Top 10 Most Impactful Mistakes For All HR Departments To Avoid

HR is one of the most important departments within companies. However, mistakes are often bound to happen, especially when working in HR. Find out which mistakes you might be making and how to fix them.

HR is a vital element to all companies and has been for years. One of the biggest challenges facing HR departments across the world is how much the role of HR has been forced to adapt by the constantly changing business world.

A vast majority of the changes that occur in business are directly linked to technology and the role of HR is really tried and stretched in a workplace that is increasingly digital. Nevertheless, one of the other biggest changes in the business world pertains to employee satisfaction and work culture, both of which are elements relating to human resources.

Work culture’ or the ‘office culture’ refers to something difficult to put your finger on and it is often the HR department’s job to do that, making it a vital part of any company. Employees expect and demand better from their employers in a whole host of regards and the delivery and/or actioning of those demands quite often falls to human resources. All of this is to say that, in spite of some elements to the office losing their human elements in the face of technological advancement, there is still an incredibly large job for HR at all companies, making it one of the most important elements of any office.

That being said, HR is also a minefield. Human beings are complex and sensitive and, with workforces more and more empowered to stand up for themselves if they don’t like the way something is being handled, all of this can amount to a real handful for an HR department.

In the rest of a company, a mistake might cost the company some money, lose a client or cause someone to lose out on a chance for a promotion. But in HR the stakes can be far, far higher. With everything from employee safety to legal issues, to employee mental health potentially to play for, human resources is a very tricky area that can only be performed effectively by real professionals in the field. This isn’t to say that those professionals are immune to mistakes. That’s where this list comes in. You’re far less likely to make the costly errors if you know what you’re looking out for.

So, without delaying any further, let us take a look at the top 10 worst mistakes that all HR employees and managers should be on the look out to avoid.

1️⃣ Failing To Update The Employee Handbook

One of the most valuable, timesaving, stress-reducing tools that you have in your arsenal as an HR rep is the employee handbook. It passes on a lot of the responsibility and worry of maintaining behavioral standards into the hands of the employees themselves. Somewhere in their contract of employment all employees will have agreed to comply to the rules and regulations.

The handbook should be used as a tool to remind employees how they ought to be behaving as well as letting them know of procedures for dealing with issues that do arise. If every single problem is run through you, you will get swamped and this is not going to allow you to do your job well. The upshot of this is that your employee handbook ought to be thorough and update all the time, so that fresh changes within the company can be dealt with simply, without needing you to constantly be involved.

2️⃣ Being Overly Familiar

One of the most excruciatingly difficult elements to good HR practice, is managing your relationship with the other ‘humans’ who you have to handle in your capacity as an HR manager or employee. On the one hand, part of maintaining good work culture is cultivating an atmosphere in which employees feel comfortable, even happy talking to one another.

Certainly, some elements of HR involve being an approachable and comforting presence. It’s also nice to make friends with people from your own perspective. All of this is true and understandable. However, sadly, it can lead to intensely complicated situations. Here’s an example, imagine you are good friends with someone in the office and another employee makes a complaint about them, their wage, their behavior, whatever it might be. If the complaint is unjustified truly, then you have a very difficult situation on your hands in which you will have to convince the complaining employee that your decision not to act on what they have brought up isn’t because you are close friends with the other party. Fraternizing with people in a romantic capacity is similarly very, very tricky waters with great potential for someone to get released from their contract.

3️⃣ Mishandling Flow Of Information

Private information and the handling of it ought to be every HR manager’s bread and butter. Naturally though, situations arise where it can be a little tricky. The key to doing a professional job on this is to have an absolutely no tolerance policy on sharing personal information. Officially, this will be the policy of your department within the office anyway.

But I’m not talking about that. This means in those moments when you’ve had to deal with some stressful issue all day and you come home and crash on the couch and your spouse asks you how work was. These are the moments when mistakes which can cost you your job happen. Even if you don’t go into much detail or you don’t name names, if there is even the slightest chance that an employee discovers you have shared a personal issue you have to absolutely lock it down. This is why having a personal zero tolerance policy is more effective than seeing it simply as a work-based issue.

4️⃣ Failing To Seek Help

If you’re reading this article, then there is a reasonably good chance that you already are looking for help. This is a very good thing. The truth about HR is that, from the perspective of the members of the department, so much of the job is trying to react to situations in a way which avoids letting it blow out of control.

There is so much that isn’t all that clear when it comes to what ought to be done to deal with it. This is why people in human resources ought to constantly be looking for ‘resources’ to help them complete their job. This might mean talking with a senior in the company, looking back at past instances of a situation, joining forums or blogs like the one over at CakeHR. Any of these are valuable tools and there’s certainly no harm in using them.

5️⃣ Inconsistent HR Training

Training days: some people like that they break up the normal routine, other people find their own personal version of hell in them. The truth is that, whilst they can sometimes seem pointless, in HR especially they are vital. HR isn’t something you learn, study up on and then consider it a job done.

It’s a fluid, constantly evolving set of parameters and hurdles that it will take all your wherewithal to know how to navigate. It also helps to breed a consistency in practice and knowledge across the whole department instead of leaving it up to each individual’s enthusiasm for maintaining their own standards of knowledge and practice.

6️⃣ Ignorance Over Wage And Hour Regulations

This is one of those tricky little areas in which people make mistakes which can end up being very costly indeed. HR teams have to be absolutely fluent in the legality of employment an area which may come across as simple enough but could really surprise you with just how complicated it can be.

Failing to be in compliance with any of the laws over issues like overtime and wage allotment could land you and your company in some big problems, without much of a way out. Having a vague sense when it comes to the legal issues isn’t going to cut it. Detailed knowledge is the only way to cover your back.

7️⃣ Filing Incorrectly

Incomplete or incorrect filing will, 75% of the time, result in no problems. But that quarter of the time can be very sticky to navigate. Properly ordered, easy to access and, crucially, complete files on all of your employees is a priceless tool for HR.

It allows you to look at an employee’s history when trying to make a decision pertaining to them, or it allows you to access the right forms for employee status issues, or tax problems.

One of the newest challenges facing HR departments is the issue of digital vs analogue. On the one hand, it is endlessly more convenient having everything digitally uploaded and organized in a database. On the other hand, the potential security issues with having personal files online not to mention the risk of losing everything if backing up is mishandled makes that filing cabinet with the key start looking very appealing. Generally, the combination of the two is best policy in the current day and age.

8️⃣ Data Mismanagement

In a series of highly publicized data attacks by black hat hackers in the last couple of years, the threats posed by having enormous and/or valuable piles of data in any location were revealed to the world. Cybersecurity lags behind cybercrime, since the pace of technology is so fast.

Having just discussed filing and whether it ought to be done digitally or not, the issue of data theft is one no HR department can take any risks over. Personal data can be held ransom by cybercriminals or can be used to bring companies down and HR departments tend to have a lot of the sorts of files that cybercriminals want, so invest in data security or potentially live to regret ignoring the looming problems.

9️⃣ Document Everything

A subtle distinction between this and filing well, but a vital one on the face of all that can go wrong in this regard. Filing well can simply mean being organized with the files you already have, allowing them to be ready at short notice for examination. Documentation practice means that you record, with 100% attention to detail and consistency, every single thing that you have to deal with.

With so many potentially sensitive issue coming across your desk every week, there’s always room for accusations to be made about a series of events. If you are well on top of your documentation, then you will always have at your disposal a record of events which you can use to defend yourself and make a situation clear in the eyes of the employees and the company. It is a sort of bulletproof armor, allowing you to resist any of the pitfalls that a lot of HR teams run into. It will also show dedication and thoroughness to those around you which could lead to promotions and would certainly lead to positive references.

1️⃣0️⃣ Becoming An Island In The Office

HR is often looked at as a strange department in the traditional workplace. It’s got a sense of permanence to it that some people envy, but it is also clearly very different to the rest of the office, since the work of an HR department pertains to the office itself not to the work that the company actually does. Most employees also have little cause to interact regularly, even at all with the HR department.

There are two problems with HR becoming an island unto itself. Firstly, HR has to be looked on by the employees as a ‘resource’ they can actually use. You want employees to feel comfortable and welcome in HR, not as if it’s a strange new land. Secondly, HR employees need to be up to date with what the rest of the office is doing in order to handle their issues effectively.


Hopefully this list of the biggest mistakes made by HR employees and managers will help you to make your own path through HR much more effective and smoother. It is a very difficult role but one with the potential to be extremely rewarding, since, at the end of the day, you can say that you genuinely help people.

Joel Syder is an employment coach and writer at Academic Brits. He enjoys helping people to find their dream job as well as creating his own articles about things that inspire him.

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