Employee Policy Manuals

Employee Policy Manuals

Every company regardless of size should have an up to date Employee Policy Manual.  This manual should document company policies and procedures, including but not limited to, the following:

  1. Hours of Operation/Overtime
  2. Vacation/Holiday/Sick Time
  3. Company Benefits
  4. Emergency Procedures
  5. Rules of Conduct
  6. Disciplinary Policies
  7. Guidelines For Use of Company Property
  8. Technology/Internet Policy
  9. Discrimination/Sexual Harassment Policies

Of particular importance these days is the need for comprehensive written policies on workplace discrimination, hostile work environment and sexual harassment.  These are areas of particular vulnerability for companies.  A good policy will contain a “zero tolerance” approach for inappropriate behaviors, provide for a proper complaint procedure, set forth guidelines on how complaints will be investigated and set forth the penalty (i.e. termination) for all violations that have been determined following the completion of the investigation process.  It is very important that all complaints be thoroughly and fairly investigated on a timely basis and that corrective actions are taken as soon as possible following completion of the investigation.

It is also wise to conduct employee training on these issues at least once per year and have each employee sign a statement that he/she has received a copy of the company’s discrimination and sexual harassment policies and that he/she has read and understands the policies.  The signed and dated statement should be kept in the employee’s permanent file in the Human Resources Department.

It is also a good idea to have a skilled Employment Practices lawyer review your Policy Manual every 2-3 years to make sure it is up to date and complies with the latest employment laws.

The Need For Good Governance In Private Companies

The need for good corporate governance at privately owned companies is critical.  Given the growing importance of private companies to the global economy and the ever changing legal landscape affecting such companies, the need for privately held companies to have good governance guided by an independent Board of Directors is essential.

Public companies have been on the decline over the past twenty years.  Twenty years ago there were over 7,500 public companies in the United States.  At the end of 2017, that number declined to fewer than 3,700.  Conversely, the number of private companies in North America with revenues of between $50 million and $1 billion has risen to more than 30,000.

Given the dramatic increase in the number of private companies, the lack of proper governance/oversight at these businesses is a cause for concern.  This is especially true given the current media focus on sexual harassment, hostile work environment and employment discrimination cases; corporate fraud and embezzlement; and high profile examples of improper accounting practices and other financial reporting issues.

It has been my experience that many private companies don’t have an independent Board of Directors because of the perception that establishing such a Board means giving up control.  That is certainly not the case.  A properly functioning independent Board can greatly aid a CEO, especially if he or she is a large shareholder of the business.  Remember the Board’s fiduciary duty is to serve the shareholders.  Talented outside directors bring a wealth of experience to private companies that can be insular and resistant to new ideas that may challenge the “that is the way we have always done it” corporate mentality.

Finally having an independent set of eyes and ears to help private companies steer clear of employment, accounting and other legal issues and to provide proper guidance when such issues arise is an important part of good corporate governance.

As we reach the end of 2018 and the start of 2019, now is a good time to consider establishing an independent Board of Directors for your private company or expanding your current Board to include some talented independent directors.


Kurt Johnson Book Award

Picone Advisory Group, LLC is proud to announce that our client and author Kurt Johnson has won the 2017 Moonbeam Silver Award for Best First Book.  Entries for this award are submitted from the United States, Canada and six international countries.  The science fiction fantasy novel, Raystar of Terra: Peace. Love. Family. War, was originally published in December of 2016.  The book chronicles the adventures of Raystar, a 13-year-old resident of the sleepy agricultural planet Nem.  Raystar leads a near picture perfect existence until her world radically changes when the pan-Galactic conflict that everyone thought was long over shows up on her doorstep.  The Moonbeam Awards were created in 2006 and are presented by Jenkins Group Inc. located in Traverse City, Michigan.  Jenkins Group has been involved in packaging, marketing, and distributing books since 1988.  We congratulate Kurt on being selected for this prestigious award.

Tips To Creating A Balanced Work Force: There’s A Place For Both Baby Boomers And Millennials

In the race to recruit millennials to our companies, we often overlook older baby boomers who are readily available for employment and provide some important skills and character traits that millennials do not have.

There is a large pool of unemployed or underemployed baby boomers that were displaced by the last recession. As the economy has picked up steam, it seems that the collective corporate focus seems to be on doing everything possible to recruit millennials to the exclusion of older more experienced workers.

We have seen Google, McDonalds and a host of others relocate their corporate headquarters to city locations to be more attractive to millennials who prefer city life experiences to suburban ones. We have also seen corporate employee benefits specifically tailored to create a corporate culture that would be attractive to potential millennial recruits. While millennials certainly bring important skills to the workplace, baby boomers bring years of real world experience, logic and common sense and a work ethic that millennials have yet to develop. The value of these attributes should not be overlooked by your talent acquisition departments.

A company needs a balanced work force. Certain positions are better suited for millennial type workers (i.e. technology related positions); while other positions might be better filled by a more experienced baby boomer (i.e. finance/ accounting, human resources, operations/ production management). As you look to fill vacant positions in your own company, you will be well served to consider the many potential benefits of hiring from the baby boomer work force.

Hiring Tip: Follow Up With All Candidates, Whether They Are Offered The Position Or Not

Lately I have been hearing a common complaint from many colleagues who have been engaged in job searches. This complaint involves the failure of many companies to send follow up emails to inform potential candidates that they were not selected for the position. In several cases, the candidates were for senior level positions and attended several rounds of interviews at the company’s headquarters. In at least two (2) instances, candidates sent one or more follow up emails to inquire about the status of his/ her candidacy and the emails were ignored.

As someone who has both gone through the job search process and has also interviewed and hired candidates at all levels, I believe I have a balanced perspective on this issue. I believe it is always appropriate to send an email to every candidate who has interviewed for a position with your company to inform them they have not been selected; and more importantly, to thank them for their interest in your company, for time they spent interviewing and to wish them well in their job search. First and foremost, every candidate deserves to know when he or she is no longer a candidate for a position. To leave a candidate hanging without either an offer of employment or a rejection is neither kind nor professional. While receiving a rejection is always disappointing, receiving no feedback at all adds insult to injury.

It seems that many companies have abandoned the simple courtesies that were once commonplace in the business world. You may dismiss me as “old school” but in my company, anyone who interviews for a position with our firm is treated with the utmost respect and courtesy. We communicate with all potential candidates by telephone or email as soon as a decision has been made with respect to their candidacy. We even send follow up emails to anyone who submits a resume. Such courtesies do not take much time and set your company apart from your competitors who may not extend these basic courtesies. I personally believe that courtesy and respect are always appropriate and are always good for business. You never know where that candidate you left hanging may end up. You may find him or her at a company that you may be soliciting business from in the future. Rest assured they will remember and appreciate being treated with respect and courtesy by your company, even though you did not ultimately hire them.

Paying Attention To Early Signs of Financial Distress Can Prevent A Long Term Crisis

Many times we receive calls from business owners/CEO’s that their companies are in serious financial distress and they are unable to pay their bills when they are due and/or unable to make the next payroll. When this occurs, we often wonder why they waited so long to get help. Serious financial problems rarely occur overnight and the early warning signs of financial distress often appear months and sometimes years before the crisis occurs.

It has been our experience that these business owners/CEO’s need to consider seeking professional help if their companies miss a quarterly budget. At this early stage, relatively minor adjustments can be made that could put the company back on track. The longer a company waits to address these problems, the greater the problems become, losses begin to mount and the solutions become more limited, drastic and costly.

Business problems rarely solve themselves. The key is to spot potential problems early and implement solutions quickly. Do not wait for the business fairy to come along and sprinkle magic dust on your company that will make all your problems disappear. If you aren’t sure if you have a problem or if you need help crafting a solution, get professional help quickly. Getting an experienced professional on your team at an early stage can make all the difference. Do not wait until the crisis is upon you.

Adding Outside Directors To Your Board Can Help In Guiding A Company’s Strategic Direction

Many times we are asked to serve on “Advisory Boards” for companies that do not have any outside directors on their existing Board of Directors. In many instances, particularly in small to medium sized companies (also in companies that are family owned or closely held) the Board is made up of owners and/or senior management that are all employed by the company. While there is certainly a place for inside directors on a Board, having independent Board members can be a valuable addition to the company Board.

Outside directors bring a broader perspective of the business environment and the economy and a broader experience base that can be immensely helpful in guiding the strategic direction of the company.  Many times inside directors and particularly senior management directors are too vested in their own management decisions and strategies to make truly independent decisions on significant business issues such as mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, restructuring, etc. At times inside directors suffer from “tunnel vision” or “forest and the trees” syndrome or “that is the way we have always done it” mentality. An independent director/advisor can provide fresh perspective and challenge conventional strategies to help the Board make better strategic decisions.

If your company’s Board is made up of insiders, we strongly recommend that you consider adding an independent director or establishing an Advisory Board that includes some independent advisors. It will greatly enhance the effectiveness of your Board and Facilitate better Board level making decisions.

Improve Your Company’s Performance With Employees Who Embody Your Corporate Culture

We often work with companies seeking to improve their operations. As we dig into details, we often find employees with consistently poor or mediocre performance ratings and/or negative attitudes. Sometimes these are longer term employees who at one time were contributing at a high level, but for a number of reasons drifted into mediocre or poor performance and have developed negative attitudes that are all too common in mediocre and/or poor performers.

While no one likes to fire employees (especially ones that have been with the company for a number of years), the cost to the company of not doing so is significant. First, the lost productivity forces other workers to have to work harder to make up for the poor performers. Second, the toll on morale is often underestimated. Many times we hear of cases where once good employees were corrupted by the poor performers and their negative attitudes. Why should I work hard when Jim doesn’t and he makes the same money as I do, is a common theme heard in companies that tolerate poor performers.

In addition, negativity breeds negativity and all these toxic attitudes can be an impediment to a positive culture of teamwork and achievement. It is important that companies remain vigilant about replacing poor, constant complainers and negative personalities with positive achievers. Your employees will appreciate it, your company’s performance will improve, and your corporate culture will change for the better.