Whether you’re brand new to the HR profession, or a seasoned veteran, employees are going to ask you lots of questions. So to help you stay prepared, I’ve spoken to a number of experienced practitioners in the field, to bring you some of the most common questions employees ask HR.
1. “Why have I been taxed so much?”
In many cases, HR ends up fielding questions about payroll – the most common culprit being an abnormality on a payslip. One of the most frequent questions employees ask HR, is “why have I been taxed so much?” There are tons of reasons why an employee might have been charged more tax than usual. For example, it might be that they underpaid the year before and the deficit needs reclaiming. Or perhaps their tax code has changed. While you might be an HR specialist, not a payroll specialist, you should still make it your goal to understand the ins and outs of employee payslips, and the way tax is calculated. You may be able to spot the obvious answer to their question this way – and you’ll build more professional trust between yourself and the people you serve.
2. “What’s the wi-fi password?
Not all questions are related to employment, payroll or contracts. For example, Alison DeNisco Rayome, writing for TechRepublic, says that one of the most common questions employees ask HR is: “What’s the wi-fi password?” Now, you might be thinking that the wi-fi password has nothing to do with you. Why don’t they ask the IT manager? Or the receptionist? Or somebody who has been working at the company for more than a week? And maybe you’re right. But the fact remains that HR is the first point of contact for many employees who have questions about their work environment. And while some of these questions might not be your personal responsibility, you can at least prepare yourself to help. In fact, with questions such as wi-fi passwords or office supplies, you could even extinguish some of these fires before they ignite. For example, by giving new starters a welcome pack which tells them exactly where they can find these things. Sometimes the answer is just a decent on-boarding process.
3. “My job title isn’t right”
Many questions employees ask HR will relate to their role and responsibilities within the organisation. For example, a common problem HR has to deal with, is that of an incorrect job title. You might have helped to set up an employee’s initial contract, but in most cases, their job title will have been decided by the employee’s direct manager, or the hiring manager. Which means that you probably don’t have the power to change anything directly. But what you do have the power to do, is help the employee to have a conversation with the relevant person. Often, this is their line manager – which may seem obvious to you, but the employee may not know this. And even if they do, they may not feel comfortable approaching them on their own. Especially if they are new to the organisation. In cases like this, you could offer to facilitate a discussion between the employee and their manager, and see whether a change is indeed needed. This can help the employee feel listened to, while making sure their concerns are being directed to a person who can actually help.
4. “What’s my remaining holiday entitlement?”
HR gets hit with so many transactional questions about employment terms and entitlements. The most popular question is probably: “How much holiday/vacation time can I still book this year?” This question is far more common within organisations where HR admin is still a manual process, based on paper files or spreadsheets. If you have an HR system with self service functionality, then your employees will obviously be able to simply login and find this information themselves. Make sure you’re familiar with your organisation’s entitlement rules, and make sure you know how to navigate the employee database quickly. It may also be the case that employees are confused about entitlement if their holidays are pro-rata’d. Brush up on how to calculate holiday entitlement for casual workers.
5. “My colleague isn’t pulling their weight”
Many of the questions and queries you will deal with in HR will not relate to an employee’s own work at all. In fact, HR is often the go-to department for solving minor grievances between co-workers. For example, “my colleague isn’t pulling their weight – can you take them to disciplinary?” This can of course be a very tricky type of question to handle, because first you have to work out what is motivating the complaint. It might be indeed that the employee in question is indeed flouting company policy, ‘stealing company time’ or even deliberately making life hard for everybody else. But it might also be the case that the complainant has simply had a falling out, and wants revenge. Your first port of call should be to liaise with the alleged perpetrator’s line manager – if there is a performance issue, chances are their line manager already knows about it. And if they don’t, then a discreet heads up may be just the tonic.