It’s the time of year when we all like to hear ghoulish tales of things going bump in the night. But Halloween is not just about haunted houses and terrifying howls in dark woods; Human Resources departments have their own office horror stories to tell too.
Ask any HR professional and they’ll admit to times of sleepless nights and frayed nerves. It’s not just because of the pressures of a deadline; it can also be caused by mishaps and oversights that might not only cause embarrassment to the company but can cost them dearly too.
We’ve put together a short list of such situations; we’ve kept it short because we know there’s only so much you’ll be able to take!
- The Phantom Benefits
In Seattle, in the US, one HR professional was tasked with redesigning his company’s personnel folders. It meant referencing all employee details, from leave to benefits, and reproducing the files in a neat, new appearance. Easy? Yes, until he discovered some discrepancies.
Some deductions made in monthly salaries didn’t tally with the benefits they received. About one-fifth of the workforce was either paying for benefits they weren’t signed up to or were not paying for benefits they were. The company hadn’t reviewed their benefit entitlements, so had failed to spot the benefits entitlements that employees were signed up to.
After one year of incorrect salary payments, the chaos proved extremely costly for the company. But the real nightmare was when the HR employee had to notify the staff they had been paid too much and adjustments would have to be made. We guess the staff who were paying the deductions they shouldn’t have been paying were a bit happier!
- The Disappearing Employee
Productivity is hugely important to any company, so, when one employee registered a sharp fall in his rate of productivity, HR wanted to find out why.
His attendance was fine, getting in on time at 8:00 PM every morning, and leaving at the designated time (5:00 PM) every evening. But over 3 months, the work he had been doing so well previously just wasn’t materializing any more. When HR stopped by his office, he was never there. It wasn’t until they looked more closely that they discovered the truth.
Rob was double-jobbing. He had been hired by another company a short walk away. His hours there were 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, so he had been clocking in at 8:00 AM before heading to his other job for 8:30. Then, at 4:30, he’d run back to work furiously until 5:00 PM.
Obviously, Rob had to go, but HR suffered too. The manager was transferred, policies and procedures were redrawn, and staff were issued strict warnings never to breathe a word of the embarrassing event.
- Death Of A Reputation
Back in 2010, Toyota – considered to be the makers of the “best-built cars in the world” – hit the headlines when they recalled almost 9 million automobiles after a litany of mechanical failures. While human error was highlighted as a core reason, experts pointed out several other factors had contributed too. One of these was the Corporate Culture that Toyota had established, and how it had influenced employees.
It turned out that problems had been developing over years, but none of the corporate personnel in positions of responsibility were willing to rock the boat by reporting anything negative. The concept of ‘saving face’ had been given priority over safety issues.
Eyes turned to HR and why it had not stayed on top of matters, allowing a bias towards good news to supersede truth. HR had not adequately monitored how Corporate Culture was affecting the company overall, in the end draining Toyota an estimated $155 million per week and about $30 billion in stock value. Ouch!