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Why Develop an Employee Handbook

march 26, 2021 | small business
woman writing at desk

Building out your business requires a lot of hard work and just as much paperwork, and given those demands, there’s undoubtedly temptation to cut administrative corners ever so slightly in areas that seem less urgent or impactful. Take the employee handbook: at first blush, it might seem like a document that would be nice to have,whether online or in paper form, but hardly critical to the work at hand.

This view misunderstands what an employee handbook provides, as it can be one of the most important documents for imparting both knowledge and values to employees old and new. Here are just a few reasons why developing an employee handbook is a vital step for any business.

Setting expectations. One of the biggest tasks involved with onboarding new hires is imparting all the information they need to know in a brief period of time. With an employee handbook, you can put on paper both the company mission, values and culture plus the expectations for basics such as office hours, work-from-home, and the responsibilities that come with the position they’ve accepted. You can’t very well hold people to a standard that was never clearly established, and it’s better yet to have that standard in writing to avoid claims of confusion or misunderstanding.

Communicating culture. Doubtless your company has its own values that you want your team to embrace and embody, but you can’t assume that every employee innately understands exactly the culture, or that new hires will grasp it simply through osmosis. By spelling out what you want your team to strive towards, you ensure that everyone is on the same page and (hopefully) working within the culture towards the company’s goals.

Demonstrating benefits. While benefits may have been touched on during the interview process and listed at a high level in an employment contract or letter, it’s unlikely that those in charge of hiring were able to get into the full details, or that newly-hired employees were able to absorb it all during that stressful and hectic time. In laying out the full range of benefits you offer, you’re both educating new employees and reminding current ones of the perks that come with employment at your company.

Establishing consistent standards. Nothing can undermine morale like the notion or belief that some people at the company are getting preferential treatment or are exempted from the application of policy or rules. Creating a standard for conduct and behavior, as well as for the consistent application of any workplace policy, and enforcing those standards evenly and equally in every instance helps ensure that employees believe they will be treated fairly in the workplace.

Creating a written record of policies for future reference. Unfortunately, it may be the case that an employee feels that they were treated unfairly by you or your company, and seeks or threatens to seek legal action for that treatment. In that case, you’ll be glad for a written guide of rules and standards that you can refer to and provide to an attorney. This is why it’s important to have a thorough guide covering any contingency or possibility, and why you should have employees sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understood the policies outlined and are agreeing to comply with them.

Ensuring compliance with state and federal employment laws. Apart from your own internal policies, there are legal obligations placed upon your company by both state and federal laws (and sometimes county or city ordinances) that need to be communicated to your employees. For things like health and safety, FMLA leave, workers’ compensation, discrimination or harassment, it’s important not only that workers know what legal rights they have, but also that you and the company understand fully and are firmly commited to abide by these laws.   

Imparting procedure for handling problems and complaints. Despite your best efforts, there may still be occasions when an employee has an issue or complaint or even just a question that can’t be answered. For those instances, you will want your handbook to lay out the formal conflict or dispute resolution process whereby your employees can address their concerns without feeling like they have to look outside of the company for help. Also, this process will help supervisors manage the inevitable conflicts in the workplace. Ultimately, you want employees to feel they can trust management, and that their issues will be heard and taken seriously.

When you start to include every point that needs to be put in writing into an employee handbook, it can be a complex document, and one that can have legal implications when it comes to laws at both the state and federal level plus local ordinances. Talking with a LegalShield expert provider attorney to help sort through employment law is a smart step when crafting your handbook. Sign up today to get started.

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