Put It In Writing: 4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs A Handbook

Put It In Writing:

4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs A Handbook

If you’re like me, you started your career working for someone else. You may have had several jobs prior to your current role, and each one of them formed you into the business owner that you are today – I know mine did. 

Whether your experiences were wonderful or challenging, your brain was likely taking mental notes about how you intended on running your own business someday.

Even if you had fantastic mentors, you may not have always agreed with their every decision. There are numerous occasions in your career development where you’ve said to yourself, “when I’m in charge, I am going to do ___ differently.” You may choose to emulate some of your mentor’s choices, or do a complete about-face on others, but every environment that you have worked in gave you a sense of how you would want to run your own operations.

woman sharing her presentation with her colleagues

Now you are in charge as a business owner, and you’re the one making the rules. This is a tremendous power – as a business owner you can run your workplace practically however you want so long as you stay within the limits of the law. Yet to run that workplace effectively, there are a few things to remember when making the rules: they should be clear, they should be consistent, and they should be communicated to everyone. The best way to meet those thresholds is by creating an employee handbook. 

“[T]o run a workplace effectively, there are a few things to remember when making the rules: they should be clear, they should be consistent, and they should be communicated to everyone.”

Let’s be honest – no one reads a policy handbook for fun! They may be long, and even a little dry, but they can go a long way towards protecting your interests while allowing you to run your business as you see fit. If you’re not familiar with handbooks, you may well be raising an eyebrow. Here are just a few reasons why handbooks are important:

close up of gear shift over black background

Ramp up new hires faster and introduce them to your workplace culture:

While some standard workplace policies are common to most employee handbooks (think vacation, overtime, and leave policies), additional contents are entirely at your discretion. If you want to implement a specific dress code, put it in the handbook. Do you want a policy about animals in the workplace? How about one on visitors, outside food, or internet usage? All of those go into a handbook as well. If there were ever rules that you wanted to implement for your workplace, the employee handbook is the place for them.

photo of people doing handshakes

Communicate expectations to the team to lighten your own burdens:

One benefit of having policies is that you do not have to do the heavy lifting at every turn. Policies can assign duties and responsibilities to other managers within your team, especially when it comes to reporting or enforcement. Vacation requests, for example, can become the responsibility of a direct manager. As the team grows, other managers can take on additional responsibilities under these policies, taking some of the weight off of the C-Suite’s shoulders.

my secret plan to rule the world book

Protect your business by documenting your compliance with the law:

When used properly, the handbook can become a staple of your workplace. It may never become daily reading, but all employees should be familiar with its contents as a reference point in order for it to be effective. New and existing employees alike should sign off agreeing that they are familiar with the policies, and acknowledge that those policies govern your workplace. If someone violates a policy by way of innocent mistake, they can be gently reminded and re-educated about the policies and your expectations. If violations are more serious, or occur repeatedly, discipline measures as outlined in the policy may be appropriate.

crop businessman signing contract in office

Defend lawsuits from exiting employees by showing that you took the right steps:

Taking serious disciplinary action such as termination of employment in response to serious or repeated policy violation may lead to a claim for wrongful dismissal. Should that happen, your policy handbook may turn out to be an integral part of your defense. In order to effectively discipline an employee for policy violations, you will need to clearly prove that you had an established policy in place, the employee was aware of that policy (hence the sign-off), and that they were reasonably disciplined according to the measures taken in the policy. That policy handbook is not just a manual; it may also shield your business from unwanted liability.

Wondering if your business needs a handbook? Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Are you over 15 employees? Above that threshold it can be tricky to manage every little thing yourself, so a handbook can be incredibly helpful.
  • Are your policies piecemeal? Did you grab a few off a friend, or download them from a generic website? If that’s the case, then you’re probably missing some key ones.
  • Did you customize your policies for your business? Having a well-tailored policy means more than just swapping out another company’s name for your own. If it isn’t suited to your business, it likely isn’t protecting your business either.

If you need to draft your workplace policy manual (and we recommend that you do), it’s best not to go it alone. Policies should be written carefully so that they communicate expectations clearly, and do not violate human rights law (most every policy will have inherent exceptions built-in where human rights conflicts may arise). Most importantly, the discipline warnings for any violations should be carefully crafted in order to protect your business against potential legal claims that may arise. 
We are happy to help go through your policies and make sure they properly protect your business. Our Fractional HR team can conduct a free review whatever policies you have in place and give them a score from 1-10. If any of your policies are out of shape, we’re happy to work with you on a plan to build out a proper handbook that can help you and your team move forward. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Want to learn more about how Fractional HR can help your growing business?

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5 Reasons You Need To Outsource Your HR

5 Reasons You Need To Outsource Your HR

As a business owner, HR is probably the last thing on your mind. There is no shame in this – you have spent the past months and years juggling other key priorities, and putting out countless fires along the way. The need for formal policies, procedures, and contracts was quickly taken over by the need for sales and business development. Your eyes are laser-focused on growth and revenue because you know how precarious your enterprise can be in those initial years. Your goal is to win, and to do so with the right team behind you.

Yet hiring and maintaining that right team is a more fragile prospect than you might think. Whether your business started with a few loyal friends in a cramped office or by yourself in a basement apartment, you have spent the early years of growth working with people who you know intimately and trust implicitly. They have been your cheerleaders and the engineers behind your rise to success. What is more – the template employment agreements you’ve established work perfectly fine…until they don’t. 

Your tech startup … is so focused on revenue that the thought of paying for a full-time HR person … is likely out of the question. The solution is outsourced HR.

As your team grows, HR issues will inevitably come up. New team members will join as others depart, and this is simply the ordinary course of growing a business. Staffing needs may change quicker than you initially expected, or a new staff member may not be meeting your expectations. The reality is that a solid HR foundation is a necessary step in protecting your business. Written professional employment contracts, structured and established policies, modern performance management reviews, and comprehensive workplace training will not just keep you compliant with the law, but will ensure that your business is following best practices as it continues to grow. 

5 Reasons You Need To Outsource Your HR

The number one reason small businesses avoid HR is the perceived cost. Your tech startup of 10 or 20 employees is so focused on revenue that the thought of paying for a full-time HR person at the early stages of growth is likely out of the question. The solution is outsourced HR. Today an outsourced HR consultancy firm can serve as your Fractional HR department, and provide all of the services that you need to grow. Fractional HR offers a wide array of modern HR solutions without straining or breaking your budget. Here are 5 key reasons why outsourcing HR is the right solution for your business:

young woman shaking hands with boss after business presentation

1. Savings

A dedicated HR professional may be an unfeasible staffing cost at this point in your development. Many small businesses do not consider a full-time HR person until they are over 50 employees, and this is often to the detriment of those first loyal 49. Outsourced HR services are able to offer customized packages to suit your size and needs. Fractional HR offers your growing business the full resources of a modern HR department, but at a fraction of the cost. 

group of people in a meeting

2. Onboarding

Onboarding new team members is an exciting process, but it can also be daunting. It can take a significant investment in time and money to bring someone up to speed quickly, when the reality is that you likely needed them off and running even before they were hired. An outsourced HR professional can help systematize your onboarding procedures, and ensure that each new employee receives the comprehensive training that they need to succeed. Moreover, a smooth approach to onboarding leads to improved staff retention, which helps to avoid future staffing headaches. 

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3. Risk

Up until now, you’ve probably handled your own HR needs – this is not uncommon in the tech world. If you needed a particular contract, you might have asked your corporate lawyer to draw up something standard, and so far you have not had any issues. Unfortunately though, that lucky streak is almost guaranteed to run out as your team grows. Utilizing an outsourced HR professional ensures that your contracts, policies, and procedures not only fit your business but are compliant with the latest legal standards. This compliance is key to risk management – failing to keep your policies in line with legislation, or offering employees exit packages that violate their legal entitlements can result in costly fines and expensive litigation. 

clear light bulb

4. Culture

There is a common misconception that HR is only in place for problem solving, but HR professionals can bring so much more to a workplace. An outsourced HR professional can work with you side-by-side to build the values that establish your workplace culture. As your business grows and your hiring expands, you will garner a reputation for the type of workplace that you operate. A strategic approach to culture helps establish what type of workplace that is, and they can set the ground rules to ensure that your environment stays true to your vision even as you are positioned for growth.

photo of woman showing frustrations on her face

5. Proactivity

If you dismiss or ignore HR issues as your business grows, you will constantly be in problem-solving mode as problems continue to arise. As a business owner, this can make it feel like you are continuously putting out fires that are easily avoidable. Utilizing outsourced HR services allows you to take a proactive approach to your day-to-day operations. You can implement solutions before problems arise, and avoid the extra costs of being reactive. Whether you need to implement a new policy change or discipline poor conduct, you will have an established routine for doing so and will not be left scrambling or guessing at next steps. 

Castle HR offers our clients the ideal Fractional HR solution. We have knowledgeable, talented HR professionals who offer our clients a ‘full stack’ of HR services including creating a set of values, custom employee handbook, modern performance review, and of course unlimited expert advice. Our Fractional HR ensures that your business has an appropriate level of oversight without changing its core character. Contact us today to set up a consultation, and let’s work together to ensure that your business is set-up for continued success. 

Want to learn more about how Fractional HR can help your growing business?

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How to keep your team’s spirits high over the 2020 winter season

2020 has been like looking both ways before crossing the street, and then getting hit by an airplane!

We are now in the middle of the second wave of COVID-19, many of us feeling the effects of shut downs, and winter is coming.

We all know the next few months will be different; starting with no Halloween parties and questions about whether or not to Trick-or-Treat this year…

The holiday season is going to be different too. You might not be able to meet with loved ones over the holidays. I’m not even sure about my own plans, as my parents are in a high risk situation. It hurts me to think about not spending Christmas day with everyone in the kitchen cooking and laughing, trying to tune out my dad’s horrible singing, and then eating so much that we need a nap.

After the holidays, I usually start dreaming about being on a beach. I’m drinking a colourful beverage and smelling jerk chicken in the air (yes, my dream beach is in Jamaica!). Sadly, this year it doesn’t look like I’ll be living that dream. 

Inability (or the inadvisability!) to travel is one of the big changes that we need to keep on our radar. Having a week or two circled on the calendar helps you get through the days when you’re shovelling a driveway or bundling up again to go outside.

Fortunately, there are ways that employers can help their teams still have some fun and human connection to lighten the mood over the next few months. Here are some ideas we’ve collected and that our clients have suggested (with a careful eye to avoid going too heavy on Zoom-based activities!):

We’d love to hear from you on what your team is up to and we will keep updating this document with your great ideas!

As we’ve been saying this whole time… we can get through this together!

We got this!

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons


Halloween Costume Party

You can still hold an annual Halloween Contest….this time with a virtual twist!

Imagine doing a company specific theme or small teams/department doing team costumes. Just have your team send in their Halloween costume photos or videos and hold a vote for the best in any number of categories: scariest, funniest, best use of technology, best pet costume, etc. 

Prizes are a great chance to get creative too. Anything goes, from the traditional gift cards and trophies to naming a Slack channel or choosing a costume category for next year…

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Holiday / Year End Party

Holding the annual holiday party will be a little different this year, as you likely won’t be able to celebrate all that you have accomplished as a team in person.

It is important for leaders to still make an effort to show appreciation to the team and here is one great idea that we’re loving:

The Great Gift Swap:

Granted, this one is done over Zoom, but so fun that the usual Zoom fatigue of meetings doesn’t really enter into it. 

Let’s say you have 20 employees. You buy 20 gifts of roughly equal value and label them 1-20. Each employee generates a random number from 1-20 and that is the order in which they will pick an item. 

One person will host this and have all the gifts there, or can have envelopes with the gifts to be purchased and shipped directly.

The first person chooses an item from the list, then the second person can either choose one of the remaining items or take the first person’s item. 

Going down the line, each person gets a turn to choose anew or take someone else’s item – repeating the order as many times as needed. The game ends (and everyone keeps what they have) when 1) each person has a gift and 2) someone chooses to keep rather than swap – locking in the choices for everyone.

It’s great fun!

Fun and Team Engagement

Here are a few ideas, apps and companies that can help bring some engagement and energy to your team.

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Recharge Your Batteries

Headspace – Meditation App

MasterClass – What would YOU want to learn?

The Great Courses – More amazing educational opportunities

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Shared Food Experiences

Wavy – Team building activities done virtually
(Think: Cooking classes or Trivia Nights)

Thriver – Team Meal Delivery and other experiences
(Great for Team Lunches)

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Focus on Fitness

Strava – Running Challenge 

Count.It – App for overall fitness challenges

Glo – Home Yoga 

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Shared Food Experiences

Wavy – Team building activities done virtually
(Think: Cooking classes or Trivia Nights)

Thriver – Team Meal Delivery and other experiences
(Great for Team Lunches)

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Other Ideas

Synervoz’s Switchboard – Watch a live sports games
or other events together with their app

Weekly Zoom-Free Days –
Choose a day where your entire team goes fully dark on Zoom.
No calls or meetings, so everyone can enjoy some focus time