A guide to most common workplace HR issues and how to deal with them

By 10/02/2017 April 19th, 2021 Human Resources

No one said HR would be easy, did they? Certainly, if you work within human resources, you’ll know that every day throws up a new challenge – something you’re yet to deal with but which takes up an inordinate amount of your time.

As a result, deadlines are missed and that ever-growing to-do list keeps… well, growing. There’s always something else screaming for your attention, making each day feel like a constant battle against productivity.

While there’ll always be strange, unusual issues that crop up, there’s also a lot of common workplace problems that are far easier to account for, and, if you know what they are, you’ll quickly create an HR utility belt that will always be your saviour.

So, without further ado, we’re going to use this blog post to list the most common workplace HR issues and consider how best to deal with them. Make it your bible and keep it by your side – always.

Tricky employee queries

Firstly a confession: we simply can’t predict what employees are going to question next. Sorry. No one can, because humans really do say the strangest things. What we can do its explain how best to deal with the tricky queries they throw up.

It should be remembered that the HR department acts as an interface between the staff and the business itself. Any issues relating to employment or disputes should be channelled through HR in order to ensure fairness and a swift resolution.

The key lies in fast access to meaningful data. With the right HR system in place, organisations can quickly refer to the information that matters when a concern or question is raised. Contract variations, wage details or previous disciplinary reports should always be to hand to make query handling as easy as possible.

Remember – you can answer anything if you have the right data to hand.

Employee retention

There’s nothing worse than spending months (sometimes, years) training up an employee only to watch them leave without so much as a backwards glance. It’s a budget killer and puts the organisation right back at square one.

It’s the HR team that is usually turned to when this happens with serious questions asked; why did they leave? Why were they allowed to leave? How do we prevent it from happening in future?

There’s no escaping the fact that it is the HR team’s job to protect the employee base. It is, after all, the company’s most valuable asset that should be capable of driving high levels of productivity and retaining an ever-increasing roster of skills.

Remuneration, incentives and culture are the three things you need to focus on in order to improve employee retention. Wages should be fair, consistent and in line with market expectations, incentives should be inventive (an unexpected trip to the cinema is often more valued than a bonus swallowed up by the taxman) and the culture should foster a genuine love of the company.

The more wanted an employee feels, the more likely they are to build an emotional connection with the business, and such feelings proliferate – quickly.

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Time for a less obvious issue. Productivity either happens, or it doesn’t – it’s that simple. Unfortunately, the stuff that keeps us from being productive isn’t always that obvious. It can creep up unawares and, before you know it, set you back further than you’d think possible.

Staff within your organisation are likely suffering from low productivity levels, but they may not even be aware of the fact. That’s why the first step in rectifying this issue is to identify where it is taking place. Which departments are suffering from the poor output? Can you trace the source to a particular employee or group of employees?

Once low productivity points are identified, HR professionals can go about rectifying them. A simple ‘time and motion’ study can be carried out to review how tasks are performed and who is in charge of their completion. Inefficiencies will quickly become clear during this process, as will any lingering personnel issues.

Often, increased motivation or additional training may be the only thing required to boost productivity, but a proper study will also reveal areas in which investment or additional recruitment is required.

Health and safety

If there’s one thing that turns people off, it’s the mention of ‘health and safety’. Combine that with ‘documentation’ and you’ve got a sure-fire way to ensure that employees take little to no interest in the safety of their workplace.

This is a perennial problem for HR teams, but it is fixable. The answer lies in creating health and safety rules, regulations and supporting documentation that is fair and – most importantly – engaging. Try swapping lengthy policy documents for more visual affairs and throw out rules that simply shouldn’t apply in the modern age. In doing so, the workplace should become a far safer place to be.

Diversity and discrimination

It’s a shame to have to include this in a post about common workplace HR issues, but there is, unfortunately, no escaping the fact that diversity and discrimination remain key problems in business.

Modern organisations should have some form of policy relating to diversity within the workplace, so if yours hasn’t, creating one should be your starting point. With that policy in place, you’ll always have something to turn to in the event of an HR problem. This makes it fair for all and ensures there are no grey areas that are open to interpretation.


It’s also sensible to record demographic data when bringing on new hires. Make it part of the recruitment process and you’ll quickly build a business that demonstrates its commitment to diversity.

Lastly, make sure every incident involving discrimination is fully recorded and stored for future reference. If you’re following company policy, you need to demonstrate that you have done so in the past, and that will only be possible with good record keeping.

Disciplinary processes

Thankfully, this is an easy one – unless you make it difficult for yourself.

Every incident that requires a disciplinary process should tread the same path. Keep records of communication, follow company procedures and make absolutely no exceptions, except in the most extreme of circumstances.

Disciplinary processes are only the bane of HR departments if they’re open to interpretation or not followed correctly. Make life easy for yourself by keeping things consistent.


Finding the right people is incredibly challenging. With more and more workers deciding to go it alone and work in a freelance capacity and the digital marketplace offering multiple recruitment channels, obtaining talent is perhaps harder than it has ever been.

If you’re still relying on older methods of recruitment (for example, newspaper advertising), you need to start spreading your wings a little further. Thankfully, the rise of social networks such as LinkedIn has created a vibrant, ever-accessible and – most importantly – a free platform on which to search for new staff.

Get social. When looking for new people, advertise the position on services like LinkedIn and scout forums and groups for people who might make the grade.

Far from being more time consuming, this method of recruitment is actually rather enjoyable and addictive. The best people are out there, and if you sniff them out yourself, you’ll save a significant amount of time interviewing the wrong people.

Wrapping up

In this guide, we’ve listed seven of what we believe to be the most common workplace HR issues. There are more, but those above will crop up most readily. Thankfully, you now have all you need to tackle them head-on, reduce the number of occurrences and ensure you can help build a business that has a productive, happy workforce at its heart.

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Natural HR

About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.