3 very common mistakes HR makes

Tom Haak

This time I want to cover three mistakes that are regularly made by HR.

1. Avoiding tackling the most burning issues

Strategy is more about today than about the future.
What are the most burning business issues that need to be tackled today?
Do we have the right people leading our most important strategic programs?
Is our top talent thrilled by the opportunities they are working on?
How can we increase our capabilities in the Middle East.

Often HR and management are somewhat afraid to tackle the most burning issues, and this is where delaying tactics come in handy.
We need more evidence before we can replace manager A.
Even better: we need a better performance management system, so that we can better evaluate all managers, including manager A.

We need a talent management system AND a global opportunity system, so that we can match talent with opportunities.
We need a global relocation policy, before we can move people to the Middle East.

All good thoughts, but delaying action.
Action can often be taken today, and HR should push for action and have no tolerance for delay.

2. Offering the complete menu

HR is often proud of all the nice interventions they have to offer.
Competency frameworks. Performance management systems. Training, on-the-job and off-the-job. Classroom training and E-learning. Recruitment. Nice bonus systems. And so on.

The consultants have learned us (cleverly): always go for integrated solutions. Even better if you use the word ‘ holistic’. All the instruments should be used to drive the organisation in the right direction. Management says: we want it all (at a low price). HR is happy, because they are taken serious.

In a restaurant you will never order the complete menu (unless you are recreating La Grande Bouffe). You have to make a choice. Starter, main course and desert. Maybe it is even healthier to take only the main course.

HR should not offer the complete menu. Determine the root cause of burning issues, and then choose the intervention that has the highest impact with the least effort. Do not strive for perfection and completeness. Yes, a holistic vision on people and organisations is necessary. But holistic is not the same as ‘wholistic’.

3. Not pushing back

I will take an example in recruitment.

The question asked to HR is: “We need three people for job A, with at least five years experience in XYZ, and we need them tomorrow and they should be immediately billable’.

HR is glad they are involved so early in the process, and they take the order. If HR is unlucky, they have to write the job profile and the specifications, as the manager has no time.

It turns out it is not so easy to find candidates who have at least five years experience in XYZ, because those are the candidates all the competitors are looking for as well. Hey HR, why does it take so long? Do you not have your act together?

HR are not order takers, but if HR does not push back, that is what they become.
A recruitment question is always a capacity question. We need more capacity to do XYZ.

Recruitment is a solution, but not always the best. In the HR toolbox are more possible solutions, but first some questions have to be asked. Like: are we sure the people are really using all their potential? Is there another way to organise the work? Are there other people in the organisation who might be interested to learn XYZ?

The answer cannot be: nice questions, but we have no time, please go and recruit the three new people.

Three common mistakes HR makes. Only three?

Create a sound HR Strategy

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