Updating Your Employee Handbook: 5 Important Policies
The employee handbook plays a critical role in every company. It is an important tool used to effectively communicate information regarding your company’s policies, practices, and employee benefits. Handbooks can also make a clear statement about an organization’s brand and culture, and can serve as a tool to attract, engage and retain top talent. Not only does it set forth guidelines of company expectations for its employees, but it also describes what employees can expect from the company as well.
It is essential for every company to have an employee handbook that is as clear and unambiguous as possible. This will help reduce risk by spelling out what employees can and cannot do, along with the consequences for failing to follow the policies.
When was the last time you updated your employee handbook? Despite its importance in the workplace, many companies rarely update their handbook, which can lead to legal trouble if you are following outdated laws. Your handbook needs to be a living and breathing document, to keep up with the ever changing nature of the workplace and employment laws. As a rule of thumb, organizations should revise their employee handbooks at least once a year. To easily do so, post the handbook on the company Intranet or online resource portal so that employees can easily access the updated document when policies or conditions change.
In Think Like an Owner Academy, attendees learned the importance of having an updated employee handbook, and the legal consequences of failing to do so. For companies in the midst of revising an out-of-date employee handbook, here are five policies that should also be included:
1. Code of business conduct and ethics
One of the reasons employee handbooks need to be updated regularly is to ensure ethics rules remain in sync with changing workplace conditions and new technologies. The employee handbook should outline standards of conduct for all employees, instructing them on appropriate office behavior. Any key local laws or regulations specific to an industry, such as the HIPAA medical privacy rules, should be highlighted.
In addition, the handbook should explain reporting mechanisms, both in-person and anonymously, so that employees can alert managers when they believe an ethics violation has occurred.
Finally, the handbook should instruct employees where to receive comprehensive information about company ethics rules so they can seek guidance when questions arise.
2. Office Internet and social media policies
While many fields of work require Internet access, employee handbooks are often too vague when it comes to defining the appropriate use of company Web resources for personal reasons.
A comprehensive employee handbook instructs employees whether or not they are allowed to use their work computers for personal matters such as checking personal email accounts or social media postings.
The handbook should also highlight social media policies that inform employees about posting information related to their work and the type of information that can be shared.
Because of social media’s growing importance, the handbook may point employees to policies related to interacting with customers via social media. For example, should an organization allow employees to “friend” a client or customer?
Finally, the handbook and supportive policies should instruct employees as to whether they are allowed to download personal applications on their work computers. The manual should explain the mechanisms in place to monitor Internet use. It is also important to notify workers if they are entitled to privacy while using company phones or email.
3. BYOD policies
With the explosive growth of personal cell phone and tablet use in the office, companies should include references to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies in the employee handbook. These policies let employees know whether they are allowed to connect personal cell phones and tablets to company Wi-Fi systems and the acceptable reasons for doing so.
The employee handbook should provide clear instructions about company information, if any, that can be stored on personal devices and the safeguards, such as device pass codes, that must be in place to protect data. The handbook should also instruct employees about what to do if their device is lost or what is required when they leave the company.
4. Telecommuting policies
The current mobile computing revolution, the spread of high-speed Internet, and new secure software solutions allow more and more companies to offer telecommuting as a company perk. Therefore, organizations that allow employees to work remote should include detailed information in their employee policies. They should also summarize those policies in the employee handbook.
The handbook should explain whether telecommuting is allowed for all positions or limited to select positions within the company, along with the necessary approvals required prior to working remotely.
The employee handbook should spell-out any security requirements that must be met in order to telecommute and how time will be tracked for remote work. The handbook should also explain to employees how accessible they should be by phone or email during the agreed-upon work schedule.
It is also important for the employee handbook to remind employees that telecommuting does not work if clients are not well served, if the employee feels isolated from others and cannot complete his or her work, or if the employee’s colleagues are being negatively affected by the telecommuter’s absence from the office. Employees should be reminded that being allowed to work remotely is a privilege but not a right.
5. Disaster preparedness
Having a telecommuting platform and a remote work plan in place is particularly beneficial in case of emergencies large or small. While a weather event may not have long-term consequences, employee absences due to snow or another weather incident can still be costly for a company. A system that allows employees to work remotely may help mitigate the issue.
In addition to logistics issues, the employee handbook should include an overview of the organization’s emergency plans. It should explain the protocols for employees when they are concerned about road safety or face childcare issues due to inclement weather. It should also explain the communications systems employees should use to receive the latest information on company operations.
While the task of updating the employee handbook may seem daunting, it is a critical task that should be conducted on a regular basis. Keeping the handbook up-to-date not only helps reduce risk, but it also better prepares a company for unexpected bumps in the road.
For more tips and best-practices for your employee handbook, and other matters regarding HR and running a business, join Think Like an Owner Academy. Spots are now available for this year-long course aimed to teach key managers and new or current business owners the ins and outs of running a business. If you are interested in attending, visit TLOacademy.com.
Take It To The End Zone
Hut, Hut, Hike! We are about to enter into the fourth quarter of the calendar year, and it is time to take a minute to recharge, regroup and refocus. Take some time to work ON your business instead of IN your business.
Bring your team to our 90-Day Planning Workshop on Thursday, September 22nd from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Urbandale. Just like a football team takes time before the fourth quarter begins to strategize their plays and go over their game plan, so should your leadership team take time outside of your business to review your goals and create an Action Plan of how to tackle the last quarter to end the year strong! Join the huddle for a half-day to clarify your vision and motivate your team to end the year strong.
It’s crunch time! Whether your business goals are right where you expect them to be, or you are struggling to meet them, it is not too late to rally your team together and identify changes that are necessary to move your business forward. Below are three tips to focus on when looking to take greater control of your business and to better achieve your goals:
- Focus on what matters
Business is not a game of luck, it is a game of strategy. Defining your overall goals is the first step in the right direction. As the coach of your company, you have the responsibility of having a clear quarterly game plan in mind to improve productivity and profitability. Define where you want to be in three months and determine KPIs for each member of your team to help them stay on track to achieving your business’s overarching goals.
Goals with a written plan have an 80% higher success rate. Write them down in a place where you see them every day as a way to stay focused on the end zone.
- It takes the whole team
Walter Payton famously said, “We are stronger together than we are alone.” Your business consists of a team working together as a cohesive unit for the same goal and vision. When everyone is on the same page and works together, they achieve peak performance and experience success. Every player has an essential role in your business and they must be held accountable for it.
When creating your game plan for the fourth quarter, be sure your whole team is on board with your goals. Individuals working against your mission are hurting your whole organization’s success.
- Don’t give up
If your team hasn’t been meeting their goals for the past three quarters, it is not too late to turn the game around. It is time to strategize your comeback! Instead of just accepting defeat, adjust your goals to be more realistic for your current situation. Analyze why you have been falling short and address changes you need to make to improve upon those areas.
Business owners rarely fail because they didn’t work hard enough; they fail because they work on the wrong things. Take half a day to regroup and explore the ways you can better reach your goals. Attending the 90-Day Planning Workshop will give you the confidence and decision-making skills to take your business to the next level.
Tackle your goals head-on with full force to finish the year in the right direction. Bring your team to the 90-Day Planning Workshop to create a strategic game plan so you can hit the ground running back at the office. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn in just a few hours and the immediate effect it will have on your business! Sign up here!
6 Keys to a Winning Team
Teamwork is essential to a strong organization. When key employees come together to work towards common goals, everyone achieves more. Whether you are working to select the right new people for a leadership position, or your current leadership team just isn’t meshing, there are six elements that are important when creating a winning leadership team:
1. Strong Leadership
The first key to a winning team is strong leadership. A sports team is nothing without a coach. Similarly, an organization lacks direction without a leader. Strong leaders live and breath the values of the company, and influentially spread their passion to others. They encourage the cooperation of all team members. They embrace the vision of the company, and work to engage and inspire those around them.
2. Common Goal
Once you have a strong leader that has the respect of the team, the next question to ask is, “Where are we going?” What is your company’s mission? It is essential for everyone to share a clearly defined target, and it is the responsibility of the leader to effectively communicate that goal to the team. The common goal will provide direction and focus.
3. Rules of the Game
Can you imagine winning a game if you didn’t know the rules? Employees often lack motivation and productivity because the expectations are unclear. The rules must be written down and available to them. Rules can include specifying company culture and values, as well as ensuring that individual roles and responsibilities are defined with positional contracts, and operations and procedures manuals.
4. Action Plan
A strong plan of action is key for achieving your goals. An action plan should spell out in clear and unambiguous terms specific actions that need to take place in order for your goals to be achieved. A good action plan assigns ownership to tasks, identifies what resources are required, sets timelines for when tasks should be completed and provides measurement details of the current status of tasks over the defined period of time.
5. Support Risk Taking
Winning leaders embrace change, and the whole team follows suit. They are proactive planners who understand business is about risk and reward. If the leader does not allow risk-taking, the business will lag behind market leaders. Winning teams will always be willing to stretch to their limits, try new things and even make mistakes!
6. 100% Involvement/Inclusion
Strong teams have the “we are one” mentality. Members must choose to participate 100%. Leadership must also drive communication to all members of the team. Make involvement and inclusion part of your organization’s culture.
Every key is essential for maximizing your team performance. Get these keys in place and go out there and win the game!
What are your team challenges? At ActionCOACH, there are a number of tool and strategies we use to facilitate enhanced team performance. Reach out to learn more about using the DISC assessment in your organization. DISC is a behavior assessment tool that centers on four different behavioral traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Consciences. By identifying these behavioral traits in your team members, you can help provide each individual with the tools they need to succeed. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
It’s All About The Profit!
It may sound like a trick question: Can a business increase sales 10%, keep expenses constant and still see a 61% increase in profits?
It can if it looks at increasing the bottom-line the ActionCOACH way.
Conventional business looks at sales from the standpoint of three variables, namely sales, expenses and profits defined by the formula: Sales – Expenses = Profits.
In this approach, each variable depends on the other, forcing businesses to look at either increasing sales or decreasing expenses in order to influence profitability.
ActionCOACH moves away from this narrow view and breaks the sales variable into five separate components. These variables can be worked individually and across the board to leverage profits on the bottom line.
In the ActionCOACH business coaching model, this is termed “The Five Ways.”
According to the “Five Ways,” all business is driven by five key profit generating areas: Lead Generation, Conversion Rate, Average Dollar Sale, Average Number of Transactions and Profit Margins. These areas are highlighted in the following equation:
Lead Generation x Conversion Rate = Average Number of Customers
Number of Customers x Average Dollar Sale x Average Number of Transactions = Revenues
Revenues x Profit Margins = $ Profits
A closer look at each of these five variables reveals how an increase in any or all of them can increase sales and profits, while keeping expenses constant.
Understanding Lead Generation, Conversion Rates and Average Dollar Amounts
In today’s highly competitive business world, it is not possible for business owners to sit back and see the profits roll in. It becomes vital for businesses to test and measure everything. A good place to start is lead generation. This is defined as the total number of potential buyers that a particular business contacted or that contacted the business last year. Leads are also known as ‘potentials’ or ‘prospects.’
Most people confuse responses, or the number of potential buyers, with results. The sound of ringing phones does not mean that the cash registers are ringing as well. This is highlighted by conversion rate, or the percentage of people that did buy versus those who could have bought. An example of this is 10 people walking through a store with three people buying something. For the day, the store had a conversion rate of 3 out of 10, or 30%.
The next part of the ‘Five Ways’ is the number of customers. This is the number of different customers a business deals with, and it can be determined by multiplying the total number of leads by its conversion rate.
Average number of transactions is the number of purchases the average customer will make over the course of a year. It helps to keep a database of past customers, and many business owners make the mistake of subscribing to the myth of once a customer, always a customer. The average number of transactions is closely related to the average sale of each purchase, which is also forecast over the course of a year.
Discovering Revenues and Working on Margins
The next important concept in the model is revenue, which is computed by multiplying the total number of customers by the number of times that they bought, multiplied by the average amount they spent.
The resulting number is “revenue,” or the total amount value of overall sales for a business.
This figure leads to the concept of margin, which is the profit percentage of each and every sale. Simply put, if a business sells something for $100, and $25 was profit, the profit margin is 25%.
The final step takes the resulting revenue number and multiplies it by a company’s profit margin percentage to reach bottom-line profit.
The innovative idea around the “Five Ways” is that businesses can leverage the concept even if they have a product or service with a long-term buying cycle or a limited number of transactions.
In those cases, a business could work with the other variables to improve bottom-line profit, including boosting its marketing efforts to capture more qualified leads, finding ways to increase conversion to customers, raising prices to leverage average amount sale or upgrading profit margins.
By stepping outside the conventional accounting perspective of profit, and recognizing that a number of additional variables drive the bottom-line – ActionCOACH gives owners a new perspective on business, and equips them with the tools that positively impact each variable of the equation.
Why You Need a Business Coach for Each Stage of the Business Life Cycle
From the moment you made the decision to set up a business, you entered into the business life cycle. It is the journey from startup to growth, maturity and eventually decline. At each stage of the cycle, you will encounter different challenges. As your business matures, operations and priorities will also change.
The best in business do not ride solo. Every successful CEO has had a valuable resource of counselors, advisors and mentors guiding their way. While small businesses vary widely in size and capacity for growth, common problems arise at similar stages of development. Business coaches offer the guidance and expertise needed to overcome these challenges and to continue to succeed throughout the business life cycle.
Stage 1: The Start-Up Phase.
According to the Startup Genome Report, more than 90% of startups fail, due primarily to self-destruction rather than competition. It’s a harsh reality. At this stage, organization is simple – the owner does nearly everything. Systems and formal planning are minimal to nonexistent. The company’s strategy is simply to remain alive.
In the start-up phase the owner is the business. You perform all the important tasks and are the major supplier of energy, direction and capital. In this phase, you need direction, connections and guidance from people who have been in your same position.
New companies are often created by new business owners. During this stage, we recommend seeking out a program like Think Like an Owner Academy. This program, led by business coaches and other local business owners, teaches you the major elements of business management and the leadership skills necessary to be one of the 10% of startup businesses that survive. The course is taken by other new or soon-to-be business owners of both start-up companies and well-established local businesses, creating the perfect opportunity to start building your network of business owners to look to for advice and strategic partnerships.
We also recommend attending Planning Days. Planning days are quarterly half-day events where you focus ON your business instead of IN your business. During an Annual Planning Day, you will establish both long term and short term goals for your business, and create an Action Plan on how to get there. During Quarterly Planning Days, you will evaluate if you are on track with your goals, modify them if necessary, and discuss with other business owners best practices to reach your goals the following quarter.
Stage 2: Growth Phase.
Your business has endured the initial stage of the business life cycle and has moved on to the growth stage. At this phase, your business is generating a consistent source of income and is regularly taking on new customers. Recurring revenue will help pay your operating expenses, and you should start to see your profits improve slowly and steadily.
During this stage, you will need to fine tune your business model and implement proven methodologies, sales models, marketing models and operations models to keep up with your growth. Your biggest challenge is dividing your time between a whole new range of demands requiring your attention, from managing increasing levels of revenue, attending to customers, dealing with the competition and accommodating an expanding workforce.
Your role as a business owner is changing from being able to do it all to taking a step back from the workload, hiring smart people with complementary mindsets, and taking on the role as head of the company. While you’ll still be on the front line of your company, you need to be aware of how your expanding and highly qualified team is going to be taking over a great deal of the responsibilities that were previously tightly under your control.
In this phase of the business life cycle, we recommend 1-to-1 coaching. In this program, you work directly with a business coach to devote the time necessary to achieve measurable results. While you are already experiencing steady growth, 1-to-1 coaching will work with you to develop and achieve your growth goals so your business reaches its greatest potential. Grow your business smarter with a business coach working by your side.
We also recommend attending one of ActionCOACH’s seminars, or holding an ActionCOACH-lead workshop for your team. These interactive programs cover various topics important to improving your business, and can be modified to fit your time frame.
Stage 3: Maturity.
After navigating through the expansion and growth stage of the business life cycle, your company should now be seeing stable profits every year. Your business is on top of its industry and has a dominating presence in its market. You may feel as though your business has plateaued, or is not growing at the substantial rate you’ve previously experienced. Your options are to either step back towards the expansion stage or start to think of a possible exit strategy.
At this stage, many business owners are faced with the challenge of finding new ways for growth, such as moving into new markets, adding new products or services, or finding ways to expand on existing business. During maturity, adaptability is key. Just as your business is changing, your target market’s buying behaviors may change too. Even if you are on top, you need to be wary of rapidly growing competitors who may be finding new ways to meet your consumers’ needs.
During maturity, we recommend participating in ActionBOARD, a group of 8 to 12 like-minded business owners from non-competing industries, who come together to focus on an individual goal, issue or challenge. ActionBOARD members discuss topics at a senior-level, focusing on key business areas such as sales, marketing, team building, communication, advertising, finances and time mastery. The board is designed to prevent owners from having to learn from their mistakes, and to instead learn to avoid the mistakes of others.
Stage 4: Decline.
It’s time for your reign over your company to come to an end, and for you to enjoy retirement! At the declining stage of the business life cycle, your have the choice to either pass the torch on to someone else, or to move on through a sale. What is your exit strategy?
The last thing you want is to leave your business in incapable hands. A business coach will help smooth the transition by working with your next-in-line to maximize their chance of success. Through programs like Think Like an Owner Academy, your next-in-line will receive formal business owner training and learn from other owners how to master business management and leadership. As a business owner, you can take the course too! It is a great way to brush up on topics that you may have had on auto-pilot, and learn different perspectives from other business owners.
Every stage of the business life cycle brings new or pre-existing challenges. Solutions that may have worked for one stage may not work for another. At each stage of your business, rely on a business coach to help overcome the challenges your business faces. For more information regarding the coaching programs listed above, visit www.actioncoach.com/gregthompson.
Tis The Season For Significance
It’s a busy time of year. You may find yourself working hard to finish fourth quarter off strong, or checking off personal goals you have set for yourself in 2015. We all had the typical New Years resolutions for bettering ourselves this past year, whether it was to hit the gym more or to make more money than the year before. Did you have a resolution for bettering others around you?
John Maxwell describes success as “Knowing your purpose in life, growing to your maximum potential sowing seeds that benefit others.” In order to have success, you must do something significant to others. He urges us to give back and share our wealth of knowledge, influence, time and resources with others to reap the rewards of significance.
Success without significance leads to selfish motives. Instead of looking at those around you and thinking, “What can they do to help me?,” ask, “What can I do to help them?” By adding value to others, you’ll find you’ve added value to yourself.
If you are racking your brain trying to think of a time you were significant this year, it is not too late to start! The holidays are a great time to begin your journey to significance because it is the season of giving.
Follow the four steps to significance:
- Decide you want to make a difference
- Do something that makes a difference…
- … With people who want to make a difference…
- … At a time that makes a difference!
So, what are you doing of significance this holiday season? How will you make a difference this holiday season? Start now, and put significance as a priority in 2016. You will be surprised at how much more successful you will become when you are significant to others!