Your views on employee handbooks may differ depending on which side of the table you’re sitting on. But love ‘em or hate ‘em, employee handbooks serve several important functions.
For staff members, it can be easy to assume the employee handbook is nothing but a set of rules designed to benefit and protect employers and keep the employees in their places. But there’s more to it than that.
Setting the stage
A well-written handbook not only helps employees understand the culture of the organization, it also lays out the benefits of working in the organization and sets clear expectations for behavior on both sides. Other benefits for employees include:
Introduction to the company culture, mission, and values – Smart employers will use this document to reinforce an employee-friendly culture. Remind your staff what your organization values and how you demonstrate those values to employees, customers and the community.
Explanation of employee benefits – Having this information spelled out in one place helps clear up confusion and allows employees to see the full value of what’s being offered.
Clearly outlined policies, procedures and expectations – Putting a structure in place is one thing, but communicating it is another. Employees value fairness and consistency and will appreciate knowing the ground rules from day one.
Information about where to turn for help – Employees are often afraid to bring up uncomfortable issues at work. Your employee handbook is great place to document procedures for addressing workplace problems and concerns. If your company offers employee assistance programs, you can include that information as well.
Yes, your employee handbook should include company rules and expectations. But crafting them in a way that shows you truly care about your employees can make all the difference in the world – especially on a new hire’s first day.
Making it count
A well-written employee handbook also has many benefits to you as an employer. To get maximum value out of your employee handbook, ensure that it:
Showcases your employee benefits package – You want your employees to be excited about working for you, and providing great benefits is one way to make that happen. But if they don’t know what you’re offering, they can’t appreciate the value. Spell it out so they can see what they are getting.
Ensures compliance – In order to protect your employees, you need to protect your business. Avoid potential misunderstandings, complaints, and lawsuits by documenting your EEO, sexual harassment, and anti-discrimination policies.
Sets behavior standards – From dress codes to drug policies to conflict resolution to pets at work, your employees will only know what you take the time to tell them. Use your employee handbook to explain expectations and guide your team toward behaviors that are in line with your organizational culture.
Documents key company policies and practices – When is pay day? What happens when someone needs to call in sick? How do performance reviews work? Employees are bound to have questions. Writing your policies down in one place makes finding these answers easier for everyone.
Tips for success
Do your homework
Know your Federal, state, and local employment laws. If you have multiple locations, make sure you research the regulations in each state. Depending on requirements, you may need to create multiple versions of your handbook for different locations or business units.
Use plain language
Avoid complicated language and legal-ese. But also avoid being too sparse or vague. Your handbook should be clear and easy to understand. Not only will this make it more palatable to read, it will decrease the risk of misunderstandings.
Cover the bases
Keep your information up to date. Review and refresh your employee handbook regularly. Include information on key policies and topics, such as:
- Family medical leave
- Workers comp
- Employee benefits
- Paid time off
- Pay structure and timelines
- At-will employment language (where applicable)
- Code of conduct and disciplinary action
It’s also a good idea to have an attorney go over your final copy to make sure you haven’t left anything out— or included things you shouldn’t have.
Give it some love
Imagine it’s your first day in a new job. What kind of employee handbook do you want to receive? A cold list of rules and a clinical dissertation of what happens when you break them? Or an employee-friendly explanation of what it means to be a part of the team?
Think of your employee handbook as an opportunity that helps you define your organizational culture, put it into practice, and share it with your team.
Struggling with benefits administration and compliance? At Sonus, we’ve got tools to make it easier. Get in touch with Sonus to see how we can help your organization become a local employer of choice.