BUILDING A STRONG WORKFORCE (Part Two): Maintaining A Great Workforce

Now that you’ve selected the best candidate for the Job, you need to make sure you have laid the foundation for keeping this great hire.  So many small businesses think because they don’t have many employees, they don’t need to have an employee handbook, or enter into an employment agreement and it’s just not true.  Properly drafted employee handbooks and employment contracts serve as the foundation for the employment relationship.  Additionally, setting aside time to develop and communicate employment policies can help manage employees and identify potentially disruptive issues before valuable time and resources are wasted.

The Employment Offer and Compensation Agreements

A good job offer letter should note that hiring is contingent upon the new hire completing all of the new hire paperwork. An oral job offer should be matter-of-fact and to the point – skip the usual “feel-good” comments that sometimes get a company in trouble, such as “don’t worry, if you work hard and follow all the rules, you’ll always have a job with us” – even though the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that such comments do not by themselves destroy the presumption that employment is at will, it is possible to do just that with the wrong mix of circumstances. In an employment at will situation, the employer should express the compensation in terms of a weekly or biweekly pay period – annual salary offers have been held in certain cases to constitute a promise of at least one year’s employment.  The more unusual a pay method is, the more important it is to put it into writing – also, the pay agreement should be as clear as possible, since any claims under the Texas Payday Law will be based upon whatever the pay agreement says or seems to say.

The best time to obtain employees’ agreement to something, or to get them to sign required government documents, is before they are hired, or at the very start of employment. A good way to handle this is to have an appropriate staff member, such as the office manager or a human resources department employee, meet with the new employee before any work begins and have the new hire fill out the various forms. New hire paperwork should include: I-9 Form, W-4 Form, Notices for various forms of insurance coverage (i.e., health insurance and workers compensation coverage), acknowledgement of receipt of employee handbook (yes, you should have one), consent to drug testing, search policy, video surveillance (if the company does or intends to do such things).

Employee Handbooks and Employment Agreements

As I mentioned before, properly drafted employee handbooks and employment contracts serve as the foundation for the employment relationship and if you are trying to build and maintain a productive and loyal workforce, I highly recommend implementing them.  I would like to note that you can still have an employment agreement in an at will employment situation.

A properly drafted employee handbook and employment contract accomplishes a number of things: establish a company culture, communicates expectations, ensures clear and consistent communication of company policies, and helps you defend against employee claims.  These things a vital to encouraging productive and loyal employees.

Additionally, employee handbooks and employment contracts also help the employer to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.  From disciplinary matters, to policies regarding time off, to performance evaluations and everything in between. It is so important not only to inform your employees, but to make sure you are equally informed in these areas so that you can avoid potential claims and lawsuits.

Talk to your Employees

Finally, employment law issues aside, you should really take the time to speak with your employees on a regular basis, even in a larger company.  Employees who feel valued, recognized and respected are more likely to remained engaged and loyal.  And let’s be honest, A disgruntled employee will eventually cause damage to the moral of the team if their issues are left unattended. Ensure that proper structures are in place for complaints and problems to be dealt with, other than being discussed around the coffee machine. If possible, allow managers and executives at higher levels to be easily approachable. If an employee feels that someone will listen, he or she is less likely to negatively influence those around them.  Increasing employee loyalty is a must for a successful business. When your staff are motivated and excited about their work, your business will flourish, they will grow as individuals and clients will be satisfied, creating the ultimate win-win situation for all.

When drafting employee contracts and handbooks, consult your business attorney for details specific to your industry and business situation.

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