Think of the employee handbook as the guidebook that will be the cornerstone for everything your business stands for and one of the most important elements of your business. One of the key functions of any employee handbook is to set clear expectations for both the employer and the employee. An employee handbook should clearly and concisely communicate the expectations and legal obligations of the organization and define employee rights to your new hires and existing employees.
By encompassing who your company is, what your mission is, your core values, how you work, and employee and officer expectations, the business is protected from legal issues and lawsuit claims such as discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination from misconduct or confusion. When done well, an employee manual should be an informative guide to help promote transparency and consistency throughout your organization. The results are mutually beneficial to the business as a whole as well as its employees.
What Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?
A good employee handbook should include all the things an employee needs to know about state and federal labor laws, company policies, rules and procedures, and the legal requirements for the business and its employees. It is also a valuable platform for projecting your company culture, employee benefits, and values.
What Content Is in an Employee Handbook?
An effective employee handbook should include the following:
- The business mission statement and company values
- Overview of the business culture
- Guideline to benefits such as health insurance, vacation time and sick leave or paid time off, and overtime policies
- Expectations of acceptable workplace behavior and conduct, as well as disciplinary procedures
- Explanation of the legal aspects of employment – federal and state labor laws
- Descriptions of company policies and procedures
- Anti-harassment and discrimination policies, along with reporting processes
- Resignation and termination processes
- Privacy and security information
- Who to turn to for help
- Acknowledgment of receipt
Why should you have an employee handbook?
Do you need an employee handbook for your business? It sounds like a daunting task, and after all, no law requires companies to have or provide employee handbooks. So what’s the point? Let’s look further into what makes this document important for small businesses and corporations.
Think of this as your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Organizing your company’s policies in one place fulfills several important purposes, such as promoting compliance with state and federal laws and standardization and adherence to professional practices. But it’s also helpful for employees, especially new hires, to reinforce their rights and expectations.
An employee handbook should communicate that your business is organized, compliant, and consistent with its mission and written policies. All information within the handbook applies to every individual within your organization, setting clear expectations that the rules apply to everyone and all employees will be treated fairly and equally.
When companies have a well-written handbook, it addresses many common employee questions. Employees can look up the answers to many policy questions themselves, saving you precious time to focus on other aspects of running your business.
Legal disputes prevented
Every employer will face workplace issues at some point, regardless of the positive working environment and culture. When this happens, your employee manual is one of the most valuable resources. A thorough handbook clearly shows that the business has implemented policies and procedures that define the working relationship and demonstrate the organization’s compliance with state and federal labor laws. The signed employee acknowledgment page conveys that the employee was allowed to familiarize themselves with the company’s policies, where they could go for guidance, and agreed to the terms of the working relationship as presented in the handbook. Together these documents will serve as important legal protection for your business.
The onboarding process is one of the best times to introduce new employees to your workplace policies and company culture. This onboarding method cultivates a sense of pride and belonging as they strive to fit into a new working environment. Best practices for onboarding a new hire include reviewing your key policies with them within the first few days of their employment. But with so much information to share, it can quickly become overwhelming. Providing an employee handbook gives them much of the information they need about the employment relationship at their fingertips to reference quickly.
Company culture outlined
One of the most important aspects of your employee handbook is introducing your employees to your company’s mission statement, core values, and culture. This solidifies your commitment to open communication and meaningful work and increases employee engagement, setting the stage for a strong workplace culture that will attract top talent and retain your star employees.
How to write an employee handbook?
Writing your employee handbook is not a one-and-done type of project. It is a living document that will need to be updated as often as laws and company policies change. There are several ways to make the initial development and updates easier. Consider utilizing a downloadable template to get you started and form your base document. A template will provide the essential information you’ll need to have in place. Because templates are generic, be prepared and familiar with your state laws to ensure you’re incorporating and relaying the correct information to your employees.
Keep it simple and direct
The employee handbook may not be the most exciting read, and most employees will likely skim most of it. So do yourself a favor, keep it simple, use as few words as possible, and avoid lengthy and complicated terms.
Use the appropriate language
Because the employee handbook mirrors everyday life within your organization, it’s important to use a tone that matches your company culture. You will use a more formal style if your company adheres to a strict professional standard. A more relaxed working environment will project a more casual tone.
Rewrite your company’s policies
This is an excellent time to review your company’s policies and change, update, or rewrite them to be more concise and understandable.
Make it personal
To help draw in your audience, address the reader as though they are a part of a conversation with you. Using a second-person point of view incorporates the pronoun “you” when addressing the reader. This implies the employee is actively involved in the conversation and the events happening around them.
Consider including pictures to engage your audience. A picture is worth a thousand words, and often a simple image can be far more accessible than writing a long, drawn-out explanation. It may also be better understood.
Use a different format
Studies indicate many employees need help understanding company expectations. An effective employee handbook can be an excellent resource for your employees. Often employee manuals are long boring documents. Employee handbooks can be physical handbooks, electronic documents, PDFs, or presentations. Breathe new life into your employee handbook by making it more interactive by including quizzes, surveys, pictures, and even videos.
Who should write an employee handbook?
Your HR Department or HR Manager should publish your employee handbook. This department is well-versed in your company policies, rules, and regulations. If you’re a small business and don’t have a dedicated HR team, it may be left up to the business owner, CEO, or a member of the leadership team to compose.
Some businesses have even taken a more collaborative approach by asking employees to participate. Asking your employees what they want to see in the handbook or asking them for feedback on a first draft is a great way to initiate an open, collaborative team culture. Employees will feel valued, and you’re guaranteed to have better employee understanding and compliance.
Before distributing to your team members, complete a professional legal review. They will ensure your handbook incorporates all relevant employment laws for your region and look for any legal loopholes. Legal review is a crucial step. Protect your investment by finding a legal council well-versed in employment law.
Need help drafting or updating your employee handbook? Our HR team is ready to help! Contact us to schedule a consultation.