In today's exciting world of business and commerce, there are dreams aplenty. There is no dearth of vision, innovative ideas and hunger to change the stodgy old system in favour of a dynamic one.
However, in the race to set goals and targets, some start-up companies overlook the obvious. Every company needs a professional human resource management system that will turn the wheels of the company, effectively and efficiently.
"If a professional HR setup is not present from start, employees will hesitate to interact with a new HR manager. He is viewed as an outsider, who is like a wall between management and them. This is the biggest challenge with respect to HR policy that an entrepreneurial set-up faces," says Ms Viji Swaminathan, Co-Founder of Woodpecker Furniture, Chennai.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind while framing an HR policy:
1. Working hours and weekly holidays
Define some very basic rules and regulations. Regardless of how basic this seems, it is crucial. Determine the number of hours a day an employee is expected to work. This is usually specific to departments and roles, and can be altered to suit business requirements. Also, prepare a plan for weekly holidays. In case of direct customer-facing businesses with a need to work on weekends, chart out alternative weekly holidays.
2. New recruits and exit policies
This constitutes employee-processing, when new candidates sign up with you and an existing employee resigns. You need policies for new candidates, which include background checks, verification of educational details, relieving details from previous employers, etc, and norms for exit procedures such as handing over of responsibilities, notice period, etc.
3. Leave & attendance
Every employee must be eligible for Privilege Leave (PL), Sick Leave (SL) and Maternity Leave (ML), for female staff. The number of days in each category can be decided at the organisation’s discretion, keeping general practices in India in mind. PL is also called Earned Leave and is awarded according to the number of days an employee has served the company. ML is paid leave (minimum 80 continuous days) mandatorily offered to women employees and enforced by the Central Government. "In our company, we consulted a lawyer and spoke to a few experts in the HR field before defining our policies," says *Sabitha, who runs a placement consulting company.
4. Salary & employee benefits
This is the big one. This category includes salary compensation along with general guidelines for bonus, annual increments, loans against salary, provident fund and gratuity, which need to be very specific and very clearly articulated to employees. Benefits like housing rental allowance, monthly medical allowance, travel allowance and health insurance offer a feel-good factor among employees and should be included, depending on the potential of the business and size of the organisation.
5. Work culture
This is probably the most ignored HR policy. It encompasses minor details like dress code, to serious ones like confidentiality, customer misbehaviour and sexual harassment at work. Design these policies with care, empathy and keeping in mind cultural background.
Swetha, an HR manager with an IT consulting services company, remarks, "It is important to have an HR policy document within a few months of starting a company. This helps lay down rules and terms. The policy document is also a manual that anyone who joins the company may refer to. The founders can focus on the business operations, secure in the knowledge that strong policies are in place and that they cover every aspect of running a company."
Hiring a strong HR manager who is also people-oriented is half the work done. The other half is preparing an HR policy document, if you don’t already have one. No matter how nitty-gritty the details, it's well worth investing time in drafting one. After all, it avoids potential confusion and misunderstandings, and sets the tone for your employees' day-to-day functioning.
* Names changed to protect identities