Five Steps to a Better Employee Handbook

Five Steps to a Better Employee Handbook

A company’s employee handbook is something that every employer should have might not feel worthy of much time or attention. At many jobs, it is simply an obligatory part of training or orientation that does little more than inform new employees of company rules and policies. However, it should be much more than that. Instead, it should be a valuable tool to establish your company’s identity.

How can you make this happen, though? How do you take your company’s employee handbook from a boring set of rules and policies and elevate it to something more? Here are five steps you should take toward making that happen. 

1. Establish Company Culture

While your company’s policies and legal agreements are vital pieces of an employee handbook, it should not solely exist as a stuffy legal document. It is also important for the handbook to convey company culture and personality.

Before you start going into company policies and regulations, open your employee handbook by establishing company culture. Tell your company’s history and story so new employees will have a better understanding of how you got to where you are today. This will help them have a sense of belonging, which is an important factor in increasing employee motivation. It will also give your employees further insight into the journey your company is on, and how they can join on this journey moving forward.

Company culture can even be portrayed in how you explain company policies and guidelines. Instead of simply stating what your policies are, give the reasoning and motivation behind these rules. This way, instead of your employee handbook feeling like a set of rules to be followed, it will feel like a guidebook toward successful employment at your company.

2. Ensure Accuracy

As simple as it may sound, your number one priority with your employee handbook needs to be accuracy. While this likely sounds obvious when initially creating the handbook, many employers neglect to make necessary updates as time goes on and changes occur within the company. Any time there are policy changes, these should also be reflected within the employee handbook.

Accuracy in your handbook is also important outside of things like policies. If a new employee opens your handbook and sees things like an out-of-date company logo, or a company history that stops multiple years before they were hired, it sends the wrong message to this new hire. This can say that you did not put thought or care into your work enough to keep it up to date, or worse, it can give the impression that you are not committed to progressing and moving forward.

3. Improve Obligations and Agreements

Each individual business and industry has its own unique legal obligations and agreements for their employees. Typically, these are a part of the employee handbook, and are signed as part of orientation or training.

These agreements should be well-defined and easily understandable for your employees within your handbook. This is important for your employees so that they may understand what exactly they are agreeing to without confusion or misunderstanding. However, this is also important for you as the employer.

Having clearly understood language in these agreements is a crucial legal protection for you as the employer. It clearly documents that your employees are aware of, and understand company policies. This way, in the case of any disciplinary issues that may unfortunately arise due to these policies, there can be no doubt that the employee knew of the potential consequences. This also helps build company culture by ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to how the company must operate.

4. Increase Readability

If you want your employee handbook to be a cut above the typical obligatory document your employees sign during training then never think about again, it’s vital for it to actually be easily read and understood. Often, the legal jargon and nature of employee handbooks can make them dense and difficult documents for the average reader.

However, you can change this if you are able to make it more accessible and readable for a more general audience. Before finalizing your employee handbook, have others read through it and let you know if there are any sections that are confusing, ambiguous, or simply difficult to read, and revisit those sections to clear up any confusion.

5. Consider Presentation

How you present the information within your employee handbook can make all the difference in the lasting quality of that document. It is incredibly difficult to feel engaged while reading a large wall of text. However, by presenting the same information in a more dynamic and interesting way, your employee handbook will be substantially improved.

When possible, use visual elements, such as charts, graphs, and photos, to display information. This will break up large sections of text and make your handbook more readable. This also makes specific information more easily referenced if an employee ever has a question or is unsure about something.

You should also make a digital version of your handbook readily available and easily accessible for your employees. They may think of a question when they do not easily have access to a physical copy of the handbook, so having a digital copy available will save them the frustration of not being able to find the answer they are looking for.

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