Employee Handbooks and All That

Employee Handbook information and guidelines

Employee Handbooks for reading pleasure? 😵

I was asked to help write an employee handbook for Schulte and Schulte recently. And I yawned. Like, you know.

Employee handbook = boredom induced coma.

In that regard, it was in some ways an easy task.  A lot of “copy and paste” was involved. It was a very difficult task  in other ways.   What must be included and what is optional?

Therefore, there need be only three rules it seemed to me. My (tongue in cheek) suggestion:

  1. Don’t be an asshole
  2. Dress appropriately for the occasion
  3. Give back any digital or electronic devises provided to you for company business when you leave.

Who could ask for anything more? 😜

Tonya was correct when she laughed, I suppose. She then pointed out my first rule may need to be better defined. For example, I needed to include information about confidentiality and data protection.

Also, I wasn’t allowed to inject my “voice” in the document.  That would have meant (at the very least) I would have made fun of some of the legal sounding terms which were included. See what I mean? This was a difficult task.

Employee Handbooks for starters

As a result,  writing an employee handbook means you need an understanding of the company and its culture. Because . . . wait for it . . .  employees tend to do what they think is best. They do what they think is best according to what they THINK leaders want of them.

In other words, your initial chance to tell your employees what you want of them comes in the form of an employee handbook for your construction contracting business.  Of course, it isn’t your only chance. Yet, it is a good start.

So, if you’ve gotten this far, and you’re thinking it is time to build or update your Employee Handbook, read on.

What to include in your handbook

Some of the important ideas and concepts which should be included are:

  • purpose and values
  • policies
  • business model
  • employee benefits
  • company culture

And,  you may wish to consider using some or all of these sections:

  • Employment contract types
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Immigration Compliance
  • Equal Opportunity Employment
  • Confidentiality and Data Protection
  • Dress Code
  • Mentor Program
  • Workplace Harassment
  • Safety Requirements and Expectations
  • Cyber Security and Digital Devices
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Compensation Status
  • Timekeeping Reporting Procedures
  • Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy
  • Holiday Schedule
  • Witness / Jury Duty
  • Voting Time
  • Employment Separation
  • Employee Acknowledgement and Agreement

Employee Handbooks aren’t rocket science

This article, from Workable is a good place to start if you want insight for revamping or building your own Employee Handbook. They even offer, “tips to flesh out your own employee manual matching your company’s requirements.”

However, before you begin building your employee handbook, understand this. Unless the text clearly indicates otherwise, an employee handbook can be considered a legally binding document between an employer and employees. And, in most cases, courts consider an employee handbook to be an extension of the employee contract.

So, I guess on further thought, making fun of the legalese within the employee handbook would probably not be a good idea. Unless, of course, you happen to find a judge with an overly ripe sense of humor.

Above all, I agree with Workable concerning the putting together of your Employee Handbook.

In addition, they say, “Keep in mind that our employee handbook examples and relevant advice are not legal documents and may not take into account all relevant local or national laws.”

They go on to say, “Please ask your attorney to review your finalized policy documents or Handbook.”

Similarly, I agree. Write it. Or have someone in your employ write it. Then, ask your attorney to approve or correct it. Pretty simple.

Employee Handbooks with pizzazz

In conclusion, if you would like some inspiration, you’re going to enjoy this. It is worth the time to look over a group of Employee Handbooks listed at i-Sight.  They list a dozen examples which are fun, different, or have interesting takes on Employee Handbooks.

 

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. 

Providing Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. Call us! 866-629-7735

Building Codes in History

Building Codes from history form a basis for today's codes

Building Codes in Stone

So, you think it is hard to deal with city hall? Then, you gotta check this out.

The beginning of documented building codes came from Babylonian king Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 B.C. The black stone stele containing the Code of Hammurabi was carved from a single, four-ton slab of black diorite.

Most of us know that dealing with a slab of stone weighing in at four tons, measuring 7 feet 3 inches high, with a circumference at the base of 6 feet 2 inches and at the top of 5 feet 4 inches is no easy feat.

And those of you who deal directly with stone know diorite is difficult to sculpt because it is hard, its composition is variable, and it has a coarse grain size. Leaves you wondering why this type of stone was chosen.

So, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, this stele is a phallic symbol which Hammurabi used to declare more than the simple fact-of-the-matter laws.

Building Code preamble

I mean, check this out. This is what Hammurabi had the stone masons carve as the preamble to the laws:

“When the lofty Anu, King of the Annunaki and Bel, Lord of Heaven and Earth, he who determines the destiny of the land, committed the rule of all mankind to Marduk, when they pronounced the lofty name of Babylon, when they made it famous among the quarters of the world and in its midst established an everlasting kingdom whose foundations were firm as heaven and earth – at that time Anu and Bel called me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, the worshipper of the gods, to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, to enlighten the land and to further the welfare of the people. Hammurabi, the governor named by Bel, am I, who brought about plenty and abundance.”

Hell—low! Ego much?

And, remember I noted above that this stone is hard to carve. It isn’t likely Hammurabi was trying to make life difficult for those carving the laws into stone. It is more likely Hammurabi was doing his best to make it difficult for anyone to pick up a “stone eraser” and change the law. So yeah, there is the difference between “let’s do it this way for now,” and “sorry buddy, this stuff is carved in stone.”

The down and dirty of the Building Code

While there are a lot of other laws on the stele, this is a short list of the laws we would construe as building code. (With my thoughts and notes following in parentheses.)

  1. If a builder builds a house for someone and completes it, he shall give him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface. (Area measures are based on the sar, which is one square nindan or about 36 square meters. That’s about 387.50078 square feet if you’re wondering.)

229 If a builder build a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then the builder shall be put to death. (Doesn’t seem to be any wiggle room here. Like, never mind trying to blame the subs!)

230 If it kill the son of the owner, the son of that builder shall be put to death. (So, I guess we’re just assuming the builder has a son. And, if he didn’t, I’m not sure where daughters might fit into the picture. Kind of makes me glad – again – I’m a girl.)

231 If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house. (Rather than eye-for-eye it looks as if, when it came to slaves, it was good enough to provide value-for-value. Although you do have to wonder if it was the less-than-attentive slave who caused the “falling in” in the first place.)

And there is more

232 If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that is ruined, and in as much as he did not construct properly this house which he build and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means. (And, he darn well better hope he gets it right this time! Although, it could have been worse – see laws 229, 230, and 231)

233 If a builder build a house for someone, even though he has not yet completed it, if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means. (Kind of puts the kibosh on today’s nonsensical business “wisdom” of fail fast, fail often.)

Of course, Hammurabi’s isn’t the only ancient documented set of laws we know of. Yet, it is often touted as the first to have guidelines for contractors.

Building Codes in a newly formed country

In 1788, the Constitution of the United States of America was working its way through the ratification process one state at a time. Georgia became the fourth state to ratify on the second of January. By June 21st New Hampshire provided the needed ninth ratification and the Constitution went into effect. (It wasn’t until May 29, 1790, that Rhode Island voted to ratify the document. It was the last of the original 13 colonies to join the United States.)

In June of 1788, Old Salem (now Winston-Salem) North Carolina adopted the first known building code in the United States. Yet, confusing matters just a bit, North Carolina didn’t ratify the Constitution until November 21, 1789.

If you check the Constitution, you’ll find there is no official language mandated in the United States. Yet, it is intriguing that in a (mostly) English speaking nation, that the first building code was written in German.

The Building Code of New Salem

You can find an introduction to and a translated copy of the Code of New Salem here.

Go check it out. It is rather short – I mean, there are only 11 Building Regulations in the document. I know! Right?

And, I love the preamble:

“We are not going to discuss here the rules of the art of building as a whole, but only those rules which relate to the order and way of building in our community. It often happens, due to ill- considered planning, that neighbors are molested and sometimes even the whole community suffers. For such reasons, in well-ordered communities, rules have been set up. Therefore our brotherly equality and the faithfulness which we have expressed for each other necessitates that we agree to some rules and regulations which shall be basic for all construction in our community so that no one suffers damage or loss because of careless construction by his neighbor, and it is a special duty of the Town Council to enforce such rules and regulations.”

Beware of peeping neighbors

The tenth regulation in which there is mention of “peeping neighbors” as well as instruction concerning fences and window placement is perhaps my favorite. Here it is in its entirety.

“10. Since experience has taught us that so many complaints and quarrels and damage can arise from access between lots, so that often one cannot enjoy his own piece of land and work on it, it is mandatory that henceforth every lot must be completely fenced in. No gates or openings shall be left for communication except with the knowledge and permission of the community government. A house that is placed near the side line of a lot shall not have any windows that look into the neighbor’s yard and in general all gable windows shall be well considered as to whether they are necessary, so that the aforementioned molesting can be avoided.

For the lower floor there is not too much objection because of the fences, and in kitchens and service porches only high windows can be used anyway. However, a common rule cannot be fixed and decisions must be made from one case to the next. There are no objections at all to windows facing the street. The people will have to take care of peeping neighbors in the usual way.”

So yeah, today’s codes are much more complex. Yet, it is in these early codes where we find the concepts of standards, zoning, and enforcement that have reached down to our present-day building codes. Think about this the next time you’re dealing with permits, inspections, and all things code.

 

Schulte and Schulte provides Accounting and advisory board level Strategic Counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors. You can learn more about us here. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. 866-629-7735

5 Mistakes Construction Contractors Make When Trying to Scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Mistakes construction contractors make when trying to scale

Trying to do it all

Superman you’re not. KAPOW! Nor are you Wonder Woman. SNAP! So, as we say in our office, DWI (Deal With It.) We also say LIF (Life Isn’t Fair) but, that’s another story for another time. Now, we’ll concentrate on the fact that if your intention is to scale your business, you must have key employees and advisors in place in order to think strategically and focus on growth.

From the back office, to the front office, to the shop, and in the field, having people in place who can help you carry the load is the difference between wishful thinking and decisively moving forward.

And, if you wear all or most of the hats in your construction business, your goal is to replace yourself one position at a time. Finding every task you presently perform yourself and delegating them to your employees and freelance advisors is a sound business tactic that will move you forward more quickly.

In addition to your lawyer, your insurance provider, your bonding agent, your tax preparer, and your loan providers you do well to consider having excellent freelance advisors on board. Everything from virtual assistants, to human resource experts, to accounting advisors, (That’s Us!) will free you up to find ways to work on your business rather than in it.

When you’re able to delegate, (in-house or out) you have the precious commodity of time. Time to spend judiciously planning for the next steps that are about to take place.

Chasing squirrels

Dug, the dog in the movie “Up” is delightfully fun, because he is the ultimate squirrel chaser. And, because he is so easily distracted he is the perfect example of what it sometimes feels like to be the owner of a construction contracting company. You know, there are squirrels at every turn.

It is downright hard not to chase idea after idea and change after change. Squirrels make it difficult to settle with one (good enough) option. Perhaps it is business objectives, marketing strategies, client types, or even (hold your breath) other business ventures.

And, the squirrels can be as subtle as offers for business trainings which seem attractive but don’t really push you forward in meeting your immediate goals. Another insidious squirrel can be found in the purchase of tools or technology that aren’t needed.

One way to deal with squirrels crossing your path is to take note of them. If an idea, thought, or offer attracts your attention, write it down. In other words, keep a squirrel list. Then quickly decide (use your leadership powers to be decisive) if they are good, mediocre, bad, or future squirrels. Sometimes the simple tactic of “sleeping on it” will help you decide. Other times you may wish to visit the people from the above section, (your in-house and outside advisors) before making a decision.

One last thought on squirrel chasing – don’t become befuddled by the off chance you should have followed that one “great” squirrel. You’re in the construction industry, there are tons of squirrels in the construction forest. Another will be along soon enough.

Neglecting to think like their clients

Clients focus on the end product, not the process. Construction clients don’t like the changes you force on them. They do not want to be disrupted. They simply want what they want when they want it. Yet the very nature of the beast we call “construction contracting” means you’re disrupting the lives of your clients, be it for only a day or for many months.

Try putting yourself in their shoes. Suppose when you went to buy a car you were told that for the next six weeks you would have to figure out another way to get to work, to the grocery store, or to the movies because your car would be out of commission. Not only that, you would have to spend some time daily watching as piece by piece your new car was assembled . . . in your driveway. Not a pretty picture. Yet, depending on your trade you may be asking your clients to endure something very similar.

And your clients who (remember?) want what they want when they want it, are probably not all that prepared to have you disrupt their lives. You can help them get over that hurdle through constant and honest communication before, during, and after the project.

Oh yeah, don’t forget this part. Clients HATE surprises. Clients will be more understanding of a temporary defect or delay if communication comes first from you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a service provider, a general contractor, or a sub; it doesn’t matter if you’re on a commercial site or a residential site, there is always a client and you must always consider ways to think like your client.

Failing to document their processes

You may have heard someone joking on one of your social channels that if there are no pictures – it didn’t happen. That is fun and funny. Yet the truth is if there are no documented systems there is no scalable business. If you want your business to grow, you must have systems in place with written instructions concerning how the processes work in order to maintain the system. If it is all in your head, then by golly, it is all in your head that you own a viable construction business.

Wendy Tadokoro from Process Street tells Why You Need to Document Business Processes. If you don’t know, check out the article, it’s eye opening.

Now that you know why, it is time to learn a lot about how (and more about why.) Sam Carpenter wrote a book titled Work the System. You can find the book and other helpful information on his website. It is worth the time it takes to check it out. He offers insight into how to build a successful business through the use of documented processes. His story of how the business he was about to lose was turned around from the brink of disaster is captured throughout the book. If he can’t convince you how important the process of process capture is, then probably no one can.

Forgetting that trimming fat is part of scaling

Much like starting up, scaling up requires some belt tightening or fat trimming in order to make it through. It isn’t simply a matter of hiring more hands, finding more work, and making more money. If your additional labor, travel, or equipment costs eat up the additional money you make on a variety of jobs you’ll find all you’ve gained is more headache.

What scaling really means is finding a way to increase your profits. Increasing your profits means finding ways to earn more money while not spending more money.

Inefficiencies exist in your present organization. Some systems are in need of repair or should be eliminated. Other systems need to be developed.

You may even have some people who will no longer fit into your company for any number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to grow, can’t see your vision, simply don’t gel with the rest of your staff.

Focus on operational efficiency.

Then focus on motivating your team towards a common goal of scaling up and being relentless in achieving it.

Is your bookkeeper stuck in the old way of just doing the books? Then we would love to show you what modern bookkeepers do. As accounting advisors, we help you drive profitability. Give us a call to set up a consulting session. 866-629-7735