People & Leadership

What are the top issues in HR?

Wondering what are the top issues in HR? Your questions answered here.

The top HR issues range from long-standing challenges such as recruitment and retention to topical, market-led issues like the gig economy and data security.

Many organisations conduct surveys annually to find out about the top People and HR issues. There’s no definitive list: different research reveals different perspectives and priorities, depending on who’s being asked and what the questions are.

Here are some common issues that crop up both in current research and in our latest experience working with HR leaders and their teams.

  • Recruitment: Finding and hiring the right people in a competitive employment marketplace – sometimes called ‘the war for talent’.
  • Retention: Keeping your talented staff once you’ve hired and trained them. High staff turnover leads to low productivity and erodes profits and reputation.
  • Reward and recognition: Setting pay that’s competitive but affordable and motivating employees through a range of attractive and relevant rewards.
  • Flexible working: Many workers have higher expectations of employer flexibility in terms of when, where and how they work, to support their work-life balance. Companies that don’t adapt may not be able to access the best pool of candidates.
  • Data security: Companies need robust policies to protect employee data and make sure they have permission to hold it. Once they have it, they need to make good use of it.
  • The move from HR to People: In an era of employee engagement, ‘People Companies’ recognise that their success depends on their peoples’ motivation, engagement and efforts. Therefore, they focus on creating the optimal environment for their talented employees to thrive and prosper rather than on HR admin.
  • Evidence-based HR: Data-driven insights can help organisations make better business decisions. Performance and People data combined with external market and benchmarking data create insight into how to nurture and get the most from a workforce.
  • Employee engagement: In a competitive labor market, savvy employers seek to engage their employees not just with pay and rewards but through principles, policies and ways of working that chime with people’s own values and lifestyles. Respect, trust, two-way communication and maintaining an employer brand that will attract talented employees are part of this.
  • Discrimination: Recent publicity about gender pay gaps have focused employers on pay equality. The #MeToo campaign has focused attention on sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers need clear policies and processes to spot and correct intended or unintended anti-equality behavior.
  • The gig economy: Workers seek freedom and variety in their work, and new opportunities are emerging to work freelance. Traditional employers need to compete for staff who now have more options. Gig employers need to make sure they’re supporting workers fairly, to avoid accusations of exploitation.
  • Productivity: Industry surveys regularly reveal that workers are productive for far less than 100% of the time they are paid. This impacts organisations’ profitability. Employers need to tackle the causes of this, from lack of motivation to poor facilities, bias against flexible working and outdated digital infrastructure.
  • Compliance and regulations: From recruiting to retirement, HR and People leaders handle a variety of compliance issues. Organisations face ever-changing regulation and compliance requirements and legal developments such as GDPR.

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