For business owners new or old, hiring and replacing staff is a constant part of the process. The onboarding of a new employee can be quite hectic in between interviews, training, and showing them the ropes. Business owners have come up with an easier solution to let employees know what is offered to and expected of them beforehand: the employee handbook.
While they are not compulsory legally, the employee handbook is a must for every business because it clears confusion related to your company beforehand. In this article, we will guide you through what content an employee handbook should have.
What is an employee handbook?
An employee handbook is your company’s first introduction to new employees. It is an informal document given to employees for the purpose of clarifying your company’s policies and benefits. These handbooks are passed out in the orientation phase, alongside the offer letter, or kept on the new hire’s desk.
Handbooks may vary according to your business because it’s an informal welcome to recruits but it could help your employees think from your perspective. An employee handbook could also include pictures of your staff, added benefits your business provides, and leave policies. Having a handbook may be worth your investment in the long term considering the purposes it serves.
Purpose of the employee handbook
The general purpose of the employee handbook is to eliminate all the confusion related to your company’s policies, rules, benefits, values, and vision beforehand with your employees. But, the aim of your handbook may vary according to the content you put into it. Is your handbook just a welcome to your employees? Does it help your employees understand what you expect from them and what they should expect in return?
We’ve compiled the following list to help you figure out what you want for your handbook.
- To tell your company’s history to new employees.
- To get your employees on board with your vision.
- To clarify your expectations for the employees.
- To update your new employees on company lingo.
- To explain the policies of your company to the employees.
- To make your employees feel safer through clarification of safety policies.
Employee handbook contents
The contents of your handbook will vary according to your company’s needs. To decide what you want your employee handbook to have, you could ask yourself what you want to communicate to your new employees. To guide you through the thinking process, here’s a general structure of what your handbook can have.
Introducing the business
In this section, you could welcome your recruit and introduce them to your company history, team, and goals. You can also explain in brief how the company helps its clients, what the ideal employee looks like, and where you envision your company to be in a fixed time in the introduction. The introduction part of your handbook should generally motivate your employee and make them optimistic about joining your business.
The policies part of the handbook could have rules of your company and what you expect from employees. This chunk of your employee handbook should explain to the employee how the business maintains transparency, objectivity, and fairness. You may also add the benefits employees can expect from your company in return.
Miscellaneous/Interviews and Conclusion
Include interviews in your handbook so the new employees can feel at home in your company right away. You could add your own words, your team’s words, and interviews of old employees. Finally, summarise everything you want your new employees to remember and conclude the handbook.
Employee handbook for small businesses
Communicating policies, visions, and benefits of your business effectively through a handbook has a positive effect on employee attitude. Small businesses might benefit a lot from investing in an employee handbook especially because it induces a sense of belongingness in new employees.
Along with making a good impression, handbooks also clear any confusion related to the policies and benefits of a business, speeding the process of training new employees. Similarly, handbooks protect businesses and their employees from false claims. Likewise, discussing how to create the company handbook could strengthen a business’s team bond. Finally, fairness and ethics policies included in the employee handbooks may help in the creation of a peaceful and efficient work environment.
How to write an employee handbook
Writing your own employee handbook may be a great idea because as a business owner, you would know what’s best for your company. To create an employee handbook we’ve surmised the sections that make most sense. Remember, handbooks are short and jolly!
This is the “Hi” section of your handbook. Give a warm welcome to your employees by touching on why the company was started, what visions the company has, pictures of your team, and the company logo.
About the Company
The “About” section could include services and products the company provides, the company’s work, how it is unique compared to other companies, and the meaning of your business logo. You could also expand on the history of your company in this part to let the new employees know who they’re working for.
Policies and Benefits
This section is ideally the most important part of your handbook. Employees understanding the policies and benefits leads to a smooth-running business. Policies and Benefits may vary depending on the business owner, the business’s location, and the law.
- Standard of conduct: You may add policies related to the dress code, work ethic, legal obligation, and discipline into your handbook. Aside from these, information on when to present required documents after being accepted might also be a good addition.
- Safety and security policies: Safety can motivate your employees to work hard. So, it would be wise to include company safety policies, weather policies, and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules. You might also want to add information on anti-sexual harassment policies and the responsibility of supervisors.
- Computers and Tech: Policies on data breaches, information loss, and misuse of technology are normally essential components of employee handbooks due to technology being a major component of businesses. So, you may want to cover rules about appropriate use of computers, social media use, and steps to secure information.
- Employee benefits and leave: Consider adding policies on what your employees can expect from you. This could include benefits offered by the law, worker’s compensation, health plans, investment plans, and travel plans. Concerning leaves, you could inform your employees about voting, family and medical, sick days, personal time, reimbursement, and travel leave policies.
- Essential Provision: You may want to explain provisions your company offers like unlimited PTO(Paid Time Off), employee at-will, and retirement fund policies.
Salary & Payroll
The handbook is the perfect place to inform new employees how salary and payment of salary are done. Businesses have different dates of payment, the preferred method of payment, and further add ons such as bonuses and overtime work. These details can be ironed out in the handbook as well.
Ultimately, the point of a handbook is to help new employees familiarize themselves with the company. Hence, it’s a great idea to make handbooks simple and readable with the following tips!
- Clarity: It may be easier for your employees to skim read the handbook if you use concise and simple language.
- Humor: An informal and lighthearted employee handbook helps your new employees to relax and fit in immediately.
- Detail: Describing policies and benefits in detail might help avoid confusion later.
- Visual aids: Employees might have an easier time reading your handbook if you include pictures and infographics to keep them engaged.
- Moderation: You may want to balance the number of pictures and text in your handbook to prevent employees from just skimming through pictures or getting bored by text.
- Organization: It might be a good idea for you to consider designing your handbook to look inviting to your employees.
Some other things you could pay attention to when you write your handbook:
- Reading the laws in your area related to employee benefits.
- Giving a presentation to new employees about the most important policies could help you ensure your employees know the key policies.
- Making your employees sign a letter of acknowledgment would help you confirm if they have read the handbook.
- Updating the handbook frequently creates a fair environment in the office.
- Taking feedback from your team might help you create a more employee-centered handbook.
Avoid these mistakes:
- Relying on forms: There are lots of sites that ask you to fill forms and create employee handbooks. Although this may seem like a very convenient thing to do, it is best to use these sites and templates only at the beginning of your handbook-making process. As we have already established, handbooks differ according to location and businesses. So, after learning how to create a handbook from a template, refine it according to your business’s needs.
- Letting your handbook gather dust: An employee handbook includes a lot of laws and policies which are subject to change. Similarly, business priorities and preferences might change with time. Make sure you update the handbook periodically.
- Losing clarity on editions: Updating your handbooks annually means having different variations of your handbook enforced. But, not paying attention to which editions your employees are using may cause problems. So, it would be best if you collect previous versions of the handbooks annually and dispose of them.
- Choosing the wrong tone: Your employee handbook isn’t a legal document so it would be best if you refrain from being too formal while making the handbook.
- Forgetting to consider diversity: Your workforce may have diverse employees from different backgrounds. So, if your workforce is multilingual you might want to translate your employee handbook into different languages for easy reading.
Now you’ve got the general idea for your employee handbook. It’s a crucial part of the business-building process. If you’ve only just started mapping out your business, we’ve got a great article about a business plan presentation! And make sure you check out these legal contract templates as well!
FAQs regarding Employee handbooks
1. How to format an employee handbook?
A handbook starts with a warm introduction, followed by basics of the company, employees and workplace policies. Then benefits, compensation, payroll, and other details are discussed.
2. What makes a good employee handbook?
A good employee handbook is simple, concise, and welcoming. It should be able to make new employees understand what is expected of them and what kind of company they are working for.
3. How long is an employee handbook?
Typically, an employee handbook is no longer than 10-15 pages for smaller businesses. A bulk of the handbook is made up of policies and legal information. The size of employee handbooks can increase dramatically for larger organizations, sometimes reaching 50-60 pages.
4. How to review employee handbooks?
The best way to review employee handbooks is to read up on existing laws, policies, and employee feedback. Changes can be made annually or over fixed periods of time of your choosing.
5. What if a company didn’t provide an employee handbook?
There are no set laws when it comes to whether or not employee handbooks are mandatory. Laws might be varied based on different regions. However, we strongly recommend having a handbook in place since it protects both employers and employees.