We all make mistakes. However, in business, mistakes that involve your people can severely drain your bottom line, your piece of mind and possibly your entire business. We will start out this month by reviewing the top 10 human resources mistakes” and then, in the coming months, go more in depth on each one.

1. Not hiring for talent and fit
You want to hire for 1) skills and knowledge, 2) talent and 3) fit. There is a difference between the three. Skills are the “how to” of a role and are capabilities that are learned. Knowledge is “what you are aware of,” either factually or experientially, and can be transferred from one person to another. Talents are natural or acquired capabilities and a key recurring pattern of thoughts, feelings or behaviors. Talents are extremely difficult to teach. An ideal fit will not, in itself, result in superior performance, although fit becomes an issue if the person’s values and behaviors are not in alignment with the organization’s culture.

2. Hiring quickly and firing slowly
When companies do not have sufficient staff to cover an open position, they may rush through the hiring process and make a poor hiring decision. Poor hires are typically a costly mistake. They take up a supervisor’s time, create “bad vibes” among current employees and increase costs for an organization. Poor hires can affect service and product quality and create a poor impression with customers. While training supervisors in lawful and effective interviewing and hiring practices, it is important to also develop and train them on a formalized effective disciplinary action process. Too often, poor performers are allowed to languish instead of being held accountable
in a more timely manner.

3. Poor leadership, lack of effective communication
If you want to be an effective and motivating leader — you had better know the difference between leading, managing and coaching. Leaders influence, do the right things and are outward-focused. Remember, leaders do right things. Managers do things right. All of us could use a little more coaching — it helps others become more successful. Always deal with your employees with open, honest and direct communications. Maintain self-esteem during all interactions with your employees and respond with empathy.

4. Not appreciating generational differences
Ask the two people sitting closest to you this question. “Where were you when Kennedy died?” Boomers and older people will think of JFK, while younger people will think of JFK Jr. Boomers have a view of Gen X as “the army of aging Bart Simpsons — armed and possibly dangerous.” Gen X views job security as a big joke and Gen Y is the largest of the three generations at 80-plus million. While they were the centers of their parents’ universe, you as a Boomer or a Gen X supervisor do not have to send the “carbon copy” of their latest performance appraisal home to their mother.

5. Winging it with pay practices
Having no system is not defensible and may result in perceptions of favoritism. A recent World at Work survey of HR and compensation professionals found that 78 percent of their organizations had a “formal compensation philosophy,” yet only 26 percent said theirs was in writing. A formal compensation system, including written compensation philosophy, will support the attainment of your strategic goals by helping your organization’s ability to attract, reward and retain the necessary organizational talent. It also allows supervisors, managers and business owners to have a rational conversation with employees regarding how they are compensated.

6. Failing to recognize and reward people effectively
Fifteen percent of the value of a company is traceable to tangible assets; the other 85 percent is intangible. Human capital is the dominant asset in modern business strategy. Employees leave for a variety of reasons, the most common among them being:

  • Poor supervisory relationships
  • Lack of opportunities for growth and development
  • Inadequate recognition and rewards.

Three key ways to keep your employees:

  • make them feel valued (supervisory issue)
  • make them feel appreciated (rewards and recognition)
  • provide opportunity for growth (learning and growing)

7. Not providing growth, development opportunities even with limited budgets for formal “employee development programs
Companies need to invest in their human capital” to meet ever-increasing customer requirements in today’s global economy and leaner organizational structures. With a higher percentage of employees being described as knowledge workers, providing new technologies and the opportunities for “continuous learning” is essential, particularly with younger workers. Organizations that fail to provide more than lip service to the development of their people are likely to experience higher turnover and lower levels of customer and employee satisfaction.


8. Allowing an inwardly-focused culture to develop.

Who is your customer and what’s the reason your organization exists? Customers these days are smarter, price-conscious, approached by more competitors, more demanding and less forgiving. It takes 12 positive occurrences to overcome one negative experience.

9. Failing to successfully navigate the changing legal landscape
U.S.-based companies and their employees enjoy many employment rights and freedoms (i.e. from unlawful discrimination to sexual harassment) that have evolved over the past 40 years of federal, state and local legislation and through legal rulings on statutory law.
New legislation and legal rulings are continuously occurring, requiring employers to stay on top of the changes and ensure that they — including all of their supervisors and managers — are in compliance while performing and interacting in their daily roles.

10. Not effectively dealing with complex HR issues
Not everyone has the ability or desire to deal with people and their issues. If you are the one dealing with employees at your business, know your limitations. What is your personality, motivation, expertise of the jobs and how much time do you realistically have to recruit and manage employees? If you have a person who handles your HR, do they understand people? Do they keep their technical skills sharp? Do they support the organizational direction? Do they have attention to detail?

Employees are the only truly unique component of any organization and can help it grow and prosper as well as fail and die. The investment in effective HR practices and functions is as critical to the success of an organization as having the right equipment, materials, products and processes.