HR for HR: Overcoming Common Challenges and Finding Solutions

HR for HR: Overcoming Common Challenges and Finding Solutions

Human Resources (HR) has long been recognized as the backbone of any thriving organization. As champions of employee engagement, organizational culture, and talent management, HR professionals are often seen as the custodians of the workforce. Yet, amidst their pivotal role in supporting others, an essential question arises: who supports the supporters? "HR for HR" underscores the importance of nurturing those who nurture others, urging organizations to recognize and bolster the wellbeing and development of HR professionals.

The corporate landscape is in constant change mode, and the role of HR has expanded beyond administrative duties to become a strategic partner tasked with aligning human capital with business objectives. This evolution introduces various challenges impacting HR professionals' mental health, job satisfaction, and overall wellbeing. Consequently, organizations must implement strategies and practices tailored to the specific needs of their HR teams, ensuring their longevity and happiness while securing the health of the organization as a whole.

The mental  health of HR Professionals 

A Gallup survey paints a troubling picture of the mental health challenges faced by HR professionals. Overall, 35% of HR professionals report a somewhat negative impact of their job on their mental health, highlighting the stress associated with these roles. HR Business Partners (HRBPs) are particularly vulnerable, with a staggering 54% reporting a negative impact on their mental health – the highest among all HR communities surveyed. Follow-up conversations with HRBPs reveal that they feel overwhelmed, with 55% expressing the need to simplify their multifaceted roles to focus on core priorities. Other HR communities also struggle, with 47% of People Analytics Leaders and 50% of Total Rewards Leaders reporting negative mental health impacts. These findings underscore the urgent need for organizations to recognize and address the mental health burden on their HR teams. Prioritizing support structures, clarifying expectations, and potentially streamlining responsibilities could be vital steps in safeguarding the wellbeing of those who work to ensure the wellbeing of the entire workforce.

Does HR Matter?


The strategic role of HR in organizational success is well-documented. Research highlights the causal link between HR practices and business performance, supporting that well-developed HR functions contribute to higher organizational performance. The significance of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction among HR professionals as predictors of job performance is evident, with implications for both individual and organizational outcomes. 

HR professionals are not immune to workplace stressors. Burnout among HR professionals has positively impacted turnover intentions, indicating that addressing burnout is crucial for retaining skilled HR personnel. In addition, the workload experienced by HR professionals can significantly affect their performance, underscoring the need for HR management systems that alleviate workload and support employee performance.

While offering efficiency gains, the digital transformation of HR processes has introduced new stressors by necessitating the continuous adaptation and upskilling of HR professionals. A skills gap has emerged in HR, particularly in data management and strategic thinking, which are crucial for navigating the complexities of digital transformation. This gap presents challenges and opportunities for HR management to evolve in response to the rapid transition from traditional practices to digital operations. 

The clash between business leaders and HR professionals and how it is hurting HR for HR

According to the article, CEOs are disappointed with HR departments. They believe HR professionals are not strategic partners and cannot advise on business needs. They would like HR leaders to be sounding boards and trusted advisors. They want HR to link people and data to diagnose business strengths and weaknesses and find the right fit between employees and jobs. However, CEOs say that most HR professionals are generalists focused on internal processes and don't understand the business strongly.

HR professionals often wear multiple hats, sometimes acting as an administrative expert and other times as a strategic advisor. This ambiguity in roles can cause confusion among managers regarding what HR can genuinely do for them. Secondly, managers abdicate their responsibility for people management, expecting HR to handle everything. This lack of ownership from managers can leave HR feeling unsupported and overwhelmed. Finally, the article argues that HR professionals might not fully grasp the day-to-day challenges managers face, making it difficult for HR to provide targeted solutions and gain manager buy-in for their initiatives.

The lack of support for HR from business leaders can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, there is a lack of understanding of HR's role and potential value, with many business leaders viewing HR as primarily responsible for social initiatives. HR's focus on transactional operations rather than driving business performance through people has led to skepticism from business leaders. The perceived "unreadiness" of HR among business leaders is a global issue. HRD practitioners can lack respect due to a credibility gap between what top managers want and what HRD professionals deliver. Lastly, the inability of HR to quantify the benefits of talent development efforts financially can pose challenges in gaining support from the C-suite. 

All the above issues put more pressure on HR professionals, affecting performance delivery and mental health. The HR for HR initiative would need a carefully thought out plan to allow HR professionals to get mental health assistance.

HR Professionals' Wellbeing and Mental Health



Ensuring HR professionals' wellbeing and mental health is critical to the "HR for HR" initiative. The wellbeing of HR practitioners is closely tied to various workplace factors such as organizational culture, role clarity, and work-life balance. The stressors HR professionals face are similar to those employees encounter in other roles. They can lead to emotional exhaustion and mental health issues, which in turn may compromise the effectiveness of the HR function.

The emotional labor of HR professionals has been investigated, revealing that their emotional labor is influenced by the requirement to display certain emotions as part of their professional role and a genuine concern for employee needs and wellbeing. This balancing act poses emotional challenges that can affect their psychological health. The findings show that HR professionals experience a disconnect between how they feel and present themselves to meet different stakeholder expectations. Managing these emotional displays is difficult due to these conflicting demands. This work highlights the emotional labor involved in the "backstage" of HR and illustrates the HR role's complexity, going beyond the limitations of current prescriptive models.

Over the past few decades, the role of Human Resource Management (HRM) has changed dramatically. Human resource professionals have shifted from focusing on employee welfare to becoming key players in a company's success. This change creates challenges, as they must juggle the needs of the business with the needs of individual employees. While there's been much research about workplace stress, this study looked specifically at what stresses human resource professionals. Surprisingly, those focused on innovation and entrepreneurship experienced the most stress, while those focused on technical tasks experienced the least. This shows that human resource professionals face a tricky balance – they're expected to be innovative and business-minded but also provide traditional support. The ever-changing nature of HRM and the general pressures of modern work can easily lead to burnout. These findings suggest that companies need to carefully consider these pressures when selecting and training their human resource teams

People who help others for a living, like teachers and social workers, are prone to getting burnt out - feeling drained. Unsurprisingly, human resources managers, who deal with people's problems all day, are also at risk. To help them avoid burnout, it is essential to learn the signs of stress and burnout and then take steps to prevent it. This includes recognizing the need for help, admitting the risk of burnout, and setting achievable goals.

Occupational Stress in HR: A Closer Look

HR professionals have one of the most challenging jobs in the world. They are at the forefront of leading and making some of the most difficult decisions. Here is one example: although this study is not directly related to HR, it would probably have a worse impact on HR professionals. The study found that managers who implemented layoffs experienced a significant increase in adverse outcomes. These included self-reported health problems, seeking medical treatment for health issues, sleep difficulties, feelings of depersonalization, and a higher intention to leave their jobs. The researchers determined that emotional exhaustion played a central role – fully mediating the relationship between implementing layoffs and health problems, depersonalization, and intent to quit. Emotional exhaustion also partially explained why managers who had to issue layoff notices were more likely to experience sleep disturbances and seek medical attention. If ordinary managers can feel this, what about the people leading layoffs organization-wide?

The workload factor for HR Professionals

One of the most significant factors affecting HR professionals' mental health and general wellbeing is their workload as they perform their duties. One study reveals that human resources (HR) roles in the pipe industry carry a high mental workload, with significant variations among positions. The Personnel Services Admin role demonstrated the highest mental workload (79.33), while the Cleaning Coordinator exhibited the lowest (30) score. Using the NASA-TLX method, Mental Demands (MD) emerged as the most significant indicator influencing this high mental workload. These findings highlight the need for targeted support within different HR roles to manage mental workload effectively.

A study examining the impact of workload on employee performance within the Administrative Division of Human Resources/General Sei Galuh Gardens at PT. Perkebunan Nusantara V. The researchers employed a census method involving all 50 employees within the Human Resources/General Administration Section. The study found that workload significantly impacts employee performance. The determinant test revealed an R Square value of 90.2%, demonstrating a strong effect of workload on performance outcomes.

Supporting the Supporters: A Fresh Perspective on Empowering HR Teams

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the corporate world, Human Resources (HR) stands as the backbone that aligns the workforce with the organization's vision. The shift from a primarily administrative role to a strategic partner has only heightened the importance of HR professionals in steering the company toward success. However, the vital question often unanswered is: who supports the supporters? The wellbeing of HR teams is paramount, and it's time to shine a light on nurturing the nurturers.

It begins with recognizing that HR professionals are not invulnerable to the pressures they manage. From mitigating burnout to facilitating growth, HR teams require robust support systems that acknowledge their strategic role and unique challenges.

  1. Establish Boundaries: Define your working hours and consciously disengage from work-related communications outside of those times whenever possible. Schedule short, dedicated breaks throughout the day for a brief walk, mindfulness exercises, or to step away from work tasks. This allows you to reset, reducing stress and improving focus. Learn to politely decline additional work when your plate is full, protecting your capacity to manage current responsibilities effectively.

  2. Practice Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care is non-negotiable for mental wellbeing. Engage in regular physical activity, even in moderate amounts, as it significantly affects mood and stress levels. Prioritize a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for the recommended 7-8 hours, as proper rest is foundational for emotional regulation. Pay attention to your diet, choosing nourishing whole foods to support your physical and mental health. Carve out time for mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling, which can be powerful tools for managing stress and staying present. Dedicating time to hobbies and activities you genuinely enjoy is vital to a balanced life.

  3. Create a Support System: Build a support network with trusted colleagues where you feel safe sharing challenges and seeking help when needed. Consider seeking mentorship from a more experienced HR professional or someone specifically focused on HR wellbeing to gain valuable guidance and perspective. If persistent struggles arise, don't hesitate to seek professional therapy, which offers confidential and personalized support tailored to your unique needs.

  4. Foster a Mentally Healthy Workplace: HR professionals play a key role in creating a mentally healthy workplace culture. Champion mental health awareness in your company, actively working to reduce stigma and encourage open conversations about mental wellbeing. Ensure your organization offers a robust Employee Assistance Program (EAP), providing employees with confidential access to counseling and support services. Proactively promote company-wide wellness initiatives like stress management workshops, mindfulness programs, or access to additional mental health resources.

  5. Address Workplace Stressors: Work closely with managers to ensure workloads are balanced and deadlines are realistic to avoid employee burnout. Nurture a culture where communication is respectful, constructive, and focused on solutions. Equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively address and mediate workplace conflicts, as unresolved tension can be a significant source of stress for everyone involved.

Conclusion: The Imperative of Nurturing HR for a Thriving Workforce

The modern business landscape underscores the strategic importance of Human Resources in driving organizational success. However, it's equally crucial to address the wellbeing of those who manage the wellbeing of others. The "HR for HR" initiative is a timely call to action, urging companies to safeguard their HR professionals' mental health, satisfaction, and growth.

Research highlights troubling mental health trends among HR professionals, with burnout being a pervasive threat. To empower HR teams, organizations must take proactive steps:

  • Prioritize Mental Health: Establish support systems, including access to professional therapy and Employee Assistance Programs. Promote mental health awareness and destigmatize seeking help. Champion workplace initiatives focused on stress management and wellness.
  • Define Roles and Expectations: Clarify the scope of HR responsibilities, streamline processes where possible, and provide opportunities for strategic input. This can help mitigate ambiguity and excessive workloads.
  • Bridge the Skills Gap: Invest in ongoing training for HR professionals, particularly in data analytics, digital transformation, and strategic thinking. This ensures that their capabilities align with the evolving business environment.
  • Foster Collaboration and Mutual Support: Encourage open communication between HR and business leaders. Facilitate opportunities for HR to understand operational challenges better and demonstrate their strategic value. Address misperceptions of HR functions and emphasize their role as problem-solvers and business partners.
  • Nurture a Culture of Wellbeing: Everyone, including HR, is responsible for promoting a mentally healthy workplace. Organizations should emphasize work-life balance, respect boundaries, and encourage self-care practices for all employees.Investing in the wellbeing and support of HR teams is not just an ethical imperative but a business necessity. Organizations that fail to recognize the unique pressures their HR professionals face risk losing valuable talent and undermining their overall success. By implementing the "HR for HR" principles, businesses can create a sustainable ecosystem where employees across all functions feel supported, valued, and empowered to reach their full potential.

Memory Nguwi
Super User
This article was written by Memory a Super User at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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