Journey of an HR Consultant

by Ramon S. Medina, DPM

Graduates from a school environment who enter the real world of business try to “find his place in the sun”. During the early working days, the employee just wants to have something to do in an organization so he could say to everyone that he has work, earns a living and no longer depends on his parents. Many times, the first job is not the last one. In fact, the job that he first decided to accept may not be the same as his eventual profession.

Closer to home, let me share a typical example of individuals who are practitioners in Human Resources. As a Learner after graduating from school, the individual joins an organization and accepts work that be considered either Clerical or Transactional. He goes about doing the work assignment given. After work, the employee joins friends to unwind. Fast forward, the employee acquires experience and is ready to accept other work assignments which could be similar or totally different from his first job. No complaints so far from the employee who appears satisfied with the type and volume of his work. Depending on the individual view about the future, ideas about changing the nature of work enters the mind. Some would aim for a higher position in the same functional discipline in the organization like in Human Resources. This is the start of where the practitioner is aiming to develop adequate knowledge and skills. The preferred area of specialization could be in Recruitment, HR Operations like Employee or Labor Relations, Organization Development, Compensation and Benefits or Training. Here the individual begins as an Individual Contributor skilled in a specific area like knowledgeable in Job Evaluation or the conduct of Training programs.

Over the years, the employee gains more experience and hopes to be promoted to a higher position level in HR using his skills as Individual Contributor as base to widen his knowledge. Given the right opportunities, the employee is given another job- not the same but a similar one that is “homogenous to the first job. This process goes on and on until the employee reaches the Supervisory or Managerial level where he becomes recognized in the organization as the person who can handle the function of HR at levels acceptable to Management. Again fast forward. The employee stays with the organization but no longer as long as his predecessors who liked working with the same company for 30 or so years. Employees nowadays will not want to last this long in a company. Not with this generation. In fact during my corporate life many years back, i recall a brainstorming session we had with my staff of Managers on the topic of what type of recognition to give employees for their service years. We started with so many options like giving small plaques of Appreciation, gradually increasing its size for 10, 15 years of service. Then we said, give him a watch for 20 years and a golden watch for 25 years. When we were discussing what to give the employees with 30 years of service, one very young Manager said “Give them free Psychiatric Treatment”. We all laughed realizing that no employee at that time would have the patience to stay in the same company if the position of President/CEO or at the very least Sr. Vice President is not given. That is why you see more employees leaving organizations at a younger age than those Baby Boomers like this writer.

After the corporate life of an employee, the new search of what to do again re-enters the mind. Do I go abroad? Enjoy my retirement pay? Go back to the province? Or join my fellow colleagues who are “Retarded” as my very good friend Nonong Contreras says. Many of us who retired from gainful employment are asked this question – What do you intend to do now that you have enough provisions of life for yourself and family? We can’t stay in the house doing nothing! We were used for many years to wake up early in the morning to go to work whole day. We were wired to be on-the-go always. We can’t stay doing nothing but we all tried staying in the house at one point and it started to become a bit uncomfortable because there is a great tendency for us to “encroach” on the “space” of our loved ones, our Spouses. So, all of those who retired spend a lot of time in PMAP. Sometimes, even bothering employees in PMAP who are busy working just to past the time. Not fair to the employee nor to PMAP. But like birds, PMAP is our nest. The search to do something meaningful is still in our blood. We continue to say “We are Retired but not Tired, We are Resting but not Rusting” to borrow the words from a military Colonel who happened to be my late Father-in-law. To continue a productive life, the idea of doing Consulting work becomes a real alternative. What is consulting work?

Consulting work is giving EXPERT ADVICE! Plain and simple! Unlike a Coach who helps individuals realize that there are ways to facilitate the accomplishment of an objective or addressing challenges, issues and concerns of various types and forms. After retirement, the thought of going into consultancy was partly because we didn’t want to be idle. In the case of Nonong Contreras, Jimmy Isidro and myself, we decided to form a company, the HUMAN RESOURCE INNOVATIONS and SOLUTIONS, INC (HURIS for short). We wanted to share our vast experiences realizing that as Baby Boomers, our tribe is fast fading away and there is a need to develop the Next Generation of HR Professionals. We always say, it’s payback time to the HR profession that has been good to us and made us what we are today in the business community. Not long after, Ric Abadesco joined us in the company. We are starting to invite younger colleagues like Bobbie Laguitao. Back to consultancy – many HR Practitioners do help organizations about HR. Most often than not, they are referred to or addressed by their “clients” as Consultants! Of course, to the HR Practitioner there is usually no objection being referred to as Consultants. It’s an honor! The basic question to answer, is it appropriate to be called a Consultant just because we are helping organizations handle their HR functions? We could have very intense debate here for what will prevent a Practitioner from receiving professional fees and being referred to as the HR Consultant?

The job of a Consultant is one that needs to be treasured as a very important role an HR Professional does. The credibility of the Consultant of being an Expert needs to be protected at all times and the credibility of the HR profession and as well as that of PMAP as the INSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY in HR needs to be preserved. Many a times, Consultants in other fields provide advice to clients in areas they do not have functional expertise, taking a lot of risks that their views over such unfamiliar topics could erode whatever gains were achieved of their professional stature. During our deliberations in one of PMAP’s Society of Fellows (SOF) meetings, there was general agreement that there are different types of Consultants. There are those whose knowledge and skills are so good that when it comes to their field of specialization, they are tops. One can be a Consultant in the field of Compensation and Benefits, the others in Organization Development. It’s perfectly alright. The Consultant need not venture into Labor Relations if it is not his cup of tea. Whenever there are inquiries on such unfamiliar fields, the Consultant on CompenBen can always refer or provide expert advice to the client to see one of his colleagues who are the best in Labor Relations. This approach not only protects his credibility of giving expert advice but also shows the client he is a person who can be honest and humble about his field of expertise. After all, a Consultant is not assumed to be the “know-it-all” person. Very much like the medical profession, you have Doctors who specializes in cardiology, another in Urology or Neurology, or even a Brain surgeon. To know the field of specialization, an HR Practitioner may wish to have a reputable organization like the Society of Fellows, particularly, the Accreditation Council do a comprehensive assessment instead of relying on a self-assessment process that tends to be bias due to one’s ego preserving tendencies.

Looking at the above, it shows that the Consultant goes through a journey starting from deciding on the functional discipline to focus on, the knowledge and skills to acquire and develop, to developing a reputation that the quality of advice is not ordinary but one that exudes respect from peers, and maintaining a professional behavior that provides the confidence to clients that the Expert Advice given will yield the desired results for a given business situation.

Before ending this article, I would like to suggest to all would-be HR Consultants two of the most important points to reflect on:

1. Before engaging in the field of Consultancy, make sure you are VERY knowledgeable about ALL aspects of the field you intend to focus on. You have to be “grounded” so that when questions are raised about the subject, you can confidently give your views and have a batting average that no one can match as to its accuracy. Only the “battle-tested” Professional can have such a confidence level because “he has been there”, knows the “ins and outs” of the situation to the point that when he speaks, there is nothing more to say because “The Authority” has spoken!

2. Always practice the following tips as part of a Code of Business Ethics:

a. Area of Specialization – Confine yourself on your field of specialization. There is no point to risk the credibility you were able to establish over the years that made people realize that You are the “Go-to-Guy” on the subject.

b. Professional Fee – To quote a fee far above your level of expertise is improper if not morally wrong. This only gives the impression you want to make a killing out of a person who needs professional help.

c. Preserving Integrity – whenever you speak, be sure you have critical incidents to back it up. Otherwise, you can be seen as a fellow who does not speak the truth just to get paid a professional fee. Equally important, be sure to provide added value whenever your views are sought to be given.

d. Working Style – Always be early during scheduled meetings with the client. Do not let the client wait for you. This gives the impression that you are indispensable. You may just get the surprise of your life!

e. For a co-Consultant, make sure that when you are referred to a client by another Consultant, thank the Referror and NEVER accept the offer of the client for another job without seeking clearance from the Consultant who referred you to the client. The Consultant who was referred should provide the Client with a high quality output to maintain the credibility of the HR profession in general, and the credibility of the Consultant in particular.

Finally, the role of the Consultant is most important for any profession as it provides opportunities to those who seek help to avail of a service without getting themselves into a situation that no added-value was received for the professional fee given to the Consultant. Make the client feel that it was well-worth the extra expense. In this way, clients will be the ones who will speak well about the value they received which helped their organization grow and achieve their broad business objectives. When this happens, the contribution made by the Consultant will be remembered and will remain as a trademark to the HR profession.

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