HR has too much to do; given that their responsibilities include everything to do with employees — and given that businesses are made up almost entirely of employees — there usually aren’t enough hours in the day for HR to handle all the necessary tasks.
It might be more manageable if HR weren’t trying to balance a consistent workload and a varying number of employee complaints. At most organizations, employees are encouraged to visit HR with any concerns, comments or other types of feedback — and these almost always consist of the same types of grumbles and grievances. Here is a list of the most common reasons employees pay a visit to HR, and what HR can do to reduce these complaints and get on with the job.
“Jason never washes his dirty dishes and now his workstation smells like garbage.”
“Chelsea never tells me what to do, but she also gives me negative feedback all the time.”
“John doesn’t pull his weight in group projects.”
Anytime a group of people gets together, for work or for play, there will be interpersonal drama. Typically, HR only needs to listen and nod through these stories, and tension will fade; this doesn’t take much time or energy. However, HR should also be on the lookout for conflicts that persist or that seem riskier than normal — which might constitute harassment or discrimination and require swift intervention.
Questions about payroll and benefits
“What is all this money you’re taking out of my paycheck?”
“Can I automatically contribute to my retirement fund?”
“How can I get paid another way?”
Getting paid is, for most employees, the main reason for working. Thus, HR will have to field quite a few concerns over payroll and benefits. Still, it is possible to reduce the quantity by creating an online payroll service center, where employees can find answers to common questions, accept payments and make small changes to their pay and benefits.
Career goals and objectives
“I don’t think my objectives for the third quarter are equivalent with other members in the department.”
“What do I need to do to get a promotion this year?”
In truth, HR shouldn’t really be fielding these sorts of questions. Instead, employees should be encouraged to talk directly to their superiors — or their superiors’ superiors — who have more control over daily, weekly and quarterly objectives as well as setting the bars for career advancement.
Job titles and roles
“My responsibilities and job title don’t correspond accurately.”
“I’m not getting paid comparably to professionals with my title at other companies.”
“I want to change my role within the department.”
Similar to goals and objectives, titles and roles (as well as pay levels) are issues better addressed by the leaders within an employee’s department. Unless the employee has struggled to address these issues with their superior in the past (which would make this an interpersonal challenge) then HR should bounce this issue back to leadership.
Juggling paid time off
“I’m taking paid time off for 10 days in November, but I want to take another seven days of unpaid leave.”
“When do I start accruing paid time off?”
HR should be able to avoid most PTO-related requests and concerns by building the information into the same service center used for payroll. There, employees should be able to submit PTO requests and gain more information about how PTO is generated and how they can use it.
Transfers and advancement
“Would it be a good idea to transfer from marketing into this sales leadership position?”
“Can you look at my resume and provide me with feedback?”
It’s the very limit of HR’s responsibility to tell employees what they should or shouldn’t be doing in their careers. HR isn’t a career services provider, so it’s within any HR department’s power to turn away employees who make requests like these. However, HR is responsible for managing employee transfers once they are initiated, and HR reps should be willing to field questions related to ongoing transfers.
Work/life Balance Concerns
“I need to leave work early, so I can pick up my kids from school.”
“Pressure to perform at work is disrupting my time with my family.”
“I feel burnt out.”
Employee burnout is an organization’s downfall, so it is very much within HR’s remit to stop burnout when it can. The goal should be to build a corporate culture with an emphasis on healthy work/life balance, which will reduce the number of burnout complaints to HR.
Unless HR can replace all employees with robots, there will always be employee complaints. Fortunately, recognizing which complaints require additional action and which can be channeled somewhere else can reduce HR’s workload and let them focus on the issues that matter.