We’ve covered many topics in HR Coach over the past few years—topics that range from employee files to coaching, from meeting agendas to performance reviews. Once you’ve performed these HR tasks for a while, it can be easy to go on autopilot. That’s why this month’s column will review some of the most common human resources mistakes.
1. Hiring people who are just like you. I can hear you now: “What’s wrong with hiring people I have things in common with? At least I’ll like them!”
True, you may like them (though consider how many people you dislike despite your perceived common ground). But how do you expect to get any new ideas, ways of thinking, and motivation into your company if everyone thinks alike? Iron sharpens iron: Without some conflict, there is little communication and growth. You need people who aren’t like you to bring fresh perspectives and unique insights. Since they don’t share your views on everything, they can point out things or areas you may have overlooked. Sometimes they may identify opportunities in a new market, while other times they might spot red flags you were missing.
"You need people who aren’t like you to bring fresh perspectives and unique2. Skipping a company orientation. With the unemployment rate being so low—4 percent in June 2018—when you find good candidates, you do everything you can to get them onboarded and trained as quickly as possible. If the position has been open for a long time, you might try to justify skipping the new-hire process.
insights. Since they don’t share your views on everything, they can point out things you may have overlooked."
But failure to properly onboard a new employee can backfire. For almost every position within your company, your employees are walking, talking billboards for your services. Without a solid understanding of the history of the company, your mission, your values, and your expectations, they won’t have the proper tools to properly represent and sell your company and its services.
3. Lack of an employee handbook, or not requiring employees to sign an acknowledgment that they have received the handbook. One of the most important documents for your company is an employee handbook. It outlines the history, mission, and culture of the company, and includes policies, guidelines, and expectations of employees companywide.
When coaching CEOs on an employee-related issue, I often ask, “How did the employee know this was not the proper way to handle XYZ? Is it documented in your handbook, and did you have the employee sign an acknowledgement form when you reviewed the handbook with them?” Often, the answer is “I don’t know.”
Communication is key! You have policies and procedures for a reason. Employees need to be informed about the employment laws that affect them. Ensure your handbook is reviewed at least annually, and have ALL employees sign off that they have received and understand it. Think of it as an employee relations insurance policy.
4. Outdated job descriptions. We all know what a chauffeur is expected to do, what the detailer’s job includes, how difficult a dispatcher’s job is when a last-minute change comes in, or how much time it should take a reservationist to ensure a group movement’s details are entered perfectly into the system. Unless your new hire has worked in this industry before, they don’t know—and you must tell them. And even if they are an industry veteran, they are new to how your company defines each role.
Your job descriptions (written by position, not by incumbent) should include the following sections: job title; manager; Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) designation (Exempt vs. Non-Exempt); date the description was created or updated; company mission statement; position summary; key responsibilities (not all of them, just the most important ones); required knowledge, skills, education, experience, certifications, and/or licensure; and working conditions. You must also require signatures, as documenting that both the manager and employee have reviewed the job descriptions is a crucial step in ensuring that the communication took place.
5. Exempt vs. non-exempt status. The FLSA provides guidelines for classifying positions (again, this status is based on the position, not the person). Exempt employees are paid a salary and do not receive extra compensation for the hours they work past 40 in each work week.
Commonly, exempt-level employees are referred to as white-collar employees, but it is not that easy to define. The quick test involves job duties, how the position is paid, and the level of salary the position is paid. The more involved test includes level of expertise, management oversight budget discretion, and much more. Non-exempt positions are generally non-management, entry/mid-level positions that are under significant direction from management. Paying your employees under the correct classification is crucial for compliance.
6. Assuming all employees are motivated by the same things—or assuming you know what motivates your staff at all. The conventional wisdom says that all employees were motivated by money; in recent years, however, we have learned that people are motivated by many different things: flexible work schedules, benefits, work-from-home options, more PTO ... the list goes on. Some employees even say they would take lower pay in exchange for these benefits. Other areas of motivation include being inspired by fun, rewards (other than money), challenges, and how meaningful their work is. Get to know your employees so you know what motivates them—or even ask them outright. You’d be surprised at what you may find out and how feasible (and easy) those motivators are for you to provide.
7. Failure to handle issues as they arise, and failure to document issues. My favorite three words are documentation, documentation, and documentation. This is such an important action when it comes to properly managing not only your employees but also your company.
Unfortunately, as much as we want to rely on our brains, our memories fade and important details can be lost forever. Further, when an incident happens with an employee and you neglect to document the conversation, the employee can simply plead ignorance. Documentation creates records that can support your actions when needed, such as in unemployment or discrimination cases. When documenting conversations or performance, remember these points:
• WHO will be reading it: Be sure that your documentation is clear and understandable `
• WHAT are you documenting: Only document the facts
• WHEN are you documenting: Do it as closely to the time of the incident, or from the time you’re made aware of the incident, as possible
• WHERE to keep the documentation: Employee records should be stored in a locked filing cabinet in the office of either the HR department or another designated manager of the company
• WHY are you documenting this: You’ve heard the adage, “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen!”
8. Lack of feedback and communication. Lack of communication in any relationship can be the kiss of death. When employees do not receive feedback from their managers, they are left to decide on their own how they are performing. Use a mix of frequent informal feedback and more structured formal feedback.
9. Lack of a pre-employment process. As with mistake #2, we are so hungry to add staff that sometimes we skip or skim over important pieces of the pre-employment process. Some skip checking references, other start training new hires before their drug tests or background check results are complete, and others hire candidates based on their CDL with passenger endorsement but forgo the interview process.
Skipping any of these steps in the pre-employment process can lead to big problems! For instance, what happens if you put a newly hired chauffeur on an airport run before you receive his drug test results, and he gets in a collision with a passenger on board? What if you hire a reservationist before her background check is back? When the report comes through, you find out she has multiple counts of identity theft on her record—and she’s had access to client financial information since she started working for you. Each of these steps is important to the process to protect your clients and your company as a whole.
Lack of recognition. Just about every person at every stage in life thrives on praise: Children love to have their parents cheering them on in the stands, adults like to be told they made a great dinner or trimmed the lawn beautifully. Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Partners, a Brazilian company known for its industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering, said, “Human nature demands recognition. Without it, people lose their sense of purpose and become dissatisfied, restless, and unproductive.” A simple “thank you” or “great job closing that deal” is all it takes for your employees to know that you are not only seeing but also appreciating their hard work and dedication to your company.
Now that you have reviewed the list, can you see any mistakes you are making? Have you considered the possible harm these omissions can do to your company? Maybe you didn’t even realize you were doing something wrong because it’s never been brought to your attention before. Talking with your HR department or consultant is a great place to start ensuring you are in compliance and creating the best work environment for you and your employees.
Christina Fiorenza is the HR director for the LMC Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.