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HR best practices have been around for as long as HR departments. And — believe it or not — how we implement those best practices hasn’t changed all that much, because we humans haven’t changed all that much.
In many ways, we value the same things we valued twenty, fifty, or even seventy-five years ago: clear communication; adequate training and resources; recognition for a job well done.
The persistence of many HR best practices reflects this.
That being said, the places and ways we work are vastly different than they were just a couple decades ago. And considering the rapid rise of remote work, it’s clear that things can change significantly within a very short period of time.
HR best practices must adapt to these changing circumstances. Practices that worked before may not work now. That’s why HR principles and practices are always under evaluation, and why we should all keep our best practice knowledge fresh.
Consider these current best practices and HR wisdom pulled from the best minds in the field.
Best practices for HR communication
Communication is the heart of HR operations. Whether you’re currently focusing on Almost everything an HR department does relies on clear, efficient communication: between employees, teams, their leaders, and the company as a whole.
Consider leveraging these best practices to improve your HR communication.
Ask calibrated questions
Almost every HR best practice relies to some degree on feedback from employees. There’s simply no way to implement best practices without understanding what your people want from their leaders and from their workplace.
If you want informative feedback, you have to ask the right type of questions, but getting feedback from employees is a huge challenge for HR departments because the process often feels confrontational.
Employees tend to put themselves in the mindset that they’re trying to get as much as possible and the company is trying to give as little as possible.
Asking calibrated questions sidesteps this mentality and turns the feedback process into a collaborative exercise where employees feel like they’re working with the company to solve a problem, instead of playing tug-of-war.
Calibrated questions are questions that start with “what” and “how.”
A question like “What can the company do to make your financial situation more comfortable?” puts the employee and the employer on the same side, working to solve a common problem. It establishes a positive feedback look that gets you the information you need.
Be incredibly transparent
Good companies want what’s best for their employees. And employees and companies both understand that they need each other to succeed. In most cases where employees and employers feel pitted against each other, it’s because of a misunderstanding.
Transparency clears up most misunderstandings.
Consider this: a PayScale study found 77% of employees who say they’re underpaid actually receive salaries that match the market rate. Twelve percent of employees who feel underpaid are in fact paid more than the market rate.
Pay is just one aspect of employment. But this illustrates the point that being transparent and giving people as much information as possible will solve or prevent many disputes.
HR departments are uniquely positioned to give everyone in the company more information.
As an HR professional, you have a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of both leadership and rank-and-file employees. You can solve and prevent many problems simply by making sure everyone shares important information.
Implement video as part of your communication strategy
Here’s one HR best practice that definitely evolved over the past few years. If you feel like no one is reading your emails, it’s because they aren’t. Video, on the other hand, gives you a tool for making an immediate impact with important information.
Most of us intuitively understand the power of video.
If we need to have a real-time conversation about an important or complex topic, we prefer video calls over voice calls. And if we can’t coordinate a video call, a video message is a good stand-in. But, when it comes to internal communication, we often overlook HR videos as a way to get attention, convey information clearly and concisely, and elevate the most important messages.
Think of all the policy documents and leadership updates your company distributes. Almost any policy document, leadership update, or HR announcement can be turned into a short video that covers the important points.
Keep written documents on hand to satisfy compliance, and make these documents readily available to employees who want them. But we can almost guarantee your videos will stand out among all your other text-based messages.
Recruiting and hiring
Good recruiting and hiring practices improve every HR metric, because having the right people on board leads to lower turnover rates, better employee engagement, more productivity, and so on. Implementing these recruiting and hiring best practices should be at the top of your to-do list.
Consistently promote your employer brand (not just when you’re hiring)
One of the biggest mistakes HR pros make is only promoting their employer brand when there are job openings to fill. And the second mistake is promoting the open position rather than promoting the company as a whole.
Gone are the days when applicants were happy to check the required skills for a position and apply if they felt they could do the job.
These days, candidates evaluate potential employers holistically. They want to know what the company culture is like, what technology the organization uses, and who they’ll be working with.
In addition to engaging job postings, you need an online presence that showcases all of these aspects of your company. And it takes time to build that online presence, which means you have to start building it before you have open positions to fill.
Fortunately, building this online presence is relatively easy.
Weekly social media posts that employ storytelling (a must for HR comms) are one effective way to do this. Each week, highlight a team member or give a shoutout to a group that just wrapped up a big project.
Adding team member bios to your website is another fairly low-effort way to give applicants insight into the company.
The goal with any of these tactics is to build an online stockpile of information that candidates will find when they research your organization. Otherwise, you risk losing quality candidates who don’t feel motivated to apply for a job with a company they don’t understand.
Pre-screen candidates with video interviews
In-person interviews are resource-intensive for both the company and your candidates. Traditionally, companies used phone screenings to avoid conducting too many in-person interviews. Phone screenings are still a valuable tool, but people are accustomed to video calls now.
Video screenings are essentially low-cost in-person interviews that enable hiring teams to get a better sense of candidate fit right from the start. They require about the same effort as a phone call, but they’re far more effective.
You can glean more information from a video call because it’s a more complete conversation that includes body language and facial expressions. Video screenings also reduce misunderstandings and create a conversational setting where both people can speak more naturally.
Hire based on multiple interviews (but not too many)
One of the reasons the video pre-screening interview works is because a hiring process that leverages multiple interviews reliably selects the best candidates. Google did the research and found that conducting multiple interviews is the best way to hire the right people.
However, that same research found that conducting more than four interviews yielded no change in hiring results. The candidate who was the first choice after four interviews was still the first choice after more than four interviews.
Do your due diligence and then call it good. You can be confident you’ve made the right hire without burning anyone out on too many interview rounds.
Use panel interviews
When you bring candidates in for follow-up interviews, it’s best to utilize a panel of interviewers. That way people in multiple positions can get a feel for how well a candidate will fit in with the team as a whole.
However, the same Google hiring research that revealed four or fewer interviews to be optimal also found a panel of four or fewer interviewers is ideal.
Pay your interns
If you have interns, it’s best to pay them. Yes, it’s a good thing to do from a moral perspective. But it’s also a good business decision.
60% of paid interns receive job offers. Only 37% of unpaid interns receive job offers.
Hiring interns is one of the most cost-efficient ways to hire full-time employees, because interns require very little training once they’re hired. The money you invest in them now is a fraction of what you’ll spend recruiting and training an all-new hire.
Track your hiring sources
Many HR departments don’t bother with this because it can seem trivial. But it matters. Knowing where each employee was hired from enables you to see where you’re sourcing your best candidates.
We may not know why certain candidates prefer Indeed over LinkedIn or some othetr source. But we do know that each hiring source tends to attract different types of candidates. If you know that most of your best hires come from a certain website or job board, you can make sure you always stay engaged with that community so you have a reliable candidate pool when you need to fill positions.
Learning and development
When it comes to HR best practices, it’s hard to get more bang for your buck than investing in helping employees learn and grow. Consider these best practices as you build or improve learning and development at your organization.
Invest in quality training opportunities
Knowledge is the most valuable capital at any company. This should go without saying. But there are a ton of companies that just don’t invest in training and development for their teams.
Iron ore is pretty useless if nobody knows how to forge it or turn it into steel. An expensive software suite is worthless if nobody in the company knows how to use it. This list could go on forever. The bottom line is that training is an investment, not an expense.
Training brings new knowledge into your company and helps your teams stay at the top of their fields. And training improves employee retention. LinkedIn found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if that company invested in learning and development. If your company isn’t paying for learning and development, it’s high time they start.
Ask employees what skill development they need
Many companies dictate training requirements in a top-down fashion. But this often goes off the rails because leadership gets it wrong and sends teams to trainings they don’t need.
The solution is simple: ask the people who know best.
Employees are the ones doing the day-to-day work and struggling through roadblocks. They know what skills they need to develop to more effectively do their jobs. So ask them.
This can be done through conversations at group meetings and in management 1:1s or through a more anonymous forum like an employee survey. Either way, you’ll walk away with actionable information to help guide your L&D roadmap.
Recognition and incentives
Recognition and incentives are two of the most cost-effective ways to improve employee engagement, productivity, and retention. But these two HR best practices often get pushed to the back burner.
Not everything related to recognition and incentives is a direct HR responsibility. Some of the responsibility falls on managers and supervisors. However, you and your HR department can help create a management culture that values recognition as a regular practice.
Give employees personal recognition
People like to be told when they’ve done a good job. But managers and supervisors are busy. It’s easy for the high fives to fall through the cracks.
There are too many great employee recognition ideas to go through them all here. However, there are two key elements to employee recognition.
First, recognition is best given by a direct supervisor or manager. The less interaction an employee has with the person giving the recognition, the less valuable it feels. HR comes into play by coaching managers on how and when to give recognition and giving them the tools to do so.
Which brings us to the second element of employee recognition: give recognition publicly whenever you can. A kudos video shared company-wide, for example. This type of personalized, public recognition will make your people feel happier and more satisfied with their jobs, which in turn improves all sorts of HR metrics.
Get employees involved in developing incentive plans
One of the gravest mistakes in offering incentives is to offer incentives nobody wants. Failing to ask employees what sorts of rewards they’d like is a good way to create an ineffective incentives program.
Of course, your company may not be able to offer every incentive idea employees suggest. But most of the time, some of the suggestions will work. Or you can use a variation of an incentive idea to make it work within your limitations.
Also remember that incentives don’t have to be monetary or tangible rewards. Time off is a great incentive. And even something as simple as choosing the time for the next team meeting is a nice reward.
Compensation and benefits
Pay and benefits packages can be a touchy subject, because of the tendency we mentioned earlier for employees to feel like it’s us-against-them in these discussions.
Transparency and communication are absolutely essential here. Make sure you use the communication best practices from earlier in the article. It will make implementing compensation and benefits best practices far easier.
Get creative with your compensation and benefits packages
Employee salaries are always limited by company revenue. But creative benefits options offer employees more compensation without blowing your salary budget.
More vacation days, flexible work schedules, employee discounts, and stock options all add value to your employment offer without withdrawing money out of the company bank account.
Profit sharing is another wildly underused salary add-on that costs the company very little up front, because it only gets paid out once the company brings in money.
Additionally, profit sharing ties employee salaries to company performance, which naturally motivates team members to do their best. And since so few companies offer profit sharing, it gives your company a competitive edge in the job market.
Favor pay raises over bonuses
Going back to Google again, their research found that employees prefer pay raises over bonuses. This makes sense because a pay raise has a long-term impact and, with enough time, is worth more money than a bonus.
Of course, how often your company offers pay raises, and whether or not it can offer performance-based raises, all depends on company finances. But as you weigh in on options with your leadership team, remember that employees will appreciate pay raises more.
No matter what compensation your company offers, communication and transparency are critical in this area. Make sure you’re prepared as an HR team to honestly explain why the company pays the way it does. And coach managers and supervisors on communicating this to employees, too.
Compliance is one of the most important and most challenging HR responsibilities. Compliance requirements change regularly. It’s easy to fall behind as you work to keep up with other daily tasks.
That’s why it’s important to build systems and establish dedicated responsibilities for handling HR compliance. This helps avoid HR compliance problems in the first place, rather than putting out fires after they start.
Put someone in charge of HR compliance
It’s important to designate one person as the compliance pro and make it part of their assigned duties to stay up-to-date on regulations and labor laws.
Carve out time in that person’s workday to stay informed on the changing compliance landscape, and make them the central point of contact for anyone with compliance questions.
Use HR compliance software
If you’re a one-person HR show, this is especially important. But it’s also valuable for teams.
There are plenty of HR software suites. However, not all of them have good compliance monitoring systems. If your HR software doesn’t have a system for identifying and correcting compliance errors, it’s time to make your pitch for an upgrade.
HR compliance is a complex issue. But if someone is directly responsible for keeping an eye on things, and if you have HR software that tracks compliance requirements, you’ll be ready for any challenges that come your way.
As you know, anything that might cause an employee to be terminated should be handled before it becomes necessary to let the person go. Most people will correct issues if they’re given the chance.
However, even with the best HR and management practices, sometimes termination is necessary. And handling terminations properly is both personally and legally important.
Have managers deliver the news whenever possible
These conversations are difficult. The manager or supervisor may want to have HR handle things to avoid the uncomfortable situation. But it’s important that someone who works closely with the employee is at least present during the termination conversation.
Being let go is hard enough. It’s even worse if the employee finds out from someone they don’t know very well. Or worse yet, gets a termination email from HR.
If a manager contacts you or your HR team to request that you inform an employee of termination, respond instead by coaching the person on how to handle the conversation and offering to be present for support, if it’s needed.
Give the manager tips on how to break the news kindly. Make sure they know exactly why the employee is being terminated and how to clearly communicate that reason without getting into legally murky territory.
Deliver termination notices privately
Even if the manager does everything right, these conversations can get emotional. And even if the interaction goes as planned, there’s no need to embarrass an employee in front of the team.
Arrange a private space where the manager can have the conversation without everyone watching. This makes it easier for everyone, especially if the manager must stand their ground about the decision.
If you feel it’s necessary to have a second person there to ensure that everything goes smoothly, that’s fine. But it should be someone from the HR team or another manager. That way it’s still a private conversation and you won’t be feeding the office gossip machine.
Always conduct an exit interview
Even if the employee was involuntarily terminated, you should still conduct an exit interview. In fact, exit interviews with involuntarily terminated employees often provide the best insights.
Employees who were involuntarily terminated will usually be the most honest about any issues in your hiring process, management style, or company culture. This information can help you improve your HR practices and prevent future terminations.
Exit interviews are best conducted in person or on a video call. If that’s not possible, use an exit interview survey and follow up with a meeting or call later.
Make your HR practices the best of the best
If your HR team follows these best practices, you’ll help your company build a happier, more satisfied workforce. That’s what HR is all about, right?
As you work toward being your best HR self, remember to bring along Biteable Teams. Biteable Teams makes it easy to implement any best practice and elevate your most important messages with video.
Create high impact HR videos with branded templates, an easy-to-use video editing platform, and a collaborative workflow that makes creating and sharing comms a breeze. With Biteable Teams, roll out your most important messages like a champ and still have time left over to handle anything else that comes your way.