Creating an Effective Employee Handbook

Creating an Effective Employee Handbook

Creating an Effective Employee Handbook

As the owner of a company, it is in your best interests to create an employee handbook which applies across the board. It should have a categorical account on all your policies and procedures. A well-written handbook helps avert several potential conflicts with your employees by letting them know for sure what you expect of them and how they should conduct themselves in the company.

Here are a few suggestions on how to prepare an effective employee handbook.

Make a comprehensive and consistent account of your policies and procedures: You should not leave out any aspect of an employee’s relationship with the company. Make a comprehensive account of all aspects such as:

  • General working hours
  • Probationary duration and policy
  • Company rules and regulations
  • Holidays and leave policies
  • Salary and performance reviews
  • Overtime/comp off policy
  • Health and medical benefits
  • Transfer & relocation procedures
  • Pension plan and other fringe benefits
  • Termination policies
  • Standards of conduct with colleagues
  • Anti-discrimination policies
  • Employee safety and security and
  • Maternity policy

Avoid issues that are not relevant to an individual employer. Whatever you include in the handbook should be applicable across the board in the company. Avoid coverage of items that change very frequently because they become outdated in no time.

Be precise in presentation: Present your policies in clear and concise language. This will avoid confusion and, most importantly, charges of discrimination.

Keep it simple: Be sensible in selecting a presentation style. Do not use flashy colors and fonts. Make it as appealing as possible but avoid a fancy look that might end up tone down the importance of the handbook. Remember, the information you provide inside the book is more important than the appearance.

Compose the handbook yourself but get it reviewed by a legal expert: If you ask your legal expert to prepare the handbook, they may write it as a legal document with plenty of legal terminology. This will certainly confuse your employees and at the same time, increase your costs. So the best thing is to write it yourself and get it reviewed by your legal team to ensure that it corresponds to the statutory laws of your respective state or country.

Leave the scope for review: It is important to periodically revise your handbook by eliciting feedback from your employees, stakeholders and legal experts to make it current. As your business grow, your needs will change. Besides, the statutory laws that pertain to your company may also change time to time. So you need to update your handbook to avert unnecessary lawsuits.

Thus, a well-crafted employee handbook can save you from potential legal issues. So pay attention while creating it.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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  • Tailor it to the organisation. Try and keep it as brief as possible to ensure its not too daunting to read. Write it in plain English and not legal speak. Its a communication vehicle so write it in an engaging and relevant way, dont just cut and paste lots of rules from the government websites ! And most of all ……….make sure employees know where it is.

  • Jan Maples

    Two of my primary rules of thumb when writing employee handbooks are:
    1. Less is more – if you don’t need the policy, don’t have it. The more irrelevant policies you have, the less likely employees will be to take the manual seriously.
    2. Say what you Do and Do what you Say – if the policy does not reflect “reality” at the company, DON’T have it in the handbook. Either change the policy to reflect reality, or change your behavior to reflect what is indicated in the handbook.

  • I think any publication must have the reader in mind, lets face it we want the employee to read it, don’t we? (you will not buy a book or any other type of communication if it did not appeal?)
    My tip would be to engage with the employees and give them some ownership, if they feel part of it then they may well pass it on to others that may join the organisation at a later date (now thats a good investment!). As long as they understand what needs to be in it, let them at least give ideas of what would make them want to engage with it, embrace it and ultimately read it.
    Generally this would concern the design, content, readability, relevence and accessibilty of such a document. Take on board earlier comments, if it doesn’t need to be in it, don’t use it etc..

  • If the Employee Hand Book (EHB) content isn’t interesting – who’ll WANT to read it?

    If you want employees to read it and remember the content, use Signature Stories to help make your messages UNFORGETTABLE! We will remember stories long after we forget a list of things we “should” remember … and signature style stories are the best method to create and sustain a desired corporate culture.

    Otherwise – don’t waste your money.

    Unless your employees see the value of the EHB, and unless you make the content compelling, an EHB ends up being one more “Standard Operating Procedures” manual that becomes an albatross for your organization! [does anyone remember the ISO9000 and ISO14001 documentation nightmare???]

    And heaven knows we already have too much BS to wade through within any corporate environment – why add more to the pile????

    I specialize in cross-cultural subliminal triggers of influence and persuasive “Story-Selling” techniques (Getting to YES … Without Negotiating!), and the one single concept I keep repeating over and over to my corporate and C-Suite clients is this:

    “It’s Not What You Know or What You Say That Counts … It’s What People REMEMBER You Said and How You Made Them FEEL!”

    Make your employees WANT to read (and remember) your corporate culture stories – this is the only way your organization will become UNFORGETTABLE!

  • You raised some very good points here. I would add that modeling is a good way to get a handbook done in minimal time. Find a handbook you think is effective and rewrite it tailoring it to your unique situation. I think another important point raised is to keep it concise and in plain english. Too many companies get into the “legalese” and then the information is incomprehensible

  • Darla Fain-Reed

    Your handbook should reflect your organizational culture and what you are trying to drive strategically. A handbook is “structure” that gives signals to employees on how to behave and the type of company you are trying to be. Are you an innovative, very creative company? The handbook should reflect that style and not be highly rule (constraining) driven. Are you more results oriented? Then you will not tell people how to do things, but what are the outcomes you are looking for… If you are using a cut and paste approach, you are missing out on a great opportunity.

  • Your employee handbook must comply with the laws of your state and federal law. It should be written by an attorney who practices business and employment law. This is most important as a goal of an employee handbook is to help protect the employer from employee lawsuits and claims.

    A previous post makes an excellent comment-the employee handbook needs to be in “plain English.” If the attorney who writes your employee handbook works with businesses, this a plus.

    If you have Spanish speaking employees, the employee handbook must also be written in Spanish.

    Keep in mind that state laws give employees greater rights than federal law so the employee handbook policies must cover these employee rights.

    The policies must be current when written, and kept current as laws the policies are based on do change, and new laws will require new policies.

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