Do your employees understand the rules of the road? As a business owner, you need to explain your company policies and procedures to your staff. Your team members need to know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from you. If you handle these expectations properly, you can avoid misunderstandings or issues down the track. The best way to explain the rules of the road is to create an employee handbook, which documents your company’s policies, procedures, and expectations. Find out why a handbook is important, how to start writing the document, and what your employee handbook should include.
Why It’s Important
Is writing an employee handbook really that important? If you communicate frequently with your staff, and your workers perform well and seem to be content, you may decide that writing a handbook isn’t necessary. After all, creating a handbook is time-consuming. Operating your company without that handbook, however, is a mistake. Here are some of the benefits you’ll gain by writing an employee handbook:
- Vision and Mission: Your handbook should include your firm’s mission statement, which is your description of where you are headed as a company. If your staff understands your mission statement, they may feel a stronger bond to your company, and be more passionate about the work.
- Supervision: The handbook makes employee supervision more transparent because the handbook explains the rights and responsibilities of both the worker and the employer. Everyone in the organisation can refer to the handbook to make informed decisions about workplace behaviour.
- Productivity: If you discuss the employee handbook with each new hire, you’ll speed up the onboarding process, and help new employees to work productively. When you provide clear guidelines using a handbook, your new staff members will start work with more confidence.
- Discipline: Many business owners dread the prospect of confronting an employee who makes a serious mistake. To minimise confusion on both sides, you should clearly state your disciplinary procedures in the handbook. Disciplining a worker is stressful, but implementing the procedures stated in the manual will make the process less difficult for both parties.
The handbook should also explain the benefits you offer employees, which can be a powerful incentive to retain workers over time.
How to Start
Once you understand why an employee handbook is important, how do you start the writing process? Most business owners create company policies as they run the business. You may, for example, have a process workers use to request time off. You’ve emailed a memo that explains the policy, but the information is not in a formal employee handbook. You’re not starting the writing process at zero, because you’ve already created some policies. Here are some steps that you can take to start the writing process:
- Google search: Perform a Google search to find an employee handbook template that applies to your industry. If you Google “employee handbook restaurant”, for example, you’ll find templates for restaurant owners. The template that you find can help you understand what topics to include.
- Outline: Once you find a template, outline your employee handbook topics, using the template and your own management experience. For example, a restaurant owner must manage a large number of workers and deal with employee turnover, so the employee handbook must focus on hiring and termination policies.
- Clear language: After you outline the handbook and start writing, use clear and simple language. Avoid using jargon, so that your staff can understand your policies, and provide links to more complex topics, such as rules and regulations. While a clearly written handbook will minimise questions, encourage your employees to ask questions if a policy isn’t clear to them.
You should meet with each new worker, either in person or online, to discuss the employee handbook, and each new worker should sign an acknowledgment that they received a handbook. Make sure that the employee handbook can be easily accessed online, and update the handbook as policies change.
What to Include
Your employee handbook is a reflection of the type of business you want to operate, so take the writing process seriously. The handbook sets the tone that you want to establish with your staff, and a well-written handbook makes the supervision process much easier for you and your employees. Here are some important considerations for your handbook:
- Safety: Worker safety is your first priority, so begin your handbook by explaining how your business will deal with an employee injury and safety incidences.
- Expectations: The handbook is your opportunity is set expectations, and you should include all relevant policies. For example, what’s your policy regarding mobile phone use during work hours? Where should employees take their lunch break? State your policies in writing.
- Finer details: Your handbook must address a variety of employment and legal policies, including overtime pay, workplace harassment policies, and other issues. Have our employee manual reviewed by a HR professional before finalising your document.
As you grow your business and hire more workers, you’ll need to add to and change your employee handbook. Remind your staff that an updated version of the handbook can always be found online.