Put It in Writing

Article excerpt

Having studio policies in written form can ensure better communication between studio owners and teachers and keep legal hassles at bay.

Big or small, every studio confronts issues relating to workplace behavior. Delineating studio policies in writing is often the best way of making sure that studio standards and policies are clear, and that expectations-both from studio owners' and teachers' perspectives-are understood and met.

Creating an employee handbook is one way of doing just that. According to Morris Dorosh, president of Literary Technologies, a Northbrook, Illinois firm that specializes in workplace-related documents, good employee handbooks can go a long way toward helping businesses handle unexpected regulatory and even legal issues. When written thoroughly and clearly, they can reduce misunderstandings, conflicts and the possibility of legal disputes.

What To Include-And What To Leave Out

Mark Lightner, general manager of seven Arthur Murray franchised dance studios in the greater Boston area, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, developed a handbook in order to make studio expectations clear to his teachers. Topics include teacher compensation, expected attendance, required education and promotion possibilities. The handbook also covers subjects such as how to deal with students and parents, acceptable hygiene and appropriate work attitudes. In particular, the studios' policies and suggested guidelines with regard to sensitive issues such as sexual harassment are explained in detail. "In our industry, harassment is a major issue," says Lightner. "There are a lot of very unrealistic parameters, but it is still something that we have to be aware of and that should be spelled out."

Dorosh recommends including a welcome message from the studio owner or artistic director, a mission statement, company history and a statement of employee rights. Omit information that changes frequently, such as website details or studio enrollment. Information that applies to only a small number of specialized employees, such as commissions for certain instructors, should also be left out: These should be detailed in written contracts with specific individuals. Since teachers will be able to take handbooks outside studio walls, "you also don't want to reveal any confidential business information," warns Dorosh.

Gene Racho, a business consultant manager with E. R. Long & Associates in Northville, Michigan, maintains that employee handbooks can save time by answering teachers' most frequently asked questions. In addition, they can help reassure teachers of studio owners' commitment to their well-being and professional growth. On the flip side, they can help protect studio owners from being the subject of litigation by teachers.

Ann Quinn, a founding board member of Arts for All, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing dance and the arts to underserved communities on the East Coast, agrees that an employee handbook is a tool that benefits both employer and employees. …