Whether you are writing an employee handbook for the first time or simply updating your current one, it always seems like a daunting task. What do you include? Are you supposed to outline every detail of your company’s policies and procedures? What if you forget something?
These questions alone are one of the biggest reasons employers put off creating or updating their employee handbook. Unfortunately, the result of this is that the communication within your organization suffers.
This is why it is important to understand how to write an employee handbook your employees will actually read.
1. Make It Readable
Keep in mind, you want your employees to read your employee handbook. Because of this, you want to avoid overfilling with a ton of technical writing and legal jargon. Even worse, you don’t want them skimming the fine print of the footnotes.
Instead, write your handbook in a clear, concise, and conversational tone, as if you are speaking to them directly. There is no rule that says your employee handbook has to be formal in nature. Try replacing words like “management” with “we” or “our.” This helps build a connection between your employees and your organization.
2. Develop A Mission Statement
Every successful company is driven by a shared mission between the organization and its employees. However, your employees cannot connect with this goal if they are not aware of it. This is why we recommend you start your handbook by outlining your company’s mission, future goals, and values.
Think of this as your chance to remind them why they chose to work for you and not the millions of other employers in the world.
We recommend weaving your company’s mission statement into the introduction section of your handbook to set the tone for the rest of the material.
3. Do Your Research
The first step on how to write an employee handbook is to familiarize yourself with all federal, state, and local employment laws. In some instances, there are requirements written into the laws outlining what needs to be included in your company’s handbook.
The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a complete list of all federal laws related to workplace issues.
To protect yourself in the event of changes in the law, we recommend you include a prominent disclaimer stating you reserve the right to update the handbook as needed. This will also help you in case you discover one of our company policies is outdated and needs to be revised.
If you are not sure what state or local laws affect your business and need to be included in your employee handbook, you should consult either a human resources expert, like the ones at INVOPEO, or an employment attorney.
4. Showcase Your Employment Perks
Before you run through all the do’s and don’ts of your company, don’t forget to throw in a section or two covering any employment perks your company may offer its employees. This can include discounts to local businesses, season tickets to sporting events, and public service events. This will continue your employee’s excitement about working for such an inspiring company.
We recommend you also give a general outline on either who the employee should contact or how he or she can go about claiming these perks.
5. Outline Your Company Policies
Deciding which company policies you want to include in your employee handbook can be tricky. On one hand, you want to cover all the rules and expectations your organization has for its employees. However, you do not want to kill morale by being too particular by outlining rules such as, “no whispering.”
To avoid this, we suggest you make a list of the most important policies you want your employee handbook to cover. Important policies we suggest for you to include in your employee handbook are:
- Compensation: Explain how your employees will be paid, including, bonus compensation, timekeeping, breaks, salary increases, reviews, overtime pay, pay schedule, and deductions
- Work Schedules: Answer when and where are your employees expected to work.
- Standards of Conduct: drug & alcohol, affirmative action, harassment, disability
- General Employment Information– eligibility, job classifications, employee referrals, records, job postings, probationary periods, termination/ resignation procedures, transfers/relocation, uniform
- Safety As the employer, it is your responsibility to create a workplace safety policy that protects your employees. This policy should include information on what to do in the event of bad weather and hazardous community conditions. You should also include an outline of your expectations of employees in terms of creating a safe and secure work environment.
- Computers and Technology: In today’s technical age, it is extremely important that companies outline how they expect their employees to handle technology, both at work and at home. This includes how they correspond with clients via voicemail, use the company’s internet, portray themselves on social media, what information they reveal in a personal blog, and so on.
- Employee Benefits: Don’t forget to outline all the employee benefits your company offers, including life insurance options, retirement, employee assistance, tuition reimbursement, business travel/entertainment, other fringe benefits.
- Leave: Define your company’s policy on PTO and vacation time. You should also include information on Family and Medical Leave, as well as absences resulting from workplace injuries.
Before you finalize your newly finished employee handbook, be sure to add any necessary disclaimers inside your manual that helps limit your company’s liability, including the fact that the employee handbook is not a contract. As the employer, you have the ability to make changes to the handbook as necessary.
In this section, you will also want to include information on any Non-Disclosures, Non-Solicits, and Non-Competes you require. You also want a section for the employee to sign and return to you that acknowledges he or she has read the handbook and understands the company’s expectations.
7. Present It Well
You put a lot of hard work into figuring out how to write an employee handbook. Don’t just toss all that work away by simply attaching your handbook to an email blast or posting a link on your company’s intranet site. That’s boring. Present your new handbook in a manner which employees will want to read.
You can have a lot of fun with this. Some companies choose to deliver their handbooks to employees as if it is a present by wrapping it in a bow and leaving it on their desks. Other companies host events around revealing the updated version of their handbook each year. You can even go as far as presenting it as if it was a ticket to an exclusive club, your company.