Richard Branson with no experience in the airline industry started Virgin Atlantic in the 1980’s with one 747 and a bundle of enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. He was able to achieve his dream of building an airline that pushed the boundaries of innovation with the creation of many new ideas which other airlines subsequently followed such as drive through check in, premium economy and beauty therapists on board planes. He built an environment which encouraged creativity and recognised that employees were his greatest asset in achieving success. He built a culture within the airline that encouraged improvement in the business by engaging employees to openly have a forum about their working life and regularly listening to them about how to make improvements to the airline.
Top tips to avoid pitfalls for start up businesses when employing staff.
Contracts of employment: New businesses may be tempted to download contracts of employment from the internet but these documents may not always be tailored to individual business needs and also contain details of current employment law changes. Ensure you have properly drafted employment contracts in place that do not cause problems later on and seek advice on their implementation.
Staff Handbook: Have a comprehensive staff handbook in place which has policies suited to your business so that you and your employees are aware of what is expected of them and how to behave in the business.
Protect your Intellectual Property: It is easy to forget to protect the great idea you had in the first place when starting your business and by having post termination restriction in your contracts of employment and comprehensive intellectual property agreements is a priority for any entrepreneur.
Keep detailed records: If a business is able to manage its business effectively it should keep detailed records about training and development, appraisals and absenteeism. This may help by identifying problems within the workplace and also help to identify the key individuals who will benefit the business. Detailed records are likely to highlight particular departments which need training and development needs.
Flexible working: Flexible working may be a benefit to a new employer by extending their opening hours so therefore benefiting working mothers and fathers and also helping the business to compete. Employers need to be aware that the right to request flexible working was extended to all employees on 30 June 2014, subject to employees meeting certain eligibility criteria. Employers need to have the correct procedures in place to deal with these requests as there is an ACAS code of practice which should be followed.
Training for managers: Larger organisations often have the benefit of an HR department but smaller businesses may not be able afford full time HR personnel so it is important to invest in training for managers to keep up to date with employment law changes
Detailed dismissal and grievance procedures: If there is no alternative for employers but to follow a formal process to dismiss an employee, then employers should make sure that procedures are followed in accordance with any contractual obligations and the relevant policies contained in the staff handbook. Also employers should ensure that dismissal procedures are in accordance with ACAS procedures. If employers fail to follow these ACAS guidelines then this could result in an employee’s compensation award being increased by up to 25 per cent by the employment tribunal.
Keep up to date: It may sound simple but many employers forget to keep up to date with employment law changes and this could potentially be costly for any business. The landscape in employment is ever changing, some of the more recent changes include extension of rights to flexible working, changes to holiday pay calculations which include commission and the introduction of tribunal fees. A regular employment update from an employment specialist or organisation is essential because then further advice can be sought if needed.
Engage the right adviser: Having the right professionals who understand your commercial needs is cost effective and essential for any business. They can keep you up to date with changes in the law and also having a person/individual who has a commercial sense can help provide practical as well as professional advice.
Have fun: Most of all have fun, in any business you sometimes forget the reason why you started the business in the first place and regularly engaging with everyone of your employees with effective communication can help. Regularly organising events which include all employees can help to generate the environment you want. You may not have the budget of Richard Branson but he recognises that a check in agent is just as important to the business as a pilot who is flying the plane. Get the culture right first and you are half way there to building a positive and successful business.