Human Resources

April 2021: Understanding the Employee Handbook

By | Business Consulting, Human Resources

What is the Employee Handbook, and why is it important?  By: Kevin Grey

The employee handbook is often an overlooked tool. Many view it as a dull document that only serves to fulfill human resource requirements. However, when used correctly, it has a great ability to help support the company culture to set your organization up for success.

An employee handbook, also known as an employee manual or guide, is a book given to employees by the employer. This book contains job-related information that covers the company’s core values, mission/vision statement, code of conduct, general information on holidays, promotions, company perks, and policies (**policies not required by law), as well as other information modeled after employment laws. The purpose of the employee handbook is to provide a consistent set of policies and procedures. It can also protect the employer from lawsuits because it spells out the at-will employment relationship and employee rights.  It is also a supportive tool to communicate the company culture.


Why the handbook needs to be updated for 2021.

It is always a good practice to review and update the handbook yearly. For some, this is maybe an unrealistic goal. However, updating the employee handbook in 2021 should not be put off and is even more critical now for two reasons. First, the new policies (related to remote work, time-off, performance management, etc.) adopted by organizations due to the COVID pandemic need to be captured in the manual. Secondly, in 2021 new federal and state employment laws took into effect—these drastic changes in how the workplace operates are a critical piece of the handbook (REF: VA Values Act)


How to update the handbook.

The first step to updating the employee handbook is to review the existing handbook by checking what new rules, policies, and procedures need to be included or amended. Also, check if any of the local, state, and federal laws referenced in the handbook have changed. The manual should also reflect any changes in society, including social norms such as appropriate attire and technological advances, such as mobile devices in the workplace. Beyond that, there are different approaches to consider when updating the employee handbook. At Warren Whitney, we recommend embracing/incorporating language that promotes an open-door atmosphere. The goal is for employees to feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you.

Once you have a near final version, have outside counsel review it before distributing. After you receive the green light from your legal team, it is ready for distribution. Start by sending it to your managers before issuing it to all employees. This will give managers the time to understand the changes and prepare to answer questions. Require an acknowledgment of receipt, which will serve as evidence if an employee disputes that they were not made aware of modifications.


Updating your handbook is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Warren Whitney creates tailored employee manuals that are legally compliant, clear, and concise. We work with the leaders, employees responsible for HR administration and payroll, and any other appropriate managers to develop a handbook that best reflects your organization. The Warren Whitney HR Team would welcome the opportunity to support you during this process. If you have any questions or seek further clarification, please call us at 804.282.9566 or email Stephanie Ford at . We do not charge for the initial call. We want to learn more about your needs.

We Make Potential Happen.

January 2021: Four Succession Planning Steps

By | Business Consulting, Human Resources, Succession Planning

Four Succession Planning Steps for 2021

Generally, businesses have two sources of irreplaceable knowledge – people and database(s). If either is lost, years of insight can be erased in an instant, forcing companies to learn a hard lesson. While organizations recognize the need to implement data backups, fewer see the critical nature of developing a succession plan. The key to successful succession plans is not waiting for signs a transition is needed, but proactively developing a plan and options. This will ensure knowledge is shared from person to person long before any departure and that your company is prepared for the future.

It is essential to recognize that succession planning is a necessary part of the talent management process. Last year provided the opportunity for leaders to understand their employees’ strengths and weaknesses better. It also demonstrated why it is critical to make sure the right leaders are in place should a change happen quickly. Now is the perfect time to start the planning process.

Here are four strategies to consider when planning for your business’s future.

1) Be Deliberate and Proactive

A big obstacle to overcome when succession planning is changing people’s perceptions. Start by educating the leadership team on why it is vital to address it now and why not to put it off. Even if retention is high, planning takes years. Internal knowledge needs to be captured long before a replacement is necessary. Succession planning can also be positioned as an opportunity for employees to build their own career path.

2) Identify Future Leaders Early

The process takes time, which is why replacements need to be identified early. The average number of years an employee stays with a company has decreased, so it is essential to identify multiple potential future leaders. This will protect your business in the event critical employees leave.  Because of the pandemic, you may have lost key players and need to reevaluate key roles and replacements.

When looking for leaders, technical aptitude alone is not the determining factor. Each seniority level (CEO, CFO, Regional Managers, etc.) has its criteria. Still, in addition to that, leaders need a wide range of traits such as strategic problem solving, adaptability, and forward-thinking skills (to name a few). These questions can help determine if a candidate embodies any of these qualities:

  • Are they engaged? Did they participate in strategic problem solving during the pandemic?
  • Do they align with the company vision? Are they focused on the future?
  • Are they open to new ideas? Do they share ideas with others? Are they quick to adapt?
  • Do they inspire others? Do they understand what motivates the team?
  • Do they communicate well? Do they strive for clarity?
  • Are they a good cultural fit? Are they likely to remain part of the company?

Remember, candidates, do not need to be ready now. You are not necessarily tapping the potential for now. You are looking for someone with room to grow into a position. Look for the potential and foster it as you train and test them to be future leaders.

3) Determine How to Measure Readiness

When looking for internal talent, evaluate each candidate’s innate skills and aptitudes. Understand which needs refinement and which needs nurturing. Also, consider any missing skill sets and how to foster them.

When evaluating readiness, make sure the candidate is dedicated and aligns themselves with the strategic direction of the organization. These two questions will help gauge readiness:

  • How is this employee perceived internally?

During this assessment, understand how they interact with others. Do they demonstrate leadership skills and confidence? Look at this individual through the eyes of the coworkers and leaders they interact with daily. Get feedback from peers, supervisors, and even customers.

  • What are their unique characteristics? What are their motivations, interests, and values?

When asking these questions, look at their job positions, how they have handled incremental challenges, and how their career has developed. Ideally, throughout their career, they have grown by rising through the ranks, taken on more responsibility, and worked hard.

Once this person is on a clear path to succession, they should be mentored by the person they will replace prior to a public announcement. This pragmatic step will support a seamless transition.

4) Be Confident in Your Choice

Consider succession planning as you would any other kind of strategic plan. Take your time and assess your options as much as possible, and evaluate talent objectively. If the process creates internal conflict, you may need to consider hiring an objective, neutral third party to help guide the leadership team through the process. Set a high bar, and communicate your expectations.  Remember, this is an investment in your company’s future and a method to retain your strongest performers, who often have a strong desire to know the direction of their careers.


Include succession planning in your executive leadership strategic meetings for 2021. Use the lessons learned from last year to direct the process and address the critical attributes needed for an effective leader.

At Warren Whitney, we help develop plans for a smooth transition to the next generation, whether that’s a family member, a current employee, or someone from outside. We develop succession plans that include: Current Organizational Assessment, Emergency Absence Procedures, Employee Development Plans, Communication Plans. Additionally, we provide search services to help identify candidates who are appropriate for your organization.  Let our strategy team get your succession planning on the right path.

If you have any questions or seek further clarification, please call us at 804.282.9566. We do not charge for the initial call. We want to learn more about your needs.

We Make Potential Happen.

November 2020: Remote Onboarding

By | Business Consulting, Human Resources

Contributor: Katherine Whitney

Remote Onboarding – An Intentional Plan with Individual Attention

At a time when so many companies are just trying to avoid furloughs and layoffs, why do we need to think about remote onboarding?  Some companies are still hiring, and some that had layoffs are now refilling those positions.  We’ve also learned that companies can fill some positions very successfully with remote workers, so in the future, some key positions may become potentials for remote workers.

While your basic checklist for onboarding may remain unchanged, an intentional onboarding plan and individual attention will improve the chances for success.  Here are a few things to think about regarding remote onboarding.

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October 2020: Tips for Business Leaders to Respond to COVID

By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources

Top tips for business leaders to respond to COVID – Best practices to embrace for success

The pandemic has tested all organizations and their ability to adapt to a world of virus risk and social distancing. Adapting the work environment to stay viable has meant embracing remote work, redesigning office space, and virtually connecting. The impact of COVID-19 on employee morale, expenses, and budgets has business leaders reevaluating the contours for our next phase of normalcy.

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August 2020: What Do Great Leaders Do Next?

By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources

What Do Great Leaders Do Next?

Leaders’ successes typically revolve around the ability to develop and implement brilliant visions.  They help their staff move forward in their careers; they build their organizations; they make their communities better places.  The blur of health and social trauma over the last five months (with no end in sight) gives leaders a very different challenge.

It’s hard to create a brilliant vision with this level of uncertainty; it’s hard to help people advance in their careers when a computer screen is the only connection; it’s hard to find the energy to move forward when the race is a marathon and the footing is muddy.

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July 2020: Our Brave New World- How to keep employees engaged while planning for uncertainty

By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources

Most businesses have moved beyond the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and are adjusting to a new reality. Now, organizations need to remain flexible and devise strategies to keep their workforce engaged while planning for uncertainty. With the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, businesses are faced with repetitive attempts at forecasting and budgeting. Projections need to anticipate multiple scenarios to pivot quickly. Another challenge is managing employee burn out, morale, and feelings of being disconnected.

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By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Strategy, Technology and Operations


And steps to find the right firm. 

For those not familiar with the concept of fractional leadership, it is an efficient and cost-effective model for businesses to outsource functions when they do not have the expertise in-house or are going through a transition. This form of leadership offers an objective perspective and can guide businesses when faced with challenging decisions. Their role is to become a trusted advisor, lead through change, and offer unbiased advice.

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By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Strategy, Technology and Operations

RETURN TO WORK STRATEGIES – How to navigate and protect your business for a smooth transition.

 As Virginia starts a phased reopening by easing “stay at home restrictions,” businesses need a well-thought-out transition plan.  Your plan should take into consideration not only your employees’ and customers’ health and safety, but also fiscal stability, strategic direction, and technology. This multi-layered plan must address regulations, the environment, and internal communications as well as the emotional well-being of your employees. Flexibility is critical, and your business will need to be positioned to respond to a changing landscape as the situation evolves.

When devising your plan, consider these pieces of advice from our team in the 4 areas we serve our clients.

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