One of the foundational tools of human resource professionals is the employee handbook. Also known as an employee manual or staff handbook, this document can help to avoid communication issues and create consistency throughout your organization. Learn why these are needed today and how you can put together an effective handbook for your own company.
What is an Employee Handbook?
Anyone who works for your company as an employee should receive an employee handbook. This document covers the ins and outs of working for your organization, including the policies, benefits, and overall company goals. The aim of an employee handbook is to make sure that no one in your employ has a misunderstanding about the most important company policies and has a source of information that is reliable, updated, accurate, and compliant with employment laws.
Why is an Employee Handbook Important?
All new employees will have questions. While orientation gives them a chance to ask them, it’s essential to have a go-to document that covers the most common and important policies and also explains company goals and offerings. Giving this information to every employee when they start saves time for your HR department by offering clear expectations.
The handbook can prevent miscommunications and legal problems down the road as well. It also creates an opportunity to highlight what perks your company brings by putting all benefit details in one place. Plus, it provides managers with a source of consistent information they can refer to whenever employees have questions.
When Should I Use an Employee Handbook?
Every company that employs workers should have an employee handbook. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to create one or potentially update your current version:
- Are we hiring new employees soon?
- Will our company grow to the point where we will bring on new talent?
- Are we adding significant new benefits or implementing new departments or procedures?
- Is our current handbook outdated?
- Are we interested in protecting ourselves in legal matters?
- Do our managers frequently come to HR with the same questions that could be answered with a consistent set of informational guidelines?
How to Write an Employee Handbook
Write your handbook with the same language you use in employee-facing web pages and documents, being careful to be consistent with terminology. The handbook should be useful and engaging and leave no question as to corporate policy on the most important issues. Employees who read the handbook should be clear about the expectations of employment relationship, from both the employer and the employee.
How to Write an Introduction for an Employee Handbook
Start your handbook with a strong overall mission statement for the document. This can include your company’s goals and quotes from C-level leaders or the owner. Explain the purpose of the handbook in context with these larger themes. Consider these tips to make it most effective:
- Get input from human resources teams, workers who represent the spirit of your company, and leaders.
- Don’t write anything longer than a paragraph, and make it succinct.
- Test the content among employees to see if they understand what you are trying to say.
- Avoid jargon. Business clichés and buzzwords don’t mean as much as clear, definable terms.
If written well, introductions set the tone for the document and are one of the key steps in how to write a great employee handbook.
What to Include in an Employee Handbook
If you want employees to both read and understand the entire manual, put in the time and effort to make it interesting in addition to being accurate and comprehensive. Write it directly to the employee, and use a conversational yet professional tone. Also, provide reasons for the policies where possible, so that there is buy-in from workers and the potential that they will read the entire document.
At the very least, include the following sections in your employee handbook:
- A very brief introduction
- Company background, history, mission, goals, and company culture
- Contact information for team members who employees can reach out to with questions or for clarification
- Basic employment definitions, policies, and employment laws, including privacy policies and GDPR
- Employment policies specific to your industry and company
- Code of conduct, with expectations for how to behave at work and in certain work situations, such as travel, dress code, social media use, client interactions, and when telecommuting
- Compensation details, including how taxes will be handled, when raises will be issued, and bonus structure plans
- Development and educational opportunities, and how employees can participate in them
- Employee benefits and non-monetary compensation details and how these will be disbursed, including vacation time/paid time off (PTO) and sick leave policy.
- Details on how to how resignation works, what constitutes reason for termination, and what is expected when employees separate from the company
- Your company’s policy on equal employment opportunity in its hiring.
- Your company’s performance review process.
Top 6 Employee Handbook Templates
There’s no reason to create a handbook from scratch. These templates are an excellent starting point. Use them for inspiration and adapt as needed for your company:
- SHRM employee handbook template
- I-Sight employee handbook template
- SBA employee handbook template
- Lessonly employee handbook template
- National Council of Nonprofit Associations employee handbook template
- Rocketlawyer employee handbook template
- Here are more great employee handbook templates from Xtensio!
What if I Need to Change the Employee Handbook?
Companies and policies change all the time, so it only makes sense that your handbook will change, too. If there’s just one page or policy to alter, you can issue a memo as an accompaniment to your current handbook. If a significant percentage of your handbook is outdated, however, it’s best to create an updated version.
Be sure to include a disclaimer in your employee handbook to let employees know that it is their responsibility to stay on top of changes and keep the memos handy. Include details about how they can inquire about new changes in company policies.
In addition to changing the employee handbook, major changes can be communicated through email, corporate memos, and posters in places that employees frequent, such as the breakroom or conference areas. If printing a new one doesn’t make sense, consider switching to an online-only, digital version that employees can access at any time from the company intranet or an employee portal.
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