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7 HR mistakes companies make

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.


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


1. An outdated employee handbook

Every business, no matter how small, should have an up-to-date employee handbook. If you don’t put the most current dos and don’ts in writing, you’re asking for trouble. In addition, laws change, which may significantly alter the applicability of your policies.

Even a few pages outlining acceptable and expected behaviour 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.

Include information such as your company’s:

  • Code of conduct

  • Bullying harassment and discrimination policy

  • Managing performance

  • Grievance procedures

  • Work health and safety practices

2. Failing to document performance issues

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 lateness, it’s important evidence that can support a decision to terminate that individual for unsatisfactory job performance, for example.


3. Incomplete employee files

For compliance reasons, it’s very important to keep records of all the HR documents attached to your employees.

You’re also legally required to keep some employment records for 7 years, such as:

  • Employee details including information about pay, leave and hours of work

  • Reimbursements of work-related expenses

  • Workers compensation insurance for each employee

  • Superannuation contribution amounts

While not all employee records legally have to be kept, it is best practice and highly recommended to keep other records to provide a full employment history. These include:

  • Resumes and job applications

  • Contracts of employment

  • Performance reviews

  • Trade or registration certificates

In relation to Tax and super records, you must keep all records for your employee for 5 years relating to:

  • Tax

  • Superannuation amount calculations

  • How you met your choice of super fund obligations

4. Hasty hires and inaccurate job descriptions

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 and what skills are necessary in the ideal candidate.


A few hours spent crafting a solid job description can prevent countless hours of future hassle. For example, when you’re recruiting a candidate, they may have impressive skills, but that skill set must also address your needs. A detailed job description helps you stay focused on exactly what you need in a potential candidate.


Job descriptions are a diverse tool for businesses. Whether used for hiring or conducting a performance review which is why it is important to make sure you have a well thought out job description in place.


Some top tips for ensuring a detailed and engaging position description are:


Tip 1: Position descriptions are not task lists

A position description should not try to cover all day-to-day tasks a position may have. A position description used as an extensive task list can lose meaning, be overwhelming, and fail to provide the guidance that it should. The position description should focus on what the employee has to achieve, not how they do it.


Tip 2: Setting the expectation

The position description should describe the permanent ongoing role, so the candidate has a clear understanding of the role from the beginning of their employment. The role's key duties and responsibilities should be stated in clear and succinct point form. It is these duties that performance will be measured against.


Tip 3: Don't attempt to be exhaustive

There needs to be a balance between maintaining sufficient detail to ensure clarity and allowing flexibility to meet the operational changes an organisation is likely to face in the future.


Tip 4: What to include

Position descriptions should generally include:

  • Position title: It is not so much that a position title needs to be included (that much is obvious) but rather that the right position title needs to be included. Common titles that people are familiar with should be preferred, whilst jargon or gimmicky titles should be avoided.

  • Position summary: This should be a concise statement capturing the essence and strategic objective of the role.

  • Organisational context: Identify the overall purpose within the business. This can also state the relevant challenges the role aims to address for the business.

  • Reporting relationships: The statement of the role's direct reports and who the role reports to.

  • Key duties and responsibilities: This should give the employee a clear expectation of what is required of the role and can be used to monitor performance.

  • Essential Criteria: The selection criteria should describe the requisite experience, skills and knowledge to successfully perform the role. This criteria will be crucial not only for recruitment, but ongoing management to ensure the employee has the skills to perform the key responsibilities.

Tip 5: Ensuring position descriptions remain up to date

Position descriptions should be reviewed regularly (typically annually) to ensure they remain relevant and are kept up to date. There is a risk if a change in the focus and accountabilities is extensive.


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’re valuable and capable of doing more for your organisation.


And remember, it’s important that the employee’s performance, including skills and areas of opportunity and growth, are accurately reflected in their performance reviews.


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 as well as reflect your business at that time.


Policies are not just about entitlements or legally required requirements but also about how you as a business will handle particular things or how you would like to have your team engage (or not) with social media. Your views and approach on this may change as your business grows and its important to ensure relevance of your policies.


7. Employment compliance ignorance

Businesses needs to be fluent in employment laws and regulations or have access to support services that can provide this to you, at the ready.


Not understanding the provisions of your relevant Award, or not understanding rates of pay and overtime will not be seen as an excuse in the eyes of the Fair Work Commission if your employees (or former employees) make a claim against your business.


Prevention is key.

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