In a time when businesses are managing a labor shortage and having to find creative ways to recruit and retain employees, perfecting your human resources (HR) strategy is more important than ever. HR challenges run the gamut, from resolving conflicts to establishing company values to educating employees about their benefits. Forbes reports that a whopping 80% of employees don't read or even open benefits materials.

It's time to not only incentivize your business for potential employees, but to use HR as a tool to keep employees around. Here are five common HR challenges and how to overcome them so you can make the most of your team.

1. Hiring for employee retention.

Rising to meet HR challenges requires planning and thoughtfulness. The first step is to design or reexamine your onboarding process: does it answer new employees' common questions? Do you allow enough time for training? Is your benefits package easy to understand? Gallup reports that only 12% of employees say they had an effective onboarding process, so you may have plenty of work to do.

Following up a few weeks into a new hire's tenure at your business or restaurant is equally important as getting to know them on their first day. Always check for understanding. Consistently communicate about job duties, company values, and any missteps until they're demonstrating understanding through their performance.

Without a clear vision for onboarding, your business may face frustrated, confused employees and unneeded turnover. The hours spent on the hiring process are hours spent away from your team and important day-to-day operations, and according to SmartRecruiters, that can quickly become costly. Invest the time to nurture new talent and build a working relationship together.

2. Making time to talk about benefits.

Small businesses that handle HR internally are often spread too thin, as most staff members have hybrid positions that range from bookkeeper to general manager. This can lead to compliance issues, missed deadlines, or even problems with employee retention if your team is feeling neglected.

When a staff member is wearing too many hats, consider emphasizing their HR responsibilities. Allow the individual or team to take a deep dive into all HR issues and truly get to know laws, best practices, and benefits such as insurance and parental leave. You can also consider outsourcing human resources. There are a variety of options that will work to tailor your HR needs with your company and culture. For restaurants that deal with time-clock and tip crediting compliance issues, labor management software can also help.

Dedicating time to dig into benefits with your employees during the onboarding process is crucial. Check for understanding, and follow up if and when paperwork isn't returned, forms aren't submitted, or you notice employees aren't taking advantage of benefits. Identify HR difficulties with your administrative team and carve out time during staff meetings to include an HR update or Q&A session. If you regularly make time to talk about employee benefits and well-being, your team will understand that this is part of your company culture and come to appreciate your interest in their success and happiness.

3. Resolving conflicts.

Even if all of your employees start out with a thorough understanding of how your business operates and the parts they play, conflicts will still arise. Resolving an issue between employees, or between an employee and management, starts with taking a moment to pause and look at all sides of the conflict.

Walking into a meeting with preconceived notions about who's right and who's wrong won't work, so be prepared to be neutral and truly listen. Communication during this process needs to be direct, and there should be no mixed messages. Avoid reacting emotionally to conflicts, which is easy to do when your team is already spread too thin. Aim to create goals for future interactions and standards of communication that all parties can agree to. Most importantly, schedule time to follow up on resolutions.

Whether you're the sole owner or run a business with multiple managers and teams, maintain a climate where there's no perceived hierarchy when it comes to conflicts. Remind your team members that their voices matter—and that the boss isn't always right—and they'll feel empowered to work together cooperatively.

4. Making company culture matter.

HR acts as the steward of company values and company culture, so it makes sense that human resources challenges arise when there's a lack of vision in these areas. A strong company culture can increase performance by 20% to 30%, according to the Harvard Business Review. But how does that work?

It's one thing to offer guests great value, but another thing entirely to create a culture where the whole team is inspired to take an active part in delivering it. Do you have a mission statement? Was it jotted down in your business plan and forgotten, or do you revisit it every few years? Your mission must be focused, clear, and easily visible to all of your team members.

Communication of your values should happen regularly and consistently, with your branding and nods to your mission coming through in all correspondence. Yes, even staff meetings should stay on-brand.

HR should understand that aligning to standards throughout the onboarding process and check-ins with management require time. Often, these alignments seem ambiguous and are easy to avoid, so consider creating an employee portal that can help guide employees. A designated portal will give your team a place where they can continue training and learning as they grow with your company and offer other perks such as online classes or help navigating medical benefits. Be the guide that truly cares and maintains your cultural standards.

5. Keeping up with regulations.

Taking the time to understand all industry laws and regulations is imperative for the success of your business. This ranges from break-time policies and pay rates to safety regulations and health codes. Training on compliance challenges can be outsourced, of course, but learning these aspects yourself and understanding them thoroughly gives you a better handle on your business and staff.

A dedicated employee portal can offer a place for employees to formally acknowledge they've been trained on various laws and regulations, but it requires maintenance. Frequent updates require managers and administrators to know what's going on in order to stay current on crucial aspects of operation like Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and labor laws.

HR challenges can be overcome with time and a commitment to making your organization and team stronger. Investing hours and budget into human resources means investing in the well-being and happiness of your employees. Do the work to focus your brand, guide your team, and maintain a consistent model for success.

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