Employee handbook is the most important document of every company. It defines your company’s key policies and procedures and outlines your company culture. In this blog post, you will learn why you should have an employee handbook and how to write an effective employee handbook your employees will actually want to read!
Employee Handbook: The What, Why, How and Who
What is an employee handbook?
Employee handbook (also known as employee manual or staff handbook) is a document that defines a company’s key policies and procedures and outlines its company culture.
An effective employee handbook clearly communicates your company’s mission, values, policies, and rules to your new and existing employees.
An employee handbook provides an introduction to your company and the way you work. Simply put, an employee handbook explains who you are as the company, how you function and what you expect from your employees.
Probably the most important function of an employee handbook is setting clear expectations for both parties: the company as an employer and its employees. An employee handbook should clearly communicate what is expected from the company's employees regarding their workplace behavior and performance and what they can expect in return.
An employee handbook should be given to new employees by the employer on their first day at work - or even earlier! A good practice is to send an employee handbook along with a welcome letter or email to new employees as a part of their onboarding process.
Why should you have an employee handbook?
First of all, you need to know that you are not legally obliged to have an employee handbook. There is no law requiring companies of any size to have an employee handbook.
However, most companies have an employee handbook. According to Gusto’s research, 87% of small businesses sized 10-200 have employee handbooks.
So the question is...Why the overwhelming majority of companies choose to have an employee handbook?
The answer is simple: Because having an employee handbook affects many aspects of your business has a positive impact on your business's bottom line.
Here are the 6 most important benefits of having an employee handbook:
Benefit #1: Formalized policies
In order to write your employee handbook, you will have to clearly define your business and employee policies and procedures. Writing an employee handbook will help you formalize and organize your company’s policies, having them all in one place.
Benefit #2: Equality promoted
An employee handbook sends a clear message that your company has consistent and clear policies for all of your employees. It states publicly that the same rules apply to everyone, thu promoting equality principles at your company.
Benefit #3: Time saved
A well-written employee handbook offers answers to the most common employees’ questions. By having an employee handbook, you will avoid constant questions over policies. Employees will be able to look up the answers themselves, thus saving your time.
Benefit #4: Legal disputes prevented
Having your policies clearly laid out for all your employees serves as a legal protection in a case of potential legal disputes. An effective employee handbook clearly defines your employment relationship, thus serving as an important legal protection for your company.
Benefit #5: Improved onboarding
An employee handbook is especially important for your new employees who just started working at your company. An employee handbook is a valuable tool in employee onboarding because it helps new employees orient and get up to speed faster.
Benefit #6: Company culture outlined
An employee handbook is much more than a list of policies, rules and regulations. A great employee handbook clearly communicates your company’s mission, vision and its values, thus outlining your company’s culture.
Now that you’re familiar with all the benefits of having an employee handbook, let’s move on to learning how to write a great employee handbook! 🙂
How to write an employee handbook?
Writing an employee handbook is not a problem. You can always download one of the many employee handbook templates, adjust it a bit to fit your own needs and voila - there you have it!
The only problem is that a standard employee handbook written that way is...well, boring. And no one reads it. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the numbers! 🤓
The research from GuideSpark suggests that:
43% of generation Y is not reading the majority of the employee handbook
33% of non-generation Y are also not fully reading the handbook.
It gets worse really, as this survey shows that:
11% of generation Y have not actually even opened the employee handbook
36% of non generation Y have no idea where their handbook is.
To top it all off, the final nail in the coffin for employees is that only 1 in 3 people find employee handbooks helpful! 😲
There you have it. A boring employee handbook is useless because no one will read it!
So how to write your employee handbook in a way to make people want to read it?
Here are my top tips for writing a helpful and engaging employee handbook:
Tip #1: Keep it short and simple
Use as few words as possible. Avoid long, complicated words and technical terms.
Tip #2: Use the appropriate language
The tone of the voice you use in your employee handbook should match your company’s tone and culture.
Tip #3: Rewrite your company’s policies
Go through your existing company’s policies and rewrite them in a concise, understandable language.
Tip #4: Make it personal
Address the reader in the second person. Write in a way you talk to your favorite colleague!
Tip #5: Add images and videos
Add images of your employees and everyday life at your office. Include the video message of your CEO.
Tip #6: Create an interesting format
Bring your employee handbook to life by turning it into a playful quiz, an interactive survey or even a comic!
Who should write an employee handbook?
In most companies, the employee handbook is owned by HR. It makes perfect sense since the HR team has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the relevant company’s policies.
However, in smaller companies that don’t have a dedicated HR team, an employee handbook is often written by leadership. For example, CEOs of small startups usually write the employee handbook by themselves. A person in charge of marketing usually helps the CEO to formulate the text in the most readable way.
Another option is to use a collaborative approach in creating your employee handbook. How to do it? Create the first draft of your employee handbook and ask all your employees to pitch in. Simply present the first version and ask your employees to comment on it and suggest things they would like to see in it. This is an important step in creating an open, collaborative, team culture in your company!
Once you have written your employee handbook, have a legal professional go over it. Make sure to choose a legal counsel who is an expert in the employment law.
Don't skip this step - it is the only way to ensure that:
There are no legal loopholes that can be exploited
You are following all relevant laws and policies of your country and region.
Useful resources for writing an employee handbook
Before you start writing your own employee handbook, check out our blog post which clearly defines what should an employee handbook consist of.
Also, in order to help you get started with writing an employee handbook for your company, we created a bunch of templates for some of the most important policies and procedures every employee handbook should include:
Templates for Attendance, Holiday and Leave Policies
Templates for Employee Conduct Policies
Templates for Recruiting Policies
Templates for Workplace Policies.
Feel free to use them, just don’t forget to adjust them to fit your own needs and the company culture (you wish to create)! 🙂
Good luck! 🍀
Frequently asked questions
What is the main purpose of an employee handbook?
An employee handbook outlines a company's policies, procedures, and culture, providing a clear understanding of workplace expectations and values for both new and existing employees.
Why is an employee handbook beneficial for businesses?
Besides clarifying company policies and culture, an employee handbook can promote equality, save time by answering common questions, prevent legal disputes, and improve the onboarding process.
What are essential tips for creating an effective employee handbook?
Tips include keeping the content concise and understandable, reflecting the company's tone and culture, personalizing the language, incorporating multimedia elements, and creating an engaging format.
Who should be involved in writing an employee handbook?
Typically, HR teams handle the creation of employee handbooks, but in smaller companies, it can be a collaborative effort involving leadership and even contributions from all employees.
How can an employee handbook be legally safeguarded?
After drafting, it's important to have the handbook reviewed by a legal professional specializing in employment law to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal loopholes.