It's easy to ignore the human resources side of your business when things are flowing smoothly. After all, there are far more pressing concerns nagging us each day. Relations with employees can be enjoyable and fulfilling or time-consuming and terrifying, depending on the situation.

Being proactive in the area of HR, recognizing and rectifying HR mistakes before they become serious problems, can save you countless headaches and protect your business against costly legal claims.


HR mistake #1: Outdated employee handbook

Every business, no matter how small, should have an up-to-date employee handbook. If you fail to put the most current dos and don'ts in writing, you're asking for trouble.

Even a few pages outlining acceptable and expected behavior provides employees with tangible guidelines. The employee handbook should be updated about every two years and all employees should sign an acknowledgment form stating that they received the publication and will abide by its policies.


HR mistake #2: Undocumented performance-based terminations

Written policies and standard operating procedures are the boundaries that govern employee conduct. When a violation occurs, it must be accurately and thoroughly documented. Although it may seem time consuming to jot down in a file that someone was reprimanded for repeated tardiness, it is important evidence that can support a decision to terminate that individual for unsatisfactory job performance, for example.


HR mistake #3: Incomplete employee files

For compliance reasons it's very important to keep a record of all the personnel documents attached to your employees' work history.

You should also have a separate binder for valid I-9s, which verify employee identity and work eligibility in the U.S. They should be easy to access - the fines can add up quickly if you can't produce them upon request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

And because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it may be wise to store your employees' health and welfare-related benefits information separately as well.

Make sure you're retaining the right records.


HR mistake #4: Hasty hires and promotions

Hurried hiring and promotion processes can lead to a host of problems for employers. Before you even consider hiring someone, take time to flesh out exactly why you're hiring. A few hours spent crafting a solid job description can prevent countless hours of future hassle. A candidate may offer impressive skills, but that skill set must also address your needs. And even when employees have excellent management potential, they may need additional training and support at first, when promoted into a supervisory role.

Remember, patience is a virtue when hiring and promoting. Keeping a cool head and not giving in to the urge to fill a role immediately can prevent you from making the costly mistake of hiring or promoting the wrong person.


HR mistake #5: Disregard for training

Taking time to train your employees is a valuable investment in the future of your business. By including training in the onboarding process, your employees may become more fully engaged and understand how to use their skills to best benefit your company.

Employers who spend time on training also get training's indirect benefit: employees who feel like they are valuable and capable of doing more for your organization.


HR mistake #6: Inadequate HR policies

Don't overlook the importance of an internal HR audit. Set aside time annually to make sure your HR policies are current and complete.

For example, many businesses are without a vacation payout policy, complaint process and a disaster and workplace violence plan. But, employees will quit with unused vacation time. Employees will complain. And disasters will happen. Having policies and plans for handling these events reduces the stress, liabilities and costs to your business.


HR Mistake #7: Employment compliance ignorance

Managers must be fluent in employment laws and regulations. Misclassifying employees can be a costly mistake. And non-compliance to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for your industry may also yield stiff fines.

Prevention is key. Take time to identify what regulatory agencies govern your industry and what laws must be followed.


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