Employee handbooks are useful assets for any company

Employee handbooks: sharing the fundamentals of your company’s life

An overview of corporate rules and vision as a great HR asset

To catalogue, classify and set in motion all policies and procedures that the company lives by, HR managers usually compile a well-structured set of internal rules and codes of conduct. This document is usually known as an employee handbook, sometimes also called an employee manualcompany handbook, or company policy manual. The handbook provides the company’s employees with an entirety of underlying work principles to follow, guiding their actions in the workplace and clarifying what is seen by the organization as acceptable or unacceptable behaviour.

The employee handbook is commonly used as a part of a company’s onboarding or induction process for newly hired workers, as it summarizes the main policies and procedures, but also gives an overview of the company’s values, corporate culture, and behavioural expectations.

Kick-starting a solid employee handbook: what to include and how to keep it engaging

In most cases, it is advisable to insert in your employee handbook the following information:

  • An overview – general company information: key data, history, company structure, products & services, industry, customers, mission, and vision
  • A CEO/president welcome letter
  • General strategic goals of the business
  • The company’s commitment to employees and main HR policies, benefits, various terms and conditions of employment, code of conduct, performance management, training & development
  • Non-compete, non-disclosure, or employee confidentiality agreements, if applicable within your company
  • Expense reimbursements: describing the costs employees can be reimbursed for and the procedures to follow for doing so
  • Leave policies: vacation & sick time, company-recognized holidays, maternity, paternity, and compassionate leave
  • Exit policy: employees eventually leave the company, so it is useful to outline how to give the resignation and the amount of notice that is officially requested
  • Workplace health & safety policy: respect in the workplace, emergency procedures, corporate wellness programmes, set of terms about accidents & injuries, security guidelines.

It is crucial to include in the handbook as much information as possible, providing guidance and covering the complete spectrum of situations that may happen at the workplace: employees often look for loopholes when they need to justify certain behaviours, so they read that employee handbook to find them. It should always be very clear, concrete, and relevant to your business. However, remember that the handbook is not only about defining rules and codes of conduct – it has a much bigger potential.

According to Forbes, “while it is critical that the handbook reflects the latest labour laws and social norms, it also needs to take into the account company culture and be engaging enough for your employees to pay attention”. Divide the focus between the “formal” part and the “culture-first” content. Consider your employee handbook as a piece of marketing: that means, answer the questions “how” and “why”. As communication and leadership expert Simon Sinek has once said, “people don’t care about what you do, they care about why you do it”.

The introduction part that contains an extensive description of your company’s history, mission, and vision should, in fact, be one of the central content elements. Define why your company was founded, and how it went on to become what it is now. Describe the enterprise goals, focus on its inspiring nature and make it relatable.

Always make your distinctive “company’s voice” heard: “we’ve all read handbooks that we’d rather we didn’t — boring and droning on about policy and procedure with no end in sight. This is a surefire way to drive employees away from the guidelines, rather than pull them in. Why not make the handbook engaging and interactive? Your handbook should have the voice of your culture, be welcoming, warm and easy to follow. Get your message read”.

Keep in mind that handbooks should be personally written by HR managers that are experts of the company policies but must be later reviewed by corporate legal department: your lawyers will notice any confusing aspect or possible incompliance with the local employment law. Remember to update your employee handbook frequently – as company policies change through the time, be sure to modify your handbook accordingly.

Last but not least, as suggested by Forbes, “keep it accessible and user-friendly: successful employee handbooks strike a balance between completeness and brevity. Storing the handbook online can provide real-time access and streamline the process for communicating additions, revisions or corrections”.

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