6 HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Aug 30, 2023
hr mistakes

Navigating the intricate landscape of Human Resources (HR) can be a daunting task, especially when a small misstep can lead to significant problems. In this post, we will explore 6 common HR mistakes that businesses often make, ranging from misunderstandings of employment law to poor interview practices and inadequate training. This guide is designed to help you recognize and steer clear of these pitfalls, ensuring a compliant, fair, and thriving workplace. Join us as we uncover essential guidelines and solutions for fostering a successful HR operation within your organization.

1. Not “knowing what you don’t know” about employment law

Keeping up with employment laws can be overwhelming for small business owners… and as a result, many just avoid it altogether!

But ignoring HR compliance can be legally costly… and get small businesses in hot water fast.

It is important that you have a resource for ensuring you are compliant with all applicable employment laws in the state or states in which you operate. (There are many!)

When it comes to HR compliance, here are a few quick things you will want to be aware of to get you started:

  • Protected Classes
  • Exempt vs Non-exempt Status
  • Overtime pay
  • Family Medical Leaves of Absence (FMLA)
  • Americans with Disabilities (ADA)
  • File retention

Our HR Subscription Service is an affordable, at your fingertips resource for whenever you have questions about which employment laws may apply to you.

2. Not having an employee handbook or not updating your existing one

By providing a standardized set of policies and guidelines, the handbook ensures that employees are treated fairly and consistently across the organization. Keeping an updated handbook helps employees avoid misunderstanding what is expected of them.

A handbook can also minimize a business’ risk as it relates to employment lawsuits, which can sometimes stem from a lack of clarity in your handbook policies and procedures. (Further to #1 above – knowing which employment laws apply to you and ensuring you have the right verbiage in your handbook as it relates is key.) Some ways a handbook helps with this is to outline the process for employee performance, discipline, and termination, which can be particularly important in preventing wrongful termination claims.

Importantly, a handbook can provide guidance on how to address conflicts, harassment, and other workplace issues, and ways to report problems and seek resolution. Included also are details about company benefits, compensation, and perks offered by the organization, including vacation policies, healthcare benefits, retirement plans, etc, so employees have a resource to know details of all benefits available to them. (This is also a great way to keep them from asking their manager or HR whenever they have a benefits question – they can be directed to the handbook first.)

The handbook template we offer inside the HR Subscription guides you with reflecting your company's values, mission, and culture in the handbook through the words you use. It helps employees align with the organization's vision and goals, fostering a sense of belonging and commitment – and most importantly, loyalty to you and the culture you created.

We are all about saving our clients time – so whenever your employees have questions about company policies, procedures, benefits, or other work-related matters, having a handbook can greatly decrease the need for repeated explanations from management or HR.

Some typical pieces included in an employee handbook are:

  • Social media guidelines
  • Company mission
  • EEOC statement
  • Anti-harassment policy
  • Attendance policy
  • Work conduct expectations

3. Lack of documentation for involuntary terminations

Tough conversations about performance are never easy… but documenting these conversations is crucial, especially when you end up making the decision to terminate the employee after failure to improve!

Here at Expedition HR, we teach progressive discipline so our clients have a solid documentation trail should they need to terminate – which is a verbal warning followed by a written warning followed by a final warning and then termination. Progressive disciplinary documentation serves to also protect the company legally.

Resistant to having a progressive disciplinary policy? Did you know that, as part of a progressive disciplinary process, you can skip steps as needed? We guide our clients to choose the right phase of the process – and sometimes a final warning or immediate termination is the best course of action. 

4. Not understanding employee file retention & employee file confidentiality

Employee records must be kept according to the proper retention rules and timeframe.  For example, medical and employment paperwork must be kept in separate files for the employee. You must also keep employment and payroll paperwork for a set period of time before discarding

Having security measures in place is important whether you have paper or electronic files. We recommend having standard, enforced protocols for how you store sensitive employee information.

5. Poor interview questions

Poor (and sometimes illegal!) interview questions for potential employees is one of the most common ways we see companies go wrong. It is important to be very intentional and consistent with your interview questions.

For example – Are you ensuring you are asking interview questions about the essential duties of the position and not “fluffy” questions which don’t gather good information about the candidate?

We prefer behavioral questions such as:

  • Tell me about a time when you…
  • Please share an example when you…

Be sure to avoid problematic questions like:

  • Are you married?
  • What religion are you?
  • Do you have a medical condition?

It is key to ask the right interview questions to not only spot potential red flags with the candidate’s skills as it relates to the job but also to gauge their interpersonal skills and see if they are the right fit for your organization’s needs.

6. Employee Training

Forgetting about on the job training can be detrimental!

Did you know - training begins during the onboarding process. A good onboarding process starts before the employee even starts work! The “Onboarding for Excellence” process we teach sets the right expectations upfront from the minute they are offered the job, aligns exactly with the company values, and can prevent performance issues later.

If your HR team needs on the job training to boost their HR skills, we can help with that too! Check out our HR Jumpstart Program

Promoting employees to managers without adequate management training is one of the most common ways training is forgotten. A solid management training includes teaching some foundational skills like:

  • Trust and relationship building
  • Communication
  • Conflict Resolution

We offer two primary management trainings called Tough Conversations and Be a Marvelous Manager.


How to Get Started With Expedition HR


Join the HR Subscription to receive comprehensive and affordable Human Resources Support. The subscription is ideal for for small businesses and non-profit organizations.

As a subscriber, you...

  • Receive on-demand HR Consulting and other HR Services for a fraction of the cost to hire a full time HR employee
  • Have the support and knowledge to deal with workplace conflict
  • Know exactly what phrasing to use for tough conversations with your employees
  • Have extra time in your day because you have immediate access to the right HR forms, checklists, and tools (no more Googling HR forms!)
  • Have an expert to guide you with how to fire someone when the need arises
  • Know how to better manage employee performance
  • Understand HR Compliance
  • Have peace of mind

Schedule a Free Consult  or email us.

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