Your HR team is at the heart of your company’s success. When it works well, the whole company benefits.

As a senior HR professional, you know all too well the dual responsibility placed upon your shoulders.

Not only does your team handle the operational day-to-day challenges of reacting to company ER issues and tribunals, employee benefits and transactional HR  but also the more strategic areas such as; learning and development, employee engagement, organisational design etc.  and everything else in between!

However, you’re also tasked with ensuring your team works to the highest level of performance possible.

In the midst of it all, it can be hard to see where to focus your attention first but there are some areas that you really don’t want to let slip.

With that, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news: there are a number of common mistakes that many HR professionals make, which you should avoid at all costs if you want to drive only positive change in your company. The good news? They’re all completely avoidable.

Are you making any of these mistakes?

1. Failing to think strategically.

When you’re busy dealing with all the time sensitive tasks that come to your HR department, it can be easy to take things ‘one day at a time’.

While this approach is fine for those in your team with less responsibility, as the senior HR professional in your organisation, you need to be able to take a step back and think more widely.

You’re the only one who can focus the HR department’s objectives so that they are in line with those of the wider organisation. Thinking strategically rather than tactically, benefits your organisation above and beyond just negotiating everyday HR issues.

It’s worth setting aside time to reflect on your activity over previous months in order to plan and be proactive to any emerging trends in your organisation.

  • Have you stuck to budget?
  • What kinds of priorities have you been dealing with? (tactical or strategic)
  • How often do employee relations issues arise and from which areas in the company?
  • Are some areas of the company more demanding of your team’s attention and, if so, why?
  • What do your ‘internal customers/stakeholders’ believe are the HR priorities to focus on?
  • What are current staff turnover ratios and sickness/absence costs in the business and what’s contributing to these numbers (good, bad or average)?
  • How’s the recruitment process working right now and when did you last look at it?
  • Are you market competitive enough to attract the right talent?
  • Who are the next leaders in the organisation?

This will allow you to spot trends in your workload and identify ways you can improve the HR team’s ability to handle these issues going forward. Decide what your top five core strategic questions to ask yourself are; stick these on a wall infront of you and revisit every three months. Have you focussed on these core priorities and made progress or been distracted elsewhere?

Read more about what it means to think strategically as an HR professional here.

2. Failing to engage with and ‘sell’ into the business what HR actually means and the value/services it can provide.

We’ve all been there. Assuming others in our organisation know what we do and the core values we can bring to the business. The fact is, most of the time people work in their own ‘siloes’ and have no real appreciation or detailed understanding as to what you and your team actually do.

So it means – however uncomfortable it may feel at times – that you have to let them know!

Get out into the business and ‘coach’ key board members, key influencers and line managers about what HR actually means to you and your team; what core responsibilities HR covers (both strategically and tactically), share your core objectives and seek feedback. Anything to engage your internal audience and get them interested in what you and your team are all about.

Where does this sit in your current priorities and how much time do you invest in promoting your ‘services’ and capabilities to the rest of your company?

Read our 'HR Flash Point' here about how to sell your project to your board members here.

3. Not delegating.

If you want to head up a team, known for its efficiency and flexibility, you need to be able to delegate.

It’s tempting to roll your sleeves up and dive back in when operational issues are swamping your team. But doing so takes you away from your strategic role and, long term, could slow down the team (and company’s) progress.

Not only is bearing too much of the workload bad for your own stress-levels and overall productivity, it neglects the capabilities of the team around you too.

Balancing out responsibility across a team does wonders for everyone’s sense of individual accountability and team spirit, and leaves you able to focus on more pressing matters like how your team can better impact the company goals going forwards.

Read here about the 5 things that could be killing your HR team’s productivity.

4. Underselling the impact of training for line managers.

This is one of those strategic mistakes that happens when you’re unable to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Far from just being another drain on your time and effort, training your line managers so they can deal with most HR issues themselves is one of the most pivotal decisions you can make for your HR team.

Beyond improving the capabilities of your existing line managers, training them is a sure fire way to lighten the load of HR issues your HR team has to deal with, leaving them more time to progress the important projects.

Read more here about our HR E-Learning academy and how it can upskill your line managers on HR processes, freeing you up to focus on the really important tasks that make a real commercial difference to your organisation.

5. Not giving regular feedback to your team.

You already know from the work in your wider organisation, how much feedback is worth. However, it’s not often easy to practise this on a daily basis, particularly when the issues are piling up for your busy team.

Whether it’s praise or constructive criticism, tell your team members what you think of their work. It’s vital for establishing good relationships and shows that you care.

And by taking time out to give feedback that will progress their performance at work, your team members will be reminded of their significance in the company. This re-engagement boosts enthusiasm and productivity.

6. Hiring too fast.

When there’s a gap in your team, the urge to fill it now can be overwhelming. But stop. Now’s not the time to rush.

Recruitment may be your strength, but familiarity with the process often brings challenges. One of the easiest mistakes your team can make is to push through the recruitment process in as few moves as possible just to get the problem solved, only to realise too late that you’ve taken on the wrong person.

Recruitment costs; your time, their time, the repercussions are many. There are many great HR professionals out there, yet not everyone is right for your team.

Before you even put feelers out to find a new member of staff, take time to consider why you’re hiring. What job needs doing? What skills does someone need on a day-to-day basis to do the job well? What attitude does that person need to have? Can this be done using partners rather than another full-time hire?

7. Not keeping the wider company strategy and objectives in mind.

We’ve mentioned before that it’s easy for departments to become siloes in an organisation.

It’s often one of the challenges HR teams face in bringing companies together and ensuring all employees are engaged and a real common culture exists.

Great HR professionals don’t make the mistake of letting it happen to their own team too.

Aligning the goals of your HR team to continually support the wider company objectives makes your team think more commercially, to the benefit of the whole organisation.

Targets, financial and otherwise, need to be at the front of everyone’s mind whenever you make a decision so that the HR department is always on a mission to help achieve and exceed these.

And, of course, it makes the HR team look great throughout the organisation.

The good news is, these mistakes can be easily avoided or remedied. Simply knowing where focus may have slipped is the first step to improvement and moving towards developing your high performance HR team.

Are you an HR visionary? Click here to see if you have these 5 key traits.


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