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It Won’t Happen to Us – Six Common and Costly HR Mistakes Made by Nonprofit Organizations

It Won’t Happen to Us
Six Common and Costly HR Mistakes Made by Non-Profit Organizations
By Scott L. Lowther

Non-profit organizations, despite their critical social contributions, are corporations in the eyes of government. Whether your organization operates as a 501(c)(3), (c)(4), (c)(6) or some other IRS designation, it is held to the same legislative and employment standards as other entities. Sometimes, compliance in HR can get short shrift, but that lack of attention can and does result in costly litigation or other problems and can jeopardize the entire organization’s sustainability. By being proactive and by training supervisors to engage in their roles successfully, you can mitigate your liability and ensure that ‘it won’t happen to you.’

Six Common Mistakes:

• Not taking the time to develop solid, state- or multi-state-compliant, customized personnel policies. California employment law is ever-changing. Your organization’s personnel policies are the basis for ensuring compliance with required statutes or regulations, equity among staff, the ability to engage in appropriate supervision or corrective action when needed, and they can serve as your defense when/if your organization is sued. Antiquated personnel policies are a setup for disaster.

• Not knowing or following employment law. Many small- to mid-sized non-profit organizations simply lack the internal capacity or expertise to manage ongoing HR compliance or challenges.

• Bad hiring decisions followed by less-than-stellar onboarding practices.

Hiring slowly ensures that you select the right candidate for the right position, and you avoid bringing a bad apple onto your team which will only erode morale and productivity. Rushed hiring often leads to long-term issues.

• Not documenting infractions or proactively engaging in appropriate discipline. Supervisors may be conflict-avoidant or hope that the situation will resolve itself so that they don’t have to take corrective action. They may also be unfamiliar with the proper steps to take. As the saying goes, “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.”

• Hiring clerical staff to serve as HR experts. Employment law and HR practice are complicated. It can be beneficial to pair internal HR staff with external expertise.

• Thinking that it won’t happen to your organization. Stuff happens. Be prepared. Being in denial about potential liability doesn’t mitigate it – it just allows it an opportunity to occur.

Scott Lowther Consulting specializes in providing HR and Organizational Development support to non-profit and social justice organizations. .

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