Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark Part 2 – More Formal, More Frequent Communications

In my most recent blog, Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark – What do You Need to Think About? – Part 1, I go over some of the Employment Laws that come into play at the 50 Employee mark. In this blog I focus more on communication with employees.

An extremely common remark made by employers once they hit the 50-employee mark is “I don’t know everybody by name any more”. Communications, always a critical component of success, is increasingly important the bigger a company becomes. The more people, the more room for misunderstandings, the more room for not getting word around to everyone and the more important direct communications become. The 50 employee mark is the time that the following should be instituted if not already in place:

Handbook, handbook, handbook

If your company has hit the 50-employee mark and you still do not have an Employee Handbook, it is now even more important that one be written and distributed. An Employee Handbook is important as a means to protect your company against litigation, provide employees with a succinct and comprehensive resource to clarify the expectations your company has of them and their conduct in their workplace, and market the benefits and services they receive as a member of your workplace. By the 50-employee mark, the employee handbook should cover, at a minimum, policy statements for standards of conduct, discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace, workplace violence, safety, technology use and security, and confidential and proprietary information, equal opportunity, employment at will, reasonable accommodations, internal complaint process and timekeeping/overtime requirements. In addition, most companies of this size have instituted paid time off benefits such as vacation, sick and holiday. Lastly there must be verbiage covering the FMLA and other federal and/or state required leaves such as military, jury duty, voluntary emergency rescue and voting. If your company has multi-state operations or is international, your employee handbook contents may include state or country specific employment law verbiage.

Company Meetings

Gone are the days of yelling out across the company “come to the break room – we’re going to meet”. With 50 people it is now time to institute some type of pre-scheduled all-staff meetings so that employees are able to attend. How often a company meets depends upon their unique culture. At minimum, a company with 50 employees should be meeting quarterly as a group.

Newsletters/Photo Boards/Venues for informal communications

More people equals more activity equals more information. It also means not being able to get around and see everyone every day and keep up with who is who. Now may be the time for your company to create some type of communication where the activities, special mentions, status updates, and new employee introductions can be consolidated and more efficiently communicated on a regular basis. A newsletter need not be fancy or complicated – a once a month email can serve the same purpose. It may also be the time to institute a photo board with everyone’s picture and name posted.

By this size, most CEO’s are no longer involved in the day-to-day aspects of the business but are spending their time at the strategic level. This translates into less time in the office and less time interacting with all levels of employees. It is CRITICAL to recognize this and to create venues for your CEO and other officers to have an opportunity for connecting with the employee population. For instance, I always start by getting a once monthly roundtable lunch on the CEO’s schedule and inviting around eight employees at random to attend. This gives the CEO and employees an informal venue to interact in a small group that encourages two way feedback.

The bigger the company grows, the more important it is to create venues that connect people across the organization. This can be as simple as doughnuts in the break room every Friday at 10:00. The CEO of one company I worked at instituted a “Safari” concept where employees were encouraged to take someone else in the company who they did not know well out to lunch (on a safari). The participants would then submit a slip containing an interesting fact they learned about one another. At the monthly staff meeting the slips were placed in a drawing and several were drawn, the facts were read and the submitters received fun prizes.