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Top challenges for HR Professionals and advice on how to handle them

Adrian Lewis, Director at cloud based HR software developer Activ People HR shares his tips

An HR Manager’s job is always one of balancing competing priorities, and each time of year has its own challenges.

Here are the challenges we expect HR Managers to face during the first quarter and how HR can tackle them:

The Winter Blues

Post Christmas, HR is often faced with employees with a very different mindset when they return to work. The parties are over, and the money’s been spent! It’s therefore not surprising that RedArc reported new research showing mental health issues in the workplace increase in January.

HR Managers aren’t immune to depression, either – so self-care is as important for HR Managers dealing with a workforce of post-Christmas ‘Eeyores’.

How to handle the blues:

First take care of yourself and lead by example. That helps set the tone and work ethic for the rest of the company. If you stay optimistic and positive, and maintain a professional facade of calm, the rest of the team will feel obliged to follow your lead.

It’s important to treat mental health issues seriously. In fact, some psychologists regard ‘Blue Monday’ as unhelpful, saying it trivialises mental illness. Mental health issues can impact on the business in terms of future legal claims and in poor productivity.

Good absence management systems (such as Activ Absence) will help identify and manage the problem, and when combined with best practice HR, there is a real opportunity to keep the employee supported and in work. ACAS have produced a helpful series of guides for employers, but if in doubt, consult an occupational health consultant to guide you on managing an employee with mental health challenges.

New Year, New Job

New Year’s Eve leads to New Year’s resolutions – and often one of them is ‘I’m getting a new job’. If morale is low, this can reinforce the resolution, so the challenge for HR is ensuring they don’t lose key talent before Spring kicks in.

How HR can handle it:

Identify key talent and let them know your plans for them to advance in 2017, even if you can’t offer them anything now. Rewards don’t have to be financial, identify development opportunities, inspire confidence, say thank you and make people feel valued.

Richard Branson has one of the best staff retention rates in the UK – he advises:

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”


‘Sickies’ are always a challenge for HR, but when the weather is cold, funds are tight and holidays are a long way off, they tend to increase – especially on Friday and Monday. The first Monday in February has been dubbed National Sickie Day, although this is just the start – the nation’s favourite Six Nations Rugby Tournament in February also sees workers skipping days to watch key matches.

How to tackle it:

Having a good absence management system combined with best practice HR is vital. Show employees their Bradford factor scores, involve line managers in absence management, conduct return to work interviews and keep excellent records. HR Managers using Activ Absence have all these tools at their disposal and many report 30% less sickness absence within their first year.

Staff Holiday Planning issues

HR Managers using spreadsheets, wall planners, leave cards or paper forms to manage annual leave often dread the new annual leave year. It’s a combination of end of year reporting, new leave requests flooding in and a need to calculate annual leave allowances for a multitude of shift patterns that can leave them feeling stressed.

This is even more complicated this year, because a number of legal decisions have impacted how much staff holiday employees are entitled to take and what they should be paid for whilst on holiday.

How HR can handle this:

If you really MUST deal with it manually, ACAS have produced thorough guidance, but an annual leave planning system (7) will eliminate the need for spreadsheets, enable employee self-service and calculate leave allowances automatically. Our recommendation is that HR automate their staff holiday planning, the cost savings in the first year alone justify it.

New legislation for 2017

As with any profession, the goalposts for HR professionals are continually being moved. Whilst we expect the majority of the new legal changes to come in after April, HR will need to prepare in advance. A number of professionals have listed the legal changes they expect to see in early 2017.

How HR can handle this:

HR should keep themselves informed by reading news updates and keeping CPD up to date. Thankfully many law firms, external HR consultants and HR suppliers offer free regular legal updates – these are golden opportunities to network and keep ahead of the game.

Overall, HR professionals face an uncertain future in a post-Brexit climate, so I’ll steal the scout’s motto for the best strategy to deal with change in 2017: “Be Prepared!”

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  1. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading

    your blog posts.

  2. Nice blog great informative.

  3. well, great information about HR Management how they suffer problem in the organization i think if the any organization have good management system thy accept teamwork that’s organization HR not suffer such kind problems here i understand some thing new i would like to thanks for such kind great information. nice one!

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