McMurry Publishing, a $30 million custom publishing company based in Phoenix, is guided by policies and procedures that reflect the company' s shared values. One vital document that keeps everyone on the same page is its comprehensive staff handbook. Here, Chairman Preston V. McMurry Jr. explains how the handbook evolved, some of its model policies, and the way employees improve those policies.

Purpose. " The handbook is the foundation of our 90-day orientationperiod, which is designed to get new people into the swing of things rapidly. We focus on our 8-pointvalue system - our corporate soul - and we go over the 40 or so things they can and cannot do.We explain how our values guide our hiring and performance evaluation practices." At theend of orientation, employees take a quiz on the contents of the handbook, sign a sheetsaying they understood it, and fill out a survey of what they liked most and least aboutorientation so that it may be improved.

Procedure. The handbook team critiqued dozens of company guides lookingfor turn-offs such as contentious language, hollow ' welcome' notes from CEOs, and Xeroxed pagesstapled haphazardly together. The team surveyed coworkers and used the results to draft policies, and then the members met periodically to refine and, ultimately, OK them. The goal of the dress code policy, for example, is flexibility. Most days they' re a casual crowd, but whensomeone - anyone - marks a dress-up day on the calendar because they' re planning (say) to entertain clients,everyone arrives spiffed up. What's more, the policy has saved some employees a lot of money. One figures she saved about $4,000 last year on clothes.

Content highlights. There' s a copyrighted mission statement, and imaginative descriptions of what McMurry does, its origins and its future. Original watercolor prints separate the core policies relating to the bonus plan, benefits, safety and so on. Its hiring policy just gets better with age. Last year, for example, leaders introduced an innovative service for new hires designed to help them scale the corporate ladder more efficiently. The Career Success Plan (CSP) is a personalized road map, written and approved by core managers before they make prospects an offer, that guidesthem through orientation and beyond. If they need to beef up certain skills, there' sample training and mentoring available. " Our new Tremendous People Department (aka HR) person' s CSPinvolves sitting down with supervisors for 45 minutes and learning their issues. We alsoplan to bring her immediately onto the core management team."

Improvements. To improve its policies, McMurry regularly surveys employees to determine what they like and dislike about their company. Topping the list of likes: 1) the generous bonus plan,2) company growth, and 3) empowerment, freedom, and trust. And the top dislikes: 1) Mondaymorning meetings, 2) lack of flex time, and 3) losing that small-company feel. Staffers werealso asked to suggest creative ways to leverage the survey findings, and they felt it wouldn' thurt to share them more generously with recruiters and job candidates and to play them up in adsand press releases. They also agreed the findings were a great reminder of what not to changein a time of rapid growth. Naturally, action committees were formed to address the topdislikes, and they' re busily making those improvements.

* * *

Other noteworthy policies and passages from McMurry' s staff handbook:

  • The work day. It starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. to accommodate East Coast andWest Coast customers. " Customer service is a very big deal around here."
  • Domestic violence. " It is company policy to help (victims of abuse) whenasked by providing intervention, resources, referrals and time off with pay to address theproblem."
  • Time off. For full-timers, vacations are mandatory and generous. For newhires, vacation time begins to accumulate on day one at a rate of 6.67 hours per month, or twoweeks per year.
  • Communications. There' s a complete step-by-step process for resolvingconflict and guidelines on the proper use of the Internet, phones and faxes. Callingyour family from the road is good; using voicemail to dodge incoming calls is bad.
  • Performance reviews. The handbook contains the complete annualevaluation, which is used to rate employees on how fully they embody the values andhow well they follow the key operating strategies. (Key strategies include: using empowerment toget the job done right, making decisions quickly, accepting responsibility, learning from mistakes,working efficiently, celebrating success, pursuing growth aggressively, getting paid up front, buyingwithout permission, attending Monday morning meetings, having fun, promoting teamwork and sharing theprofits.)

Copyright 1998 Open-Book Management Inc.