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Assume your company currently has four employees and you have decided to add one more to handle the increase in sales, a great "problem" to have. You made an offer that was accepted and he starts today.
You meet with your new employee to do the orientation, so you launch into a description of his role, your typical work day, etc. You escort him to his work station, introduce him to his co-workers, give him the system password and part by letting him know you are available to answer any questions and that your "door is always open." You let him know how pleased you are to have him on board.
His first week is a good one. He learns your customer service system quickly and even makes a couple of time-saving suggestions. He is fitting in and working really well.
During his second week, the new hire and another of your employees go to lunch and have a "shop talk." "Nuts and bolts" topics are discussed-like "paid vacation time-off." Your longer-term employee tells your new hire that she is getting three weeks of paid vacation per year and is taking a week off next month to go on a cruise. Pay increases were also discussed and your longer-term employee tells your new hire that she got a raise at the end of her six-month probationary period.
Walking back to the office, your new hire was deep in thought-"What probationary period? I don't remember it being mentioned -hum…"Your new hire takes advantage of your open- door policy and asks if you have a minute. You start the conversation by saying, "You are really doing a great job. I want you to know how pleased I am. What can I do for you?" Your new hire asks: "Am I on probation?" You respond: "Oh, that 'Technically' all newly-hired people are considered probationary." He asks you: "What do I have to do to pass probation?" and you respond, "Just keep doing the good work you're doing for six months." He queries you further: "And you'll let me know ASAP if I'm not?" and you say, "Absolutely." He asks, "Once I complete the probationary period, does anything else change?" and you sheepishly reply "Oh yes, I forgot. At that time I will review your pay to determine if we need to make an adjustment."
It is unlikely this exact sequence of events has ever happened with your people but it illustrates the point.
Why have HR Policies? REASON #1 - Your people need to know the rules. They will have questions about either what you told them and they forgot or what you forgot to tell them altogether. The best way to make sure your people have the information they need about the employment relationship is to have written HR policies that you give them.
The conversation above continues. "One more thing," he says. "I don't recall discussing the paid vacation policy. If you shared this with me during our interview, please forgive my forgetfulness." You reply, "You will receive two weeks of paid vacation after you have completed one year with us." Without another word, he walks out of your office muttering, "Two weeks after a year????"
REASON #2 - You owe it to your people to maintain reasonable consistency in how you treat them when it comes to "standard" policy issues like paid time-off.
After the exchanges above, how motivated do you think the new hire was to continue excelling? Here are two scenarios to consider:
In accordance with your HR policy that spells out your right to review all files (hard copy and electronic), you come in Saturday afternoon when no one is in the office and start looking through his e-mails and Internet cookies to see what he's been doing. What you find appalls you. Not only is he spending your time doing a job search, but you also find he sent a copy of your confidential customer list (including annual revenue totals for each customer) to one of the companies to which he has applied for work.
That is it. Monday morning he is gone. You call him into your office and fire him for falsification of information, unauthorized disclosure of business secrets, unsatisfactory performance/conduct, and misuse of company property/equipment.
FOR BOTH SCENARIOS, he files for unemployment and is denied benefits because of the good job you did in following your "reasonable" HR policies.
REASON #3 - It is much easier to take a negative employment action if your HR policies are written, reasonable, distributed to your employees, and you consistently follow them. While there is no guarantee that a terminated employee won't file some form of complaint or action, you are in much better shape with HR policies than without in defending your decision and actions.
What Are the Basic HR Policies that Should Be Included in a Policy Manual?