Employees are so valuable to small business owners. You can work on growing your business instead of day-to-day tasks. This article has information about managing new employees, including what documents to have and the importance of reviews.
If you're considering hiring someone, this article has information to help you get started.
Before your new employee starts, put together a package with important information. Lela with Lucky Break Consulting said that helps minimize confusion and establishes your expectations. She's a business strategist for makers and product designers. Lela recommends the following:
- An employee handbook. This should include information about attendance, dress code, how conflicts are handled, breaks, benefits, wages, etc.
- A drug use policy. Clearly lay out your policies about drug use and a testing agreement if necessary. This can also include information about what to do if an employee starts a prescribed medication that impairs their ability to safely perform their job.
- A non-disclosure agreement. Include what employees can and can't do with information they learn on the job - client lists, vendors, recipes, packaging, etc.
- An IT policy. If the new employee will be using a computer, make sure to outline what apps and websites they can access. You can also include how to handle sensitive data and use the computer securely.
Jessica with Normal Soap Company also likes to get the employee set up in Square, which is how they track payroll. She’s a 4th-generation soap maker who started selling products about 6 years ago. She first hired part-time seasonal help, then year-round employees.
We also recommend checking out the U.S. Department of Labor website to make sure you're complying with current regulations.
Lela with Lucky Break Consulting recommends an in-depth handbook for new employees.
The first few months
An employee's first day is very important. A good way to start is going over the paperwork discussed above, followed by a tour of the facilities. Make sure to show them the bathrooms, the break room, eye wash stations, first aid kits, etc. Introduce current employees and have them explain what they do in detail and how the new employee will work with them.
Jessica also spends a good amount of time going over Good Manufacturing Practices.
"We make sure that there is no confusion about how important this is to the integrity of production and our products," she said.
Make sure there's time for the new hire to ask plenty of questions. Then you can begin the training process. What that looks like varies depending on the position and your business. In general, it helps to explain the role and what's expected of the employee. Then, start going over their daily duties and larger projects.
Packing up Normal Soap products
From there, Lela recommends meeting with the new employee once a week for 5-10 minutes. During those sessions, they can ask questions and you can provide feedback. She also has a weekly huddle with the entire team to go over projects and set goals for the week.
"Once the employee has completed their first 60 days on the team, then I pull back a bit and nudge them out of the nest to spread their wings," she said.
Both Jessica and Lela recommend reviews every 6 months. Lela announces that reviews are coming up and shares a form for her employees to complete beforehand. They can list what parts of the job they love and which ones they feel weighed down by. The employees can also share what resources would be helpful. Lela completes a review for each employee that goes over where they're excelling and where they can improve. Together, Lela and her employees set measurable goals. It's also a good time to review compensation.
"This kind of structure gives employees an opportunity to be heard and feel valued," she said. "It fosters healthy communication and sets the tone that we’re always striving to be a better version of ourselves and stretching beyond our comfort zones."
Jessica has a similar process. When talking about employee strengths, she tries to find a way to leverage those to benefit the employee and the company.
Image courtesy of Lucky Break Consulting
Even with careful employee selection and training, there can be issues that need to be addressed. Jessica recommends first writing down all the details, including what happened and when.
"Document, document, document," she said. "The moment something happens or is off from training or expectations, you need to document and communicate with the employee."
Lela said careful documentation is necessary if the employee leaves and files for unemployment. Then you can talk with them privately about what happened.
Jessica recommends taking a deep breath and not reacting in the heat of the moment. Instead, get their account of what happened to see if it was a misunderstanding or a training issue. Then, share your plan for how to fix it. Once you and your employee come up with a solution, sign the document and put it in their file.
On the rare occasion an employee continues to repeat the mistake or if something else happens, you may need to terminate them. Lela recommends doing so quickly and definitively.
"I still get anxious when letting someone go, but I recognize now that it’s part of running a business," she said. "I vote for hiring slowly and firing quickly. Listen to your gut. If a new employee is setting off your internal alarms, then it’s better to cut the relationship short than enabling it to drag on, which impacts productivity and can poison the well."
She meets with the employee privately and explains the situation. It's important to contain emotions and not argue. She recommends being firm, de-escalating if necessary, and having the paper trail ready just in case.
Taking your time to hire an employee, having clear expectations in place, and a thorough training program definitely help with retention.
Other things that help are plenty of support, especially during the first few months. That's why Lela meets with the employees to make sure their questions are answered. She said it's also important to avoid micromanagement, which can slow everyone down and foster distrust. Give your employees creative freedom and celebrate when they excel.
Jessica is delighted when she can give away tasks because she already has so much to do. Her employees help with deliveries, markets, making products, and more.
"I trust my well-trained employee to be the face of the business while delivering, and this has allowed me to focus on growing the business, scaling up production, and maybe taking a breath here or there!" she said. "There is so much value in getting help."
Normal Soap Company's beautiful soap tops