Many people look at an employee handbook as simply a “book of rules,” but it can be so much more. Employee handbooks can provide a means of communicating company policies and other key information to employees, including your company’s strategic objectives. Beyond that, they can empower management and be used as a leadership tool.
Employee handbooks are important and all employers, big or small, should consider implementing one. Employers should consider having their Employee Handbooks written and/or reviewed periodically by employment legal counsel to help ensure the document reflects current applicable laws, does not create an implied contract of employment, or potentially expose the company to litigation. It will also be important to ensure you are updating your employee handbook to reduce the possibility of out-of-date and/or non-compliant policies. In general, an employer is not sued for a non-compliant handbook policy; rather, lawsuits are generally founded on an actual employment practice. Therefore, how your handbook policies are implemented can be critical. This highlights the importance of training your managers on your employee handbook policies and ensuring consistency in the implementation of company policies and procedures. Consistency can be key when dealing with anything HR-related, and handbooks can be a way to help set the proper expectations/guidelines for employees and management.
In many companies, management takes a backseat when it comes to the development of the company employee handbook and can be quite passive when a new “book of rules” is rolled out. Managers don’t necessarily see how the employee handbook impacts their role as a leader in the organization. Employers are encouraged to train managers on the employee handbook and consider empowering them to use it as a leadership tool. Many HR-related questions are addressed in an employee handbook, and although best practice is for management to notify employees of major issues that arise, employees may be able to answer many questions on their own by referencing the employee handbook. Encouraging your managers to use the employee handbook on a regular basis can also help make them aware of applicable state and federal laws, including those governing Non-Harassment and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Managers are often named as an individual to report incidents to in policies such as Non-Harassment and ADA, so it is vital managers are familiar and comfortable with these laws.
Employee handbooks can also help communicate strategic objectives to your employees. As a business owner, you are no doubt a very busy person with little time to remind employees where the business started, where it stands today, and where the business is going. Taking the time to create a handbook, incorporating company history, its vision and mission can help reinforce your message and bridge the gap between your overall big picture and the daily functions of various departments. Giving employees an inside look, and a friendly reminder, of how they contribute to the global success of the organization can help increase job satisfaction which may result in higher performance.
Your company’s employee handbook can be a wonderful tool in so many ways, from supporting the consistent implementation of your policies to communicating your strategic vision. But it will be important to have your handbook legally reviewed before implementing it, and then on a regular basis thereafter. Employers should consider regular updates to help make sure this valuable resource reflects changes in your company policies as well as current applicable local, state, and federal laws.