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How Can HR Make Better Decisions In Difficult Situations?

How Can HR Make Better Decisions In Difficult Situations?

HR is subjected to difficult decisions daily that require quick thinking. Because of this influx of judgment calls, HR must follow all necessary steps to ensure they consistently make the best decision for their organization.

Continue reading to learn how you can remain prepared for the various questions you are sure to receive each day. 


What Are Common Decisions HR Must Make Daily?

One of the most challenging aspects of being an HR professional is maintaining enough knowledge to assist with various questions and situations throughout the day. These concerns can arise for a number of reasons and can involve many different areas within your organization. 

Though HR questions can encompass any number of topics, five significant areas require regular attention:

  • Technology:

One of the most notable areas is technology. No matter what devices your organization uses, there is a vast spectrum of issues that can arise. Technological concerns can involve login errors, software updates, or even computer malfunctions. Whatever the crisis, HR will need to discern which requests hold higher priority and which solution will be the most effective.

  • Paid Parental Leave:

Paid parental leave also involves judgment calls HR will need to consider. If your organization offers paid parental leave, there may be instances where employees wish to split that time into two chunks. What if a newly hired employee wishes to take time to be with their newborn right after being hired? HR has to determine the best way to accommodate these requests, which can be especially tricky with a topic as sensitive as parenthood.

  • PTO and Overtime Requests:

Most HR professionals will spend a good deal of time handling PTO and overtime requests. There may be cases where a select few employees are needed to help handle client requests, for example, and clock overtime throughout the year. But what happens when several more employees begin clocking overtime hours when it isn’t a business necessity? There can also be issues where employees want to use all of their PTO in one go, which can seriously hinder productivity. Once again, HR has to take on the responsibility of determining the correct answer.

  • Work-from-Home Requests:

Remote Policies are another concern for HR professionals. With many organizations returning to the office, HR will likely face concerns over requests to remain remote or work from a hybrid schedule. There may be some roles capable of remaining remote and some that are not. HR will need to work with management to judge what is appropriate for the organization and the overall company culture.

  • Grievances:

Employee grievances can also be an issue for HR. The cases can be minor claims or more extreme cases such as EEOC claims or harassment complaints. It will ultimately be up to HR to handle these concerns effectively and appropriately. 


How Can HR Administer Rules Fairly?

Many of the judgment calls required of HR professionals can be clearly defined in a company's Culture Guide. A Culture Guide is similar to an employee handbook in that it outlines all detailed responses to employees' specific concerns and questions. But a Culture Guide also covers all of the policies specific to your organization as well as your core values and vision. A more comprehensive Culture Guide can encompass HR concerns more extensively.

Using a Culture Guide is also a great way to cut down on many daily judgment calls while also creating clear rulings that allow for fair and consistent judgment in most situations. It is crucial for businesses—specifically small to midsize companies with minimal HR staff—to include a Culture Guide to relieve many of the overwhelming requests HR is bound to face. 

While culture guides are essential for many organizations, there are specific areas that are better left vague. Creating less specific language allows HR professionals to make judgment calls on areas that may need to be viewed on a case-by-case basis. Here are some particular situations that may be better suited to this situational decision-making:

  • HR can't possibly account for all of the issues they may face regarding technology. It would do no good to try and account for all possible scenarios within the Culture Guide. If technology poses a concern in the office, consider whether the problem will halt productivity. While there may be a clear response, dealing with the issue later may be a better use of resources and time if the problem is not serious. On the other hand, it may be an issue that requires an immediate solution. 

  • If you decide to make a hard and fast rule that employees take all parental leave at once, it could impact your company. It may benefit your organization to have an employee split time to work around a busy season. These requests are often better suited to a case-by-case scenario. 

  • PTO requests can often be handled situationally. Depending on the time of year and whether an employee's tasks are up to date can help determine if PTO at a given time is possible. Work with a team lead, supervisor, or manager to come to a mutual decision on PTO and reach out to HR for final approval. 

No matter the judgment call, HR should always keep in mind that they have the power to make these decisions. HR’s response should never default to the boss' discretion. For this reason, HR must be in regular communication with all leadership within an organization. 


HR Should Communicate with Leadership Regularly

Regularly communicating with leadership helps define boundaries and responsibilities between the two parties. As an HR professional, there will be specific issues you may feel better suited to handle on your own. Say something like, "It will be better for you if I'm using my judgment on these concerns because it will allow you to work on the projects that are more pressing for you." 

Another reason to communicate with leadership is to ensure that all issues are taken care of at the proper level. For example, suppose an EEOC harassment complaint is filed and sent up the ladder to upper management. In that case, it suddenly becomes a concern for the whole company rather than the people involved. An issue like that needs to be dealt with in HR. 

CEOs or other upper management may not even want to be included in those sorts of complaints and may prefer it all be handled by HR, which is why these conversations are so crucial. Everyone needs to be on the same page so that issues can be addressed and solutions presented in the most effective way possible while remaining compliant and consistent. 

This, however, does not mean that upper management should not be involved in large-scale concerns. The CEO probably needs to know if your company is being sued or suddenly showing up in the local news.

The key takeaway here is frequent communication. With the amount of decision-making required of an HR professional, it is critical to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Few decisions are black and white, but with proper planning and mutual understanding, HR can remain prepared for various judgment calls that may come up. 


Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with HR decision making and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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