People Magazine

The importance of an Employee Handbook

employee handbook
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Importance of an employee handbook.

What these handbooks should encompass.

Revisiting handbooks is key.

Templates to help create or update employee handbooks.

How is your employee handbook holding up over time? Whether you’re a startup or an established enterprise, it’s never too early to create a framework of an employee handbook–or updating yours. The moment you consider hiring your first employee, it’s time to get this important document in place—but what exactly is an employee handbook? An employee handbook isn’t a “one and done” solution.

The heart of the employee handbook

It’s a living document that must evolve and change with your company. It’s a tool to build workplace culture, camaraderie amongst employees, and a positive environment. Those all sound like great things, but they’re also subjective. It’s no wonder many small company founders put off writing an employee handbook. Some company owners think an employee handbook isn’t necessary, takes too much time, or just think they’ll get to it eventually.

Unfortunately, many small (and even large!) businesses don’t craft an employee handbook until events have occurred that make it necessary. HR policies should include a regularly updated handbook. Even fewer regularly revisit and revise the handbook. Employee handbooks are customizable and should be created with your particular workplace in mind. It might be a broad foundational tool or it could specifically tackle certain issues. No matter what kind of employee handbook you need, thoughtfulness should be at its core.

Defining the employee handbook

You might know the employee handbook as a staff manual or SOP. It can go by a lot of names. It’s a booklet that every employee should receive on their first day. It should encompass everything new hires need to know. Employee “handbooks” can be actual books, booklets, or long-form documents. While there are no requirements of what to include, employee handbooks commonly address the values and mission statement of the company, all the legal and HR necessary information, what the company expects from employees (and vice versa), and general policies about sick days, vacation pay, et al.

It’s not legally required for any company to have an employee handbook, but it’s always a good idea. However, don’t think of it as just as “nice to have” tool because it can be a driving force behind protocols, company culture, and how employees follow policies.

Employee handbooks can help to diffuse tension amongst employees and navigate conflicts. Handbooks can also help welcome new employees and make the latest hires feel like they have a good lay of the land. From covering the history of the company to encouraging employee loyalty, there’s a lot these handbooks can do. You can include parking rules, dress codes, and anything else employees should be able to find out without asking.

Getting started

One of the best ways to begin writing an employee handbook is to look at others for inspiration. Nordstrom and Starbucks are two companies that have some great employee handbooks, or you can find an intuitive “skeleton” template that lets you fill in the blank. However, directly adopting another company’s employee handbook as your own can have drawbacks. No two companies are the same, and it’s important that your company is represented in the handbook. Some companies rally employees to help create and re-work these handbooks. After all, nobody knows the company values and “musts” better than a wide range of employees. New hires can be especially helpful with this task since they can freshly remember what it’s like to be onboard.

Writing credits

There are also no rules about who should be the primary writer. In some companies, HR takes care of the employee handbook while other companies utilize the knowledge of founding members. No matter who writes your handbook, make sure there’s time and support built into their work hours for this task.

A person or team should also be assigned to review and revise the handbooks on a regular basis. It’s easy to put this task on the back burner, so make sure it stays a priority. Ready to get started? Get motivated by taking a look at this employee handbook template that lets you personalize and build your handbook.


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