I wrote recently about what we are looking for in a potential partner and in addition to personality, one of the things we also require is a very high level of employment law knowledge. This usually means higher/deeper knowledge than is expected of most employed HR professionals, most of whom have a reasonable level of knowledge but also are able to rely on a wider team and often external lawyers as well.
But we expect our partners to have that knowledge themselves, and here’s why:
That high level of knowledge vastly improves the quality of advice our partners are able to give. It’s not a case of giving clients lots of legal detail – in fact we prefer the opposite. We give clients practical advice about what they need to do, and how to achieve their desired objective. But a thorough understanding of legal context means this can be done most effectively.
No tribunal guarantee
We don’t offer any kind of tribunal guarantee to clients. This is a very deliberate decision (read why here), but it means that expert level knowledge is important to avoid any possibility of a procedural slip-up causing a problem.
Income for our partners
If they do not have that level of knowledge, the point at which they need to refer their client to a lawyer will come sooner in any given situation, and why pass those fees on to someone else?
Everyone has a line they need to draw about what they are comfortable doing and what they feel would be better done by someone else, and it’s very important in quality terms to recognise that line and respect it, and not attempt to do something you are not equipped to do competently. However, if having expert knowledge means a consultant can handle a case efficiently and expertly for longer, or completely, clearly that is beneficial in terms of income.
A self-employed HR professional, just like any other self-employed person, is working “without a net”. There is nowhere to hide. That can be scary, so confidence in one’s own ability to give advice and support clients is vital. A very high level of knowledge is definitely confidence-building.
Our brand and our reputation are built on quality and expert knowledge, among other things, and clearly for that reputation to continue to benefit both clients and other partners, it cannot be damaged and must be enhanced by everyone working under the face2faceHR banner.
As part of our training programme for new partners we do offer a refresher in employment law, and also can and do specifically target areas where our partners may feel less confident/have had less experience of. We also provide employment law guides and updates on legal developments.
But our partners are self-employed professionals running their own businesses, and such are also expected to take responsibility for their own professional development, including taking opportunities to keep updated and researching areas they feel they need more detailed knowledge on.