Employee Handbooks: A Vital Company Communication Tool

When was the last time you read your employee handbook?

While not usually considered exciting reading material, your employee handbook is an important communications tool! This one document can convey your company’s vision, affirm your culture and outline the expectations you have for your workforce. On the downside, a handbook that isn’t relevant, well planned and periodically reviewed can cause confusion, mistrust and even legal trouble.

Here are a few common do’s and don’ts when it comes to handbooks:

DO Have a Handbook

If you are a small business with only a few employees, you may not think it’s necessary to have a written handbook. Perhaps you have close-knit employees who have gotten to know each other well over the years and you are used to communicating informally; or maybe your business is a start-up and a written handbook is something you’ll think about “later.” In either case, even a basic handbook is better than no handbook.

A common human resources saying is “if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.” The easiest way to assure your employees know what you expect and the basics of your day-to-day operations is to tell them – in writing. What are your work hours? When does everyone get paid? How do they report hours worked? A handbook will help to ensure everyone is on the same page and will provide necessary consistency and uniformity.

DO Include Compliance-Related Statements

What is your company’s position on harassment, nondiscrimination, or safety? How does your company comply with state, local and federal regulations? If applicable, include an at-will employment disclaimer statement that the company or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any lawful reason.

On a more workplace-specific note, other guidelines to detail include a drug and alcohol use policy, complaint procedures, attendance policy, electronic communications use and more. Also, make sure that the guidelines you include are applicable to your business.

DON’T Let Your Handbook Collect Dust

An outdated handbook can be almost as bad as not having a handbook at all. Regulatory bodies like the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) often issue updates or changes in laws that affect the workplace. In such cases, ignorance is not innocence; your business must be aware of these changes and ensure that company policies are in compliance.

Laws, however, are not the only reason to regularly review your handbook. Your workplace and how it operates can also change due to an increase or decrease in workforce size, market fluctuations, economic cycles and other factors that affect business. A policy created for a 20-person firm won’t necessarily work in a 100-employee company. So be sure to schedule routine reviews of your employee handbook and compare it to the current state of your business.

DON’T Ignore Your Own Handbook

A comprehensive employee handbook is no good if its guidelines aren’t followed. If your policies don’t match your reality, or if you ignore or make exceptions to your own policies, you can easily find yourself with dissatisfied and disgruntled employees. In addition, you open the door to claims of discrimination, preferential treatment or other violations.

Have the handbook readily available to your employees for reference. Ask employees to acknowledge in writing that they have read and understand the handbook. Each year, go through the handbook page by page to be sure it reflects how you and your employees act. Finally, update the policies and statements as needed.

DO Get Professional Help

Have your handbook reviewed by a professional, or consider outsourcing the project if you need to create one. Find a knowledgeable human resources professional or consult an attorney who can ensure legal compliance and accuracy. Don’t just copy policies from the internet!

As you invest in your business and your people, DO invest time and attention on your handbook. Highlight your mission, vision and core values, set expectations, and showcase the benefits of working at your company. This will help lay the foundation for a productive, cohesive and compliant workplace.

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a James Moore professional. James Moore will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.