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Practice vs. Procedure

November 15, 2011

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Chris Fields, MLHR.  Chris is an HR professional, consultant, and blogger at CostOfWork. You can find him on Twitter at @new_resource and on LinkedIn.  We’re pleased to welcome Chris to the Schoolhouse; please sit back and enjoy. He certainly raises some interesting concepts here – so please chime in!

Hello ladies and gentleman, I’m Chris Fields your guest lecturer today. And today’s lesson plan comes from something I was taught in college and have since experienced to be true — the disconnect between human resource practices and procedures.  I remember vividly when one of my professors (whom we’ll call Professor Bob) told us one day “What we teach here is what should be done procedurally. But what you will find is that it’s not practiced.”

Talk about truth.  Look around at the news; a major university covers up sexual abuse for years and sexual harassment and workplace violence are all in the headlines.  There’s also poor customer service, theft, protest and bad ethical decisions being made. Makes me wonder how some folks even got hired to begin with. Someone in human resources or whoever is making the hiring decision has dropped the ball. They’ve “pooched” it.


I’m convinced that an active human resource department that’s a strategic partner and is engaged with employees, could prevent these nightmares.  But sometimes we get marginalized, excluded or bogged down with other things.

Here’s an example of procedural failure:

A guidance counselor was hired to work in an all-male school for troubled teens.  It was later discovered that she had an affair with one of the 17-year-old boys.  Sadly, this happens all too often today because human behavior can never be predicted. However by making some observations and doing a little bit of due diligence this kind of mess could have been avoided.

The guidance counselor was a younger (mid-twenties) attractive lady. So think about that for second, all boys’ school, you hire a hot, young, female counselor. (Young men + young hot female = possible disaster?) Oh, by the way, her real name is Cinnamon (not making that up). 

Before you grab your pitch forks and come get me for discrimination and biases, there’s more. When the story hit the news, the investigating reporters went to Cinnamon’s Facebook and MySpace accounts. There they found topless pictures of Cinnamon that had been posted for years. They have since been removed.

If the hiring person had followed the correct procedure and performed a quick little background check, they would have seen for themselves the behavior of this candidate. Do you know how much it costs to check a social media site? Nothing! It’s Free.

Also Cinnamon embezzled anywhere from $10,000 – $60,000. They don’t even know how much, which is another procedural problem. There’s no way they could have known she was a thief, but they could have found out about the photos, and realized that this was not a good fit for them, thus saving humiliation and embarrassment.

So please, don’t screw the pooch … or the counselor.  Follow your procedures.

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