View from HR: Review these important HR functions every spring

Nobody would accuse me of obsessive neatness. Clutter and creativity both start with “C” for a reason!

Even I agree there are some important HR functions that need an annual power washing.

Old policies. Most companies have old workplace policies that no longer function, like two left shoes missing the rights. Often a written guideline is tighter (or looser) than actual practice, or we are doing something altogether different than the “handbook” states. Paid time off, sick days, adverse weather, expense reimbursement, call-in pay, vacation accrual, after hours work and dress codes may have changed over the years. Check your policy closet for all the things that no longer fit.

Performance reviews. What rating would you give to your own performance review process? Does it meet or exceed expectations? Most HR managers say “no.” Too often, reviews are defensive or perfunctory. If you accept inadequate reviews because you believe they will support you in a future employee claim, think again. The opposite may be true.

This spring, ask what you expect from a review process. Is it about rewarding the right people for the right things? Is it about tying company goals to individual behaviors? Is it simply a way to ensure managers and employees are talking about important things? Get clarity around the purpose of reviews and you will find the right method for you.

Stop the insanity. Data is a funny thing. Most of us have more than we will ever use, like that out-of-date case of alfredo sauce from Costco (“it was a good deal”). Data can create important insights or become a source of confusion. Every year, judge how well you collect, access and use data in your workplace. Smart business leaders say useable, meaningful data is important for solving people challenges and making better decisions. So often, data about hiring, employee retention, market pay, satisfaction and exit interviews prove our gut instincts wrong. (Alfredo sauce is cheaper by the single jar in the long run.)

Let’s be different. We spend so much mindshare benchmarking with others. Each spring, consider how your workplace can be different. Do you have an answer for the candidate who asks “what makes this place special”? Is it hard to find great people for key roles? Maybe you look and act too much like everybody else. Paint your front door a bright color and add a catchy door chime. Be different than your competitors for talent!

Merit pay. Merit is defined as “superior quality or worth” by Webster, so why do we call our annual pay increases “merit” raises? This spring, away from the pressure of pay review time, decide if your system is working. Is it overcompensating some roles because of the power of the annual “merit” raise? Is it making you non-competitive in the market for scarce skills when the dollar pool is spent on all those non-merit raises?

Few enjoy the spring cleaning process but all appreciate the results.

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit