There is no argument that organizational leaders and human resource professionals are busy juggling a wide array of business priorities, projects, and goals. Rarely, does the employee handbook rise to the top of the priority list. This document is commonly underestimated and is viewed as merely a helpful reference for your staff, the most important benefits of having a well-written employee handbook is to resolve conflicts and protect your organization from potential litigation. Let’s take a closer look.
What is an employee handbook?
An employee handbook is a compilation of the policies, procedures, working conditions and behavioral expectations in your business. It should include company-wide policy statements meant to govern the business. Instead, it’s an opportunity to create clarity for both employees and management around policies and expectations.
A handbook can be a physical, hard copy document, or an electronic file stored online and shared electronically within an organization. A handbook is a living document that must be consistently maintained to ensure it reinforces your business practices and that your policies are up to date with the latest federal, state, and local laws. It’s important to have documented acknowledgement that every employee has reviewed the handbook and agrees to follow the outlined policies outlined.
A well-written handbook can foster a stronger, more positive company culture, one in which policies are clearly defined and consistently, uniformly implemented. Individual departments may have additional specific protocols or procedures, but the primary purpose of an employee handbook is to provide a firm foundation for the overall business.
Purposes of an employee handbook
An employee handbook and policies that are enforced in a consistent manner helps both businesses and employees thrive. No matter the size of your business, a well-crafted employee handbook:
- Details your mission, vision, and values
A handbook helps convey your company culture, which flows from your mission and values. In fact, everything a business does should be rooted in these three things. These are, after all, your business’ bedrock goals and standards.
You want to hire employees who understand and embrace your mission. You want them to uphold your values and help your company move toward fulfilling your vision.
Thus, your employee handbook should be written so all staff members can understand and connect with your mission, vision and values from the outset.
- Communicates company policies and expectations
Providing clear expectations informs employees how they can succeed in their jobs. This clarity can make the business successful as well.
Tailored to your company, a handbook should outline company policies as well as indicate how employees are expected to behave and perform. It reflects how you conduct business while providing a framework for workplace behavior and a roadmap on how to treat employees.
Whether it’s how to request time off from work, how to dress appropriately or the importance of refraining from drug and alcohol use, a handbook lets employees know what is expected of them while detailing what will happen if they fail to meet those expectations.
- Ensures consistent enforcement of company policies
Not only does a handbook provide employee expectations, but also it creates a framework to guide management and leadership.
Outlining what employees can expect from management helps ensure the whole company is working from the same page. Without a handbook, each department manager may do what they feel is appropriate versus following clearly defined and uniform company-wide expectations.
In other words, a handbook ensures consistency from one manager to the next so employees in different departments are treated equally and policies are enforced appropriately.
- Sets expectations for employee conduct and performance
With an up-to-date, comprehensive handbook, employees always know what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the business. They understand workplace policies and procedures. They know how management will address problems and complaints.
The handbook creates a shared knowledge base with the rest of the team and helps ensure everyone knows what is important. The clarity around these matters may increase staff confidence in the business and makes their efforts seem worthwhile. This has the potential to heighten engagement and motivation.
- Addresses employee expectations
Just as companies hire new staff with hopes that they’ll deliver, employees enter an employment relationship with expectations as well. At a minimum, they expect clear communication and fair treatment that meets legal requirements.
By clearly defining company policies and setting a professional tone for the workplace, a handbook demonstrates you understand employees’ needs and are committed to creating a positive work environment.
- Minimizes risks
Clearly defining workplace policies and procedures can be the first step in defending a business from unemployment or other legal issues.
Employment-related lawsuits and claims are often based on inconsistent treatment or lack of notice of company policies and procedures.
Without a handbook in place, a business potentially faces heightened liability risks. These may include lawsuits, harassment claims, wrongful termination claims and discrimination claims. A handbook also helps ensure your business complies with applicable federal, state and local laws.
- Helps minimize conflict
When policies and procedures are not clearly communicated and consistently implemented, conflicts may arise.
A lack of clarity about policies or uneven enforcement of policies and procedures may lead to perceptions of unfairness or allegations of discrimination, negatively impacting teamwork, and productivity.
Employees may feel undervalued or mistreated, creating a negative workplace environment.
Clear policies and equitable implementation help ensure everyone is treated with respect in a non-harassing, non-discriminatory way.
Employee handbooks are important because they outline expectations and values for employees, but they can also cover the employer in case of any legal issues down the line. Employee handbooks settle disputes and resolve issues when adjudicators ask, ‘Does it specifically say in your handbook that employees are not allowed to do that?’ Rules generally come about because of something that went wrong at some point, and employee handbooks allow employers to document all possibilities on an ongoing basis.
Employees genuinely want to know what’s expected of them, and what they can count on. A good employee handbook will give them that clarity. An employee handbook should be a living document that outlines what your company has learned over the years about how to cover the employer and the employees. If you are looking for support on this process, whether it be drafting a new document, or reviewing and revising an existing handbook, call our team at Alternative HR, LLC. We’re ready to assist you and your team.
To learn more about Alternative HR and their employee handbook services, go to https://alternativehr.com/hr-services/#hr-fractional-services.
The firm offers practical and cost-effective HR solutions, including HR management support, compliance, compensation and benefit assistance, recruitment and selection services, employee development and leadership coaching.
Take the first step towards streamlining your HR processes, maximizing your business potential, and feeling better about your people. Contact Alternative HR today for a personalized consultation, and discover the benefits of partnering with one of the nation’s premier providers of HR solutions for small and medium sized employers. Your HR success starts here!