Startup life is exciting, but it does come with quite a few growing pains along the way.
There are growing pains as far as workflow goes that tend to be solved after a certain amount of time. Other growing pains include having employees that a company has outgrown or they have outgrown the company.
Finally, there are growing pains that have to deal with policies that have been established at a company.
The pains will come from opposition from certain staff members and other pains will be getting the staff to remember a new policy which can be a nightmare. Certain company policies need to be established before the company even opens its door.
The reason behind this is that a lack of a policy or a discriminatory policy that is developed down the road can leave a company legally liable. The HR/legal department should be in charge of creating these policies in accordance with your wants as the startup founder.
The following is how these policies are established along with how to deal with some staff that might be in opposition.
Related Article: 5 Things Your Manager Doesn't Want You to Know
Substance Abuse Policy
Startup life is full of the "work hard and party hard" mantra that seems to have been adopted by nearly everyone. A company happy hour is the right time to let off some steam but it does come with a caveat. If someone gets inebriated but otherwise wasn’t a hassle or offensive to anyone then this shouldn’t be a problem.
The line is crossed if that employee calls out the next day or has low productivity because of a hangover. A zero tolerance policy should be implemented for substance abuse in the office. Letting a high performer get away with this then firing another lower-performing employee for the same reason can leave a company legally liable. HR paperwork should have wording about testing during work hours whether it is a breathalyzer or drug test. Drugs can be more difficult to detect than alcohol so make sure to keep an eye out.
Staff will not push back on this unless they are the one abusing substances. Stress to the staff that you are paying them to work sober and not in an altered state. Having a drink or two at happy hour is more than fine if the next day you are sober and ready to perform. Remind your staff that working hard is a part of the mantra, also.
Paid Time Off and Absence Policy
Paid time off (PTO) can be a nightmare to manage across the different departments especially in a larger company. For this reason, there should be a process for requesting PTO that goes through HR as well as their direct manager. The amount of PTO a person gets depends on the company and this time, can increase with each year. The following should be established in your PTO policy:
- How long before the requested date you have to put in your request
- Whether or not PTO carries over year to year
- Whether unused PTO gets paid out at the end of the year
- Whether you get all of your PTO at once or it is given quarterly
Absence policies generally are the same as they can go against a sick day or vacation day. No call absences should be immediately written up as a violation of the policy. This leaves the company vulnerable since an employee was expected at work. Chronic absence should be documented. This can be a reason for letting somebody go. Staff will always have some sort of problem with PTO or absence policies. As a startup founder, you should want to be considered fair than liked. Winning the popularity contest in the office doesn’t guarantee any kind of success.
Each startup has a different dress code. Some dress codes require their staff wear a suit on a daily basis while others have a much more casual code and staff can wear flip flops and sweatpants. Assessing the need for a dress code is important. Certain industries are simply more formal than others. Corporate law is a great example of those who dress to impress while those at a web design company might be more on the flip flops side.
A client's perception of the company is most important so if they come to the office you should gauge what they would deem as appropriate before setting the dress code. There will be staff members that do not enjoy any type of dress code which can still be appeased. Something as simple as casual Thursday or pajama pants Tuesday can be a fun break in the dress code. If clients do not come to the office, loosen the dress code up a bit. Comfortable clothes can impact creativity in a positive way.
There are plenty of debates on whether people should receive severance pay after being fired or laid off. Employees tend to be much less vindictive when it comes to their former company if there is some kind of severance package. Putting some clause in the severance package agreement that allows the severance to be terminated for badmouthing the company or violating their NDA or non-compete should be written in.
It is possible that your company doesn’t have ironclad paperwork when it comes to employment paperwork. Eliminate the hostility that people feel when they are let go by offering a generous severance. This could end up saving you more money than you have spent.
It is important to remember that for every decision that is made as a founder of a startup, there might be staff that opposes this decision. While you should hear your staff out, there will always be a few staff members that are opposed to nearly everything. It will not take very much time to figure out who those people are.
Then the decision becomes whether to let these employees go or keep them around. These employees can be valuable in a startup scenario. They can pick plans apart. The devil’s advocate is great to have around instead of a bunch of people willing to agree with anything the boss has to say.
Implement your policies and hold firm then evaluate them if need be at the end of the year/quarter. Policies need to be set before the doors even open, write your policies so it keeps your business safe from liability.