Workplace violence, marijuana use, cybersecurity and leave laws are among the most difficult challenges facing employers in 2019, according to an XpertHR survey of more than 800 human resource professionals.

The survey found that 45 percent of HR professionals view preparing for and responding to an active shooter or workplace violence incident – including threats of violence, such as stalking or domestic abuse – as very or extremely challenging.  

Employers are also facing the challenging and evolving issue of marijuana use; medical marijuana is legal in approximately 30 states, and recreational use is legal in more than 10 states. However, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance and illegal under federal law.

The survey confirms employer frustration in addressing marijuana use among workers and attempting to maintain a safe and drug-free workplace. Forty-one percent of respondents find managing the conflict of federal and state marijuana laws a challenge, and 34 percent are challenged by maintaining a drug-free workplace in light of changing laws.

Apart from these two challenges, HR professionals are also concerned by preventing cyber breaches and maintaining data security (51 percent), managing mobile devices/wearable technology and the Internet of Things (41 percent), managing the use of technology and social media while at work (39 percent) and protecting employee information from a data breach (31 percent).

Changes and expansions to federal, state and local leave laws (especially paid sick leave and paid family leave) are proving a challenge for more than 40 percent of survey respondents. Employee handbooks are becoming increasingly complicated as well, especially as laws shift between states and jurisdictions regarding harassment, accommodations, pay equity, leave, drug testing and weapons.

Workforce planning and recruiting key talent is an issue for HR professionals as well; 64 percent reported difficulties in finding high-quality applicants. Ensuring employees and supervisors have the necessary skills sets is a challenge for 52 percent of survey respondents, 50 percent have difficulty creating a succession plan, and increasing employee engagement, morale and satisfaction is a challenge for 49 percent.