By Ros Marks, Senior Marketing Manager at Croner

A business owner I spoke to recently said that if he took on any more staff he would have to take on another person just to manage all the additional paperwork and management relating to having an expanded team.

It’s a common dilemma — as your business grows do you hire an in-house HR manager or do you seek support from an external provider?

Getting additional help from an external provider may be the most cost effective option. But what attributes should you look for when evaluating HR service providers?

Sales approach

Investing in HR support is one you want to get right, so don’t feel under pressure to sign a contract in the first meeting. The service provider will want a long term relationship with you so should take the time to understand your business and any current concerns, to ensure there is a good match between your requirements and their services.

Make sure you receive a written proposal that explains how the solution will meet your requirements, and ensure you have seen the terms and conditions and cancellation policy for the contract. Take time to review it and discuss any questions or concerns you may have with the sales representative.


There are many solutions on the market for HR software, online information and consultancy.

- Online information: A subscription to an online information service can ensure you always have the latest guidance on current and future legislation. Employment legislation is complex and can be interpreted in many different ways, so while many of us rely on the internet for information, it’s important to remember that many free information sites will not be kept up-to-date as laws and guidance change.

- HR Software: If you are looking to cut the time you spend updating employee details, approving holidays and tracking absence, then online tools can certainly help. Some systems also offer step-by-step guides through processes such as disciplinary, maternity or inductions. But each situation can be different so if you have any concerns on how to deal with employee issues, you might also consider expert advice alongside the software.

- HR Advice: Whether you are looking for clarification on employment law or you want to discuss the commercial options of an HR decision might determine whether you turn to a local solicitor or a broader HR service provider. Think about what sort of support you really need and talk to the different providers to determine which is best for you.

Depending on your requirements, it could be that a combination of advice, software and information will be the most effective approach, but having all these elements doesn’t have to be expensive.

In the current economic environment, it’s inevitable that your needs will change as your business evolves, so consider how flexible the service is as your business changes.

Quality of Service

Ask about the qualifications and experience the service provider’s ‘experts’ have. Are they employed directly by the service provider, and how do they keep up to date with the frequent changes in legislation?

How would you work with the provider? Would you be speaking to a team who know your business or could it be a different person each time? If you’re not an HR expert, sometimes you don’t even realise you have a potential problem until it’s too late, so ask how proactive the service provider will be to help you avoid major issues.

If you’re looking at a combination of online tools and advice, is there any interaction between the services? For example, will your advisor help you spot abnormal trends in your business such as sickness absence or accident reporting and then work with you to address the issue?

If the service is largely provided by telephone, ask to visit the office to meet some of the people involved. Or ask to make a test call to try out the kind of support your might receive.

And in case you’re not satisfied once you’ve started using the service, find out if there is a formal complaints procedure in the event of any concerns with the service.

Find out more about HR support for your business at www.cronersolutions.co.uk

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