9 Things You Should Include in an Offer Letter to a Potential Employee

In track and field, how well the runner launches her body off the starting block determines her starting position in the race, and largely contributes to her overall success. Think of offer letters the same way. A solid offer letter can mark the beginning of a successful start to an employment relationship, and put a new employee in a good position to positively contribute to the growth and success of your company.

A successful offer letter should include these nine elements.

1. Excitement

You’ve gone through the trouble of advertising a position, looking over resumes and interviewing potential candidates, so you should be excited that you can now make an offer. Convey your excitement to the candidate so that he or she feels excited about working with you, and you can close the deal!

2. Basic job info

Include the title of the position, as well as reporting structure. The offer letter should also include a description of responsibilities and expectations. In this section, you should also include a disclaimer that the employer has the right to change the position, and modify or assign additional responsibilities.

3. Compensation and benefits

The job’s salary, payment period, and the policy on raises should be included. Thoroughly describe any bonus or commission plan. Where applicable, information about fringe benefits such as health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, 401(k) savings plans, profit sharing, and expense reimbursements should also be included. Don’t forget to include the company’s vacation and/or PTO policy, and reserve the right to amend or rescind compensation agreements and benefit plans and programs, including employee contribution levels.

4. “At will”/ exempt status

Most employment relationships are “at will”, meaning that either party can terminate the employment for any reason or no reason (so long as it does not violate discrimination or other laws or public policies). If this is the case, make sure it is clearly addressed in the offer letter by stating something like, “the employer is free to discharge individuals for any reason or no reason at all, without further obligation or liability.” Also, be sure to state whether the position is exempt. If the position is nonexempt, include your overtime policy.

5. Conditions for the offer

Describe any conditions that you want the employee to satisfy before or after being hired. Examples of such conditions include: reference checks, background checks, drug tests, and required pre-hire documentation.

6. Restrictive Covenants

While an offer letter will generally not include non-compete or non-solicitation clauses, it can condition employment upon the signing of these documents at commencement of employment. The best practice is to seek the help of a business lawyer when crafting non-compete or non-solicitation agreements. Moreover, you may want to include language in the offer letter stating that signing the document affirmatively acknowledges that the employee is not currently subject to any restrictive covenants from previous employers.

7. Confidentiality

If your company has a confidentiality policy (it should), offer letters should include confidentiality and/or non-disclosure clauses in order to protect important information that’s vital to the success of your business, such as salary information or client lists.

8. Expiration Date

The offer should instruct the candidate to obtain independent legal advice before accepting and provide enough time for the person to do so. This will make the court more likely to uphold clauses in favor of your company if a problem should arise in the future. While it is still important to give the candidate time to properly review your offer, it’s also imperative to include a specific time in which your offer to that candidate expires. Making an expiration date around 48 hours after extending an offer also helps eliminate the chance of the candidate receiving competing offers, having time to compare offers, and then possibly presenting you with a counter-offer.

9. Spell Out the Next Steps

Finally, explicitly call out the next steps for the candidate. These may include signing the offer letter and returning it to a specific person at the company. Also include a start date and the timing of any contingencies such as reference checks. It’s important to include these steps so that the employment relationship begins on strong footing, launching your new employee and your business as a whole towards success and prosperity.

For more information on this topic, contact Alex Gertsburg at 440-571-7775 or ag@gertsburglaw.com. Get more legal tips for your business on The Gertsburg Law Firm blog, with new articles every week. 

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  • Next up: 9 Ways to Improve Your Staff’s Mood—And Your Business’ Bottom Line: Presented by viperks
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  • 9 Ways to Improve Your Staff’s Mood—And Your Business’ Bottom Line: Presented by viperks

    Allowing your employees to show off their creative side and giving them access to discount programs are two ways to improve morale in the office. Here are seven more from the motivation experts at viperks.

    Happy employees are productive employees. But a recent study by Gallup has found that as many as 70% of American workers are unengaged in the office—and therefore not as happy or productive as they otherwise could be.

    Clearly, there’s a lot of ground to make up here. But how to do it? The motivation experts at viperks, a cloud-based provider of employee discount and appreciation services, has a few ideas about the employment perks you can provide that will help engage and motivate your workforce. 

    1. Customized workspaces

    Allow your employees to decorate their workspaces with little custom touches that show off their unique personalities. It’s been shown that adding this perk leads to 17% more productivity by employees.

    2. Employee-friendly maternity leave

    Ensure you’re providing ample time for maternity (and paternity) leave. This will help your employees feel more cared for at work.

    3. Provide concierge services

    Work out partnerships that can provide added services to your employees, such as a maid service for your employees’ homes, elder care facilities for aging family members, or services that assist with everyday errands.

    4. Vacation time

    Provide a once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience for your top performers or perhaps raffle off a dream vacation.

    5. Feed ‘em

    Maybe the way to your employees’ hearts is through their stomachs? Keep a supply of free food and drink in the office for your staff.

    6. Employee discount programs

    Programs exist that will allow your employees to purchase everyday brand name items at a discount.

    RELATED: Learn how COSE members can take advantage of such discount programs

    7. Student loan repayment plan

    Student loan repayment might be one of the biggest expenses your employees are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Consider setting up a repayment program to assist with this expense.

    8. Go casual

    Make everyday Casual Friday by instituting a relaxed dress code.

    9. Time to relax

    Create a designated space in your office for quiet reflection and relaxation that will help your employees recharge their batteries.

    Learn more about how viperks can help COSE member businesses motivate and engage their employees.

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  • Next up: 9 Tips to Help You Build a Best-in-Class Internship Program
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  • 9 Tips to Help You Build a Best-in-Class Internship Program

    Hundreds gathered at Corporate College East on Feb. 21 for the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Throughout the year, we will be bringing you highlights from the event. Today’s recap focuses on what it takes to build best in class internships.

    There’s little doubt that internship programs bring a great amount of value to the companies that utilize them. But for those companies that aren’t already benefitting from the power of internships, getting a program off the ground can seem intimidating.

    During the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit, a panel of companies that had already overcome the initial challenges involved in launching an internship program shared with attendees what they learned during the process. Here are the top 10 insights given by Maureen Pansky of the Oatey Company; Julie Kelley of the City Club of Cleveland; and Annette Kramer of Vizion Solutions during the “Building Best in Class Internships” breakout session.

    Tip No. 1: Hire interns the way you’d hire anyone else

    The hiring process you have in place for bringing on interns should mirror the process you have in place when you hire full-time employees. Piggyback on the hiring policies and procedures you already have in place and view your internship program as a vehicle for potentially bringing on additional full-time help down the road.

    Tip No. 2: Know how to measure success

    The metric that defines the success of your program isn’t necessarily about how many interns you recruit. The intangibles, such as watching your interns grow professionally and become more confident during their internship; the fresh ideas they are bringing to your organization; and how well they are communicating with your customers and fellow employees are just as important as raw numbers.

    Tip No. 3: Find a partner

    It’s natural to immediately think to build pipeline partnerships with colleges, but don’t forget about other sources of potential interns, too, such as high schools and 2-year institutions. Before you begin working with high school students, make sure you are aware of state laws regarding the work minors can do, however.

    Tip No. 4: What’s your why?

    Before you begin recruiting, take time to define the kinds of projects the interns will be working on beforehand. And also ensure job roles and descriptions are clearly spelled out as well.

    Tip No. 5: Learn from others

    Also before you get started, talk to representatives from other companies who have implemented successful internship programs. Their blueprint can help shape yours, too. In addition, seek out events, such as the Cleveland Internship Summit, where you can learn about the kinds of things that make for an outstanding internship program. Finally, learn from the students you bring on. Listen to their feedback on how useful your program is and don’t be afraid to change one or two things each session to keep your internship program relevant.

    Tip No. 6: Have everything ready in advance

    Make sure any projects your interns will be working on are ready to go well in advance. This will help ensure your interns are busy as soon as possible and will also help to prevent your program turning into a daylong social hour. Also, get requests for interns in as early as possible so you can get word out to schools and others in your recruitment pipeline in a timely manner.

    Tip No. 7: Think about your onboarding process

    Power up the first few days that your interns are on board with an exceptional onboarding process. Get them up to speed on your company’s culture, where to find what, and see to it that your interns connect with their peers in the program. Consider also matching up your interns with an employee mentor or set up regular “lunch and learn” sessions through out the internship that can help address questions interns might have about working in a professional environment. Relatedly, don’t forget to include an orientation session that deals with soft skills such as the company conduct policy, dress code, etc. Encourage questions from your interns and check in with them regularly to make sure things are continuing to go smoothly for them.

    Tip No. 8: Empower employees

    Give your full-time employees a chance to gain valuable leadership experience by letting them mentor your interns.

    Tip No. 9: Know when to recruit

    Give yourself plenty of lead time (think eight or nine months) when it comes to sourcing your interns. For example, if your internship is taking place in the summer (which is the most common time companies run their internship programs), make sure you’re recruiting in August and September as that’s when most schools will be holding their career fairs and it’s also when students will be wanting to lock in their summer internships.

    Want to know more about internship best practices? Visit the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central hub to learn more about how to build a best-in-class internship program at your business.

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  • Next up: 9 Tips to Help You Build a Best-in-Class Internship Program
  • More in HR
  • 9 Tips to Help You Build a Best-in-Class Internship Program

    Hundreds gathered at Corporate College East on Feb. 21 for the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Throughout the year, we will be bringing you highlights from the event. Today’s recap focuses on what it takes to build best in class internships.

    There’s little doubt that internship programs bring a great amount of value to the companies that utilize them. But for those companies that aren’t already benefitting from the power of internships, getting a program off the ground can seem intimidating.

    During the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit, a panel of companies that had already overcome the initial challenges involved in launching an internship program shared with attendees what they learned during the process. Here are the top 10 insights given by Maureen Pansky of the Oatey Company; Julie Kelley of the City Club of Cleveland; and Annette Kramer of Vizion Solutions during the “Building Best in Class Internships” breakout session.

    Tip No. 1: Hire interns the way you’d hire anyone else

    The hiring process you have in place for bringing on interns should mirror the process you have in place when you hire full-time employees. Piggyback on the hiring policies and procedures you already have in place and view your internship program as a vehicle for potentially bringing on additional full-time help down the road.

    Tip No. 2: Know how to measure success

    The metric that defines the success of your program isn’t necessarily about how many interns you recruit. The intangibles, such as watching your interns grow professionally and become more confident during their internship; the fresh ideas they are bringing to your organization; and how well they are communicating with your customers and fellow employees are just as important as raw numbers.

    Tip No. 3: Find a partner

    It’s natural to immediately think to build pipeline partnerships with colleges, but don’t forget about other sources of potential interns, too, such as high schools and 2-year institutions. Before you begin working with high school students, make sure you are aware of state laws regarding the work minors can do, however.

    Tip No. 4: What’s your why?

    Before you begin recruiting, take time to define the kinds of projects the interns will be working on beforehand. And also ensure job roles and descriptions are clearly spelled out as well.

    Tip No. 5: Learn from others

    Also before you get started, talk to representatives from other companies who have implemented successful internship programs. Their blueprint can help shape yours, too. In addition, seek out events, such as the Cleveland Internship Summit, where you can learn about the kinds of things that make for an outstanding internship program. Finally, learn from the students you bring on. Listen to their feedback on how useful your program is and don’t be afraid to change one or two things each session to keep your internship program relevant.

    Tip No. 6: Have everything ready in advance

    Make sure any projects your interns will be working on are ready to go well in advance. This will help ensure your interns are busy as soon as possible and will also help to prevent your program turning into a daylong social hour. Also, get requests for interns in as early as possible so you can get word out to schools and others in your recruitment pipeline in a timely manner.

    Tip No. 7: Think about your onboarding process

    Power up the first few days that your interns are on board with an exceptional onboarding process. Get them up to speed on your company’s culture, where to find what, and see to it that your interns connect with their peers in the program. Consider also matching up your interns with an employee mentor or set up regular “lunch and learn” sessions through out the internship that can help address questions interns might have about working in a professional environment. Relatedly, don’t forget to include an orientation session that deals with soft skills such as the company conduct policy, dress code, etc. Encourage questions from your interns and check in with them regularly to make sure things are continuing to go smoothly for them.

    Tip No. 8: Empower employees

    Give your full-time employees a chance to gain valuable leadership experience by letting them mentor your interns.

    Tip No. 9: Know when to recruit

    Give yourself plenty of lead time (think eight or nine months) when it comes to sourcing your interns. For example, if your internship is taking place in the summer (which is the most common time companies run their internship programs), make sure you’re recruiting in August and September as that’s when most schools will be holding their career fairs and it’s also when students will be wanting to lock in their summer internships.

    Want to know more about internship best practices? Visit the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central hub to learn more about how to build a best-in-class internship program at your business.

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  • Next up: 9 Toxic Workplace Behaviors (and What to Do About Them)
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  • 9 Toxic Workplace Behaviors (and What to Do About Them)

    Toxic behavior can occur within businesses of any size or type. Are any of these nine toxic behaviors common within your workplace?

    You may be thinking that because I run a small business, my employees and my workplace culture are all positive. I want you to know that even small businesses or family-owned businesses can be centers of toxic behaviors.

    It’s important to understand what constitutes toxic behaviors in the workplace and how it can affect your business. Toxic behavior is generally defined as any behavior that negatively impacts others. It can include a workplace that is marked by significant drama and infighting, where personal battles often harm productivity. These behaviors can be exhibited by employees or, in some cases, by management. And no matter who is involved, they can disrupt a business significantly.

    The following are examples of toxic behaviors that could happen within any business:

    Toxic Behavior No. 1: Aggressiveness. This can affect workplace safety as well as productivity.

    Toxic Behavior No. 2: Narcissism. A positive culture includes a balance of give and take, and narcissism or too much self-focus can negatively affect this.

    Toxic Behavior No. 3: Lack of credibility. Mistrust and lack of credibility occur when people don’t follow through with promises, etc.

    Toxic Behavior No. 4: Passivity. Too much passivity can negatively affect productivity.

    Toxic Behavior No. 5: Disorganization. All organizations need focus, discipline and, most of

    all, strong structure.

    Toxic Behavior No. 6: Lack of adaptation. It’s important to have a company culture that can adapt to change.

    Toxic Behavior No. 7: Gossip. Office gossip can cause unwanted conflict and can undermine working relationships and negatively affect team work.

    Toxic Behavior No. 8: Glory seekers. Morale can be seriously affected by workers who claim credit for someone else's achievements, especially when seeking all the glory for a team project or downplaying the efforts of others in order to better highlight their own contribution.

    Toxic Behavior No. 9: Intimidation or bullying. Intimidation or bullying of any kind seriously affects company morale and can lead to legal actions taken against a company that allows this type of behavior.

    There are steps that a business can take to avoid and deal with toxic behaviors.

    Step 1. Look for signs of toxic behavior when conducting initial interviews.

    Step 2. Always check references and train your managers to spot signs of toxic behavior and how to deal with it.

    Step 3. Set up a way for employees to report toxic behaviors that protects them from retaliation. This can mean an anonymous reporting system or other procedure where they are protected.

    Step 4. Make sure all employee behaviors and actions are included in their performance measurements or reviews.

    Step 5. Try to detect any issues as soon as possible. This allows you to offer education or training if necessary.

    Step 6. If all else fails, you may have to terminate the employee for their toxic behavior. Be sure your employee manual includes these behaviors as unacceptable and that they can be used as grounds for termination. Document all incidents and any talks or other forms of communication with the employee prior to any termination or suspension for their behaviors.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

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  • Next up: A 5 Step Plan to Implementing Safety Inspections
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  • A 5 Step Plan to Implementing Safety Inspections

    Ensuring a safe workplace should be the goal of every business. Performing regular inspections of both the workplace environment and the business’ equipment is crucial in creating a workplace that is a safe place for employees. So how do you go about performing a worksite analysis that will address all of the potential danger areas of which you should be aware? Here’s a five-point plan courtesy of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration that will get you started in the right direction:

    Ensuring a safe workplace should be the goal of every business. Performing regular inspections of both the workplace environment and the business’ equipment is crucial in creating a workplace that is a safe place for employees.

    So how do you go about performing a worksite analysis that will address all of the potential danger areas of which you should be aware? Here’s a five-point plan courtesy of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration that will get you started in the right direction:

    1. Request consultation

    It’s never a bad idea to get input from the experts. OSHA offers a Consultation Program that provides comprehensive coverage of all of the dangers that might lurk at your business. Small business owners might also consider hiring an expert private consultant, too.

    2. Employee reviews

    From time to time, review with each employee their jobs. Break their duties down step by step to see what invisible hazards might exist in their normal day to day.

    3. Self-inspections

    In addition to consulting with outside sources, take time to self-inspect. Some things to keep in mind during these self-inspections include:

    • Ensuring fire safety standards are being met (i.e., fire alarm system is tested annually, there are enough fire extinguishers and they are readily available, etc.)
    • Are employees wearing safety equipment, such as goggles or shields, where appropriate?
    • Aisles and walkways are clear of obstructions
    • Floor openings are protected on all sides by covers, guard rails, etc.
    • Worn equipment and tools are being replaced as needed

    4. Analyze

    Look through the past several years’ worth of injury reports. Do you see a pattern emerging? That might indicate red flags that need to be addressed.

    5. Self-policing

    It’s one thing to set up formal workplace safety procedures. It’s another to follow through and ensure they are being carried out effectively. Small businesses must ensure all employees are aware of the business’ workplace safety policy and the ramifications of not adhering to it. It’s also important that your staff feels comfortable telling management when they see something that violates the company’s safety protocol.

    Of course, the tips listed above just represent a starting point when it comes to workplace safety. For a more detailed look at what you can do to make sure your business is as safe as possible, check out OSHA’s Small Business Handbook, located here

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