An HR consortium can be a cost-effective HR solution for smaller organizations that need HR expertise but lack the resources for a full-time HR team, as outlined here.

Best practices in setting up and managing an HR consortium so that every participant receives the maximum benefit can be found here.

This article, the final in the series, will cover key considerations for launching a successful HR consortium.

Start With Size

Smaller organizations consider HR consortiums when they can’t individually support payroll personnel to supply the human resources services they need. Instead, they band together to share HR resources efficiently.

So how many organizations should be included?

The key isn’t the number of organizations, but the total number of employees.

In general, a full-time HR person can support an employee population of 250-1,000, depending upon their needs. If the participating organizations are unionized with a collective bargaining contract, the consortium will require specialized expertise and will possibly work better with fewer members.

Understand Member Needs

Before starting or joining an HR consortium, potential participants have to be transparent about their needs and expectations.

Are they looking for a full range of HR services, such as benefit analysis, handbooks, recruitment, and retention? Or do they need a few, specialized services?

A group of organizations who want an HR expert to help them build ongoing training programs, for example, will have very different needs than a group whose priority is recruiting.

Sometimes those needs can be quite specialized. A lot of community-based organizations have multiple government contracts with city, state, and federal agencies. An HR consortium for that group needs an HR expert who understands contracting and perhaps grant requirements, as well as state and local laws and guidelines. That HR person will have to be able to write and help manage policies and procedures designed to satisfy those regulatory and contract/grant requirements.

Equally important is the routine reporting regarding the HR aspect of contracts and grants. Often, report requirements include outcomes and demographic/EEO-type reporting. This information needs to be routinely monitored. Organizations cannot wait until a few weeks before a particular entity requires a performance report. With routine monitoring, an HR professional can spot potential performance/demographic/EEO issues before a report is due and help correct the issues identified.

Achieve Common Goals

Participating organizations may also have specific needs based on their industries. A recent project for a group of healthcare companies illustrates that point. The participants, who included hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and others wanted training to reach specific goals. One key goal was how to define, train, hire, and onboard a number of newly defined jobs. Alone, the member groups could not accomplish/afford such an approach; in a consortium, this could be achieved through economy of scale.

Staff was trained to help connect clients and patients with primary care providers and other community resources, as well as to help integrate primary care with critical behavioral health needs. Because many of the participants were Medicaid providers, they also needed to learn how to measure and report outcomes in ways that were Medicaid-compliant.

Another group needed assistance with recruiting professionals in a narrow range of specialties, and those professionals were in short supply in the area. The solution involved analyzing and communicating within the industry partners to understand the skills required and then working with a local college to create a training curriculum that brought together higher education, organized labor, and organization representatives.

An individual organization would not have been able to convince the college to add that program, and then help design it. But the group represented by the consortium had enough open positions, as well as an ongoing need, to convince the college to add that program. The HR expertise to help design the program made the project even easier for the college.

Leverage the Technology

Some of the expertise needed to deliver HR services will depend on technology. What type of technologies do the organizations have to communicate with the HR professional and with employees? Can that be improved? What’s the cost? Is there something that can be used that’s already in place? Can existing technology manage the communications and data collection needs of the HR services?

This is particularly important in healthcare, where technology plays a critical role in gathering and sharing patient data. Is that technology being used efficiently? Will the HR professional have to build a training program for frontline workers?

If consortium members, regardless of industry, are primarily paper-based, the HR professional may also have to recommend technology and connect participants with vendors who can supply that technology. In the long run, technology upgrades that allow organizations to service more patients or clients may pay for themselves and then some.

Technology is also important in tracking desired outcomes. A recent project for a consortium of nonprofits involved in educating and training needed technology that would track graduation rates, job placements, turnover, time to hire (all hidden costs for organizations that don’t routinely look at such data). The technology also needed to track productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, employee morale, organizational reputation, and continuity of services. That project not only involved adopting new technology tools, but also training participants to use that technology.

The Lindenberger Group has extensive expertise in helping organizations manage an HR consortium and get the maximum benefits from the shared expertise of HR professionals. For more information or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.