Employee handbooks cover essential topics for new hires and existing staff and provide a consistent resource for everyone to consult. But creating a thorough handbook takes work. This article shares suggestions on how to develop an employee handbook. Best news? You can read this, and there’s no signature to prove you did so required.
Whether you plan to print out your handbook or let it live online, you can’t underestimate the value of this resource for employees. Employee handbooks:
- Help build culture
- Establish expectations
- Educate employees
- Support successful onboarding
- Free up HR resources
- Address compliance and legal needs
The employee handbook should be your easily accessible guide to policies and practices relating to employment-related matters. So, what’s involved in constructing this resource? There are several steps to take.
1. Review & revise company policies
We’re assuming that you have already written down some company policies and procedures. If you haven’t done that yet, survey your work environment to identify and standardize practices.
Otherwise, you’ll jump right in at the point where you are taking your existing practices and consolidating them into a readily-available handbook. Take this opportunity to have leadership and legal counsel review your current policies. Revisit the National Labor Relations Board’s Guidance on Handbook Rules as well. It provides specific examples of workplace rules which the NLRB ruled unlawful in 2018. This can help you to shape confidentiality, conduct, social media policies, and more.
When thinking about employee handbooks and the policies to include, let your culture and values guide your decisions.
2. Outline all you want to include
It’s starting to sound like high school English class, right? Still, outlining all of the topics you plan to cover in your handbook can guide the book’s development. Even listing the topic headings you would have in your handbook’s Table of Contents can help to focus your efforts.
Employee handbooks typically cover:
- Overview and employment relationship
- General employment information
- Attendance at work
- Workplace professionalism
- Payroll information
- Employee time off work
- Use of company equipment and electronics
- Performance expectations and evaluation
It can help to look at other company’s handbooks for inspiration. Although, obviously, you don’t want to use their content in your own book.
3. Summarize each section
Draft a statement that explains each policy or procedure in the handbook. Avoid the legal verbiage here. These should be easy to read so that the employee can find what they’re looking for more efficiently.
A sample employee handbook can be seen on the SHRM website. You might also choose to work from one of these templates:
4. Consider your audience
Any good writing considers the reader. In this case, you can make your employee handbook more engaging by including some visuals too. Charts and infographics break up the text, and can better present some of the more complicated information.
You may also have readers in many different locations, so consider providing multilingual support (just as you would for your customers).
5. Have a lawyer review the final version
Once you have finalized the handbook, hand it over to legal counsel to review. State or federal law requirements involving employee handbook policies differ. You may have done research to write your company policies, but you want an expert to make sure you’re following guidelines. These can vary based on factors such as the number of employees within the company, the type of industry, or any collective bargaining agreement you have entered into.
Your employee handbook should be a living document, as well. You’ll want to review and update it to comply with law changes and the evolution of your business. We’ll discuss this further in the next blog in this series.
6. Decide on your means of publication
Handbooks can be distributed to employees as a printed, bound document. Or you can host the employee handbook online, privately and securely.
Many companies today are moving to digital employee handbooks as they are easier to update and simple to access. Plus, your business saves the money and paper on a printed booklet that ends up in a file cabinet (or worse, the circular file).
Also, don’t go overboard
When developing the employee handbook, take a careful and conscious read-through to see if you have included unnecessary information. Maybe you’ll even decide its overkill to have a lengthy written policy about a particular aspect of work.
“Thousands of unnecessary policies are created every year,” writes HR and management consultant Susan M. Heathfield. If only a couple employees have a behavior you want to change, she says, “deal with the culprits as individuals. Don’t subject the entire team to unneeded shackles.”
While you’re doing the legwork to enshrine culture and establish policies and expectations, SogoEX can help transform your organization’s corporate culture, attract better candidates, and improve employee retention. Learn more today.