Jennifer Currence, president of OnCore Management Solutions LLC and founder of OnCore Academy, got some telling responses after she asked her LinkedIn connections what immediately comes to mind when they think of the word "consulting." One of the answers was "change is coming"; another was, simply, "expensive." In her book Mastering Consultation as an HR Practitioner (SHRM, 2018), Currence, who holds a SHRM-SCP, explains how HR professionals can seamlessly incorporate a consultative approach into their work and thus effectively develop, implement and sustain positive change in the workplace—no expensive external consultant required.
Like the other books in the SHRM Competency Series, this slim and straightforward volume focuses on HR professionals at small businesses and provides guidance specifically tailored to their workplace environment.
"All areas of HR can benefit from a consultative approach," Currence writes, and "all areas of the organization can benefit from HR's consultation." Her plan for utilizing a consultative approach within the HR profession involves five steps:
Understand the business environment. This involves a critical evaluation of both the internal environment—what Currence refers to as the "life cycle of the business"—and the external business environment, meaning the situational position of your business within the broader landscape of the business world and in comparison with your competitors.
Define your customers and their needs. Before any business challenge can be fully addressed, it is crucial to understand how the issue is affecting each stakeholder—and how any potential solutions could impact them as well. According to Currence, for HR professionals acting as internal consultants, the stakeholders in any particular workplace issue could include:
--Company owners or shareholders.
--The board of directors.
--The executive team.
Create new HR solutions. Currence defines a specific process for creating new HR solutions through a consulting lens by:
--Defining the purpose. In other words, know the end goal.
--Generating ideas. "The best way to use your expertise is to gather other experts for a brainstorming session, then apply your HR knowledge, experience and critical thinking skills to the ideas that the group generates," Currence writes.
--Involving your customers. Ask for feedback and even foster healthy dissent.
--Creating a plan. Map out a checklist, outline or Gantt chart. "All implementation plans should have the specific and measurable action item (or milestone), the time frame as to when it should be completed, and the person responsible for completing the action," Currence advises.
Implement new HR solutions. One of the best ways to prepare for a change initiative is by assessing change readiness. Currence suggests evaluating your organization's readiness by:
--Considering the culture of the company. Is it open and generous? Or greedy?
--Understanding the organization's values and guiding principles. Does the organization value transparency?
--Assessing the style of the leadership team. Are the leaders approachable or do they induce fear among employees?
--Evaluating employees' readiness for change. Is this something employees have been anticipating and asking for?
Make change sustainable. The key to making a sustainable change is continued evaluation of how the change is working (or not working). Currence suggests a few ways to do this, including:
--Checking in with stakeholders in person to ask what they like about the new program and how to make it better.
--Holding a feedback meeting and brainstorming ways to improve.
--Meeting with senior executives to share the outcomes of the program and gain their input.
--Communicating with the organization. "Communication helps increase transparency and encourages more involvement, buy-in, and sustainability when people see that their ideas are being taken seriously," Currence writes.
Katie Wattendorf is an editorial intern at SHRM.