25 Things Every Policy Manual Needs
Your brokerage office’s policy manual provides a road map for new workers during orientation and helps them understand your company, its goals, and what is expected of them to succeed.
1. A mission statement and business philosophy.
2. Company history, including major milestones, accomplishments, and any background on mergers and acquisitions.
3. The company’s target markets, demographics, property types, list of services, and marketing plan.
4. National, state, and local codes of ethics, which formally explain how salespeople must adhere to regulations.
7. Expense management—who bears responsibility for board dues, MLS fees, continuing education costs.
8. Fee and commission structure—splits, co-operative policies, bonus plans.
9. Advertising strategy—philosophy, costs to the salesperson, signage, and process for submitting ads.
10. Internet and e-mail policies—use of logos, photos, company name; who is responsible for designing and maintaining the site; spamming and opt-in marketing; copyright issues; legal and illegal contests.
11. Procedures- office hours, dress policy, personal safety.
12. Keys—locations and how they’re managed.
13. An equal employment opportunity statement, stating that applicants are considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.
14. Sales meetings—suggested attendance.
15. Overhead costs— responsibility for local and long-distance calls, postage, photocopying, advertising.
16. Procedures- floor time, presenting offers, presenting agency and other disclosure statements, delivering paperwork, open house, forms of agency.
17. MLS—responsibility for entering listings into the system, how long listings can remain on the site after sale.
18. Job descriptions.
19. Policies for hiring and supervising personal assistants.
20. Substance abuse and, if applicable, smoking policy.
21. Equal opportunity in hiring statement.
22. Errors and omissions and liability insurance—provided and suggested.
23. Handling disputes—between associates and between associates and clients.
24. Confidentiality of company and client information.
25. Acknowledgement form that they have received and understood company policies.
Portions adapted from “Deal with Office Policy Decisions Manually,” Bob Hoffman,Real Estate Today, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, April 1993
Because most sales associates work as independent contractors, be sure to use wording that suggests, rather than demands in your manual—“might find it useful to” rather than “must.” The exceptions to this rule are brokerage policies on compensation splits and other real estate transaction issues as well as those mandated by law, such as fair housing and sexual harassment. —Real Estate Brokerage, 4th edition, Bruce Lindeman, Prentice Hall, 1998
If you have support staff who work as employees, you should supplement your manual with policies on overtime, pay periods, attendance, paid holidays, vacation, sick time, personal leaves, and fringe benefits. —William Maloney Jr., Riverside Realty Group, Jacksonville, Fla.
Some courts have held that statements in policy manuals on termination procedures can constitute a legally enforceable contract with your salaried employees. Have an attorney review your policy manual and add a disclaimer of any contractual commitments in the manual. —Workplace Law and Office Policies, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, 2001
Tips for Writing an Office Manual
Writing a manual is a big job; so keep these thoughts in mind during the process.
1. Use positive statements, not negative ones whenever possible. Don’t tell workers what they can do, instead what they will do.
2. Use good judgment; don’t make a policy so strict that no one will adhere to it and you won’t be comfortable enforcing it.
3. Let someone else read the manual; what’s clear to you may not be to a third party.
4. Have your attorney review the manual before distributing it.
5. Revise the manual whenever policies change, and review once a year for changes to laws in your area.
6. Solicit feedback from workers before instituting a new policy.
A loose-leaf binder is often a good way to distribute a policy manual since pages can be added or subtracted easily.
If you have several offices, consider adding your manual to a password-protected portion of your company’s Web site. This makes for easy, cost-effective updates.