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  • Ian Buss

Is your HR Support costing more than you budget for?

A 'Retainer' model or 'Fully Inclusive'?

Many MATs, Maintained & Independent schools opt for a retainer model for their HR support. They pay a set monthly fee for 'telephone support' and then pay fees for each incident of enhanced support required.

Whilst this model is not unusual, it potentially has a number of disadvantages for schools and Trusts.


With a retainer model there is, perhaps, the initial attraction of a slightly lower monthly or annual cost but the additional fees are an unknown cost for the school(s). Not helpful when knowing what your fixed costs are each year is important to any Trust or school. It is an interesting exercise for Trusts and Schools to look at their total cost for HR support compared to their budgeted 'retainer' fee. I've seen many where the total costs are double or greater.


Perhaps more importantly though is the psychological impact of knowing that asking your external HR support to get involved at an early stage might add to your costs and may not have been a necessary engagement. After all, we are constantly told to reduce our costs where we can. I've met a number of Trusts that have not engaged their HR provider when they have first had an issue only for it to escalate into a much bigger (and costlier) issue.


Interestingly, As additional services are charged in addition to the monthly fee, a retainer model may not provide the encouragement your HR support needs to action an issue quickly and resolve it at the first opportunity as additional income will often be generated on an hourly basis.


The way forward?


I've seen more Trusts and schools moving to an 'inclusive' model that has a set monthly fee and includes unlimited support. As such, the Trust or School is actively encouraged to engage their HR support at the very first opportunity as they will want to ensure support and advice is given to resolve the issue at the earliest opportunity. The 'inclusive' pricing model incentivises the HR support to engage and resolve as quickly and efficiently as possible as it is them that pick up the costs of any long running and protracted issues.

At the very least, Trusts and schools should be reviewing and benchmarking their HR Support and, whilst I don't offer HR Services, I have worked with a huge number of firms over the last 10 years in the Academy and Independent school sectors and would be happy to introduce you.


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