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Is an Employee Handbook necessary?

Why bother with an Employee Handbook?

I was asked recently to speak to a group of human resources professionals on developing an employee handbook. Understanding the importance of having an employee handbook is prerequisite for developing one. Once you understand why you need one, you can then create one.

An employee handbook is a guide to employment with your organization. While it cannot cover everything employees need to know about employment, it does provide valuable information and outlines rules of engagement. It’s the first place employees should go if they have questions about employment.

I’m puzzled by handbooks I read that are written in a way that anticipates employees will do things wrong. If you do this, you could get fired. If you do that, we could fire you. And if you do this and that, well, you could get fired. I wonder to myself, is this how you want to introduce employment to a new employee? Someone you’ve just spent a lot of money to recruit. Someone you will be investing money, time, and resources on in the coming weeks, months, and years. I think it makes more sense to approach your handbook as a tool for employees to use to guide them through employment with your organization.

Here are some things to remember when you decide to write or revise your organization’s handbook.

  • Review your current policies. Make sure they are up to date and consistent with current employment regulations. Spend time on this review because it’s imperative that your handbook meets both state and federal employment regulations. I recently completed a handbook for a client with locations in 10 states and included state-specific policies. If you have locations in multiple states, you’ll need to do this too.

  • Develop your outline and identify your must-haves, such as EEO policy, contractual disclaimer, use of gadgets, social media, and handbook receipt.

  • Include an introduction with a statement of purpose and maybe mission, vision, and employment philosophy, which should be written by your CEO, President or Owner.

  • Employment information should include sections like your company’s progressive discipline policy, open door policy, and internal complaint process.

  • Include a section on total compensation, which may outline your company’s pay philosophy and benefits. Keep the benefits section general so you don’t have to revise your handbook every time you change something with your benefits. Specific benefits information should be provided annually in a benefits summary.

  • Once you have a draft developed, consider an internal review process for managers, directors, and senior leaders. They’ll help you identify gaps and will let you know if something you’ve written could be misinterpreted. You want to hear what they love and hate so you’ll have buy-in at every level. You need this for the roll out to be successful.

  • Finally, have your attorney review your handbook. It’s not final until your attorney says it’s final.

  • Decide how you’ll publish your handbook and how you’ll roll it out.

An employee handbook is a valuable tool for employees and an important source of information. The way it is written should reflect your organization’s culture.

At HR Studio Group, we write a lot of handbooks for companies that don’t have one and help clients update current handbooks. If you need help, please get in touch with us.

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