A Comprehensive Guide to HR Best Practices You Need to Know This Year [Infographic]

HR best practices have been under close examination for many years and continue to be a hot debate topic in business circles.

So what is the definition of HR best practices?

It is the idea that there are universal HR principles that provide companies with optimal business performance, regardless of which organization or industry they are applied to.

However, we can’t discount the principle of the best fit either. It’s important to align HR goals with the overall goals of your organization, so that the HR, business, and strategy departments are all on the same page. When you’re able to combine these two ideas and achieve best practices and best fit, you’re practicing what’s called strategic human resource management.

To help HR departments focus their efforts on HR best practices, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best human resource practices. Try these out in your own organization and see how they can help you increase engagement, improve retention, and more.

How Were These Best HR Practices Gathered?

Some HR strategies have been around a long time and are entrenched in HR as “best practices” despite little proof that they contribute to company goals or performance.

We’ve compiled the best HR practices of companies by using the Bersin study, which analyzed 140 HR best practices to find which ones had the highest impact opportunities for companies. We’ve also included case studies and examples of HR best practices from companies that have made the top of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list in 2013-2014 and Glassdoor’s 2014-2015 winners of the Employees’ Choice Awards.

Download the full 8 HR Best Practices infographic here.

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The Difference Between HR Practices and HR Activities

Before we dive in, it’s important to clarify the distinction between HR practices and HR activities, since without a clear understanding it is possible to intermingle the two. Both are needed for an HR department to fully reach its potential, and for an organization to optimize its human capital investment.

HR practices involve the strategic operations of HR. They form the foundation and guidance for managing the company’s employees and should coordinate with the executive business plan. Some examples of HR practices include:

In contrast, HR activities are the daily activities to implement the strategies determined by HR practices. They allow the mission and the goals of the HR department to be carried out. HR activities may include:

In the most basic terms, HR practices look at the questions of what an organization wants to do and why, and HR activities address how.

HR practices should create a natural progression to HR activities so that the activities directly correlate with practices. If one or the other is neglected, it can create a disconnect that will be felt throughout the company. Your company can function this way, but not at its best.

When HR practices and HR activities are aligned and working hand in hand, HR departments have the ability to thrive, and your company benefits. Optimum human resources involves an understanding and integrated approach to HR practices and HR activities.

Introduction to HR Best Practices

We’ve identified the top HR best practices that can give you the most bang for your buck. In other words, if you focus on improving these areas, you’ll likely see the greatest results. These areas include recruitment and selection, training and development, transparency, employee benefits, employee incentives, compensation and evaluations, compliance, and terminations.

1. Recruitment and Selection

Companies seeking to hire high-performers are turning to innovative processes to streamline hiring.

There are many different ways to assess whether someone will be a good fit for the company, both as a high-performer and as a cultural fit. While not every innovative hiring process will be right for your team, you can learn from companies who have paved the way and provided data for the rest of us. Here are a few strategies to consider.

When it comes to posting the perfect job ad, you should include some information about your organization—what technology you use, what kind of products you create, your mission and vision, and more. Including this contextual information (instead of only a grocery list of skills you’re looking for) can encourage more candidates who believe in your organization’s mission to apply. The best candidates can always learn additional skills; what you want are employees who are going to be engaged from day one.

2. Training and Development

You’ve taken the time to find employees you want to hire, but your responsibility to them is only just beginning.

It is an HR best practice to invest in training and development opportunities to improve your current workforce, focus on skill-specific training, and realize the value that young workers place on learning. As industries are advancing at an ever-increasing pace, you can support and encourage your employees to grow as well, keeping them more engaged in their work and your organization.

3. Transparency

A crucial HR practice is to always maintain transparency and be open with employees regarding the success and failures of the business. Organizations that foster an open environment of feedback and communication make employees feel trusted, respected, and valued.

In order to be a high-impact HR department, you should:

As an HR department, you should also avoid focusing on efficiency and cutting costs above all else, as this could actually be less effective in the long run. Instead, promote practices that create transparent environments and encourage information sharing.

4. Employee Benefits

There is a myriad of benefits you can offer employees, but which ones provide the greatest value? The best benefit plans take a strategic approach to accomplishing company goals and retaining great employees as well as ensuring your employees understand their benefits.

While Google’s approach certainly isn’t feasible for all companies, it is important to identify where you are losing money and why you might be struggling with employee retention. If you want to hire and keep the best talent, you have to treat them like they’re the best talent and show you value your employees.

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5. Employee Incentives

Incentives have their pros and cons. For incentives to be effective, this HR best practice must be implemented in the correct manner, or you risk demotivating your employees instead of motivating them. Here are some HR best practices for providing effective employee incentives.

Providing the right incentives shows employees that you care about them and the value they add to your company.

6. Compensation

If you want great employees, you need to have great compensation plans in place. Above-average employees deserve above-average compensation, and you want to show your employees that you value them and the work they do.

Some HR best practices for compensation include:

Whatever the compensation strategy of your company, it should be based on the productivity and contributions of the employees, and the managers in your organization should be prepared to communicate about it.

7. Compliance Issues

The best way to handle compliance issues is to avoid having them in the first place. That being said, it can be very difficult to juggle the complexities of compliance issues with the daily tasks of running other human resources practices in the workplace. Here are some human resource practices to prevent compliance issues.

Hiring, employee classification, and wage requirements all require constant attention to stay in compliance. Utilizing your point person and your HR software can help you stay one step ahead of any upcoming changes to HR.

8. Terminations

This is probably the toughest place to implement HR best practices because it will always be difficult for those involved. HR best practices include learning from employees who are terminating their employment as well as understanding which topics to be sensitive of for legal reasons. Issues that may warrant termination should always be addressed before they reach a boiling point. However, when it does come to terminating an employee, you shouldn’t wait on the decision.

As you implement these HR practices, you may discover that employees who leave soon after being hired did not have a good indication of what the job entailed when they were hired, and you might consider revamping your hiring process.

Summary of Best Human Resource Practices

Using these types of human resource practices in the workplace can increase employee retention and happiness. This is good news for your company because engaged employees have been found to be up to 20 percent more productive than unhappy ones. If your employees are in sales, happiness can increase their sales by up to 37 percent. Employees feel happy when they receive necessary training, use their skills and abilities to do their best work, and feel appreciated and valued. All of these are good indicators that your HR team is on the right track.

Innovative Companies Leading the Way

If you’re still looking inspiring HR best practices, then turn your attention to companies that are making headlines for being in the top 100 companies to work for.


Google is a great example we’ve used in this article because they have tried many innovative approaches. One thing that has contributed to Google’s success is providing an environment where employee happiness is a high priority. They provide amenities like free healthy meals, on-site laundry and fitness centers, paid parental leave, and on-site childcare.

According to Business Insider, a full “73 percent of Google employees find their jobs to be meaningful,” and the pay doesn’t hurt either, with an average salary of $140,000. Even newer employees regularly make around $93,000 per year. Google provides transportation and a flexible work environment, including telecommuting for work. They also strive to maintain transparency and encourage employees to set high goals and learn from setbacks.

American Express

This company made Fortune’s 2014 list of the Best Companies to Work For and it’s easy to see why. Amex offers a flexible work environment with excellent benefits including paid leadership training, 20 weeks paid parental leave, on-site fitness centers, and reimbursements up to $35,000 for surrogacy or adoption expenses.

This positive work environment extends to the management as well, and 92 percent of American Express employees think that their management is honest and ethical in business.


If your organization is dedicated to HR best practices and tries to follow these principles, you could see higher employee retention and happier employees who contribute their best. The HR practices of your company can be the highlight of your business by implementing flexibility and training within the HR department. Who knows, you may even end up on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in a few years.

Would you like to learn more about HR best practices?