Writing an Employee Handbook

Another Time and Money-Saving Technique

A businessman looks at the employee handbook with a coworker.If you run an office with a small (or large) support staff, you appreciate the value of good employee training. New employees may frequently ask questions, interrupting you or experienced coworkers, or worse yet they may waste time trying to figure out how to complete crucial tasks on their own. A clear and thorough employee handbook would prove helpful in such situations. Not only that, but it can inform employees of important company policies and procedures. It could also be a great starting point when training new employees. And while it may require some time and attention initially, creating an employee handbook can save you a lot of money in the end.If done improperly, your handbook can do more harm than good, causing employee confusion and frustration. But never fear, if you follow a few simple steps you can write a handbook that will help employees solve their own problems and be aware of your expectations. In order for your handbook to be successful you must consider the following:

Mission StatementYou may want to include your mission statement as a reminder of your overall purpose. This often helps employees better understand your goals and the approach you take to accomplish them.Company PoliciesYou should include policies and procedures of which you want all your employees to be aware, including work hours, dress codes, safety procedures, vacation time, sick days, paid holidays, and other benefits. You should also include terms of misconduct, probationary policies, and other performance issues. It’s also good to include information about email, computer, and phone usage and non-discrimination policies.ClarityIf your handbook is convoluted and difficult to follow, it will do more harm than good. Once you write a draft you may consider hiring a writer or editor to ensure the handbook is clear and concise with good document formatting that enhances understanding rather than prevents it.ConformityIn order for your handbook to be effective you must ensure office-wide conformity, and that includes you. If you claim to perform certain tasks yourself, say annual reviews, you must be sure you actually do them! Or if you promise certain business functions, say retirement or insurance benefits, you need to follow through. Also important to remember is that when an employee doesn’t abide by a particular policy, you must enforce any stated consequences. Otherwise your handbook would prove more useful as scrap paper.Instructions for Common TasksIf your employees share certain responsibilities, it may be useful to include instructions on performing common tasks. Restocking the office supplies, interacting with difficult clients, or running mail to the post office could all be explained in a simple appendix.A Note on LegalityAn employee handbook is admissible in a court of law so you may want to include a disclaimer that would protect you from any litigation. The most common disclaimer states that the handbook is informational rather than contractual and any employee could be fired at the discretion of the employer.

While writing an employee handbook may require an initial investment of your time, it could pay off in the end, especially if you find yourself answering countless questions that could be addressed in that one place. Provide each employee with a handbook as you orient them to their new job and you may find that your job suddenly becomes much easier.