What makes a good organization great? Some might say it’s the culture, while others may credit the finances that flow into it. The real winner, however, is smooth communication.
Good communication is the backbone of every successful organization, and the foundation that helps put it in perspective is a well-drafted employee handbook. A handbook allows you to interact with your employees and lay down the tiniest bits of information in the most extensive manner, thus avoiding hassles related to communication in the future.
If you are struggling to create a company handbook, you’re in for some really good advice. Let’s dive in deeper to unravel some tried and true ways of drafting a flawless employee handbook for your organization.
What Makes an Employee Handbook So Crucial?
An employee handbook is more than words written on a blank page. It talks about your organizational goals, vision and mission statements, legal health, matters related to governance and compliances, and much more.
Imagine this handbook as your ultimate gospel that you can always fall back on in case of a legal dispute within or outside your organization. Think of it as writing a professional email, where you can’t afford any lapse in judgment that might cost you a big client and lead to heavy losses.
Here are a few other ways in which an employee handbook comes in handy.
1. Drawing the Line
When it comes to setting the right boundaries, an employee handbook plays an important role by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities within an organization.
It clarifies employee expectations, which promotes responsibility and accountability in your company. This goes a long way in building a healthy and holistic work culture. It also:
- Promotes equality within roles
- Clarifies hierarchies
- Empowers employees to become more disciplined at work
- Manifests a workspace where everyone is heard and valued
With clearly defined boundaries, employees feel more safe and secure while working, which acts as a great motivator and builds a healthier work relationship.
2. Orienting a New Employee
You can rely on the handbook to help you through the orientation process and make the employee comfortable in their new role.
It also helps the employee get better acquainted with company policies and procedures so they get assimilated into their roles faster.
To name a few things you can include:
- Culture statement
- Vision and mission
- Equal opportunity clause
- Leave policies
- Exit procedures
For a new employee, the handbook becomes twice as important because they can always fall back on the information provided in case of confusion with their roles or with communication in general.
3. Managing Disputes
Every role comes with its challenges; therefore, it is almost impossible to avoid conflicts and clashes in a team. But when things escalate to involve legalities, you need a clear set of instructions to strategize your actions.
This is what a handbook does. The information laid out in the handbook backs you up when you negate a claim by an employee and vice versa.
It protects both the parties by clearly demarcating responsibilities, which makes handling a dispute twice as easy. It also helps an organization establish credibility by being better prepared for such unforeseen events in the future.
4. Encouraging Diligence
With clear communication and everyone on the same page regarding their roles and responsibilities, it becomes easier for employees to follow a disciplined approach at work.
They also become more productive, as they are clear about what is expected of them and spend less time questioning policies and procedures.
An employee handbook is essential for both employers and employees because it provides reliable and relevant information to avoid future hassles in communication. But what should you include in a handbook? Let’s find out.
Items to Add to Your Employee Handbook
The rule of thumb for drafting an impeccable handbook is to be extremely precise with the information you provide while making it engaging enough to hold attention. Remember to:
- Maintain tone
- Maintain consistency of information
- Maintain the flow of ideas
Once you’ve nailed these concepts, here are a few things you need to include in your handbook.
1. A Warm Salutation
Always start the handbook with a small greeting. You can say something as simple as:
“Welcome to XYZ. This is your place to be your best, so let’s make it work together. We’re glad to have you here.”
Set a positive tone for the rest of the handbook so employees feel encouraged and motivated to read what follows. Welcoming employees on their first visit also sets a positive tone for your company communication, and they will feel much more at ease.
Additionally, it is always a good idea to have this note written by someone from the leadership. It should be directly addressed to the employee to make the communication more transparent and personal.
2. Company Policies and Compliances
The orientation is just the first step in introducing employees to the company. What follows should give them a brief idea about the company’s policies, laws, and compliances.
This is an extremely vital section because, in case of disputes or hurdles in communication, both the employer and employees will be referring to this section.
Here’s a short glimpse of what should be featured in this section:
- Documents required to file during induction
- Company vision and mission statements
- Goals, future courses of action, and timelines
- Employee redressal
- Employee resource groups
- Policies regarding upskilling
- Policies regarding the use of the internet in the workplace
- Workplace culture
Break down the information in this section into smaller parts to encourage a more focused approach to reading. It will also help the employee broadly understand the company, which promotes productivity and better time management.
3. Legal Information
This is one of the most important sections in the handbook because it suits your interests as a company in case of employee disputes and provides you with a clear sense of direction.
Additionally, it puts your employees at ease because they have clear and transparent information about the company’s legal policies.
To name a few things you could write about in this section:
- Employee equal opportunity clause
- Disability clause
- Labor laws
- Workplace harassment clause
- Employee at-will clause
- Diversity and inclusion statement
- Conflict of interest
- Non-disclosure agreements
The information in this section needs a professional opinion; therefore, keep your lawyer informed and schedule regular consultations.
4. Financial Breakdown
Information related to employee remuneration should be featured as one of the most highlighted sections in the handbook.
Employees need to know exactly what falls in their pockets and what goes toward taxes and other expenses. Therefore, it is advisable to be as clear and transparent as possible.
Here’s a sample flow of topics you could discuss:
- Basic salary
- Additional benefits incurred after a specified period
- Detailed layout of taxes and other cuts
- Periodic bonuses
- Additional allowances
- Final take-home pay
Pro tip: Use an infographic approach for this section to make the information engaging and easily understandable. You could also build a form and share that over email to make this information more accessible to employees. They could save it as a separate section from the handbook to retrieve it as and when they want.
5. Employee Benefits and Incentives
Employee benefits here refer to vacation time, bonuses, travel, housing, and medical allowances, loan assistance, and more.
These employee rewards and recognitions play a vital role in making them feel valued and appreciated, so mention them in detail. In this section, be sure to:
- Be descriptive.
- Use easy language and avoid industry jargon.
- Use direct, first-person statements.
- Make the information clear and engaging.
Benefits are an investment every company should undertake to make their employees more productive and increase employee engagement.
Use KPI software such as Hubspot to track performance, then leverage that information to further incentivize your employees. This will also promote healthy competition and push them to achieve better results.
As we said, make the handbook as informational as possible, but don’t make the information too dry.
Pro tip: Create a storyline and use each section as part of a new sub-plot. Take a hypothetical employee through their first day at work, their salary breakup, their point of contact in case of an issue, and their last day at work. This will also make the flow better and the process of reading enjoyable.
Tips to Take Your Employee Handbook Up a Notch
It’s imperative to draft an informational handbook, but what many organizations don’t realize is that it is equally important to make this information interesting enough to hook the readers.
How do you do that? Well, here are some points for you to get started.
1. Use a Simple Yet Impactful Content Flow
Content is the king of your employee handbook, so it is important to maintain a flow within it.
Use extremely direct yet impactful language to communicate with your employees. The Netflix Culture Document is an excellent example to follow here. The language they use is engaging, direct, and spontaneous. Additionally, they have broken down the information into bullet points to make it easier on the eye.
2. Create Your Design Language
The handbook’s design will set the tone for the document. Keep it fresh, unique, and subtle. Heavy colors can throw the reader off and distract their attention from the information, which is counterproductive.
Facebook and HubSpot do an excellent job in this regard. They use their brand colors intelligently and place the information coherently.
For instance, Facebook uses intelligent one-liners in white typography over a solid-color base, which makes the text stand out. This resonates with the brand image of being quirky, direct, best in communication, and varied.
3. Make It Interactive
An interactive employee handbook is a brilliant way of making the reading process two-way and encouraging more receptivity.
Take hints from Trello, process workflow software, which uses its in-house collaborative tool to distribute its employee handbook. They make regular changes to it while maintaining the transparency of information, and it is also easily accessible.
Store the handbook in Google Drive and continuously amend it so everyone stays connected and in the loop.
Additionally, you can leverage over a hundred templates on websites such as Adobe, and Templatelab to create a handbook that suits your organization the best.
4. Ensure Everyone Has Read It
For everyone to follow the same ideas, regardless of their roles and duties, every employee should have thoroughly read and acknowledged the presence of the employee handbook.
Using email clients for distribution will also serve this purpose, as employees can acknowledge receipt through a digital signature or something as simple as a revert that says, ”Received.” This will help you keep track of the number of employees who have read the handbook.
You can create engaging surveys to take feedback on the handbook. You could also look at making the employees a part of drafting the handbook so they feel more involved.
A well-drafted employee handbook is one that clearly defines company principles without using unnecessary jargon. It is also an important document to introduce new employees to the company in a more informal fashion and also help existing employees stay in regular touch with organizational goals.
When everyone works in sync, it is easiest to establish and achieve better results, and that’s exactly what an employee handbook enables you to achieve as an organization. Remember to set the tone and content right, keep it error-free, and you’re good to go.
Roman Shvydun writes informative articles about free email for Mac, marketing, business, productivity, workplace culture, etc. His articles focus on balancing information with SEO needs, but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read.