Employee Handbook Best Practices
Best Practice # 1
Produce a handbook that your employees actually WANT to read. Make it interesting. Give it personality. Think out of the box. And while you’re at it, DON’T call it an Employee Handbook.
Best Practice # 2
Do NOT use a handbook template. Your company is unique and your handbook should be, too.
Best Practice # 3
Start with your mission statement – why is your business here? If you went out of business tomorrow, would anyone care (besides the employees, who would now be unemployed)? I sure hope so! You should be passionate about your business. You should love your business. Pass that along to your employees. And, by the way, don’t call it your mission statement. Be CREATIVE. If you can’t be creative, hire someone who can!
Best Practice # 4
Make it easy on the eyes. Larger font, fewer words on each page, pictures, a less traditional font style. Here’s an idea,how about not just black text? I know, a scary thought. You can do it. Take the risk.
Best Practice # 5
Present your policies simply and to the point, and add some humor.
Robbie Hyman, in an article titled Is It Okay to Make Your Work Documents Funny?, published July 2, 2013, gives the following example from a handbook he created:
Don’t attempt a task for which you are not trained. (“Let’s see, maybe I can clear this paper jam if I just tilt the copier on its side.”)
Best Practice # 6
Don’t get so caught up in protecting your company from a lawsuit that you forget about the purpose of your handbook and it becomes all about legalities. The handbook will become a set of chains. Yes, you need to make sure to do all you can to protect your company from a lawsuit, but that is only ONE purpose for a handbook. It is SO much more than that. You have a mission. A vision. You want your employees to catch that mission. You want to create an atmosphere that exemplifies your core values and who you are as a company. A handbook is a great vehicle to accomplish this. However, if it is thought of as a cure for insomnia and is dryer than a desert, no one will catch that vision. Most employees won’t even read it. They’ll just sign the page saying they read it. Is that really what you want? If you have a poorly written handbook or a mediocre handbook at best, what does that say about your company? Ahhh, but I’ve digressed….
Mission and Company History
As previously stated, you should start with your mission statement. Creatively explain your company’s philosophy, mission, and vision. Include a brief section discussing your history — but don’t label it “history.” This will help set the tone for the remainder of the handbook. Your mission should be threaded throughout the handbook.
Benefits and Job Perks
Vacation time, holidays the company observes, methods of payment, overtime policies, pay grade structure, stock
options, bonuses, paid holidays, types of leave, and compensation packages should all be included in this section.
Give a general overview of the benefits you offer in terms of health care, dental, vision, life insurance, etc. Don’t discuss specific policies and specific companies. Those will be in a separate document or booklet. Rather, list the criteria for eligibility, when an employee can enroll in benefits, and if there are critical life events during which the employee can change benefits, such as marriage or birth of a child.
Policies and Procedures
Policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment
With the seminal 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that states must permit and recognize same-sex marriages in mind, it is advised to include sexual orientation and sexual identity to your nondiscrimination policies.
You should clearly define harassment and describe a step-by-step procedure for employees to report harassment.
Policies to help prevent workplace violence
Equal employment policies
Employee Conduct and Discipline.
This includes dress code, attendance policy, breaks, smoking (including e-cigarettes) and conflict resolution.
Types of conduct that may result in employee discipline and potential penalties for infractions up to and including termination of employment.
Do NOT have rigid discipline procedures with no flexibility. A disclaimer should be included that the company reserves the right to skip one or more steps as necessary, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Safety policies and procedures
Policies for social media, data privacy, cell phone usage, and computer and email usage
Your handbook should clearly state that employees have no right of privacy while accessing social media at work or on company-owned equipment.
It should also be stated that employees cannot disclose proprietary information. Employees should be instructed not to download apps onto a device that contains employer information and not to click on links in unsolicited e-mails. Employees should be warned not to leave a device used for work in a car and should be required to report a lost or stolen company-provided phone or tablet immediately. And, of course, the handbook should state that an employee’s devices can be wiped clean of the employer’s data when a person leaves the company.
Though you’d like to, you cannot prohibit employee speech that could reflect negatively on the company. The best you can do is suggest that employees add a disclaimer to their posts that the opinions expressed are the employee’s own and do not necessarily represent the company’s stance.
Managers and supervisors should receive regular training on handbook policies to insure they are carried out competently.
It is important to include all of your company’s policies in the handbook. If new policies are implemented, they need to be included in the handbook.
It is vital the company policies are applied consistently. This avoids the appearance of favoritism, reinforces the value of the handbook, and provides protection from a discrimination claim.
Detachable Employee Acknowledgement Page
Every employee should sign and return this page. It should state that the employee understands it is his/her responsibility to read and follow the policies. This should be done yearly. Once signed, it should be filed in the employee’s personnel file.
Clauses the Acknowledgement Page Should Contain
Not a contract
It is vital that your handbook contains a disclaimer that nothing in the handbook creates a contract for employment or alters the employee’s at-will employment relationship. In addition, omit any 90-day probationary period language from your handbook.
Ultimate word on company policies
It should be stated that the handbook “supersedes and replaces all previous policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, all memoranda or written policies which may have been issued on the subjects covered in this handbook.”
Policies subject to change
The handbook should state that the policies within are only guidelines and are subject to change as the Company deems necessary.