about seven years now. Her involvement is mostly in developing our people-management strategy, devising processes and guiding us with any of the more complex day-to-day issues. We're fortunate that our finance manager and office manager both have a good depth of knowledge and experience in human resources so, with Chris's support, we can usually manage any situation effectively.

Chris has provided HR consulting to implement some key processes:

Recruitment processes. We wanted help to ensure our recruitment process was rigorous, efficient and legally compliant. Chris helped plan the process (preparing position descriptions, advertising the role, filtering the applications, interviewing and reference checking, preparing the offer). A key part of this was developing the forms and documents that support these processes. Chris's approach was to develop templates that could then be used in-house.

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Annual performance reviews. We were seeking a performance review process that would enable formal reviews every six months, while encouraging ongoing feedback throughout the year. I've seen other workplaces where the review process is too informal and unstructured – as a result, employees walk away not feeling like they have much direction and with little sense of how they're performing against expectations. We worked with Chris to develop a Personal Development Plan that mapped each employee's role to our strategic objectives. Staff complete a preliminary form at the start of the financial year, a status update midway through the year, and an end-of-year review. They meet with their line managers at each of these intervals to discuss their progress. We've refined the process over time, and it's working well.

Learning and development framework. As a small organisation, we need to think carefully about how to attract and retain the best employees. A key part of our offer is an excellent professional development plan. We dedicate a substantial part of our budget to ensuring employees can keep developing their skills while they're working here. To ensure this process is beneficial for both the staff and the organisation, Chris built learning and development into the performance review process. Employees are encouraged to identify learning needs related to their position description and the organisation's strategic objectives, and to then find courses or training programs that will help them develop new skills.

The support we've received from our consultant has been invaluable. In terms of our business model, it makes sense to utilise the services of an external consultant. It also means we have access to up-to-date HR advice, rather than relying on outdated internal systems that may have evolved over time.

It was somewhat daunting to begin with, handing over such an important part of our organisation's operations to an external provider, but it's become a collaborative process and it's a great opportunity for our internal team to learn from an expert in the field. I think many businesses could benefit from engaging a specialist HR consultant.

To assess the level of your HR function, take iHR Australia's HR Maturity Survey. The survey takes only a few minutes and can help you evaluate the level of performance and integration of the HR function within your organisation.  iHR Australia is a leading HR consulting firm and offers a range of services including on site and on call HR support services.  Call 1300 884 687 or make an online enquiry

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