Like many business owners, I quickly learned that exceptions to the daily routine of running a business could become roadblocks to efficiency. Just when everything seems to be going right, one of those irregularities in business surfaces to take away your time and focus.
It is inevitable that one of your employees will receive a letter from the court requesting jury duty or full-time service in the armed forces. The first question will be whether he will receive regular compensation while away. Other common questions: How much vacation accrual will increase with years of service? Can employees use company assets for personal use (copy machines, computers, etc.)? What are the limits on business travel expenses? There are also issues that you hope will never surface such as a claim for discrimination in the workplace.
Each of these events is important and needs to be given the proper attention. Left unattended, the small issues of today can become major employee problems, legal conflicts and business disruptions in the future. A helpful and useful method to solve many of these issues is the development and adoption of a company policy manual. These manuals are intended to address the rules of the business and to answer difficult questions before they become problems.
The task of developing the manual need not be overwhelming. Many manuals have already been developed, making it unnecessary to reinvent the wheel. One approach is to search the Internet for existing documents, but this may prove daunting since there are literally tens of thousands of pages of policy manual sites online.
I am an advocate of the Internet, but in this case let me suggest a few alternatives that may be quicker. Talk to your attorney and accountant about supplying sample policies and guidelines. Another option is to approach companies in your industry or of similar size and request a copy of their manuals. Most firms are happy to help.
Using these manuals as guides, adopt the best practices, edit for changes to fit your situation and remove those policies that do not fit. In time, you will have the beginnings of an operating policy manual.
There are certain policies that you must have, others that will assist in the management of the company and some that will enhance the work environment. Start with the mandatory policies first and build over time, learn as you go and adopt new policies when it makes sense.
Following is a partial list of policies that you might consider for your own manual. Consult with your counsel to determine which of these policies are must-haves.
Human resource: Vacation, holidays, leave of absence (sick leave, jury duty, death in family, birth of a child, etc.), discrimination, education during employment, equal employment opportunity/hiring/review, personal appearance.
Company resource: Original works, copyrights, patents, software purchase and use, system security.
Operations: Business travel expenses, Internet use, e-mail.
These are some of the most common policies. You may need other policies depending upon your industry, location or company size.
Avoiding a bad employee situation and maybe even litigation will make the task of developing your own policy manual well worth the effort. As the owner or manager of your company, your efforts will go far in making those irregularities easier to address in a fair and equitable way for each associate in your company.
Gary Williams is associated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.