As your workforce grows, so does the work associated with HR. Savvy business owners know they can’t do it alone. So they get HR support without the cost of a full-time employee with “HR a la cart.” Over the summer, a number of new and existing clients signed up for this service.

Here’s what you need to know if you are looking for part-time HR support.

What is HR “a la carte”?

First, the definition. HR “a la carte” is synonymous with HR on retainer or part-time HR. Initially, the support will be remote via phone and video conference. If the work grows significantly, HR consultants might consider coming on site for part of the week.

In essence, HR on retainer is a contract which gives access to professional HR for a set number of hours (e.g. 20 hours) or a length of time. For example, the HR Helpline started by Karolynn Saint Pierre of Symmetry Consulting, offers HR support for a monthly subscription fee. Usage is unlimited as long as the fee is paid. “It ebbs and flows,” says Karolyn. A client will have a difficult situation and be on the phone every day. Once the problem is resolved, it dies down and we don’t hear from them for several months.”

Benefits of HR on Retainer

  • You get broad professional expertise. In home care and home health, the caregiver crisis requires not only knowledge of recruitment but also of retention. Filling the barrel is important but you also want to plug the holes! 
  • You have someone in your corner who knows your business. This benefit becomes apparent when there is a crisis such as an employee termination or workplace allegations of discrimination. Your HR consultant on retainer is not a “hired gun” but part of your extended web of relationships. You just have to make a call to get a supportive and experienced partner.  
  • It can be a form of insurance. Karolynn Saint Pierre was able to work with the Department of Labor auditor to drop additional penalties because the agency was working with a bonafide HR consultant. This gave the auditor confidence that te agency would address their questionable pay practices.
  • You pay for what you need. Small businesses are cost conscious. HR consultants work as independent contractors. They charge the hours spent working for you. So you don’t have W-2 and the associated payroll costs. You don’t carry the consultant’s overhead costs.
  • The retainer fee is good value. Professional consulting fees can be high. When a retainer contract is established, the hourly rate is discounted to reflect a commitment over time, generally a year. If you anticipate needing advice from an HR professional in the next year, considering a retainer contract makes a lot of financial sense.

How does it work?

In collaboration with the client, we determine what work needs to off-loaded, what type of expertise is involved, how many hours will be required. 
Clients are in the driver’s seat. They decide how to use their contracted hours. Some like to have scheduled monthly calls. Others use their HR hours for when the need arises to write a new policy or review job descriptions.

How long does the contract last?

Most contracts start with an annual commitment and a renewal option. It can be tough to project future needs. That’s why I usually suggest an initial contract of 12 hours. This represents an average of 1 hour per month over a year. It’s a reasonable starting point for the retainer relationship. As the business grows, the HR contract is adjusted or can be extended.

If you need professional HR advice, contact me and see if HR a la carte makes sense for your business.