A happy employee is a productive employee, and while there are many reasons for employee happiness, at the heart of almost all HR practice is the premise that we treat people the way we want to be treated.  If you aren’t in a position to dedicate funds to an HR person to work on culture yet, practice the Golden Rule and you’ll be off to a good start. Priorities for almost everyone are: being valued, being treated fairly and being treated with respect.


The lawyers want you to know that this isn't legal advice, which by the way is something good to get early on, so that you can set good precedents. 

Many companies have an Employee Handbook that includes legally advisable policies and those that are particular to culture and ways of working.  Here are some a lawyer will tell you to include:

  • At-will employment

  • Equal Employment Opportunity policy

  • Anti-discrimination policy

  • Anti-harassment policy

  • Employment policies and practices under the FLSA

  • Information Technology Security

  • Confidentiality

  • Conflict of Interest

  • Problem resolution

State and federal regulations require that certain things be posted in a common area where all employees have access, most easily found in posters that can be purchased online. 

It’s important that people feel they are being paid fairly relative to what’s going on outside your company, and also within.  It’s against the law to tell your employees not to talk about salary, so it’s best to assume that everyone knows everyone else’s salary.  In Massachusetts, the Fair Pay Act was recently introduced, adding specific employee protections. Creating some kind of logical compensation system that values experience, output, time, etc., is a good idea.

Have a job description for each employee

Conduct performance evaluations at an agreed upon time.  Most companies do them once a year, either on the anniversary date of the employee’s last evaluation, or everyone together at the end of the year.  Evaluations should never have any surprises (performance issues should be addressed in weekly meetings) and are best conducted by both the employee and manager.