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Why Communication with your Employees is Crucial

Amy and I (Laura) talk a lot about communication and how vital it is to our relationship with each other and our clients because its' importance is something we have learned first hand throughout our careers. We have learned lessons about the importance of communication with clients, but we have also learned the importance of communication in the context of other business relationships, including partnerships and the employer-employee relationship. These lessons have been learned through our experience in counseling our business clients, as well as our own personal experiences with partnerships and as employees of other law firms.

We have both seen and been in situations where a lack of communication on a number of levels caused misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, and ultimately, a disagreement or the breakdown of a business relationship. As a business owner and a leader, it is crucial to have the terms of employment with each employee in place, as well as policies, but it is also crucial to make sure that your employees understand the terms, the policies, and your expectations. If you expect your employees to work certain hours, tell them. If you expect them to handle a certain workload, tell them. If you expect them to adhere to certain policies, such as vacation and sick time, tell them. All of your expectations as a business owner should be clearly stated to each employee, preferably in writing, and if an employee has an issue, or needs clarification, there should be someone designated for them to speak with about it. The lines of communication should always be open.

If you are not clear with your employees about what you expect of them, how can you expect them to know what your expectations are? If you have a written employment agreement in place, it should include terms such as: (1) Scope of employment - what is the employee’s job description and what will their responsibilities be? (2) Compensation - how will the employee be compensated and at what rate? Will there be a salary structure plus incentives, such as a bonus? (3) Term and termination - is the employee at-will or will there be an agreed upon term of employment? Will the contract automatically renew? Will there be grounds set forth for termination? (4) Will there be a probationary period? If so, how long will it be and what will the conditions and guidelines be? It’s imperative that the terms be set forth clearly and that they are understood by all parties.

There are also protective measures that you can include in an employment contract, such as a non-compete, non-solicitation, a work for hire provision, confidentiality, and an alternative dispute resolution provision. Whatever provisions you decide to include in an employment contract, a simple conversation with the employee about what the provisions are and what they mean could avoid a lack of understanding or dispute down the road. And, if an issue arises down the road, there should be someone the employee can come to to discuss it so that it can be resolved quickly and amicably.

Again, communication can save you time, money and energy in the long run. A lack of this key element can be detrimental to your relationships with your employees and ultimately, your business.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls and communications. Contacting us, however, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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