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2016 Top Human Resource Blunders

December 28, 2016

By: Crystal Spraggins

Everybody makes mistakes, and HR is no exception. As 2016 comes to a close (and what the year it was!), it’s always good to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and where the new year might be headed.

If you’re an HR professional, manage HR professionals, or are somehow responsible for overseeing traditional HR functions in your organization, we invite you to begin that process now, by focusing on these top HR blunders (and how to correct them).

Let’s get started!

Blunder #1 -- Mindlessly repeating the company party line. As a company agent, HR has a duty to represent the company and support its policies without hesitation. This duty most especially applies to policies HR doesn’t like. That said, when employees bring issues or concerns to HR, it’s a mistake to do anything but listen while responding with the highest level of integrity. Employees appreciate being dealt with honestly and fairly. Being too careful to the point of refuting the obvious and unpleasant truth (e.g., XYZ policy isn’t being enforced fairly, XYZ manager demonstrates bullying tactics) will only result in lost credibility for HR and a missed opportunity to nip a troubling situation in the bud. 

Blunder #2 – Not keeping confidences. Naturally, HR should never blab private employee information to anyone without a need to know, but sometimes HR forgets that those who don’t need to know are in management. Employees need a safe place to vent and strategize. If HR can’t give them that, HR will never gain employees’ trust or the chance to de-escalate sensitive situations before they get out of hand. (See Blunder #1.) 

Blunder #3 – Not keeping up with what’s new. Anyone who works in HR knows that compliance is a big part of the job. New laws are passed, and old laws pass away. Keeping up is a job in itself, but that’s not the half of it. HR professionals also have to stay on top of trends in learning, motivation, engagement, recruiting, technology, and so on. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, but staying out of the know deprives you of a more robust career and your employer of information that could make your workplace smarter, happier, and healthier.

Blunder #4 – Not trying anything new. HR is a great profession because it’s deep, it’s wide, and there’s always a puzzle to solve. If your old solutions aren’t working, try something new even (or maybe especially) if that means going outside your comfort zone. Having a hard time finding top talent? Try enhancing your recruiting process with a an employee behavioral assessment or two. Ditto if your teams are producing more conflict or less creative ideas. Learning better who people are, and deliberately managing to those strengths, is smart leadership. 

Blunder #5 – Not keeping your ear to the ground. You can’t know what’s good for your company if you don’t know your company. Refusing to work in a silo—by making a concerted effort to get out and about—is the best way to gain the needed knowledge. Take the time to chat with folks and find out what makes them smile, what drives them crazy, and why they work for your company and not somewhere else, and then use that information to develop intelligent policies and practices that add value. 

Blunder #6 – Not focusing on what HR does best. It’s essential that HR understand the business, but HR are the people people, and there’s no shame in it. No serious leader could fail to grasp the importance of solid people practices to the health and longevity of the company. So, quit making excuses for how you see the world. Empathy, emotional intelligence, and caring for something other than the bottom line aren’t character flaws. Savvy employers understand there’s room at the table for multiple viewpoints and that you can never take the human out of “human resources” without significant cost. 

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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