The good word Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2001

Eighty-three percent of businesses utilize employee handbooks and 56 percent also have a dedicated company intranet to disseminate vital business information and policies, according to the second annual Workplace Practices Survey.

The survey was conducted by the Employers Resource Council and SBN Magazine.

The importance of sharing goes far beyond the old grade school lessons when it comes to using information to drive and implement company policy and culture. For many companies, sharing information is an integral aspect of doing business.

Seventy-six percent of survey respondents distribute job descriptions to workers in an effort to map out company goals and expectations, while 55 percent see an advantage to an organizational newsletter to communicate the current business climate, customer changes and technology improvements that affect the work force.

Recently, Accu-Tech Manufacturing, a 5-year-old Mentor company, felt the pain of failing to communicating. According to office manager Susan Sweigert, employees, for the most part, knew and understood the company's mission statement, but the benefits and expectations were not so clear.

"We had a problem with an employee; that's what really made us go back and look at the existing handbook and modify it," says Sweigert.

The problem, centered around a vague attendance policy, led to the employee's dismissal. One of the problems was that the founders of this young entrepreneurial effort wanted to keep the atmosphere informal, fostering what they thought would produce a team approach. So policy was kept to a minimum.

In theory, a laid-back atmosphere contributes to employees stepping up, but not only did the casual treatment of policies lend itself to abuse, "it kind of backfired. You have to let everyone know what you expect of them," Sweigert says, adding that otherwise, the business relationship deteriorates.

After the incident, Accu-Tech's policy manual was rewritten to be up-to-date and thorough.

CorVel Corp. of Cleveland, with locations in 49 states, also stresses spreading the word to its employees. By incorporating multiple intranet databases into its system, which includes training on information retrieval, the company keeps personnel in the loop. According to CorVel, 15 percent of employees are promoted within the company, proving the success of the communication policy.

Brian Bartunek, an accountant with the 26-year-old firm, says CorVel's communication system is very efficient, with databases set up and categorized by departments. Rather than being inundated with e-mail messages that may not apply to everyone's work, employees are assigned to specific databases determined by their specialty. Information within the databases is updated throughout the organization.

Staff members receive training on the system and on how to incorporate data searches into their workload.

"Everybody gets indoctrinated into it, even if they switch departments," says Bartunek.

How to reach: Accu-Tech Manufacturing, (440) 205-8882; CorVel Corp., (440) 885-7377

Deborah Garofalo (dgarofalo@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine