A married couple had just bought a house and they were expecting their first baby.

The couple worked at the same organization and the wife had to be fired. So the “upper management” figured the husband would be angry and decided to fire him too!

No, this is not one of our imaginary stories, this one is from jobmob.co.il.

What do you think would be the fate of this company should the couple get a hotshot lawyer? You can hazard a guess.

As a startup, no matter how small you are, one of the crucial decisions you have to take is hiring talents and you can’t afford to do it wrong, not even as a startup.

Below are employment issues you need to consider as a startup

1. Protect your most Valuable Assets

No, we aren’t talking about your money. It is valuable, but not as valuable as your intellectual property and trade secrets.

 What extra step can you take to protect your trade secrets when hiring new talent?

Many startups fail to legally protect their business assets through ineffective confidentiality agreements, non-disclosure agreements, non-competes, poaching etc. All these agreements are collectively called “Restrictive Covenants”.

Do you really take the time to prepare the documents or do you just lift them from somewhere on the web? You need to ask yourself, will these documents protect my assets and do what they are supposed to? Can they be enforced here in Nigeria where my business is based?

It is also important to note that the “reasonableness” of a covenant would be considered should you decide to go to court in the event of a breach. So no! You can’t stop your employee from never EVER working again in the same industry.

The reality on ground is that one size doesn’t fit all and you need to treat these agreements differently by properly drafting your Restrictive Covenants.

2. Plan for the End

 Relationships tank all the time. It’s the way of nature, and the way of startups.  Employees will leave.

Sometimes, things just don’t work out and when your employees leave, you need to have laser focus on protecting your assets which should include protecting yourself against potential claims/suits and owning your Intellectual property.

For instance, if your employees use devices to access company information, they need to have device returned (if it’s company owned) or you need to ensure their personally owned devices are wiped.

Essentially, make sure they can’t access any confidential information about your business once they leave. Same goes for social media accounts. Your social media account is how you talk to your audience.

If the leaving employee has access or was managing your company’s social media accounts, as a rule, change all your passwords once the said employee leaves. The reason for this is simple, it stops the employee from claiming your followers or connections.

You should know that you aren’t acting in bad faith by planning for the end at the beginning. You are protecting yourself.

3. Discipline and Evaluation of Employees

 Firing employees isn’t always the option, sometimes you could discipline them. But on what basis?

Agreed, one of the most difficult tasks of being a boss has to do with counseling, coaching and disciplining an erring employee. Usually, when you have performance problems or in some cases rules violations, coaching is the first step.

You only go the disciplinary route in a clear violation of company policy or repeated issues.  To effectively coach, counsel and discipline your employee, you need to:

  • Be clear about what the problem/behaviour is, which includes the violation  of company policies.
  • Explain how the employee behaviour is affecting your business and other co-workers
  • Explain the disciplinary action you are taking if applicable and why
  • If your facts are challenged, give room for further investigations
  • Document everything that has been discussed and add to the employee’s file.

4. Fire Correctly

You may have prepared for the end with an airtight termination contract but how you fire your employees also matter.

If your performance evaluations have been carried out, and there’s still some slack, it can be an amicable parting for you and the employee.

But, before you decide to terminate your employee, you should make sure you observe some caution.

  • Be civil and if you can manage it, be compassionate
  • Give truthful reasons for termination
  • Remember to retrieve all your company property
  • Maintain a courteous relationship
  • Ensure you are doing it in compliance with employment and labour laws

Essentially, when taking on employees, managing them or terminating their contracts ensure that your documents protect you, your business and your business assets at all times. They are incredibly valuable.