Employee Handbooks get a very bad reputation at times. Many employees see them as draconian documents filled with stiff restrictions and impenetrable legal jargon. However, don’t fear if your company suddenly needs a handbook. By following a few easy steps, anyone can write an employee handbook that reinforces what the company expectations, employee contracts and inspires their employees to better productivity. Below are 4 quick tips that will really turn your company’s handbook around.
Focus On Readability
The information in an employee handbook is often a vital resource for employees, and it won’t do them any good if they can’t find what they’re looking for. How the employee handbook is laid out is at least as important as the information it contains. For the best effect use bullet points and headings on each paragraph. Having a clear table of contents and even a keyword index would also save time. While employees will read through the Handbook once or twice, they will principally use it as a reference over the course of their time with the company. As a result, the handbook should be easy both the skim and to check for a single fact. That way employees will find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently and return to work with a clear answer.
Think Beyond Required Content
Most handbooks today are largely filled with a series of sections that outline policies and protections required by Federal and State law. While these sections are essential to the handbook, they suffer from sounding both negative and generic. Over the course of their employment, most employees will discover the company handbook is far more then a state required message about antidiscrimination, workplace drug testing or established pay policies. Think of other sections that could be added that might inspire employees such as a welcome letter, or a page explaining the company’s core beliefs, or even how the company chooses promotions. Despite the required text, the handbook is a way to invite the employees in and tell them what they’ll gain, not just what they can’t do.
Be Careful With The Language
Hand book language is all about balance. The handbook works best when everyone can understand what it says clearly. This is not a place for complicated legal jargon, if the employees can’t understand the rules they are agreeing to, they can’t be expected to follow them. However, under the law it’s also essential to avoid phrases that may be illegal. The National Labor Relations board has sited many examples; such as, “Never engage in behavior that would undermine the reputation of [the Employer], your peers or yourself.” This line might be read as telling employees not to insult one another, but the board notes it can also be used to attack those who criticize the company. The board suggests the replacement, “No ‘rudeness or unprofessional behavior toward a customer, or anyone in contact with’ the company.” This version keeps the desire to avoid a hostile work environment but doesn’t suggest that employees don’t have the right to complain. Language is a precise tool and must be use precisely.
Update Early And Often
Never forget that the Employee Handbook will have legal ramifications for the company. Once it’s written, it should be checked out with a legal advisor. Beyond making sure the book continues to conform to the law, plan time periodically to go through it. Make sure its up to date with what’s going on in the company, current HR courses and legal requirements. Additionally, when changes are needed, make them quickly to avoid confusion. The handbook is of no use to employees if its giving them years old information.
A handbook can be a lot of things to employees. It can be a great resource of company policy and their rights as workers. It can be a great way to make sure every employee carries the company’s vision in their pocket. It can also be a time saver to mangers dealing with easily solved issues. However, it can only be all these things if it is well written. As a result, it’s management’s responsibility to give its employees a handbook that can give them this.