Employee Handbooks: Why Are They Important?

by | 17 Jun, 2018

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While having an employee handbook may seem like something that only larger corporations need to worry about, the reality is that employee handbooks are important and beneficial for businesses of all sizes, even those with just a handful of employees. A well-drafted, legally compliant, and up-to-date handbook can have many benefits for both the employees and the employer. Here are some reasons why employee handbooks are important:

  • They serve as an orientation tool for new employees. A good employee handbook will become a crucial element to the employee onboarding process, as it will include a section on the company’s history, background, mission, and values. This will give new employees a snapshot of the company culture and help them begin to feel as though they are a part of the team.
  • They set expectations of employees. A good employee handbook provides employees with a clear understanding of their responsibilities and what is expected of them. It essentially serves as a map of the company policies and procedures that employees must know about, such as work schedules, requesting time off, dress code, performance reviews, and more. In addition, the handbook should also convey what employees can expect out of their management and leadership.
  • They serve as a useful tool for human resources, administration, and management teams. Because the employee handbook documents various rules and procedures, distributing the handbook to employees saves the HR/administration team considerable time in explaining these procedures repeatedly. Having an employee handbook for reference can also help to ensure consistent application and implementation of policies and procedures across the company.
  • They showcase the employee benefits being offered. The employee handbook is a good place to spell out the employee benefits that are offered, and how employees can ensure they are taking full advantage of them.
  • They minimize employer liability. In the instance of a legal dispute between an employee and employer, a copy of the employee handbook can be an important component of the employer’s defense case. Most importantly, a handbook that includes an employee acknowledgement signature at the end allows employers to prove that the employee read and was familiarized with the policies and procedures of the company, and that they agreed to abide by the terms and conditions of employment spelled out by the organization.
  • They help to establish a pipeline for solving internal disputes. A good handbook should convey to employees who or where they should turn when they need help in various scenarios. This can help to resolve employee grievances faster and more efficiently.

Knowing that it is important to have an employee handbook does not mean that creating one is an easy process. The employee handbook should be specific to your company, so crafting one that is tailored to the company, as well as legally compliant, clear, concise, and up-to-date, can prove to be quite challenging. Here are some tips:

  • Do not simply download a generic handbook from the internet. While there is a wide array of employee handbook templates to download, these should be used only as an initial framework, if at all. Many of these sample handbooks are not industry or region specific. Thus, using them could mean overlooking important policies or considerations that are specific to the region or industry you are operating in.
  • Ensure the handbook is clean, professional, and free of typos. If an employee handbook is poorly designed, contains typos, or contains information that is conflicting, it gives a bad impression of the employer and makes the employee less likely to read and abide by the information contained within it.
  • Ensure that the handbook is easily accessible. A handbook can be exceptionally crafted, but if the employee is unable to access it easily, it is essentially useless. Thus, make sure the handbook is properly distributed to all employees, including updated versions as they arise.
  • Be sure to include an employee acknowledgment receipt form. At the end of each employee handbook, there should be a form for the employee to sign that acknowledges that they received the employee handbook and that they read and understand the policies and guidelines presented within it. Once filled out, this form should be kept in the employee’s personnel file.

In conclusion, creating and distributing an employee handbook should be more than just a cursory act. Employee handbooks have numerous benefits for both employers and employees, and they are just as important to have in small businesses as they are in large corporations. Thus, all employers should take time and careful consideration to construct and distribute an employee handbook that is tailored to the business, as well as clear, compliant, and up-to-date.

This post is part of a series on employee handbooks. Check out the other posts in the series:

Employee Handbooks: Are They Considered Contracts?

Employee Handbooks: Non-compete and Non-disclosure Agreements

Employee Handbooks: Making Updates

Leah Bury
Leah Bury was former Marketing Manager at Navigate PEO, and holds a BS from Northeastern University. She contributed pieces and HR tips and created The Compass, our monthly newsletter!

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