Top 4 HR Mistakes of 2020

Author Leo Gestetner
Posted January 5, 2021

The past year has brought us an unprecedented level of uncertainty and change, making the already challenging work of HR pros even harder. As we enter into the next, it’s important to look back and reflect on how we handled the challenges in order to think about how we can improve moving forward.  

Of course, in a year with so much adversity, it’s hard to say any of us did anything “wrong” per se. Like everyone else, we’re all trying to cope and manage the pandemic and other challenges as best we can. Making mistakes is human, and it’s an opportunity for learning and growth. 

With that in mind, here are the top four mistakes some HR departments have made last year.  

Unclear Policies and Procedures  

One of the biggest challenges for many businesses this year:  How to have people work remotely without losing productivity. For companies that have never allowed employees to work anywhere but the office, it was likely utter chaos in the early days of the pandemic.  

And while few businesses were probably not prepared for a global pandemic, it’s during highly disruptive events like these where policies and procedures become even more essential. Employees need these guidelines to help them know what they can and can’t do, and how to behave in certain circumstances—even those that are impossible to foresee.  

Not Having Proper Systems in Place 

Before the pandemic, it was normal (and required) to have a time tracking system in place to track hours worked by non-exempt employees. But when many shifted to remote work, those systems probably weren’t very useful. That likely led to a number of businesses facing issues with employees reporting more hours than they worked, or even working overtime without proper authorization.  

What’s more, remote work requires additional digital security measures to be put into place. These are particularly essential for firms that work with sensitive customer data, making them a top target for hackers. Adding a layer of digital security might not be an HR mistake, but it’s one for which HR workers should be advocating.  

Making Promises the Company Can’t Keep 

The global pandemic has caused a lot of hardship—layoffs, pay cuts, restructurings, etc. There has been some government assistance for firms, as well as unemployment benefits for some employees. But the process for many has been murky and difficult to navigate, while plenty of people have not gotten the assistance they were hoping to.  

Unfortunately, some companies may have shared information or given advice about benefits that were either false or misleading. No company should be advising whether or not an employee is or isn’t eligible for government assistance programs—unemployment or otherwise.  

On top of that, some firms may have made promises about jobs or money that later had to be rescinded due to changes in the business, the law, or the general economy. It’s important for firms to maintain a certain level of honesty and transparency—especially when it comes to money-related topics. It’s difficult for employers to have these types of conversations, but it’s even more heartbreaking for employees who are relying on or expecting a certain level of income.  

Discouraging Employee Communities 

During difficult times, people like to share their stories as well as help each other. That’s what community is all about. And employees at a company make up a community by virtue of being colleagues. What’s more, there are likely many more sub-communities in any given firm, often defined by demographics, age, interests, etc.  

Some firms fear allowing employee communities to flourish. But that’s exactly what helps build a strong company culture. The truth is that employee communities build bonds between coworkers and to the larger business, and these should be embraced.  

While 2020 was a challenging year for all of us, we hope we can all look back, give a sigh of relief that it’s over and move on to 2021 with our sights set on making it a great year.  

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