Sigh! *Eye Roll* Another excel sheet to maintain! You are asked for it from time to time and you keep it ready. But what decision does it inspire? What direction does it give?

The HR function has come a long way from being a record keeper to an influencer and partner.  Ideally, as I see it, it must have one of two impacts – either a direct contribution to business results or a creation of an environment that allows an organization to grow – through best talent, great culture, learning etc. If the activities do not contribute to any or both of these goals, they are at best – vestigial. And for this organism, anything functionless is a cost.

We may come up with better storage solutions all the time, but it’s just better to unclutter once in a while.

“I am not clumsy. But I do manage to find obliging corners and polite protrusions to bump into at regular intervals. Maybe I am dimensionally challenged. Or perhaps a dreamer. Obsessive data organizer, granny crafter and paper hoarder. A strategist with an eye for the big picture. I love kitschy and brightly colored art and plain white ppts”.

Sabah Shah, HR Business Partner and Compensation Strategist.

Onboarding paper trails

Most first days on the job are filled with new hires filling out forms and signing on so many pages that their signatures no longer match. The HR members on the job must ensure there are no misses because the annual audit will be a nightmare. And for companies where the numbers are big, this is chaotic to say the least.

Many of these forms can be completed before the actual day of joining especially if they are not of a confidential nature. In fact, most can now be digitized and sent and completed online. There are many products out there designed specifically to cater to this need.

No more flipping through pages to make sure everything is signed. No more carrying around big bundles and struggling with a messy desk to find that one sheet that let itself slip through the monstrous load.

There is some research in the direction of pre-employment engagement that covers this aspect along with other strategies to also ensure less drop outs happen from the final pool expected to join. So that’s another bonus.

Actionless surveys

A lot of companies perform employee surveys but are not geared and prepared to act out on what it results in. These are done merely to project interest and seem like they care. It is a waste of everyone’s time, costly, and if it doesn’t lead to action it increases any negative feeling that employees might have. The fact that these do not change even after being expressed make it far worse than it already was.


It might even create dissatisfaction when none existed. Think about being asked at a restaurant if you thought the meat was undercooked. You are going to go home and wonder if you are a bit pukish or not.

If it is not possible to change or work on multiple aspects of an organizational culture, then it makes more sense to start with a focused area that the organization wishes to invest in and instead do a poll on how to achieve what it already has in mind. Or limit the scope of the survey to an area it can focus on. Generic surveys are futile unless there is already a standard culture in place and the idea is to ensure that everything is running smooth.

Mandated training hours

Why this still exists is beyond me. And those are so often filled with vague programs such as negotiation techniques or ‘Fish’ philosophy. Really! Tracking whether an employee has been trained for x number of days or hours is simply asking them to goof off at work for those many days. If it is not for a specific outcome, all training is just a cost. Particularly soft skills.

People do not learn these in a day. Certainly not if they are subjected to 8 hours of presentations in the presence of their favorite biscuits lying visibly close but far enough to not be able to reach them.

Instead, share relevant free material, use e-learning tools, have a learning system in place. Make them accessible and available in case someone truly wishes to benefit from them.

Elaborate dress code policies

Really. Just have a culture of how you want your folks to dress. Most adults get that. If they don’t, dress code is not your biggest problem there!

Bell curves, forced ratings for performance appraisal

They are already gone. If you are still doing this here is what you should do pronto. Look for a job because, baby, you need a new boss. Someone who is not 200 years old.

OK, I admit I believe there must be a reason this worked and might still apply to a group or industry, but if you have not invested time in evaluating how that can be the case for you and are doing it cause its always been done – say hallo to Linkedin. That’s how you do it now.

The most controversial perhaps – Attrition reports

Data is the skeleton of any decision or plan. But without context it is lifeless. Attrition reports are the most sought after data in most organizations. Presentations are made and meetings are scheduled to discuss this crucial information. But more often than not, the reports, especially for large organizations are in the form of 5-10 options boxed as the reasons for leaving. Better opportunities, personal problems, dissatisfaction etc.

None of this really shows a clear picture. The report itself never generates answers, it merely raises a lot of questions. Without the answers this exercise has little impact.

For example, if we see that most employees left due to compensation reasons then it should provoke so many questions – Is our market data wrong or is it our compensation philosophy that’s causing the gap? Are we hiring them at the wrong point in the range or have our increments fallen out with the times? Are we hiring over qualified individuals for the role and ending up with an expectation gap?


I believe that attrition reports should be able to make associations, find patterns and consequences over time. Continuing with the previous case, break it down to see a pattern between qualifications. Maybe in a given role the engineers were seeking growth more as compared to those with diplomas. Here again, the picture would be still incomplete if we do not compare it with business outcomes. Are the engineers performing better? Is this a reasonable shelf life for this role in the organization rather than investing in retaining these resources beyond a point?

So, if your report cannot do all this, it’s just another presentation for another meeting with more munchies. Maybe if we served fresh kale instead.

Of course, as always I don’t think this is a final list. In fact, it could be limited by my own ideas. What are yours? Add or delete any?