Staying in compliance: Avoiding common HR mistakes


When was the last time your organization spent conscious time considering Human Resources? HR is a frequently neglected area in many organizations, so we’re providing ways for avoiding common HR mistakes for your review as we look forward to next year.

A robust HR system is not a luxury, but a necessity that’s all too easy to ignore until suddenly disaster strikes. A harassment claim may arise amongst your workforce. A lawsuit may be brought regarding improper hiring practices. A myriad of other complicated and costly scenarios may occur that draw time, focus and resources away from your mission. When that happens, will your organization be prepared or flounder? Keep reading to ensure your organization spends the next year avoiding common HR mistakes.

Six ways to avoid common HR mistakes

1. Have a consistent hiring process

The hiring process can be fraught with liability. An inconsistent or casual approach can all too easily pave the way towards costly discrimination claims or bad hires. For your hiring strategy to be both consistent and effective, first identify what skills are required. Then provide clear job descriptions with an accurate representation of required duties to applicants. Each step in your process should be documented, from receiving applications to offering employment. A holistic approach should be used when making the final decision. Don’t rely on simply one step of the process, such as the interview. Lastly, refer often to your organization’s cultural statement throughout the process to ensure each hire is not only qualified, but is also a good cultural fit. Eliminating bad hires is the first way for avoiding common HR mistakes.

Related: Workplace Technology Trends: Cybersecurity and Recruiting

2. Tailor employee policies and handbooks to your organization

When it comes to policies and handbooks, it is easy to either have too much, or too little, and both are common HR mistakes to avoid. Too much can mean excessive, outdated or boilerplate policies that don’t fit your organization’s needs. Too little may mean inadequate or perhaps no policies or guidelines upon which to rely when employee issues arise.

Working with your organization’s legal counsel to identify what policies are essential is a good middle ground. Keeping policies short, simple and clear is another excellent practice. Using templated policies or handbooks is fine, provided that your team has taken the time to personalize and adapt them to fit your organization’s unique needs. To ensure compliance and understanding among your workforce, employees should be required to sign a form acknowledging that they have both read and understand your handbooks and policies before they begin their employment. Handbooks and policies should be:

  • Clearly written
  • Use plain language and avoid jargon
  • Applied consistently
  • Updated regularly
  • Reviewed by an HR expert
Related: Tips for effective workplace policies and procedures

3. Institute reliable conflict resolution

A robust HR system can help head off interpersonal disputes in your organization before they progress into ugly feuds, but only if management is engaged with the process and has a clear roadmap to follow. The scenario where an employee brings a legitimate concern or complaint to a manager, only to be dismissed or ignored, is an all-too common occurrence that many workers have personally experienced. This leads to employee dissatisfaction and a host of other HR storm clouds, in addition to the fact that the original issue continues to fester and worsen.

An organization that is dedicated to fairly resolving conflicts as soon as they arise is much more likely to have employees that feel valued and can operate efficiently together. Conflict is an inevitable reality of working as part of a team and can be an uncomfortable and difficult topic to address. That’s why having a clear and fair process to follow can help alleviate that discomfort dramatically and help lead to swifter, more equitable resolutions that leave all parties feeling validated and valued.

4. Document everything

“If I didn’t write it down, it doesn’t exist,” isn’t just a humorous catchphrase for people who love writing lists. It’s also an unavoidable reality in the world of HR claims and legislation. It’s a lot harder to defend a position without written evidence to back it up. That’s why it is important to have a robust documentation system in your organization for all personnel records. “Document everything” is a good rule of thumb to live by.

At the same time, things can quickly spiral out of control in light of the sheer amount of information accrued. Take the time to streamline your documentation. Determine what needs to be saved and for how long to stay in compliance with all applicable laws and statutes. Finally, invest in a comprehensive and easy to use filing system. These efforts will pay dividends when an HR issue develops, because your organization will both have the necessary documentation and be able to locate it quickly. Documentation won’t do any good if it’s buried in a mountain of other paperwork. While this is not an exhaustive list, the following gives a general idea of the types of information that should always be documented to help in avoiding common HR mistakes:

  • Job descriptions
  • Hiring procedures and employment contracts
  • Handbooks and policies
  • Records of employee disputes, when they started, who brought the grievance to light, how it was handled and resolved, etc.
  • Performance reviews
  • Compensation and statutory documents

For a more detailed list, please see the following article from Startup HR Toolkit

5. Stay abreast of changes to employee rights and legal updates

Employment law is a field that is constantly evolving. It can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to keep pace with legal changes to employee rights. While it may be tempting to disregard updates in light of more pressing day-to-day concerns, ignorance in these matters is not an acceptable defense if your organization is found to be out of compliance with the latest rulings, which could lead to stiff penalties and lawsuits.

6. Solicit professional advice

Following the theme of the previous point: if your organization does not have an in-house legal team or HR department, stay in close contact with whatever companies you contract these services from. Professionals can help your organization stay up to date on matters of legal compliance. They can offer guidance and assistance on your current practices, answer questions as unique issues arise and much more. If your organization doesn’t currently have legal or HR counsel, it’s time to research and identify services that will serve as a partner to your organization in these matters. Professional advice is not something that “would be nice to have someday.” These are essential services that will ensure the health and longevity of your organization. In today’s legal environment, no organization can afford not to have professional guidance in these areas.


HR may not be the most riveting topic of discussion, but it is too important to disregard, especially in such a time of global turmoil and disruption. Make sure you don’t spend the next year wading through the fallout of common HR mistakes that could have been avoided.

If you have questions, please contact your Preferred Loss Control Consultant.

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This article originally appeared on the Arrowhead Tribal blog. It has been used with permission and has been updated and modified to better fit the needs of our Preferred members.

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