Scenic RouteLast issue, we talked a bit about the Top Five People Mistakes that companies make. Rather than leaving you hanging with all problems and no solutions, I’d like to discuss some fixes in this issue that you can implement to keep your People Mistakes from taking over your company.

#5. Too many policies and #4. Too few policies.

The solution to both #5 and #4 is to work with the team (or a subset of the team) to create some general operating guidelines. Be sure to define and communicate the overarching principle or belief behind the policy, rather than simply stating the ‘rule.’ Then, when situations come up in the future that are unclear, the principle can help management make decisions about when to bend and when to hold fast.

#3. Improperly evaluating risk.

The answer to this one is complex, but here are a few tips.

1. Be crystal clear on the potential for the risk to occur. People typically do not sue us because they were treated illegally- they sue because they perceive that they were treated unfairly. Are we treating people unfairly? Or fairly but differently?

2. Be certain there is a business reason to undertake the risk. It’s a good idea to bounce that business reason off of a confidential, objective third party. Do they see the situation in the same way?

3. Understand the consequences if the risk does occur. For example, many companies take risks in the area of exempt vs. non-exempt classification either because they do not understand the issue or they think none of their employees would ever “do” anything. My advice to these companies is uniformly that the potential of the risk to occur might be small, but the consequences are huge. Wage and hour issues can eliminate profits and even shut companies down. In this case, however small the likelihood, the consequence is simply too great to take the chance.

#2. Separating “HR” from the business.

When small to mid-sized businesses do not have an HR executive on the leadership team, the responsibilities typically fall to someone who already is wearing many hats. It is critical for that individual to take the HR component of his or her job seriously and seek out assistance to make sure he or she is asking the right questions and helping align the people initiatives with the business plan.  rganizations like www.shrm.org can provide helpful insight.

#1. Refusing to treat employees as adults.

Life is not for the faint of heart. There are tough messages to deliver and sometimes situations don’t work out the way we’d like, but ignoring or sugar coating the situation never works. Instead, share as many of the facts as you can and encourage employees to participate in the solution. Sure, some of them may dissolve into puddles like Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, but most of them won’t … and you may find they have answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask.