How to manage your employees

4 min read
11 Dec 2018

passionate, motivated, and engaged startup team is a CEO’s best asset. Show your employees a commitment to transparency and professionalism, and they will do the same for you.

This article was written by the original owner of, Ryan Allis, and published on his website in 2012. Read more about why Ryan was happy to hand over his website domain to us here.

There are various methods for putting systems into place in the early stages of your startup in order to make your job as CEO and founder much easier down the road.

When it comes to employee management, putting in place an employee handbook, creating an efficient meeting rhythm and establishing an employee review process is a great place to start.

Putting in place an employee handbook

Creating a single digital or printed manual that employees can refer to when they have questions about things like stock option plans, paid time off policies, and health benefits can be really helpful, and can save you and your fledgling HR department a lot of time.

Try to document all the key policies and procedures you have and publish them annually in an Employee Handbook. Our employee handbook today contains the following sections:

1.Acceptable Use Policy
2.Attendance Policy
3.Badges Policy
4.Benefits Policy
5.Blogging Guidelines
6.Change of Information Policy
7.Community Giving Policy
8.Confidentiality Policy
9.Disability Leave
10.Dress Code Policy
11.Drug Policy
12.Ethics Policy
13.Employee Referral Policy
14.Family Medical Leave Policy
15.Food Policy
16.Freelancing Policy
17.Harassment/Professional Conduct Policy
18.Holidays Policy
19.Inclement Weather Policy
20.Internal Transfer Policy
21.Medical Leave
22.Paternity Leave
23.Maternity Leave
24.New Hire Forms Procedure
25.Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy
26.Payroll Procedure
27.Performance Evaluations
28.Phone Usage Policy
29.Printing Policy
30.Reimbursement/Purchase Requisition Procedure
31.Short Term Leave Policy
32.Supplier Policy
33.Travel & Entertainment Policy
34.Workers’ Compensation Policy

Your handbook may have more or fewer sections than this, depending largely on the size of your company, but it should try to address the major issues outlined above.

Creating an efficient meeting rhythm

Too often, people put systems in place that end up causing far too much time to be spent in meetings. One thing I’d encourage you to do as an entrepreneur is to adopt what’s called a “maker schedule.” Paul Graham once wrote a very influential article on the difference between maker schedules and manager schedules.

A manager schedule is one that goes from meeting to meeting to meeting (maybe six, seven, eight, or nine meetings per day). You may have experienced that yourself.

A maker schedule, however, is generally better for someone who is designing or developing things. For someone who is an engineer or designer, a creative person or just generally someone working to solve hard problems, often the minimum amount of time the brain needs to be able to truly focus on solving a difficult problem is a block of about four hours.

If you can’t provide an uninterrupted block of four hours to your employees during their day, they might get very little done.

At Connect, we have one meeting that lasts about twenty-five minutes in the middle of the day, where everyone goes around and shares their accomplishments from the prior day and what they will be working on the next day. Before that meeting, we’ll have about a 3.5-4.5 hour work block and after that meeting, we’ll have another 3.5-4.5 hour work block. It ends up being a very productive day that has two “maker blocks” within it.

We find that to be much more effective than having six to eight meetings a day where you’re constantly pulling the most creative innovators in your organization out of their focus zone, or out of their state of “flow,” as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says.

At iContact, one of the things we implemented with our executive team was that at 9:46 every morning, which was a very specific time so everyone would be on time every day, we would have a daily standup meeting where we took ten minutes and went around our seven-person executive team and just shared what we were doing that day.

Once a week, we reviewed the company’s weekly results (sales, trials, conversions), tracked progress against each of our quarterly priorities, and reviewed the status of each of our company-wide projects.

Too often, people put systems in place that end up causing far too much time to be spent in meetings.

We eventually came up with Key Performance Indicators and quantitative measures of success and started marking each KPI as red, yellow, green, or supergreen based on how we were performing.

We were as objective as possible about results, and did our best to leave subjectivity out of the assessments. By making it clear in advance which metrics individuals were responsible for and would be compensated on, we had an easier time assessing performance later.

We would also hold a company-wide offsite every six months called iContact Day, during which we talked about strategy and the future of the business.

At 300 employees, we had a more complex meeting rhythm that consisted of a weekly Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meeting, a weekly Operating Committee meeting, monthly company-wide meetings, quarterly company-wide kickoffs, and quarterly SLT offsites that covered team health, operations, and strategy.

By this stage, our weekly meeting consisted of the Senior Leadership Team (CEO, CTO, CFO, CMO, SVP Sales, SVP Support, SVP HR) and another eight members of what we call the Operating Committee. At this weekly meeting we did three things:

35.Quarterly Priorities Review: The Operating Committee owner of each quarterly priority reported on its progress.
36.KPI Review: We reviewed the Red, Yellow, Green, Supergreen coded results for about eight company-wide metrics plus about sixty departmental metrics, tracked weekly via Google Docs.  
37.Announcements and Open Agenda Items: Here, we opened up the floor for anyone to ask any question they had.

At different companies, you’ll need to innovate and have different meeting systems and processes within the organization. The key is to think about things consciously, like meetings, processes, and accounting, so that you end up creating systems that are effective, efficient, and enable you to build a business that can eventually operate without you without you.

Once a week, we reviewed the company’s weekly results (sales, trials, conversions), tracked progress against each of our quarterly priorities, and reviewed the status of each of our company-wide projects.

Creating a performance review process

As your organization grows, you’ll eventually hire a full-time Director of HR and install what’s called a Human Resources Information Systems (also known as a Human Resources Management System) that manages all aspects of HR including: payroll, talent management, recruiting, performance reviews, and total rewards/compensation.

Services that perform these tasks range from outsourced payroll providers like Paychex and ADP to web-based tools like SuccessFactors and Taleo. SAP, Oracle, Workday, and PeopleSoft also have HRIS solutions for larger companies.

Eventually, you should implement a 360-degree performance review form. This form can be used for managers to get feedback from their peers and their staff members.

For now, you just need a basic performance review process in place. This can start with an Excel Spreadsheet or Microsoft Word document.

At iContact this took the form of a performance review template. We later moved on to an automated online solution, but a Word document can work just fine until you have more than 100 employees, in my opinion.

Main photo: Unplash/ Kaleidico

*This article was originally published on October 17th, 2018 and updated on December 11th, 2018.