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10 Of The Worst HR Problems (And How To Avoid Them)

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“It’ll never happen to me” is arguably one of the most dangerous phrases that any business owner can say. One of the problems with the business world is many entrepreneurs wrongly assume that many potential issues won’t happen at their business.

Your company’s HR department has many duties it must carry out each day. It would be unwise not to include being proactive in that daily to-do list. With that in mind, here are some of the worst HR problems your business could have - and how you can avoid them:

1. Discrimination and Harassment

It’s vitally important that all employers, and indeed the people that work in those companies, do not discriminate against other workers. One of the biggest problems facing the modern workplace is discrimination based on race, gender, and disability, among others.

Harassment is also a leading problem in today’s businesses. The ugly truth is that bullying and harassment in the workplace often thrive, especially in companies where it’s “frowned upon” by managers to speak out about such issues.

Your business should have clearly defined policies on discrimination and harassment. What’s more, managers should get trained to spot when examples of such issues occur and know how to deal with them correctly and effectively.

There are no hard and fast rules on how you can avoid discrimination and harassment in the workplace. But, those issues should get tackled promptly by HR teams or business owners if they ever happen.

2. Accidental injuries

You might think that your business probably has one of the safest working environments for its employees. After all: what could go wrong working in an office and spending much of your time sitting down?

Believe it or not, even office environments can pose health and safety problems for employees working within them. Accidental injuries could occur from people tripping over wires spread out across the floor, for instance.

Or, a damaged light switch that takes some force to turn on or off could prove dangerous and even fatal. To that end, business owners have a responsibility to ensure their workplaces are as safe as reasonably possible.

Carrying out regular risk assessments is an excellent way to reduce the chance of accidental injuries from happening significantly. Otherwise, you could face a plethora of employees starting a workers compensation claims process against your firm.

3. Employee conflict

There will be times where some people just don’t get along with each other. Such cases aren’t typically harassment. The issue is more to do with individuals having a personality clash and creating a toxic working environment for others around them.

Employee conflict issues are just as serious as harassment ones. In general, HR departments are responsible for resolving employee conflict cases. But, prevention is better than the cure, as they say.

HR teams should ensure that all new hires are a good fit for their company’s culture, ethos, and will most likely work well with existing team members.

4. Undocumented company policies

There’s no denying that having company policies in place helps protect employees and legally safeguard employers. However, it might shock you to learn that even medium-sized businesses have little to no documented company policies.

It doesn’t matter whether you run a small business with five employees or less, or you lead a company that employs thousands of workers. Your HR team should properly document all company policies and procedures in a clear, easy to read employee handbook.

What’s more, that handbook should also be easily accessible to everyone within your business. You may wish to make available both printed and electronic copies of your employee handbook.

5. Controversial promotions

In any business, there’s always going to be an element of competition among colleagues to determine who’s most likely to get promoted first. But, what happens if you, as a company owner or your HR department, end up promoting the wrong people?

A worker might be brilliant at what they do within their current role. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be just as good in a management position - especially one where they oversee their colleagues.

Promotions shouldn’t just be rewards to people that are really good at their jobs. They should be offered after conducting a realistic assessment of their abilities and potential management skills.

6. Lack of performance reviews

Let’s face it: the only real way an employee will get some meaningful feedback on their job performance is with regular reviews. The thing about performance reviews is some small business owners don’t think there’s any point having them.

After all: you and your team have regular contact with each other? Employee performance reviews are essential in businesses of all sizes. Your HR team can schedule such reviews with your employees on a quarterly or annual basis.

Irrespective of the frequency, it makes sense to conduct them for all people that work for you. It gives employees the chance to learn about areas where they might need improvement, for example.

Plus, it allows those workers to discuss how making specific changes to their work or environment could boost productivity. And one final point worth bearing in mind is all performance reviews should get documented.

That way, if your employees must meet specific targets or KPIs (key performance indicators), you can check the previous review to see if those targets got met. You can then identify any reasons why they might not be meeting your expectations.

7. Unknowingly breaking employment laws

All employers must ensure they are meeting the rules and guidelines of all relevant employment laws. When you take on employees, it’s your responsibility as a company owner to ensure your business doesn’t fall afoul of employment laws.

Even if your company doesn’t have its own legal department, it should still consult with employment law lawyers. That way, your HR team can make sure it can carry out its duties in a lawful manner.

Some examples of where employers have unknowingly broken employment laws include:

  • Not issuing new hires with a contract of employment;

  • Not deducting the right amount of tax for each employee;

  • Failing to follow through on company policies, such as those relating to discrimination and harassment;

  • Threatening employees with termination if they don’t work unpaid hours or overtime;

  • Failing to ensure working environments are safe;

  • Blocking employees from exercising their workers’ rights.

Employment law breaches are issues that affect businesses of all sizes. If you fall afoul of such legislation, you may find yourself in a vulnerable legal position, should your company get sued.

8. Not having a plan for new hires

It makes no difference if you’re hiring someone to replace a person that’s leaving your business, or you’ve created a new job role. Irrespective of the position you hire a person for, you should have onboarding plans in place for all new hires.

Onboarding plans help new starters know what will happen on their first day, and during the early days of their employment with your company. An onboarding plan for your business might include a day or two learning more about the business and shadowing other workers.

It will most likely include training - either external or on the job. What’s more, it should also detail when and how new hires get settled into their new roles. If you don’t have onboarding plans for new starters, what’s likely to happen?

First of all, those new employees won’t really understand what they should be doing. Secondly, they are likely to seek employment elsewhere, leaving within the first year of starting their job.

Don’t forget that you can refine your onboarding plan as your business evolves.

9. Terminating employees without due process

If your company has an HR department, it should be familiar with carrying out due process before letting employees go from the business. These days, you can’t just fire someone opening your firm up to a whole heap of trouble.

Most countries have employment laws that cover unfair dismissals. You are duty-bound by law to follow a clear and fair process if an employee’s performance is significantly lower than expected.

Typically, that means giving the worker several warnings over a period and offering them the opportunity to improve their performance. Those warnings should all get fully documented, should proceedings ever reach an employment tribunal.

The contract that each employee agrees to sign when they start working for you should include:

  • Details of the disciplinary process;

  • Information about what happens at each stage of the process.

10. Offering an uncompetitive salary

Last but not least, a surprisingly high amount of HR departments fail to carry out regular salary benchmarking. As a result, they end up offering prospective employees a salary that much lower than the average for the area.

Some HR teams even offer little to no employment benefits. When that happens, they can’t understand why candidates aren’t queueing up to apply for jobs at the company! It goes without saying that your HR team should offer realistic salaries in line with today’s rates.


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