Top 5 Problems HR Managers Face — and How to Overcome Them

As you navigate the people side of your business, you may come across these 5 challenges. Here are tips to address them, overcome them, and strengthen your organization.

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The world has changed drastically over the last 2 years, and so has the workplace. Areas of work like labor relations, employee expectations, recruitment experiences, and people operations have evolved at a rapid pace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many changes have led to positive outcomes for employees (think flexible working arrangements and remote work), some aspects have created challenges for employees and HR managers alike.

Workers face new stresses, and expect more from their companies than ever before. The burden typically falls on HR and People Operations to address these types of problems. As a small business, you’re sure to come across the below 5 challenges as you navigate the people side of your business. We’ve broadly covered them, and provided Zenefits’ resources to help you overcome them.


1. Your employees are experiencing burnout

79% of remote workers feel burnt out monthly, 53% weekly, and 21% daily.

While it may sound like a buzzword, burnout is real, and it’s widespread. According to BambooHR, 79% of remote workers feel burnt out monthly, 53% weekly, and 21% daily. Is it working from home? Entering the 3rd year of a pandemic? Winter? It’s likely a mix, but some of the most cited contributing factors include:

  • An expectation to “always be on”: 56% of remote workers feel tethered to their desks
  • Balancing their work and personal life: 41% of remote workers feel burnout from having to balance their home life and work life
  • Taking on responsibilities outside their jobs: 30% of workers say taking on more work contributed to feeling burnt out

Burnout is far from a quick fix because simply taking time off won’t necessarily help. Less than half of respondents in one Visier report say that taking time off reduces their burnout, even temporarily.

This creates a problem for HR because burnt out employees might simply quit, in hopes of relieving themselves of burnout. This can lead to more recruitment efforts for your HR team, and overall drop in morale and culture for those in the company.

How you can support your people who are experiencing burnout

There is no “one size fits all” solution for addressing burnout, and this widespread issue requires using a more holistic approach. Below are some suggestions and resources for you to explore to help your employees who are feeling burnt out:

  • Train your management team on what it means to lead with empathy.
  • If your budget allows, invest in healthcare and mental health (70% of small business employees in a Zenefits survey said they’re unlikely or very unlikely to accept a job that doesn’t offer health benefits).
  • Make well-being a part of your corporate culture. You’ll need to model this from the top down.
  • Do not expect your people to be available around the clock, even if they are working remotely. In fact, you should encourage them to log off at the end of the day!

2. Your people are struggling to adapt to remote or hybrid work

As employees got used to working from home (WFH) during the pandemic, the vast majority want to keep doing so. According to Gallup, 91% of United States workers want to keep having a remote work option and 54% want to split their time between the office and home. There are many perks to creating a culture that includes remote work. One Mercer report found that “94% of employers are 50% less likely to quit their jobs” if they had the option to work remotely.

Despite the widespread adoption of remote work, some people are still having trouble adjusting because of the lack of social interactions. A Stanford study found that more than half of remote workers decided against being 100% remote because they felt too isolated.

Feeling connected to fellow colleagues is a big part of culture, and culture is significant in motivating people to stay with their company. As an HR manager, it’s in your best interest to keep your colleagues connected and engaged, and in turn, reduce a potential turnover headache.

What can your company do to adapt?

It’s time to make sure your small business is ready to accommodate a WFH or hybrid arrangement, while still providing opportunities for social interactions for your people. Here are some factors to consider if your company is struggling to adapt to this new work model:

  • Change your overall company mindset: This includes building trust, sharing the organizational structure, and amping up communication.
  • Have the right communication tools in place: Communication doesn’t have to suffer with a remote workforce.
  • Keeping your culture alive: We put together virtual team building activities to keep your connection strong and improve morale.
  • Acknowledge that this is a challenge. Lean into this new way of working and collaborate with your people. Ask them what they want, how they want to engage in social activities, and create something together!


3. Workers are requesting more flexibility

Workers today value flexibility, and having more control over their time and work location. According to LinkedIn, workers who are happy with their time and location flexibility, are 2.6 times more likely to report being happy, and 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for the company.

As an advocate for your employees, there are creative ways you can provide more flexibility, and prevent them from leaving for companies that offer them more control over their schedules.

How can your company provide more flexibility?

Some ways you can provide more flexibility include:

  • Shorter work weeks (e.g. a 4-day work week)
  • Customized working hours
  • Part-time positions
  • Job sharing

Workers who are happy with their time and location flexibility, are 2.6 times more likely to report being happy, and 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for the company.

4. Lack of diversity and inclusion in the company culture

It’s important to be intentional about creating a workforce dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) workforce, as DEI impacts your:

  • Existing employees
  • Recruitment efforts
  • Company’s performance

Your existing employees should feel cared for, respected, and celebrated for their differences. As for attracting top talent, being diverse and inclusive is critical. A Glassdoor report found that “76% of U.S. employees and job seekers say a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers” and 32% wouldn’t bother applying at all if they felt the company wasn’t diverse enough!

Diversity is not just important for your people, but also for your bottom line. Our own POPS guide found diverse management teams had a 19% increase in revenue compared to less diverse management teams, and were 1.7 times more innovative.

Without a diverse and inclusive company, you could be dealing with less innovation, lower revenue, and fewer job applicants.  Falling behind on DEI will make your organization significantly less desirable and profitable than your competitors.

What steps can you take to be more diverse and inclusive?

Addressing a lack of DEI is a long process and requires more than one simple action point. Some of these include:

  • Being intentional about hiring and promotions: For example, increasing the internal promotion rate of diverse groups.
  • Make DEI everyone’s responsibility: D&I should be equally important for individual contributors, managers, and executives.
  • Discourage gender-specific language: This means using the right pronouns, and avoid defaulting to masculine terms.

Being more diverse and inclusive requires training and ongoing discussions within your firm. You can read more about it in our workbook here.

Effective Team Building Strategies

5. Lack of engaging and meaningful work

Employees are no longer simply working for the money; they’re seeking meaningful work. What does this mean? According to Deloitte, “Today’s workers seek to identify with an organization’s purpose, longing to connect at a deeper level to align their personal wants and desire with the organization’s mission.”

For your company to succeed and retain top talent, they need to feel engaged and happy. Companies with engaged workers are 22% more profitable than companies with lower engagement scores. And one Harvard Business Review report found that 9 out of 10 workers were willing to take a paycut for more meaningful work.

In other words, if you don’t provide engaging and meaningful work to your people, you could face a talent bleed, given how much employees value engaging work (even over salary).

How can you make sure your workers are engaged?

Some ways you can start to tackle any issues around engagement include:

Low engagement requires long term planning to fix. We put together an extensive guide here.

Where to focus your energy

While the list of HR problems above is far from extensive, it can help you start thinking about where to focus your energy and zoom in as you create your HR strategy. Even though the pandemic is in our rearview mirror, it has forever changed the work landscape.

As HR, the emphasis has shifted to valuing your employees’ well-being. While this may lead to some short gaps in your culture, it can also lead to long-term opportunity and growth for you and your organization. What problems are you facing in your HR team and how have these changed?

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