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Human Resource Development Consulting: A Pathway to Growth

Before the global pandemic's disruption, adapting to the reality of economic uncertainty and ambiguity was already a part of the new normal for leaders. Today, amidst what is described as "exceptional uncertainty" by the International Monetary Fund, the global economy is projected to grow by 5.5% in 2021. A recent survey of over 5000 CEOs worldwide found that 75% project the economy will improve, and their organizations will continue on the pathway to growth over the next three years. As leaders strive to find new ways to grow and remain competitive in a turbulent digital marketplace, they face threats in every aspect of their business. Professional Human Resource Development (HRD) consulting services can offer a pathway to growth during uncertainty for leaders in large organizations and small businesses.

Why Hire a Professional Consultant?

The heart of consulting is integrity, trust, and ethics. Professional consultants help organizations take measured risks and create value by providing support and advice based on experiences, education, and specific qualifications. They bring clarity and simplicity to inherently ambiguous and complex challenges. Additionally, they identify the root causes of achieving the client's growth goals, introducing proven strategies and processes implemented in a partnership.

Typical Pain Points on the Pathway to Growth

Although growth-oriented pain points are often considered good problems to have, if individuals and organizations are not growing, they are falling behind. The following are five common pain points leaders face with growth:

  1. A lack of "ready now" talent and identified successors for critical roles

  2. Low employee morale or engagement

  3. Confusion at all levels in the organization

  4. Change resistance or an inability to respond to a fast-changing business environment

  5. Lack of personal or organizational development

What is the role of a Human Resources Development Consultant?

Unfortunately, the word consultant brings up mixed emotions around what they do, as evidenced by this UPS commercial:

In reality, as projects and client's needs vary, so does the role of the Human Resources Development consultant. As the video comically emphasized, it is important to become clear on what role is needed before hiring a consultant. Often the role of the consultant is a blend of the following:

  • Expert – As an expert, the consultant provides "over the shoulder" guidance and content on-demand. This role works well when the client has the team in place to support the intervention's process and implementation but lacks in specialized expertise the consultant offers.

  • Facilitator – In this role, the content expertise resides with the business. The consultant facilitates a proven process to support implementation.

  • Doer – The consultant in this role executes what is required to achieve desired results. These services are best when the organization has both the content and process expertise but lacks the bandwidth to implement them.

An excellent Human Resource Development consultant possesses a heart to serve and has competence and experience in:

  • Business management

  • Change management

  • Coaching

  • Communication

  • Critical thinking

  • Learning and development

  • Organizational development

  • Performance improvement

  • Project management

  • Strategic planning

  • Succession planning

What is the ROI of Human Resource Development Consulting?

The benefits of working with a professional Human Resource Development consultant include:

  • Enhanced perspective. A professional consultant provides an unbiased and objective perspective. Consultants help leaders get beyond a myopic view which is a more challenging problem from within an organization.

  • Enhanced insights. " A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an opinion" (Leonard Ravenhill). A consultant with experience can prevent business leaders from reinventing the wheel.

  • Reduced costs. Building an internal staff with expertise can be expensive. Engaging a consultant on a project basis means you don't have to keep paying after the project ends. Experience helps leaders avoid costly mistakes.

  • Improved efficiency. Getting it right the first time and using proven processes for implementation reduce project cycle times.

  • Improved performance. Using a consultant enables internal teams to focus on what they do best and ultimately enhances performance. Additionally, it is easy for internal teams to be fully utilized during times of growth, and using a consultant keeps them focused.

  • Confidentiality. Human Resource Development consulting projects typically involve knowing highly sensitive information such as compensation or personnel changes. It is easier for leaders to be transparent, knowing that information will remain private.

What does a Human Resource Development consultant do?

Human Resource Development is becoming increasingly vital to an organization's success. HRD focuses on developing and improving organizations, teams, and individuals in support of organizational growth strategies. Human resource development supports the values of humanness, global advancement, and unity that the world needs today. Typical services include:

  • Change Management: As the world changes, people and businesses must change too. Any organization can move forward with small incremental changes. Still, building for the future in today's rapidly evolving environment means taking bold chances and making insightful decisions.

  • Coaching: The ultimate goal of coaching is change (e.g., behavioral, attitudinal, or motivational). Coaching focuses on moving toward a client's future, assessing where they are currently, their goals for the future, and exploring and discovering the steps to get to their desired future. The coach-client relationship is based on trust and confidentiality.

  • Organizational Design: The way organizations are structured impacts everything. Organizational design involves aligning strategy, structure, people, processes, rewards to shape the desired organizational culture, decisions, and behaviors.

  • Professional and Leadership Development: Employee development is one of the most critical investments organizations need to grow and improve business value. Leaders, followers, and teams can have a tremendously positive or negative impact on every aspect of an organization. Leaders directly impact employee productivity, commitment, and retention. Leadership can be learned, and a well-targeted development approach is a high leverage and a high ROI investment.

  • Strategic Planning: Many organizations struggle with clear strategies, and existing planning processes are often bureaucratic. Strategic planning enables organizations to stay relevant, agile, and competitive in this fast-paced and turbulent world. Organizations need to understand the implications of strategy for today and in the future. Strategic planning enables organizations to see around the corners.

  • Succession Planning: Few events carry more significant risk to business value than a change of leadership. Effective succession planning enables organizations to gain a clearer view of their talent at all levels within their organization and what will be required to achieve near and long-term strategies.

The duration of these services can range from one day to multi-year contracts depending on the project scope and goals. Individual consultants or consulting teams can deliver these services, and as with most work today, these services are often provided in a blend of both in-person and virtual mirroring the work of the organization.


Appelbaum, S. H., & Steed, A. J. (2005). The critical success factors in the client-consulting relationship. The Journal of Management Development, 24(1), 68-93.

Biech, E. (2019). The new consultant's quick start guide. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey.

Chalofsky, N., Morris, M. L., & Rocco, T. S. (2014). Handbook of human resource development (1st ed.). Wiley.

Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. Free Press.

Hirudayaraj, M., & Baker, R. (2018). HRD competencies: Analysis of employer expectations from online job postings. European Journal of Training and Development, 42(9), 577-596.

Hagenmeyer, U. (2007). Integrity in management consulting: A contradiction in terms? Business Ethics (Oxford, England), 16(2), 107-113.

Maister, D. H., Green, C. H., & Galford, R. M. (2000). The trusted advisor. Free Press.

Schaffer, R. H. (2002). High-impact consulting: Achieving extraordinary results. Consulting to Management, 13(2), 12-18.

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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