HR Function

The five most difficult HR decisions

person wearing face mask in the office

This is a guest post by Streetwise HR Ltd

Let’s face it – running a business is riddled with day-to-day decisions, and some of them can be excruciating. From downsizing when times are tough to dishing out disciplinary action, being the boss carries with it some tricky choices. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the top five most difficult HR decisions, and a few pointers as to how to make it out alive.


For any business owner, ‘downsizing’ is a dirty word. Because when you’ve spent all your time, energy and money growing a company, the last thing you want to do is lay people off.

And guess what? Much like many other difficult decisions in business, the problem gets ignored until it’s too late to plan strategically and adequately. The result? Reactionary action that leaves your business, and your staff, utterly deflated.

The solution lies in forward-thinking, pre-emptive planning and a serious amount of strategy. Rather than burying your head in the sand and letting the warning signs evade you, you need to be all-seeing and all-knowing about the nuts and bolts of your company.

And if there are warning signs that the business is straining under the financial burden of excess staff, get out of the Batmobile and take action.

But hold on…whatever action you do take, make sure it’s carried out thoughtfully and with respect for all members of staff. Lousy lay-offs will leave dismissed employees fuming and remaining employees disheartened – downsizing is as much about protecting staff morale as it is about saving money.

You need to think carefully about things like:

 * Who must be laid off

 * How much notice will they get

 * The amount of redundancy pay they’ll receive

Oh, and if you’re able and willing, you should help them find another job.

Get all these aspects right, and you can turn downsizing into an organisational superhero.


Recruiting the right talent is all about treating prospective staff with the respect they deserve, and making sure you come across as a competent company to work for. Yep, the interview process is as much about the applicant sussing you out as it is the other way around.

After all, who wants to work for a company that treats you like the proverbial?!

If you don’t have an efficient recruitment strategy in place, your company could come across as pretty darn dodgy, sending awesome would-be employees running for the hills.

So, with the hope of sharpening up your strategy, here’s some inside knowledge for you…

The most common grumbles regarding the interview process include:

 * The advertised role was different to the actual role

 * The interview dragged on too long

 * No adequate feedback (if any)

 * The company came across as uncaring, uninterested and intimidating.

These little niggles are easily avoided – all you need to do is spend a bit of time planning your recruitment process. This is a case of the more you put in, the more you’ll get out – namely, a fantastic talent that likes you as much as you like them.

So put your thinking hat on, enlist some third-party help if you need it, and get the following aspects nailed:

1, Understand the time frame

2, Develop a solid recruitment strategy

3, Write an accurate job description

4, Hone the interview process (including how you will deliver feedback)

5, Groom your contracts into things of beauty

Dismissal and difficult employees

Yikes, we know how hard it is to deal with difficult employees. Putting the effort into recruiting ‘the one’ only to be presented with challenging behaviour later down the line is cause for many a sleepless night. In fact, the prospect of dismissal is so riddled with anxiety that the problem often gets ignored, leaving it – and the employee – to spiral out of control.

But as with all HR issues, adequate planning is the best way out of the woods. By taking the reins and efficiently managing employee performance and misconduct, you’ll help increase staff productivity, protect your company legally and boost team morale.

This is about being assertive and authoritative, but also fair. You don’t want to rule with an iron fist, but you do want your staff to respect you and know that you have the muscle to take action if the situation demands it.

Of course, each case of misconduct will be unique – staff position, length of service and the nature of the offence will all contribute to the level of action taken. But the consistency is this: you mean what you say, you’ll try to resolve the situation as best you can, but if the worst comes to the worst, then they’re out.

Remember that any action taken is usually done in stages. You may employ the three-strike approach, but if the offence warrants it, then an instant dismissal may be necessary. We always think a one-on-one chat before any written warning is preferable – there’s a lot to be said for human interaction, especially when it comes to exerting your authority and leadership. But if the situation escalates then pull out the big guns with a written warning – it will protect you legally and let the employee know you mean business.


We hate bullying and there’s absolutely no place for it in the workplace. The most important thing here is to look out for the signs like a hawk. This means developing a good line of communication between you and your employees, which will build trust and provide opportunities for concerns to be shared.

By creating an open and free dialogue, you’re also showing would-be bullies that their behaviour will not go unnoticed and unreported. You’re an employer who gets involved – you ask, listen and act – not a faceless boss who doesn’t care.

And of course, having a robust and clear-cut anti-harassment and bullying policy in place is incredibly important. You want to set the record straight from the start – bullying is not tolerated, end of.

Employee relations

Last but by no means least, is employee relations – the backbone of any successful business and the secret to acquiring and retaining brilliant – and happy – staff.

Maintaining watertight employee relations is all about pre-empting problems, communicating consequences, giving thoughtful feedback, keeping written records, and taking carefully considered and fair action. Don’t forget to keep your finger on the ball with annual performance reviews, not to mention a beady eye on consistent culprits.

How successful growing businesses nail their policies and procedures

All this can seem pretty daunting – there’s a heck of a lot to think about. But take it from us: every successful business out there has its policies and procedures nailed.  For small to medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs, the most cost-effective and time-efficient way to do this is to get some outside HR help. We’ll do things by the book to protect your company, keep your staff happy and get your business back on track.

Oh, and we’re good at the big decisions…

About the author: Streetwise HR Ltd

Streetwise HR Ltd provides straight-talking, jargon-free HR services for small and medium organisations in the UK. They specialise in rolling up their sleeves and digging in to get your HR issues sorted.

You can hire Streetwise HR either as an outsourced extension of your business or on a pay-as-you-go basis.


Visit their website here.