8 Tips on How to Write Your First Employee Handbook

A well-written employee handbook is essential for creating a strong relationship with your hourly employees. Employee handbooks are an excellent way to kickoff effective communication with your employees and make sure that everyone is on the same page for rules, expectations, and processes from the get-go. This is an excellent resource to train new employees as well as a resource for both you and your seasoned employees to reference for questions and uncertainties. Getting started on writing your first employee handbook, however, can be a little tricky. To help, we’ve curated a list of eight tips to help you write a winning handbook that will help you communicate your expectations and more effectively manage your employees.

Use the handbook as a communication tool

Employees can be full of legal agreements and notices, which important as they are, can be daunting. Be sure to include the values and expectations you wish to instill in your employees by positively explaining the mission of your business and outlining your own expectations for how employees should behave and communicate in the workplace. Make in clear in the language of your handbook that this handbook is a guide for your employees to understand their jobs, but that they should come to you with any questions or any clarifications. Write your handbook with the same attitude you want your employees to adopt as they work for you: proactive, positive, and encouraging. And write it in a straightforward and readable language that your employees can easily absorb and understand.

Safety and security

This may be the most useful section for seasoned employees to refer to after they’ve been trained and working for a while and think they remember everything in the handbook. However, safety and security are issues we take for granted and it is an excellent idea to outline procedures that someone can refer to in case of an emergency. Stress in this section that employee safety and security is important to you. Outline what steps should be taken if an employee is injured at work, in the event of a robbery, drug and alcohol intolerances, criminal records, and in the event of emergencies such as fires, severe weather, or flooding. This is your chance to show you have a plan of action (and if you don’t, a chance for you to make one) as well as an opportunity for you to demonstrate to your employees that you care about their safety while they are at work.

Get a legal review

An employee handbook is a crucial documentation in place of a legal issue, and as much as you might not think you’ll come up with legal issues with your hourly employees, you can never be too careful. Once you have finished your employee handbook, get a Legal Review to make sure you aren’t putting yourself in a sticky situation with any of your wording, especially for sections addressing legal issues.

Outline your expectations/Code of conduct

You should outline all legal expectations in this section, but also make clear what your own store policies are. If you don’t want your employees using their cellphones while they’re on the clock, make that clear. Be sure to include your policies on lunch breaks, switching shifts, acting with certain behaviors during work, how you will handle overtime etc. This is your chance to clearly state everything so there is no room for doubt and also gives you something to reference when it comes time to enforce these expectations. If there is a legal matter, this handbook can provide you with some solid documentation to protect yourself from accusation.

Hours, benefits, and compensation

Clearly outline when employees are paid, what is included on their pay slip, what benefits (if any) and discounts they are eligible for, holidays, time off, and your policy on scheduling and number of hours they are allowed.

Don’t be redundant

Your employee handbook is a chance to outline everything your employees need to know about working at your business. However, keep in mind that they will also be reading other documentation as they fill out the necessary forms during the hiring process. Instead of reiterating everything in the legal documents, go ahead and make a note to reference these documents for the information provided on them and provide a summary if you feel appropriate.

Make it readable

Use plenty of headings, sub-headings, bullet points, and paragraph breaks to make your handbook easy to read, skim, and come back to when someone needs to find a specific section. Your employees will not want to read a handbook that is a tedious chunk of text, so make it easy for them to get the information they need with effectively formatted content.

Leave room for change

Remember, as your business grows, the way you conduct your business changes, and therefore the procedures of your employees will change as well. Change is natural and often, change is good, but you need to be able to adapt to change so that your employees aren’t struck in old procedures and systems that are no longer relevant. After you have written your stellar employee handbook allow changes to be made. Schedule time at least once each year (maybe more depending on the rate of change in the company) to reevaluate your handbook and update rules and procedures that no longer apply. Don’t be afraid to use this as an opportunity to get your employee’s input on what is working and what is not, as they are the ones who will be working according to the handbook and they can provide insight on procedures which can be added or taken away to enhance the customer’s experience. Keep in mind that federal laws may change, which will also be a good opportunity to update your handbook.

Do you have an employee handbook? What items have been most useful for you to include and what tips do you have for anyone who is writing a first handbook? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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