How to Create An Impactful Employee Handbook
Creating and maintaining a legally compliant Employee Handbook can be a daunting task for any employer. Have you considered what your Employee Handbook says about your company?
Employee Handbooks tend to be cumbersome to read filled with legal jargon. Though they are a vital repository of information, many employees don’t take the time to read them. They may only dig them out of the bottom of a drawer when they have a specific question that they don’t want to ask their boss or HR. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Employee Handbook told employees more than what they can’t do?!?
How to Add a Human Touch to Your Handbook
Your company’s Employee Handbook should set the tone for what you expect from employees and how they can further the mission of the company. These important parts are often forgotten with the focus on legal compliance and formal policies:
1. A welcome letter
This is your first chance to welcome the new employee to the organization and let them know how excited you are that they have decided to join your company. Share with them what is most important to the organization and how they can help achieve those goals.
2. The company mission, vision, and core values
Too often the company mission, vision and core values are overlooked and unknown. If your organization hasn’t taken the time recently to review these items, it might be time. The mission and vision should set the tone for all strategic goals. The core values are exactly that – essential to how you achieve the mission and vision, setting the tone for the culture of the organization.
3. The company history
Every company has a story to tell – share it with your employees! You worked hard to get the company to where it is now. Every employee should understand it’s history and where the company is going.
4. The benefits of employment
You offer a lot to your employees in exchange for what they bring to the company. Use the Employee Handbook to tout these benefits! Recognize all forms of benefits offered, including paid time off, tuition reimbursement, loan repayment (a newer benefit offering that is gaining popularity) and bonus/profit sharing plans. A note of caution here though – don’t include too much detail on health benefits. No one wants to have to update their Employee Handbook on an annual basis because you changed your health carrier or contribution strategy.
It’s more than just what you say, it’s how you say it!
The Employee Handbook is one of the first items that an employee receives when they accept the offer to join your company. You’ve invested time and money into presenting the best possible image of your company in the recruitment process to attract the best candidates; shouldn’t you put the same effort into designing an Employee Handbook that reflects your ideal company culture? A well-written handbook can be used to emphasize the desired tone of the employee experience.
A thorough attorney review of your company’s Employee Handbook is essential, but it shouldn’t sound like a lawyer wrote it. You can still add your own company flavor to it.
Have you taken note of how many times your Employee Handbook states: “failure to abide by this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment”? I read one Employee Handbook that had this written at the end of each and every policy. Yes, there are consequences for not adhering to policies, but a brand new employee doesn’t want to focus on all the ways they can lose their job when they just started employment with a new company. Stating this once in the acknowledgment of the Employee Handbook should be sufficient.
Paid Time Off is a benefit, not just a complicated policy. Try to simplify the wording of this policy so that employees recognize it as a benefit. So many PTO policies are written with a focus on when you can and can’t use it that they lose their positive impact. A focus on flexibility with time off can be a great benefit to employees – let your managers do their job and manage it under your guidance.
Anti-Harassment, Anti-Discrimination, Ethics and Code of Conduct policies are essential to any Employee Handbook. These policies should be more than legalese though. Your focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the organization should be celebrated. You can add your cultural focus and human touch to these required compliance policies. This will allow the handbook to support your training efforts in this realm and help your employees understand you truly value these aspects in the company. The focus on these compliance policies should not just be lip-service with the standard punitive language if the polices are not followed.
Let’s get started…
When was the last time you read your Employee Handbook? When you find a quiet moment, read through it with the perspective of a new hire. If it sounds like a lawyer wrote it and doesn’t convey your company culture and values, consider re-wording some of it and adding some new sections that are focused on the best of the company, not just the necessary standard compliance policies. If you need help starting or revising your Employee Handbook, the seasoned Human Capital team at Fahrenheit Advisors is here to make it easy for you! Just reach out to us at Experts@FahrenheitAdvisors.com.
About the Author
As a Strategic HR Business Partner and Senior HR Consultant, Jennifer Bartlett brings 18+ years’ professional experience in Human Resources, Leadership, Administration, Marketing, Education and Law to Fahrenheit. She is dedicated to providing excellent on-site and remote service, counsel and leadership to clients, executives, managers, employees, candidates and customers. Her experience ranges from for-profit, public and non-profit multi-state companies (including California). She is a subject matter expert in all aspects of HR including recruitment, retention, on-boarding, employee relations, employee engagement, performance management, training and development, benefits and payroll administration, compensation, legal compliance, and strategic organizational planning.