The Case for Reimagining “HR Issues”

Karen Kirton
3 min readJul 21, 2020


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You know those workplace sayings that raise your hackles and you just wish someone would phrase it differently?

One of them for me is leaders saying they’ve got “lots of HR issues”.

I know that’s a common thing to say. So let me explain.

When a manager says that “HR issues” are taking up all of their time, for me, they are creating a barrier between themselves and the issue. This language dehumanises the employee as they become a “human resource” and suggests the manager is avoiding ownership by saying it’s an HR issue, so therefore it’s someone else’s fault or problem to fix.

Whereas, if you actually examine their “HR issues” and go back to the root causes, it will typically stem from a leadership issue or a cultural issue within the organization rather than an issue with the employee (or “human resource”)!

Often there are fundamental issues with an organization’s employment practices. As businesses grow you get more people and people aren’t exactly widgets, are they? Thus, more complex people-to-people interactions involving behaviour, motivation, and expectation are going to happen. The fact is that we’re all unique individuals who bring our unique baggage with us to work every day.

And that’s where it’s so important to have a people strategy and frameworks around how you manage people in your organization. If you don’t invest in how you lead the people side of your business, then you’ll spend all of your time managing people issues. If you think HR is just putting out fires and having policies, then you’ve missed the point. It’s actually about looking at the people in your business as a really expensive and necessary investment, and leveraging that investment appropriately to help your business grow.

Recently I asked a company founder how she was doing, and she said to me that she had lots of HR issues. When I asked what that meant, she referred to one employee that wants more money and others that want to work part time.

If she had a people strategy & framework in place, this “HR issue” would look different. The employees would know how remuneration is managed at the company. They’d be less likely to complain and feel demotivated because they believe they’re not paid enough. If a leader with this infrastructure does receive questions or complaints, then that’s a flag. There’s a potentially valid reason to check that the remuneration process is working or market rates haven’t increased.

It’s the same for someone wanting to work part time. If there was a process in place and a philosophy and culture around the organisation’s approach to work flexibility, this would be clear to employees and give them a process to follow for seeking part time work. Once they have applied, then the leader can make decisions based on the business needs, followed by communicating this decision clearly to the employees.

Just by having simple frameworks and processes in place, you automatically free up time from these “HR issues”.

So, here’s the challenge for you. If you feel like you’re stuck in the day-to-day, too operationally focused, and have too many “HR issues”, then make notes on your company’s issues so you can determine what pieces of your people framework are missing. Taking a step back and putting those fundamentals in place is going to free up your time, and also keep your staff more engaged.

Not sure where to start evaluating your employment practices? Check out our free downloadable self-assessment tool to help understand if you are achieving good employment practices and identify areas of improvement.



Karen Kirton

Founder of Amplify HR — a consulting company in Australia that specialises in enabling businesses to find, grow and keep great people.