Five Top HR Mistakes

Recruiting, HR, talent acquisition, culture, people management, all of the above have become the subject of so many interesting experiments in recent years. Zappos initiated holocracy and lost 30 percent of their employees. Companies like Workday and VMWare offer unlimited vacation (and some companies, like Kickstarter and Bazaarvoice, stopped). Companies have invited employees to define their own jobs, bring their dogs and go crazy on Beer Thirty Friday. The question seems to be “What I gotta do to get good help around here?” Not to be a party pooper, but I have some pretty strong opinions about what NOT to do. So here are what I consider the five top HR mistakes. In reverse order…ahem:

What unlimited vacation really looks like in most companies

What unlimited vacation really looks like in most companies

Number Five, Unlimited Vacation:

It’s summer. Any business owner knows that summer means vacations and vacations means stuff isn’t getting done. Of course your employees deserve a vacation. You deserve a vacation. But it’s generally something you need to plan around, and prepare for, to avoid frustrating a client, or having someone pulling double shifts. So what happens when people can take vacation whenever they want? It’s not absolutely impossible, but you have to be prepared to work really, really hard to make a go of it. You have to have a solid plan and really trust the maturity levels of your employees and managers to make sure that employees are still getting stuff done and managers are still able to cope. The problem isn’t just people taking too much vacation, it’s what happens when there’s no set vacation and some employees fear they can never get time off because there’s always some other work that needs doing. Guess what?  It’s true. Unlimited vacation often means no vacation. Boundaries can be a good thing.

Number Four, Using All the HR Documents from Your Old Company in Your New Company:

Hey HR is HR right? Wrong. I don’t know what your new company is or how close it is to your old company, but it is NOT the same. Your old employee handbook probably doesn’t touch some of the issues in your new company. The laws might be quite different in your new state or with your new organization. There might be regulations you’re subject to that you weren’t subject to before or that you are not subject to now. And in case you haven’t noticed, HR laws change. Not that you can’t use any of your documents, you might be able to use some. But don’t assume and wholesale move your paperwork from one business to another.

Number Three, Having Your Employees Be Your Recruiters:

There are sooooo many reasons this is a bad idea. Recruiters understand what to look for, both in terms of bringing people in and screening them. It’s their job to interact with candidates and figure out who fits in the position, organizational goals, culture, skills etc. Other people don’t, necessarily, understand the whole picture. And you don’t want employees just dragging people in in hopes of getting bonuses or perks. That’s not what you hired them for, presumably. Nor should they be sitting at job fairs talking people into working for you. They should be doing their jobs, and letting professional recruiters do theirs. If they like working for you, and there’s an opening for someone they think would fit, they will reach out to the folks they know. If they don’t like working for you, that might be a nice red flag that things need fixing. But you probably don’t want them bringing in more people like them under those circumstances.

Number Two, Getting Rid of Management:

Being a manager is a very specific skill set. Employees who are not managers are good at other things. They might be good at sales, administration, engineering, public affairs, accounting. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at making what they do work with what other people need, so that the whole company moves smoothly along. Not everyone is good at self-management, obviously. The world would be a far better place if they were, but they’re not. People can be immature, selfish, easily distracted, intensely focused in their area of expertise to the point of missing the big picture. Managers’ jobs are to keep the machinery running with all these imperfect people. You need them.

Number One, Saying “We Don’t Need No Stinking HR”:

Of course you don’t. So long as everybody in the organization does their jobs perfectly all the time, managers never need to deal. Nobody inadvertently breaks any rules because they know all of the laws, even when the laws change every year. Through osmosis, managers can figure out competitive compensation on their own. Nobody screws up anything in the filing of documents that regulators need. Your organization has incredibly accurate knowledge of the best payroll, HRIS and ATS systems currently on the market… Oh, and someone is able to stay on top of all the changes and make whatever alterations are needed in your processes and paperwork. Nobody deliberately or accidentally crosses DOL, OSHA, EEOC, TWC or…come to think of it, yeah, yeah you do need HR.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at or call (512) 420-8267.


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