The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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Consulting Models

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I was actually asked by a client recently to increase the scope of my project – or at least the staffing model we were using.  There are a more than a few consulting models, but I think it generally boils down to a couple of easy examples.  There are differences in philosophy I suppose, and perhaps I just don’t understand one of them, but I also don’t understand why people are so willing to waste money.

Some of the large consulting firms are well known for hiring masses of kids right out of college.  These new associates are paid premium salaries (I think these positions go for between $55-65K now), and can bill in the neighborhood of $200+ per hour for management consultants and not quite so much for implementation work.  Their work is supposed to involve lots of learning on the job, but it’s well known that the first couple of years can typically involve carrying the bags for partners, getting the partners coffee, and being general gophers.  These firms are also known for staffing larger teams with a few of these newer associates.  I consider this to be a bit bloated.

The model of any firm I have ever been with is more typical of the HR space, but certainly most common with the smaller boutique firms.  The staffing in the HR consulting industry tends to be much leaner, with a small core team of experts, perhaps some mid level consultants, and nary a “newb” in sight.  I’ll admit that I miss having my assigned note taker who will record every letter of the conversation and then transcribe it into semi-meaningful documentation, but on the other hand, with a crisper model, every dollar paid is a high quality dollar.

When organizations go out to bid for HR technology consulting, sometimes procurement teams or IT staffs are in charge of the selection.  Procurement sometimes is persuaded by lower average bill rates and larger teams that come with the systems integrators.  IT is often more comfortable with the guys that implemented their ERP system.  Unfortunately, these vendors don’t always know HR or have the same level of subject matter expertise that the HR firms do.

I suppose this is an unintentional plug for HR consulting firms in general.  I’ve seen it work very well where we do the strategy work and partner with a systems integrator who does the implementation.  At the end of the day, there is no trading the level of deep subject matter expertise that HR consultancies have.  Large consultancies have incredible depth between HR and total rewards with deep compensation and benefits consulting practices.  Smaller boutiques have incredible depth in HR technologies and vendor knowledge.  Depending on what you need, you’ll always find a great answer in one of the HR firms.

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One response to “Consulting Models”

  1. Shaun Dunphy Avatar

    Thank you for a great article. I think you expressed the difference in consulting models very clearly and recognised the potential strengths of both. I’ve had the pleasure of working for both large and small consulting firms so in my career and would add that the larger consultancies have the advantage of deep internal networks such that knowledge, skills and experience can be rapidly located and reused for new clients. Balanced against that is the the fact that client-facing teams are almost always larger and includes too many “newbies” at the client’s expense. My concern with this model apart from the value for money (quantifiable benefits delivered against fees invoiced), is that larger consulting teams mean fewer roles for client staff and therefore fewer learning opportunities for the client.

    I firmly believe that we have a duty to enable knowledge transfer to the client whenever possible, and I think that small “boutique” consultancies are better placed to make this happen. This model more likely to be one of co-working to ensure the client has “hands on” experience of every stage of an HR project. That mean that next time around they are better informed as to whether they need consulting support and, if they do, how best to utilise it effectively to achieve a sustainable outcome.