Top 10 HR mistakes according to HRgem

In my last HRgem blog I was fairly critical of some managers in relation to what they expect from their HR teams. However, HR aren’t perfect either. So I thought I had better even up the scales, and write a little about what I think are the biggest mistakes made in HR and by HR people. Let me know what’s on your list?

1. Being the policy police. Don’t get me wrong, polices are hugely important. It’s just that we often have a tendency (me included) to write overlong tomes that try and cover every eventuality. Then when we have finished them, we follow them slavishly. There is a time to be flexible, it’s just a matter of knowing when and how you can. Otherwise, you risk being seen as a blocker and people will go around you.
2. Being too risk adverse. The fear of the employment tribunal can make the average HR person quake at the best of times, but I often meet people who put off making difficult decisions or doing difficult things because there is risk associated with it. There is risk in getting out of bed in the morning; if all HR do is quote the reasons why not to do something they won’t be seen as credible or commercial.
3. Having HR processes for the sake of processes. I’ve blogged before about my dislike of bureaucratic HR processes. If it doesn’t add any value, it’s not legally required or the output isn’t used, then just don’t do it.
4. Inflexibility. I remember a former company where you could not move from the recruitment PSL unless they had failed to deliver for a given number of days. Now there was probably a good reason why this had been negotiated. Maybe it gave the company some great costs savings. However, no one knew this, and it impacted the business. A policy had been put in place without proper consideration of the needs of the business, and HR just parroted it at line managers who became increasing frustrated with the lack of results.
5. Having a one size fits all approach. In a few years there will be five generations in the workplace. One benefits proposition, one recruitment strategy, one way of managing isn’t going to cut it. If you aren’t thinking about this already, then you need to be.
6. Lack of commercial awareness. I admit, numbers aren’t my thing. When the monthly figures come out I find it hard work, but make the effort to digest and understand. See next point.
7. Just turning up for the HR bit. If you want to be a HR business partner, you need to partner at every level. If that means sitting through meetings about sales and marketing plans, IT strategy or improving the customer experience then so be it. If HR just turn up for a slot at the end of the meeting agenda to talk about people then you won’t be viewed as an integral part of the management team.
8. Forgetting who you work for. I know some HR people take the approach that they are there as an intermediary between the company and the workforce. They take a mediation / compromise role. Ultimately, HR are employed by an organisation for an organisation.
9. Notwithstanding point 8, not doing a bit of tea and tissues sometimes. There is a time and place for this too, in balance.
10. Failing to understand the business pressures. If you are want to implement a new clothing policy while the business is going through major problems expect to be ignored just a bit.

Of course, I have never made any of these mistakes in my career………………….

2 thoughts on “Top 10 HR mistakes according to HRgem

  1. Check out this article on Lean HR.

    It’s an old university friend’s company and he’s talked my ear off about processes being the root of all evil and that is where 50% of a company’s wasted resources are. One of his clients applied the principles of Lean Manufacturing to their Hiring processes.

    Results included “the cost per hire dropped 34 per cent” – pretty amazing.

    For more information on how to use lean in your organization contact Phil Kirby at

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