Lessons and stories about business operations related to managing, leading, and developing people.

5 Outdated HR Practices It’s Time to Retire

5 Outdated HR Practices It’s Time to Retire

Known for stacks of paperwork, post-it notes, and paperclips, many HR teams are notoriously outdated in their workflows and technology. With so much data and the demands of rigorous documentation, it can be hard to find the time to stay on top of the work, much less update processes. But modernizing your department’s workflow and technology is worth the initial time investment—it’ll pay dividends in terms of time saved and accuracy of work.

If you’re still doing any of these things, it’s time to reevaluate.

Relying on paper records

By now, you should be performing every function electronically and keeping paperwork to a minimum.

Using an electronic HR product like Allay helps eliminate errors and streamlines employee payments. It also makes keeping track of employee time-off requests and health insurance enrollment a cinch. In the 21st century, there’s no reason to be dealing with lost notes about vacation requests. Other tools like Trippeo or Expensify for managing expense reports and Toggl for time tracking and employee reports can save you additional time and make your employees more productive with their time.

You may feel some initial concern about the amount of work it’ll take to digitize everything important. But once you’ve made the switch, your HR workflows will be running so much more efficiently that you’ll wonder how you ever got by doing things ‘the old way’.

Given how accessible and reliable the cloud has become, there’s not much reason to worry about losing electronic data anymore. So while you might have hard copies of a few contracts or other important documents for safekeeping, pretty much everything else should be digital in a modern HR department.

Using black hole recruiting

With black hole recruiting, applicants are sorted strictly by experience and certifications. With so much emphasis on choosing employees who tick off all the right boxes, very little attention is paid to how they might actually do the job. It’s a system that’s prone to overlooking many qualified applicants.

Once they’ve submitted their resumes, applicants may never hear from you again. Resumes go into the applicant tracking system, yet very little comes out—hence the nickname “black hole recruiting.”

You’re always going to get a lot of applications whenever you post a job opening. That’s understandable, and it’s pretty much impossible to get through them without some type of ATS. It’s still worth it to filter applicants in some way—but the key is to use an ATS that actually works and doesn’t exclude candidates who might do very well.

There are a lot of ATS options out there, so consider setting up a system that allows applicants to tell you more about who they are and what they can offer your company. Try something with a longer cover letter section, or perhaps even include an essay question or two. At the very least, update applicants on the status of the hiring process, or let them know when the position has been filled. That way, you won’t be bombarded with follow-up emails asking whether or not you’ve made a decision.

Asking for a doctor’s note

We’re all adults here. If an employee calls in because they’re sick, there’s no reason to give them the third degree and request a doctor’s note.

As we’ve talked about before, health insurance is complicated and expensive. Some employees who stay home sick may prefer to recuperate on their own instead of dealing with the complexities of the health care system just to treat a minor cold. Or maybe they’re not really sick and they just need a mental health day. Don’t sweat it as long as work gets done.

Similarly, there’s no reason to require a death certificate or some other documentation if an employee says he or she needs to take time off for bereavement. Trust your people to finish their work in a timely fashion.

Of course, there should be sensible limits on these policies. If an employee is constantly calling in sick or has claimed that six grandmothers have died this year, then it may be time to ask for documentation.

Trying to ‘do it all’

HR is always going to have a place in business to hire new employees and explain health insurance benefits to them. But when it comes to things like vacation or other time-off requests, sometimes it can be more effective to hand the reigns over to department heads rather than getting involved yourself.

Let’s say you have someone in your marketing department who wants to take two days off later in the month. Depending on how your HR department is structured, today that might require the employee to go directly to HR, or the marketing manager might be responsible for putting in the request in person.

But why make something so simple that complicated? Once you’ve set up an electronic system to handle most HR tasks, there’s no reason why the department head can’t just send these requests to HR via automated software. This is especially useful if a lot of your employees work remotely.

Doing employee evaluations on a bell curve

Nothing kills morale like knowing that your job could be on the line even if you’re doing pretty good work. In a bell curve evaluation, only a certain number of employees can be recognized for doing great work. The majority are commended for doing acceptable work, and the rest receive negative reviews or are possibly even terminated.

And it doesn’t matter if those employees at the bottom are otherwise great workers. This is the “Hunger Games” of employee evaluations: they’re eliminated for being at the bottom of the pack.
Some very successful companies like Microsoft used this form of employee evaluation up until 2014, but eventually abandoned it because they were losing too much top talent.

Evaluating employees on a bell curve has too many negative implications. Consider more modern employee review policies, in which each employee is reviewed objectively based only on his or her work. There’s no reason to declare a “winner” in the workplace.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of outdated HR practices, but purging these time-wasters and morale-killers from your operating procedures will definitely help you turn a slow, inhibitive department into an HR powerhouse.

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