Human Resources (HR) is a complex profession (but that’s what you like about it, right?) and the challenges you face come from many directions. Some of those challenges, like tight labor markets and economic volatility, are beyond your control. Others may arise perennially but can be affected by how you approach them. As a seasoned HR professional and the Chief People and Culture Officer at Achievers, I understand the challenges that come with being an HR leader. Below, I share five of the biggest challenges for HR leadership teams.
1. Nurturing workers’ health
Reducing the cost of worker illness and injuries probably shows up on your list of top five concerns every year. Absenteeism costs the country’s employers about $225 billion annually, and that’s only the amount from lost productivity. The cost of worker’s compensation payments, medical expenses, and legal consultation fees are additional, as are indirect costs such as temporary employees, accident investigation, and repairing or replacing any problematic physical infrastructure.
On a parallel track is the need to provide support for employees battling mental illnesses such as depression. Depression ranks among the top three workplace problems for employee assistance professionals, following only family crisis and stress. If you’re in an HR leadership role, learn to recognize the symptoms of depression in the workplace and develop robust employee assistance programs to help promote effective treatment.
2. Improving employee retention
When company leaders do audits to figure out the source of financial leakage, employee churn will always show up as an expense to be reduced. No business wants to lose top talent, and when one slips through your fingers and heads for a competitor, it can cost your company serious money. In the United States, employee turnover costs an estimated $160 billion, and losing one individual employee may come with a price tag of six to nine months’ worth of the person’s salary.
This high figure is arrived at by adding up the cost of recruiting and hiring, the wages and time involved in training a new employee, and the lost productivity while that new hire is coming up to speed. As a matter of fact, it can take up to two full years for a new hire to reach the same level of productivity as other continuing co-workers.
3. Building a diverse workforce
Today’s HR departments strive to hire new employees who fit well with the existing company culture. This is an important piece in the hiring process, but it can only reach its full potential when combined with an effort to bring different voices and perspectives into the organization. Diversity means looking at many more factors than the basic demographics of gender, ethnicity, or age. It also means seeking out job candidates who bring new perspectives, diverse problem-solving skills and different types of backgrounds. Undercover Recruiter writes, “By working alongside people of different backgrounds, experiences and working styles, creative concepts can be born from bouncing ideas off of each other and offering feedback and suggestions.”
In a tight hiring environment, where companies compete for top talent, a workplace with a reputation for inclusiveness will attract more applicants. Brainstorm new strategies to hire diversity of thought in your organization. HR leadership teams and recruiters will have a deeper pool of talent from which to draw, and skilled workers will feel good about participating in a company that promotes equality.
4. Keeping employees engaged
Employee engagement lies at the root of almost every challenge that your department faces. Gallup research has found that “workgroups with high [engagement] scores outperform those with lower scores on every type of performance metric: revenue, profitability, productivity, customer experience, safety, healthcare costs, etc.”
Even if you feel you’re doing a good job on this front, you probably have room for improvement. Nationwide, the same research study found that only about one-third of workers feel engaged on the job, and the worldwide figure is closer to 15 percent. Fortunately, the best path to building engagement is relatively straightforward. The Business Case for Social Recognition Report points out that companies identified employee recognition as having the greatest impact on employee engagement.
5. Achieving leadership buy-in for a recognition program
You’re aware by now that the core of maintaining employee engagement is letting workers know they’re appreciated on a regular basis. However, executives may be feeling a financial pinch, and it might hard to get executives on board with an employee recognition and rewards program. If this is the case, you may need to do a bit of selling. Fortunately, the return of investing in recognition and rewards programs are abundant and easily measured, so it’s not hard to find supporting data. As an HR expert, you can use solid figures and statistics to back up what you already know.
Start off with “revenue growth” — a phrase that’s guaranteed to capture the interest of any executive. Dr. Bob Nelson shares that organizations which have a culture of recognition have employees that are seven times more likely to feel valued and six times more likely to invest in their company. Additionally, companies that invest in social recognition see an improvement in stock prices and NPS scores, as well as individual performance of employees.
Strengthen your HR leadership skills
You put a lot of effort into producing the HR wizardry your company leaders ask of you, but your magic wand needs to be recharged sometimes with a piece of the overall budget. Work closely with your leadership team and build a business case to acquire the resources you need to address any challenges. Strengthen your HR leadership skills by staying ahead of the curve with new HR trends, insights, and best practices. HR leadership teams constantly face new challenges; it’s how they approach it that matters.
Do you want to learn more about the current state of employee engagement? Access our white paper, “The Complacency Effect.”