It was often said that the 21st century would promise a shining future with innovation, robots and smarter technology. For managers, it was said that this same technology would improve their business lives and help them to retain top talent.

I find it interesting that companies still commit a fatal error that I expected would disappear five years ago: It’s the mistake of treating people like robots.

It’s possible that you are guilty of doing this too but you’re simply unaware. If you are experiencing any of the following problems then it might be time to re-evaluate your approach.

1. Waiting too long to correct and not praising often enough.

If you are having trouble with chronic lateness but you have taken too long to address it then you may have a problem.

However, you may still have a problem if all you do is correct behaviour but don’t praise people enough for the good that they do in your business.

This can happen when you don’t lay the ground-rules early. If someone keeps breaking a very important rule but it takes you three months to really call them out for it, expect them to protest by wondering why it took you that long to find it problematic.

It does not inspire good faith in leadership and neither does it inspire belief in following the rules. Whether it is coming in late to work or from breaks, you should correct the behaviour as it starts to happen but always remember to praise employees and show appreciation and reward them as well. Little things can go a long way.

2. Extremely vague procedures and policies.

Staff handbooks may feel old-hat but it’s not so much about the ‘book’ but what they represent. That is, a comprehensive guide to company procedures and policies of “the way we do things around here”.

When your staff aren’t really aware of what is expected of them, they are likely to push the boundaries. They are not machines, you can’t expect your team to know the rules automatically.

Having a handbook, or some equivalent, can clear up a lot of potential confusion. These guidelines can even enhance employee knowledge, enabling them to improve their work and creating a protective framework for them and the business.

3. Infrequent feedback.

When you look at each individual employee, you quickly realise how much data their performance generates. Asking them the usual questions like, “Where do you see yourself in two years?”, often generates responses that go well past fifteen minutes.

This is not a discussion you can cram into a 1 hour yearly evaluation meeting. Appraisals and feedback are most effective when they are conducted more frequently. Some issues are also more relevant to discuss immediately rather than bringing up later and confusing employees making them wonder why you didn’t speak to them about it sooner.

4. Poor candidate screening processes.

When considering hiring potential candidates, it is generally not enough to simply list that candidates should have a specific set of capabilities. One can’t just Google people with these qualities and bring them on board like they would in purchasing a piece of equipment. When a screening process is overly simplified, it could create a list of candidates that may not be a good fit for the job.

This often leads to time-wasting interviews that don’t actually lead to anything meaningful and also a lot of disappointment to the shortlisted individuals who thought they were close to landing a job.

A good way to avoid such worst-case scenarios is to create more screening layers in your process. For example, you can do telephone screening with some set questions before actually handling the final interview yourself. Doing some human analytics (psych) testing may also help to weed out some candidates as well.

I know one employer who makes potential candidates sit a practical test as part of the selection process. It may be worth considering

5. Failure to spot bullying and harassment.

This is perhaps the most topical issue of all. Always take complaints about bullying and harassment seriously. There are legal repercussions for not doing so and keep in mind that it’s also taxing on the part of the employee to voice a complaint.

Never assume a problem will go away if you ignore it. If any sort of conflict is starting to arise and you have already been notified by the particular member of staff, take action. Do not wait for escalation because there is no automating conflict resolution between human beings. (In fact, some of the worst conflicts in history all started when problematic parties were left alone to settle problems between themselves).

Overall, when you think that your employees should automatically resolve issues themselves, you are treating them like machines. Alas, human nature only shows that things are always more complicated than simple automated responses. Treating employees like people can results in the quick resolution of problems so that everyone can continue working together well on the main objectives of the business!

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