Halloween is traditionally a time for “trick or treating.” For human resource professionals, many days can be Halloween-like, filled with unexpected events or career rewards. Recently, dozens of HR professionals participated in a fun, thought-provoking survey as part of the annual South Carolina Society for Human Resource Management conference presented by Nexsen Pruet. In preparation for one of the conference sessions, HR professionals from throughout the Carolinas responded to questions like: “What are the top HR challenges for 2016?”; “How do you recruit and retain qualified employees?”; and “What is the most common reason for employment termination and an employee’s most memorable excuse?” The results offer some interesting HR “tricks or treats.”

Looking ahead, the survey provided a glimpse of the HR challenges looming in 2016. For example, many expect that compliance with changes in employment laws will be a major concern. They cite upcoming, significant revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rules; pro-union changes by the National Labor Relations Board; ongoing compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and dealing with the Affordable Care Act. Beyond legal compliance, many also expect organizational development to be a serious challenge in 2016. Their concerns include leadership development, diversity inclusion, and effectively communicating within an organization. The survey results highlighted other opportunities, but by far the top HR challenge expected for 2016 relates to recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

Knowing that recruitment and retention is the No. 1 HR challenge for 2016, what are some of the best ways to do that? Here is a summary of what the survey revealed:

  1. Offer enhanced benefits, such as good health care coverage, 401(k) programs, tuition payment, or performance bonuses.
  2. Go to the applicants, rather than wait for them to come to the employer. For example, participate or host job fairs, and actively recruit from colleges or high schools.
  3. Advertise openings through social media and employee referrals.
  4. Foster a diverse, family-friendly, employee-friendly environment at work.
  5. Offer competitive pay, including sign-on bonuses.

Of course, a fundamental part of retention is an employee’s willingness or ability to follow reasonable work rules. According to the survey, the most common reason to discipline or discharge an employee by far is poor attendance. Some of the excuses for absences or tardiness are truly memorable, and a few of them are even Halloween-like:

  • My cows got loose.
  • My dog’s birthday.
  • Spent all day cleaning the inside of the car after employee’s child got sick while riding
  • There’s a skunk in my car.
  • There was a snake in my son’s closet.
  • My cat refuses to get off the chandelier.
  • My job interview (somewhere else) was longer than I thought.

Although Oct. 31 comes only once a year, these survey results indicate that HR professionals experience “trick or treating” every day.