The Human Resources Advantage in Green Businesses
Last week I blogged about avoiding trouble with human resource issues, and this week I’m taking a more upbeat note. As a green business, you’ve got a hiring and motivational advantage, and you should retain those dedicated employees with as many benefits as you can without breaking the bank.
Alignment around the Environmental Mission
One of the most important operational issues in any business is alignment around a common goal. In some organizations the mission and the highest priorities are unclear. Often, well-meaning staff members are working at cross purposes or are at least not benefiting by the compounding effect of everyone’s efforts complimenting that of everyone else.
In an eco-enterprise, you probably think about and speak about your mission often, and it is likely that your staff joined your green business because they believe strongly in the mission.
Knowing Employment Rules Helps You Devise An Ideal Strategy
As the owner of a green business, you have some flexibility in terms of paid time off and holidays, flexible work schedules and more, and this can help build staff loyalty and help save you costs. By assessing the specific needs of your staff, you can work out a custom benefits package that pleases them and works for you financially.
Do not assume that you have to have the same benefits that were offered at your former employer or that of your friends’ current employers. Find out the employment laws, and then define your own strategy.
I usually recommend separating vacation time from sick time, versus lumping it altogether as paid time off. If your green business is in San Francisco, you have to follow a city-mandated sick policy anyway. But wherever you are, there is an important difference between the two types of leave. If an employee leaves your company, you have to cash them out of accrued vacation. You do not with sick leave. As a start-up, which may periodically have tight cash flow, the accrued vacation pay is something to watch. I often recommend that startup companies have a modest cap on the total that can accrue, such as 80 hours. That way, you encourage people who are working hard to actually take the breaks they need, and you don’t accrue a huge payable. The thing to do is to consider what would happen if your two highest-paid employees left within one month of each other, and they both had the maximum accrued vacation to be paid out. Some companies need to cap vacation accruals to 40-60 hours in the first year or two of operations.
One startup I worked with had so few employees, and each was so critical to the operations, that we created a plan with only 40 hours of vacation a year for the first two years. As an offset to limited vacation time, we created a relatively large number of company holidays. That way, the staff got a significant amount of time off during the year, and when a holiday came around, the company just didn’t do much. For this company, it was a better situation than having many times a year when a key person would be out while other people were being paid to be less productive because of the person out on vacation. And, it just happened that it reduced the liability of the company for vacation payouts.
Generally, employees of very early-stage startups understand the resource limitations of the companies they work for. The key is to share information–why you have created each polity. And, as your green business grows, you’ll want to reassess your benefits and leave policies, so that you can please most of the people most of the time. needs to be met. Sometimes the employees who join later, particularly once revenue is flowing smoothly, are not as motivated to give as long hours and as inflexible of leave policies as the founding team who may be motivated just to get your company off the ground.
A great perk that doesn’t cost you anything is to participate in is a local transit ticket purchase plan. When employers register for these plans, employees can buy transit passes with pre-tax wages via a payroll deduction.
And, it probably goes without saying that telecommuting is good for the environment. Allowing employees flexibility in working from home a certain amount of time, is a benefit many employees appreciate.
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