Why Employee Handbooks Matter

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 Why Employee Handbooks Matter electronic employee handbook acknowledgement form

Employee handbooks first and foremost reserve and protect the rights of an employer.  In addition, they can help clarify expectations, facilitate better communication with employees, and can reduce risk related to litigation or unionization. As Merritt Bumpass, a partner in the Frantz Ward Labor and Employment Group said,

“An employer has a legal relationship with each of its employees. The crucial issue is what are the terms of that relationship, and the creation of a well written handbook is a very good way to establish clear and acceptable terms of that relationship.”

However, not all handbooks are created equal, and in order to maximize the impact of your organization’s handbook,  we spoke with the attorneys at Frantz Ward LLP, who gave a few suggestions for essential policies you should consider.

Essential Policies:

  • At will disclaimer
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
  • Anti-harassment – including sexual and workplace harassment
  • NLRA disclaimer
  • Non-solicitation
  • Work rules/Discipline
  • Electronic communications
  • Employment status/Classification
  • Attendance/Tardiness
  • Family and Medical Leave
  • Personal/Non FMLA Leave
  • Military Leave
  • Firearms/Weapons
  • Drug free workplace/ Drug testing
  • Workplace injury/Illness
  • Employee Acknowledgement Form

Additional Policies to Consider Including:

  • Welcome statement/Introduction
  • Description of benefits
  • Hours/Work schedule/Lunch/Breaks
  • Timekeeping
  • Employee benefits
  • Dress code
  • Reference requests
  • Updating personnel information
  • Access to personnel records
  • Employee suggestions
  • Continued education
  • Emergencies
  • Business reimbursement
  • Travel
  • Performance evaluations
  • Promotions/Transfers
  • Layoff/Recall
  • Payroll
  • Industry specific regulations
  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Employee complaints
  • Termination of employment/Resignation
  • Non-Fraternization/Dating/Personal relationships including relatives
  • Conflict of interest
  • Receiving/Receipt of gifts
  • Cell phones/Electronic devices while driving – Cell phones/Electronic devices at work
  • Smoking and use of tobacco
  • Working from home

Handbooks are not a one-size-fits-all. These are just some examples of sample policies that could be added to your handbook. All handbooks should be reviewed by legal counsel for compliance with federal and state laws and regulations–and should be modified to fit the organizations culture, industry and practices. If you are a ERC Member, contact the HR Help Desk for additional information on sample handbook policies.

Frantz Ward LLP is an ERC Partner and offers a Litigation Prevention Plan (LPP) that helps ERC members with their annual employment law expenses. Not a member of ERC? See what our Membership has to offer.

Source: Employment Law 2015 guidelines, “What’s Cooking in Labor and Employment Law in 2015,” Frantz Ward LLP.

IMPORTANT: By providing you with information that may be contained in this article, the Employers Resource Council (ERC) is not providing a qualified legal opinion concerning any particular human resource issue. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application. We also recommend that you consult your legal counsel regarding workplace matters when and if appropriate.

This document is intended to provide general information about legal developments, not legal advice. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Frantz Ward LLP.

ERC Partners Frantz Ward and Meyers Roman Litigation Prevention Plan

What Truly Motivates Employees (Besides Money)

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Leaders want motivated employees, but often believe that money is the main motivator. Misunderstanding what really motivates employees can have negative consequences when it comes to engaging employees and motivating higher performance.

For example, researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer interviewed over 600 managers and uncovered that the widespread majority of managers misunderstood what motivates employees. Managers viewed making money and receiving raises and bonuses as the primary motivators, when in fact, upon analyzing over 12,000 employee diary entries, the number one work motivator was actually emotion and not financial incentives. Positive emotions were linked to increased motivation. Meanwhile, negative emotions were linked to decreased motivation.
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Workplace Culture: What It Is, Why It Matters, & How to Define It

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Workplace Culture: What It Is, Why It Matters, & How to Define It

Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It's what makes your organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. Here's an overview of why workplace culture is important, what affects it, and how to define it.

Why is workplace culture important?

Culture is as important, if not more important, than your business strategy because it either strengthens or undermines your business and the objectives it is trying to achieve. Culture is significant, especially because…
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Compensation Rising for Recent Graduates

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With graduation day only a few months away, the pressure is on for many soon to be college graduates in need of full time employment. This flood of new job seekers on the market come May offers employers a great opportunity to take on these highly educated, enthusiastic potential new employees- and, even better, in most cases, these new employees can be brought on board at entry level compensation levels.

Benefits of Recent Grads

In fact, ERC/NOCHE’s 2012 Intern & Recent Graduate Survey reports that 42% of employers make their entry level hires directly from this pool of new college graduates. Their reasons for doing so are fairly consistent from year to year with the vast majority of employers recognizing new graduates not only as a great value (strong educational background, again for entry level compensation levels), but also as an opportunity for their organization to develop a talent pipeline, infuse the workforce with new energy, and boost the level of tech savvy among their employees.
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5 Ways to Spot & Develop an Emerging Leader

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5 Ways to Spot & Develop an Emerging Leader

Your emerging leaders are your rising managers and leaders in the making. But how do you spot an emerging leader and then develop them into a leadership role? Picking the right people and training them the right way is essential. That's why we've provided five (5) qualities these talented employees usually embody plus 5 ways to develop them.
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7 Ways to Respond When an Employee Quits

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Employers often must deal with turnover and resignations of their best people. When an employee quits, there are many right and wrong ways to respond. Here are 7 critical questions to ask to guide your responses and actions when an employee says “I quit.”

1. Do you value the employee?

When an employee approaches you about their transition, how you respond to the employee depends on how much you value them. If you value the employee, you have two options: do everything you can to keep them at your organization or accept the resignation and show gratitude for their contributions. The option you choose will likely depend on the reason for the resignation and your relationship with the employee.

As an employer, you have an obligation to help address any issue that is preventing you from retaining a top performer. Sometimes these issues are personal and beyond your ability to impact, but many other times there will be something you can adjust in the workplace. This, however, should ideally be done before the employee approaches you with their resignation, because by that time they have likely already made a firm decision.

If you don’t value the employee, accept the resignation without negative commentary, request it in writing, and quickly coordinate logistics for their transition (final paycheck, etc.). Keep your dialogue with the employee limited, professional, and operational in nature.

2. Do you want their feedback?

While most employers conduct exit interviews or surveys to gather feedback from exiting employees, not all organizations consider whether they actually want the feedback of these employees. In fact, it’s not uncommon for employers to mandate exit interviews. Let’s face it though, not all employees’ opinions should be counted equally, especially if they are poor performers. You could find yourself implementing changes to feedback that are simply unproductive complaints.

Be sure that the employees’ opinions and suggestions are worthwhile before you spend time and resources on gathering their feedback in the first place. Top performers, new-hires, and highly tenured employees are all those whom you will likely want to solicit feedback. Their ideas and opinions are often helpful in making changes to workplace and on-boarding programs.

3. Do you have a replacement?

Do you have a replacement who is currently employed at the organization? An employee can quit, leave, or get “hit by a truck” at any time. Knowing this, good managers always make sure that they have a replacement for themselves and for the members of their team, in the event of an emergency. They ensure that someone is cross-trained in the role and can step to the plate if needed. As employers and managers, you should always be asking yourselves: “What if xxxx leaves?” to better your business and minimize risk. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling to figure out how to fill your or their shoes, and this lack of planning can potentially disrupt your business.

4. How will you retain their knowledge?

Many employees carry a great deal of knowledge, talent, and expertise that is sometimes difficult to train or hire, especially those with significant tenures or unique skills. Increasingly, organizations are focusing on knowledge-sharing practices to cope with this issue before they encounter significant talent losses. The bad news is that it might be too late to retain the knowledge of your key employee if you haven’t already implemented knowledge-sharing practices. These practices could include succession planning, mentoring, knowledge management systems, and procedural/workflow documents which capture their knowledge before it’s lost.

5. How will you notify others?

A best practice when notifying others about a resignation is to start the communication process intimately, with the employee’s managers/supervisors, then with the employee’s team or department, and finally the entire organization. Alert staff of the transition, the timeline until his/her departure, and plan for replacing the employee.

If you want the employee to leave immediately or don’t trust them to work productively until their last day, it’s best to send an immediate written notification to your employees and not use this tiered communication approach. Keep the communication general and let employees know that their coworker has moved on to other career opportunities.

6. How will you respond in their remaining days?

If the employee is going to continue to work through their last day, your organization will need to decide how to deal with their existing assignments and project load, and transition their customer relationships. You’ll need to determine which projects the employee will finish, and which ones will be directed to other employees or put on hold.

In addition to responding to work issues, you’ll also need to determine how you will respond to the departure. It’s best to remain positive about the employee’s new opportunity and wish them success, even though you may be upset with the decision.  Also, decide if or how your organization will wish the employee good luck in their new endeavors, perhaps through a social gathering. Oftentimes, coworkers appreciate a formal opportunity to “send off” the former employee. This, however, isn’t always appropriate.

7. Do you want to keep the door open for a future relationship?

When an employee leaves, you can choose to close the door on the relationship or maintain it. Increasingly, employers are keeping the door open and maintaining relationships with employees who have left their organizations. Social networking tools, in particular, provide an opportunity for them to do this easily. This helps organizations continue a positive relationship with their previous employees which can benefit their recruitment efforts. For example, previous employees can serve as excellent referral sources, and some employers use their “alumni” as a network to attract applicants. These organizations recognize that former employees will be asked about their past employment, potentially by their job candidates, and their honest responses can help (or hurt) their organization’s hiring efforts and reputation.

Another way that organizations keep the door open is by having re-hire policies, which allow the former employee to be considered for employment opportunities in the future. Oftentimes, the employee may end up being even more valuable once they have developed more industry experience and skills, which can benefit your organization.

Inevitably, a talented employee will choose to leave your organization at one time or another, and how you prepare for this departure ahead of time and respond as an employer and manager can make a difference during their transition. Streamlining your exit strategies, creating a good exit interview, developing standard communication practices, implementing knowledge sharing, preparing possible replacements, and maintaining positive relationships with your “alumni” are all ways that you can effectively respond to unavoidable resignations.

Additional Resources

Supervisory SeriesIn the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching.

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Win Trust & Influence: 6 Tips for Improving Employee Relations

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In HR, how you approach everyday employee relations can make a difference in whether or not your employees and managers view you as a trusted advisor. Here are ways that you can improve your relationships with managers and employees at your organization to win their trust, respect, and confidence.

Interact and communicate with employees on a daily basis

Make regular interaction a priority and it will help you do your job better. Walk the plant floor or the office. You’ll get to know employees personally, understand their concerns, and better identify work problems that you can fix. Meet with employees regularly, either one-on-one or in small groups. The best HR professionals have won the respect and trust of their employees by taking an interest in their day-to-day lives and creating an open dialogue.

Maintain their trust and confidentiality

Be a trusted resource that employees can turn to discuss problems, conflicts, or other issues. Handle employees’ concerns with integrity and professionalism. Refrain from discussing confidential issues with other members of your team or outside your department, or gossiping about employee matters. If you gather employees’ feedback on any topic, always protect their confidentiality and anonymity. Don’t try to pinpoint who said what.

Advocate for your employees

Know what drives retention and engagement for your employees. Advocate for and champion programs that enhance employees’ work experience and those that are important to your workforce.  Over time, these improvements will be noticed by your employees and they will value your contributions. We have seen many HR professionals gain the respect of the employees’ and leadership teams by creating great places to work.

Gain the respect of your managers

Develop strong relationships with your supervisors and managers. Learn about them and their departments and ask them how you can be of better assistance to their needs. Understand their demands and make their jobs easier, not harder. Create tools and systems and offer training to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.  In doing so, you will have more luck collaborating with them to manage employees.

Make an impression from the start

Use on-boarding as a way to build your reputation with employees as a trusted advisor. Build a positive rapport prior to them coming on-board by staying in contact, being responsive and accessible, and providing them with all of the information they need for their first day. In addition to facilitating orientation, describe your role to employees in ways that you want to be perceived. Reach out to new-hires multiple times within the first 6 months to gather feedback, provide support, and solidify a positive relationship.

Be objective and balance interests

Execute and enforce policies and procedures consistently and fairly, with no exceptions. Additionally, balance serving all of your internal customers – leaders, managers, and employees. Learn to look at issues objectively from all sides of your business and balance these three interests. Be collaborative in developing and implementing policies. Don’t develop policies without considering their perspectives. 

 If you want to broaden your influence, achieve better results, and improve relationships with your internal customers, consider using these approaches. We have witnessed many HR professionals win the trust and confidence of their managers and employees by adopting these positive employee relations practices.

20 Tips for Managing Young Employees

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We hire them for their fresh knowledge, strong technical skills, and growth potential, but managing young people effectively requires a different strategy than some of your other employees, given their lack of business and work experience. Here are 20 tips for managing young workers.

   1.  Help them transition from college to work. Transitioning from student to employee can be a time of confusion, anxiety, exploration, and excitement. Recognize that each employee handles this transition differently and requires a different level of support from your organization. Think of ways that you can support your new employee in this time of change, whether that’s help with relocation or financial support for continuing education.

2.    Assign them to the right manager.  A young employee needs the right type of manager – one that enjoys teaching, mentoring, developing, and spending time interacting with their employees, since this is the focus of their interests. They also need a manager who is a strong communicator, isn’t afraid to provide frequent feedback, and values employee ideas and suggestions. Your traditional or untrained managers may not be the right fit for a young employee.

3.    Create a good on-boarding program. While it may be tempting to drop your young employee into an assignment right away with limited training, young employees usually need a more detailed and lengthy on-boarding experience to get started on the right foot. Spend the time up-front to make sure they are well-trained to carry out their job responsibilities, understand the business and its products/services, and are comfortable with your operating procedures.

4.    Fill the experience gap by providing just that: experiences. Job experiences should be many and varied and the employee needs to be involved in actually doing the work. Some managers are resistant to putting a younger employee on a more challenging project because of their lack of experience; however, recognize that the employee will only be as valuable to your organization as you let them be. With the right amount of task structure and supervision, potential risks can be minimized.

5.    Invest in them early. Make sacrifices in productivity early on to develop skill gaps in your young employees. Top organizations invest in young employees early in their career – and oftentimes right from the day one. They assess skill gaps right away, lay out structured development plans, and focus heavily on training and development in their first few years – sometimes even in lieu of a full workload. Once the right foundation has been laid, these organizations find that young workers are better equipped to contribute at a higher level later in their careers.  

6.    Give them attention. Young workers know that they have a lot to learn from others and expect more attention from their boss as a result. They don’t necessarily want autonomy, especially if they aren’t skilled yet at their job tasks. Once they become skilled, autonomy may become more valuable to them. They do expect to be heard and want their employers to listen to and value their input.

7.    Provide constant feedback. An annual performance review is not enough performance feedback for your young employees. They like and will need constant feedback as they navigate their tasks and responsibilities. They will also need affirmation as they progress. Managers should meet with young employees often for these purposes.

8.    Re-think how work is done. Younger employees don’t always approach work and life separately and may see these as blended and integrated. This may result in use of work time for personal affairs and use of personal time for work. As a result, they may be more productive working at home or using a flexible schedule.

9.    Provide variety. Young workers typically have a short attention span. They thrive on variety and change and may be your strongest change-agents.  They are usually most productive when working on short-term projects and quick tasks, or longer projects that are broken down into smaller tasks or phases.

10.  Use them for their strengths. They may not be your most perfect assets from the start. They’ll make mistakes and you’ll see the effects of their inexperience over time, but their energy, fresh knowledge, willingness to learn, growth potential, and creativity are all valuable to your organization and likely reasons for which you hired them. Use them with these strengths in mind, and over time with good direction and development, the rest with usually come.

11.  Offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities. Growing research shows that many young people want to be entrepreneurs. To keep their fresh, new, and great ideas inside your organization, allow or offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities – projects or opportunities that allow them to create or be involved in the creation of a new product, service, or start-up scenarios. Use their entrepreneurial spirit for your benefit.

12.  Be or give them a mentor. An experienced mentor can help young employees learn from experiences that they haven’t had and provide an objective sounding board for career discussions and work problems. They can also suggest or help facilitate developmental activities. A mentor could be another individual in the organization (perhaps a top performer), a leader, or the employee’s supervisor. Typically a mentor is 1-2 levels above the employee.

13.  Show them clear, defined career paths. Young employees are focused on advancement. They want to know their career options and work towards a specific career goal. If your organization doesn’t have clear career paths, discuss alternative career and developmental opportunities in the organization and show examples of how other young people have advanced.

14.  Monitor workload. Young workers don’t know what their limits are yet and are eager to take on new projects and responsibilities. They also don’t feel as safe saying no to additional responsibilities because they lack experience. Similarly, keep in mind that young people are not always skilled at managing their time and prioritizing work.

15.  Emphasize professionalism. Young employees may not be educated on the right ways to conduct themselves in a workplace setting. Expect that they may not know the basics like how to lead a conference call, create a meeting agenda, network, manage a project, general business/email etiquette, or more touchy subjects like handling emotions, hygiene, and dress in the workplace.

16.  Choose and monitor work events carefully especially if there is alcohol involved. After-work outings, happy-hour events, and other social gatherings are a great way to attract and engage young employees, but consider limiting alcohol consumption, choosing locations that minimize risk, setting ground rules, and dealing with inappropriate behavior on-the-spot to avoid liabilities.

17.  Differentiate between friends and coworkers. It’s not that friendships in the workplace are bad (in fact, they can be very positive), but young workers have a tendency to view their coworkers as friends more than other employees. These relationships can get too personal and may be inappropriate (i.e. dating relationships), depending on your policies. Plus, when friends start getting promoted and managing one another, these relationships can pose problems.

18.  Explain key policies. Hone in on certain policies with young people such as dress code, attendance, harassment, substance abuse, and social media/internet usage, and specifically what actions are unacceptable in the workplace and the consequences of those behaviors.  What was acceptable in college isn’t always acceptable in the workplace, and some young employees miss these differences.

19.  Provide benefits education. Young workers usually lack knowledge about their benefits – how health and dental insurance works, how much to contribute to their 401K, if they should use a flexible spending account, what an employee assistance program provides, etc. They may also need some help with financial planning such as paying off student loans, saving for a house, budgeting, to name a few. Spend additional time discussing benefits with your younger employees and provide financial planning resources.

20.  Be an example. Young people will emulate who you are. They will view you as a model for their behavior, copying your actions and words. In their first days and months, they are attuned to the norms of workplace behavior and will take on positive and negative behaviors they observe in their work environment. Recognize their malleable nature and use this time to mold them in positive ways.

Additional Resources

 Training for Your Young Professionals

This can’t-miss, two-part series for your organization’s young professionals, covers communication skills, professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, and the traits of a strong leader.

Mid-Level Manager Training