Dear HR Leader: Outsourcing Part of HR Does Not Undermine YouI’m a consultant. There is really no way to get around the title. Christine and I, we consult. I could fancy it up and say that we actually serve as HR Directors for many companies, and that would be true. I could call myself a Chief Human Resource Officer to make it sound more corporate. I could do those things and more but the reality is, I’m a consultant.

I work for myself, own a firm, have clients across all industries none of which have me on their dedicated payroll. I believe that’s the very definition of consultant.

For our direct outsourcing clients, small businesses who have no HR staff of their own, we are hired by the CEO, CFO or in-house council and they have no problem with us being consultants. We also have a great group of HR Managers/Directors who call on us to provide project work, typically around a strategic HR initiative (formal on-boarding programs, rewards and recognition programs, recruiting etc) and they know that we are coming in for a time to help them through this project and they enjoy working with us on it.

But then there’s another group. I don’t often get calls from this group, but when I do I’m often baffled. This group is the HR Leader whose CEO or CFO suggested they call in a consultant to help them through a project or who suggested they outsource part of their HR to a consultant to alleviate their daily workload. This group begrudgingly calls us but makes sure that we know that they don’t think they need our help and are only calling because their boss is making them.

Well that makes me excited to work with you.

Let me be clear. Outsourcing part of human resources or bringing us in to work with you on a project does not undermine your ability. We are not trying to get you fired so we can take over your HR Department. The truth is, if your business is big enough to have an HR leader, it is probably too big for us to handle on a full time basis anyway.

What baffles me most is that a operations leader will give the HR leader the go ahead to outsource part of the HR function, say benefit administration, so that their time is freed up to handle other projects, more high level projects, and the HR leader fights it. Who on earth wants to hold on to benefits administration when they could be working on things that are going to make a real business impact?

I understand there are firms out there who may come in and try to take more and more work just to grow their business and who do try to push the HR leader out and that is a shame. It has certainly taught me how to ensure my marketing, proposals and sales pitches highlight that we are different.

We aren’t a firm who hires people with no HR experiences, gives them a couple of weeks of training, shows them where to look up HR answers and then has them handling clients. We aren’t a PEO looking to take over the entire HR function. Clients can outsource as much or as little of their HR function to us or they can call us in for a one time project and once that is complete we will be on our way.

And we never, ever undermine the HR Leader. Never on purpose anyway and if we do by accident we will own it.

I realize this sounds like a bit of a rant and maybe it is. It just pains me to have someone call and tell me they really don’t want to work with us but are being forced to. I will always refer them elsewhere because that isn’t the business relationship I want. As trite as it may sound, we want to partner with HR leaders and help them as best we can, never undermine or make them feel like their job is being threatened.

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