10 HR Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Group of young business people working together in modern office, overcoming HR challenges.

Posted on

January 3, 2020


It may be a bit of a trope, but it is also a truth: as an HR professional, your work is never really done. An HR department is tasked with many duties that are cyclical in nature—recruit, hire, replace—as well as tasks that demand constant attention or reinvention. To say that HR challenges exist is to say that the sky is up, and the ground is down.

Because human resource management comprehensively engages with  many aspects of a corporation, there are sure to be bumps along the way. Here are some of the biggest HR challenges that the department faces —and how to overcome them.

1. Recruiting top talent

A strong company is a direct result of the people behind it. One of the larger functions HR professionals are responsible for involves building that strong team. How that team is built, is one of the notable HR challenges when you need to fill niche specialty fields in a competitive job market. To add to the difficulties, many factors should be considered when staffing that go beyond standard job performance capabilities. For instance, ensuring your company is comprised of diverse team members in terms of age, gender and race is extremely important. Moreover cognitively diverse teams can make for more success for a business long term.

Strategic workforce planning can help human resource management teams navigate these HR challenges. As defined by the National Institute of Health, workforce planning is the process of analyzing, forecasting, and planning workforce supply and demand, assessing gaps, and determining target talent management interventions to ensure that an organization has the right people—with the right skills in the right places at the right time—to fulfill its mandate and strategic objectives. In order to achieve a strategic and successful hiring process, invest in your recruitment strategy. Get stakeholders on board with using social media tactics. Create strong job descriptions and  help your company develop a strong employer brand.

2. Onboarding new hires

HR professionals’ jobs are not over once a prospective hire becomes a new employee. In fact, the work has really just begun. A new hire’s first few weeks can make a lasting impression and set them up for either success or failure when it comes to both employee engagement and performance. Critical onboarding activities can boost new hire performance by 11.3%. So, what can HR professionals do throughout the onboarding process to help employees acclimate better?

Try to focus more on the new hire as an individual and not just as another body filling up an orientation meeting room. Retire name tags and really allow for new team members to mingle with each other, and foster introductions with more seasoned employees. Host meet ups in and outside of the office for all levels. And consider starting a mentorship program that connects tenured employees with newer hires.

3. Retaining high performers

The HR Leadership Council found that one in four high potentials plans to leave their organization in the next year. Don’t let all of the hard work you spent sourcing and onboarding top talent go to waste. Time and money are lost when a good employee voluntarily leaves an organization. So, work with all teams to ensure employees are engaged, feel valued, and see opportunity to grow within the company.

Invest in training and development strategies to enrich the employee experience. Consider hosting learning sessions that are open to the whole company to broaden baseline skill sets. Additionally, informationals given by experts from outside of the company who work within specialized fields can help bolster training and development efforts. In fact, the 2018 Global Leadership Forecast, which integrated data from 25,812 leaders and 2,547 HR professionals across 2,488 organizations, found that having a formal mentorship culture lowers turnover by 20%.

4. Navigating leadership changes

When leaders leave, a lot can go along with them: order, direction, vision, strategy, and morale. Business goals may become fuzzy. In such cases, HR teams can step in and act as the glue that holds leaderless teams together—that is, while they also assist in finding the right replacement. This HR challenge is definitely not an easy task to complete. You’ll likely have to step into a team that you do not know everything about. You won’t replace their leader, but you can encourage positivity and reassure individuals who may be insecure without their manager.

Set regular checkins with individuals on the team, reference company goals and previous career mapping objectives to help keep them on track. You could also consider organizing a team event to rally morale if a leadership position has been vacant for a prolonged period of time.

5. Managing employee development

Internal growth of employees not only benefits the individual, but also the company. Less time spent filling vacated positions will make for more time to spend on growing your business. Managing employee development is one of the big HR challenges that, if overcome, can help combat other areas of contention that weigh on HR teams.

The importance placed on the growth of employees will help strengthen the stickiness of driven individuals. So, look to create career mapping opportunities, initiate a review process that is designed to provide constructive feedback, and offer development opportunities in the form of trainings, talks and seminars.

6. Designing—and upholding—compensation plans

It’s important to strive for compensation plans that are both fair and competitive. Employees are apt to make a change in the company they work for, if they know they are being underpaid or overlooked.

Work with a third party or build an in-house team that has the ability to garner competitive market insights for standard pay ranges. Look for information on influential pay scale factors, like location, subject matter expertise or years of experience. Start new hires out at competitive salaries and don’t overlook existing employees in need of a pay increase, bonus, or promotion. Keep in contact with managers about their team’s performance and let that knowledge guide these kinds of monetary advancements.

7. Creating comprehensive benefits packages

A good compensation plan is a solid way to attract quality talent and retain high performers. But a well-thought out benefits package can really set your company apart from the competition. Still, this HR challenge can be a hard one to beat. It requires not only knowing what you should offer, but also knowing what will appeal to job seekers and existing employees—while also obtaining stakeholder sign off.

Relay the importance of having a strong benefits package to leadership. Help them understand how employee benefits can help attract and retain top talent, which helps the bottom line. Then engage with employees and hear what benefits they are most interested in. Look at what competitors offer and consider including outplacement services as a part of your benefits package to set your brand apart.

8. Complying with legal standards and regulations

One of the biggest HR challenges for teams has to be communicating and upholding compliance best practices. It can be a difficult space to steer through if not properly trained on legal matters like state and local employment law, workplace harassment, workplace violence and employee leave options.

Work with your in-house legal team and consider hiring a third party, non-biased council for trainings on general work environment regulations. Use your learnings and their guidance to create company handbooks that every employee receives and can understand. Ensure employees understand what the regulations are and encourage open conversations so that small issues won’t eventually turn into larger legal matters down the line.

9. Providing employees with a healthy work-life balance

Work-life balance is a responsibility HR teams will need to manage in tandem with department leaders. It’s one thing for a company to promote a healthy work-life balance and another thing to actually see it through.

Touch base with leaders on a regular basis to ensure their teams are balancing the demands of their jobs in a healthy way. Connect with individuals for a temperature check on workplace stressors and formalize ways for employees to act on mentally healthy choices. Consider hosting mediation events or offering one mental health day a month or an extra day off for birthdays.

10. Strengthening employee engagement

Engaged employees will be committed to their individual work and to your company as a whole. An engaged workforce that wants to contribute and grow at your company is really the ultimate success story for any HR team. And it’s up to HR professionals to encourage engagement along any employee’s individual journey.

Foster employee engagement by creating unique employee experiences. Host team building events on and off campus. Encourage employees to engage with your company’s social media channels and offer volunteer opportunities where different departments can come together and support a worthwhile cause.

HR challenges each present their own set of obstacles and rewards, but the one thing that they all will always have in common is that they directly impact your company’s people. Your company’s living and breathing people, who all have unique personalities, motivators, ambitions and needs. Focus on serving the individuals of your business to the best of your ability. In return, you should gain their loyalty.

Continue to prepare your business and support your company’s people for the year ahead by finding out what the top priorities and trends in HR technology and services are going to be in 2020.

INTOO Staff Writer

INTOO staff writers come from diverse backgrounds and have extensive experience writing about topics that matter to the HR and business communities, including outplacement, layoffs, career development, internal mobility, candidate experience, succession planning, talent acquisition, and more.

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