SMB Workforce Part 2: Policies and Enforcement

Thanks for tuning in for the second installation of this miniseries! You can read part one here. Interested in writing your own SMB miniseries? Get in touch with the editor!


Establish Guidelines, Rules, and Culture With Simple HR Strategies

One of the greatest fears small business owners express when launching HR initiatives is the loss of their unique, close-knit working environment. Small business owners move away from corporate America because they don’t want to be bound by legislature and regulations, right?

Wrong! All businesses, big or small, need standards. The best way to communicate these standards is by forming and adhering to policies. You don’t need to lose your laid-back atmosphere; a little creativity is all that’s needed to develop policies as eclectic and unique as the workforce behind them.


This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of implementing workplace regulation. Determining what needs to be regulated is partially dictated by outside entities, like the government, but also needs to be tailored to each individual workforce. The best way to map out policy ideas is by walking through each element of the business.

Business and employee protection laws

Consider policies regarding discrimination in the workplace, workers compensation, sexual harassment, equipment liability, reporting safety issues, pregnancy and breastfeeding, handling medical emergencies, HIPAA and OSHA requirements, and fraud, waste, or abuse.

SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons HR is Important For Your Startup

Check Federal, state, and city legislature for mandates relating to your specific business setup, such as food preparation or import laws.

It’s important to have these laws reflected in your policy manual to protect you in the event you’re reported or audited.


Walk through a typical day. What should be done prior to opening up for business? What needs to be done before closing? Consider customer payments, discounts, deposits, and accounts-receivable. Consider collections, reconciliation of accounts, and standard workflows.


What is the dress code? How are work areas expected to be maintained? Document smoking policies, parking policies, and emergency procedures such as fire and natural disasters.

Human Resources

How long should lunch breaks last? Where are your designated break areas? What are the standards for requesting time off? Can employees receive holiday pay, cell phone, or gas stipends?

SEE ALSO: 4 Crucial Questions New Employees Ask Themselves

Detail expectations regarding overtime, filing expense reports, and calling in sick. Some of these policies tend to overlap with those mandated by law, but that’s ok. The objective is to cover all potential areas for regulation in the business.


You’ll occasionally run into circumstances that “inspire” new policy development. Laws change. Previous concerns can become obsolete. Embrace these opportunities; they keep policies current and ultimately, more effective.


You could have the best set of policies ever developed, but if your employees aren’t aware of them, the policies do you no good. Communication is vital to compliance. Reinforce distribution efforts by utilizing multiple communication methods.

Start by verbally communicating regulations in dedicated training courses. Be prepared to explain the “why” behind the policy and answer any questions related to policy applicability and inclusion.

SEE ALSO: Mindreading 101: 10 Questions You Need To Ask Your Team Every Week

When possible, grab staff signatures on “I understand and comply” documents designed to protect owners in the event someone is let go because of non-compliance. Leaders should also plan to revisit training and mandate refresher sessions on a yearly basis.

Make access to written policies simple by placing manuals or signs in break rooms. Consider storing policies online or in a secure shared folder for quick reference. Electronic formats are also easier to edit.

Leaders can also communicate expectations by exemplifying proper behavior. Ensure anyone in a managerial position is on-board with the business practices. Allowing leaders to be a part of the policy development stage is a great way to premeditate this buy-in.


Accountability starts at the top. Ensure leaders are held to the same (if not higher) standards as their employees. Accountability among the higher-ups will foster compliance and a culture of respect.

Develop clear corrective action by communicating a pre-defined disciplinary process. Warning systems, write-up protocols, and coaching sessions are just a few tools employers can use to constructively correct employees. Account for the occasional bad day, but be on the lookout for behavioral patterns. You want to address patterns swiftly, especially when correcting leadership.

SEE ALSO: Is Your Business Health and Safety Compliant?

Be consistent. Removing personal ties during the disciplinary process is difficult, but absolutely necessary to establishing good business practices. To buffer emotional discomfort, send leaders through a crucial conversations course or dedicated time to role-play. Try not to assume longevity in the business or personal connections to the owner will equate to regulatory compliance. Often those closest to the owner will attempt to use their connectivity to dodge compliance and get away with “preferential” treatment.

Enacting corporate-sounding policies and discipline seems daunting at first. Once the uniqueness of a small-business environment is realized, however, and woven into the procedural structure the owners and leaders themselves get to create, organizational magic ensues. Flaunt your creative, yet professional side by developing, communicating, and enforcing your own set of hand-designed, customized policies and procedures. The protection you’ll provide for both your business and employees is priceless.

RELATED: 8 Things Your Employees Want You To Know

Image: iStockphoto

About The Author

Jennifer Ludwigsen is a freelance writer with a colorful variety of skills gained from her time as a U.S. Army medic, mother of two, and ingenious life-lesson learner. She currently works for the largest medical group in Illinois in multiple administrative capacities, serving both the executive team and the vast practitioner and patient population. Jennifer has leveraged technology in multiple facets of her life to enhance her corporate day job, evening parenting job, and late-evening freelancing job. Connect with Jennifer on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website, Concentrated Creativity.