The Top 5 HR Headaches (and How to Solve Them!)

Open enrollment, time management, an inbox with 1,000s of unread messages — we’ve got some tips on how to manage these day-to-day HR headaches.

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Our resident HR expert weighs in on the common HR headaches small business owners and HR professionals experience

Whether you’re the HR department of 1 or working with a team, the task of talent management is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge – a continuous loop.

On the people side, you’re constantly:

  • Sourcing and hiring employees
  • Managing the existing employee base
  • Helping employees ready for retirement

On the legal side, you’re:

  • Maintaining compliance
  • Creating a culture of respect and professionalism

Toss in:

  • Employee training and development
  • Updating job descriptions so they are current
  • Benefits administration
  • Keeping up with regularly changing technology …

… and there’s barely time to sit back and pop an ibuprofen.

There are some HR headaches worth examining and trying to minimize, no matter how large or small your HR Department.

We’ll start you off with some of the most common HR headaches you can swap for HR help.

Headache #1: Candidate management

Whatever the size of your organization, candidate management is always a priority.

From sourcing talent to screening resumes, to setting up interviews with a single hiring manager or a distributed team, managing candidates is a job in and of itself.

When done right, you move new hires through the pipeline quickly and effectively. When done wrong, you lose top talent to the competition and have to start all over again.

Losing talent through poor candidate management can be costly. In addition to direct recruitment costs, the ripple effect on workers having to pick up the slack when a vacancy lingers is significant.

No matter how many people you hire every year, the effort and resources put in must show a return on investment. Managing candidates in today’s hire-on-the-spot market is critical to maintain productivity and business growth.

Solution: Let tech take the wheel

The digital revolution has shifted the way we source, screen, and schedule. And that’s a good thing!

These tasks that were previous headaches and time drains are easily automated:

  • Algorithms target your desired job seekers in seconds
  • AI screens for the best possible candidate
  • Scheduling software can respond to a job seeker and set up an interview with a single recruiter or a team within minutes

If you’ve shied away from candidate management tech because you think you’re not tech savvy enough, or you don’t hire often enough, think again.

Candidate management platforms are user-friendly. A few minutes of setup, then all you do is wait for notifications that you’ve got an interview scheduled. What could be easier?

Headache #2: Open enrollment

While the rest of the world is gearing up for the holiday season, HR and small business owners are in the thick of open enrollment.

The sheer volume of paperwork involved in keeping employee benefits current can be overwhelming. But failing to manage open enrollment correctly is not an option. The effects on employees and the business could be devastating if choices aren’t made thoughtfully and elections aren’t submitted in a timely fashion.

This HR headache tops the list for many employers as the annual drain on time, resources, and patience. But there is help available.

Solution: Ask the experts

If open enrollment is your biggest nightmare, there are several options available. The newest is a QSEHRA or Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement.

Beginning January 2020, employers can set aside a tax-free amount of money each month to reimburse employees for healthcare coverage they find individually or under the Affordable Care Act.

Important to note: if you plan to use QSEHRA make sure to use it for all employees and not just those in high-risk categories: that could be discriminatory. 

Another choice is to outsource benefits enrollment and administration to expert platforms that integrate enrollment, administration, and even evaluate programs.

These resources not only take on the worry and paperwork of plans you have in place, they can even broker new coverages for your staff. Medical, dental, vision, retirement planning, and more options are available.

If you’re not an expert in benefits administration (and who is?) outsourcing is not only a time-saver, it’s a headache averter!

Headache #3: Organization – yikes!

The average HR professional and business owner wears a variety of HR hats on a given day:

  • Employee relations
  • Recruitment
  • Compliance
  • Training

Organization is key to being accessible to employees and switching gears on a moment’s notice. When a staff member asks a question about their enrollment choices, do you need to sift through piles of paperwork to find out what their elections were?

HR is all about organization — if your desk looks like you’re cleaning out your file cabinets, you’re causing more headaches than you need.

Solution: Find bliss under the mess

Sometimes it takes coming in on the weekend or staying a few hours late, but getting that desk organized – with files put away and paperwork sorted – is worth the effort.

Consider the amount of time you waste looking for things that should be at hand. Clearing the clutter is an investment in your own sanity. But beyond clearing the mess, setting up systems that work going forward is key to keep organization going.

Your inbox should be emptied on a daily basis. Create 3 piles

  • Things to do immediately
  • Things that can wait
  • Things of no interest (these go in the trash)

Now you can actually see what’s actionable and get it done. Look for other organizational tools and tips online to really get that office in shape.

Headache #4: Time management

If you could actually manage time, you could stop it long enough to get things done. The truth is we can’t manage time, we can only manage how we utilize this precious resource.

Time management goes hand-in-hand with organization – without it, even the most meticulous person will find themselves falling behind. With pressure from everyone – including those in charge of personnel functions – to do more with less, time is a valuable commodity.

If you could actually manage time, you could stop it long enough to get things done. The truth is we can’t manage time, we can only manage how we utilize this precious resource.

Managing the way you leverage this resource is as important as that tasks you perform. If you find yourself bemoaning there aren’t enough hours in the day, it may be time to take time management seriously.

Solution: Take time to manage time

Time management begins with planning. You know what you can expect every day – which can be scheduled – but you can plan for the unexpected. Once you have a handle on how much time it takes to complete your “must-do” tasks, you can set “open time” to meet with employees, get caught up on older work or even plan for the future.

Start with calendars (and for goodness sake use an online calendar you can access from anywhere and that sends you reminders!) updated with events and milestones beyond scheduled meetings.

Events and milestones to mark on your calendar:

  • When new hires are scheduled for onboarding
  • When employees’ probationary period ends
  • Employee anniversaries
  • Birthdays
  • Training sessions
  • PTO or leaves of absence

Plan your time wisely. If it’s the most quiet in the morning, it’s the right time for tasks that require focused attention. A great way to sneak in some “me time”’ during a busy day – take lunch after the staff takes theirs.

Have employees that want to meet with you regularly and then stay for hours? There’s 1 in every company! Don’t do drop ins: schedule them for 30 minutes before they typically go to lunch or 30 minutes before they leave for the day – that will motivate them to get to the point!

Other ways to keep meetings under control:

  • Take all the clocks out of your office except the ones you can see. If they don’t know how long they’ve been there, they might not linger.
  • Think like a shrink: schedule meetings for one hour on your calendar, but wrap them up in 50 minutes. That way you have the extra 10 minutes to act on anything discussed in the meeting, or prep for the next.

Headache #5: Compliance

When it comes to legal obligations, compliance can be complex. Federal, state, and local mandates must be known and adhered to in order to avoid problems with regulatory agencies and employees.

While you’re busy trying to make payroll, lawmakers are busy trying to make the workplace better. What new rules have been enacted or are coming your way?

Small business must build an environment of professionalism, free of harassment, and discrimination. But you’re also managing complex FMLA leave requests and administration and balancing accommodation requests.

It’s your responsibility to make sure everyone is provided the rights and privileges afforded under the law. But just when you think you have everything under control, new laws come along.

Ban the box, bans on salary history, cannabis laws in your state or city, and new rules for sexual harassment training are all recent additions to the compliance responsibilities for business owners.

The challenge to understand what’s required and comply is complicated but necessary to assure your organization has a culture of respect for employees and the law.

Solution: Online subscriptions

There are many resources available to help business keep current on what’s required of them from a local and national level. Many state’s and city’s Department of Labor websites provide updates whenever a new law is being enacted or one is under consideration.

Law firms that specialize in HR issues have newsletters and briefings you can receive, free of charge, to keep you updated on what’s coming your way. Look to the platforms you use to manage other personnel matters blog pages – they typically contain legal updates, as well.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of compliance, like managing leave requests and calculating time used and available, look to technology to help. These tools help you and employees organize leave requests and information. Many platforms offer time tracking that keeps you compliant and informed. Look for the many resources available to turn compliance headaches into much-needed help.

It’s all about the bottom line

Many small business owners worry about the cost of tech or outsourcing some of their personnel functions. But they need to ask what their own time is worth. If you’re spending more time on administrative tasks than building or managing your business, you’re actually losing money.

Estimate how many hours per week (or day) you spend on tasks that don’t add to the bottom line. The cost of outsourcing may be significantly less than a single hour of your own time.

More than the hours spent on administrative tasks, what other things could you be doing that actually grow your business or make it a better environment for yourself and your staff? And how much is it costing you to ignore them?

Turning HR headaches into help is doable – look for the tools and resources designed to take routine work off your hands so you can get back to growing your employees and your business.

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