There are a lot of things people don’t always read all the way through: the terms and conditions for a new app, the manual for their microwave, PTA newsletters to name a few.
So it’s only reasonable to worry that your employee handbook won’t be read in full. How can you make sure it’s a valuable asset?
In this article, we will teach you how to create a guide for your company that employees would actually want to read from cover to cover. We will start by defining what an employee handbook is, and why you need it.
What Is an Employee Manual?
Staff handbook, employee manual, or employee handbook — whatever you want to call it, this guide is an essential document that any of your workers can refer to for questions about the company culture, values, mission, policies, and procedures. It’s also a manual that you can hand to any new team member to get them acquainted with everything your company is and isn’t.
A company guide can serve as a communication tool between the company and employees and as an extension of your brand image. It should encourage and motivate all hires to work in line with your values. It could be handy in the event of a dispute or disagreement as well.
Why Do You Need an Employee Handbook?
The most crucial function of this guide is setting clear boundaries and expectations before a company and its employees. It’s not a legal necessity, but it certainly helps, for instance, in the following cases:
- To define procedures and policies: If there is confusion about what to do in a specific event – a handbook is a place where the employee can refer back to and ensure compliance. Keeping rules, training, and initiatives in one place helps formalize company policy in a straightforward way.
- To promise diversity and inclusion: An employee handbook is a statement about how your company handles issues of equality. It encourages a safe working environment for everyone and gives a clear guide as to what happens when there is a conflict.
- To create a smooth onboarding experience: There are many steps to a new hire’s journey, and the hiring department has to manage multiple applicants at one time. A handbook that answers the most common questions a new employee might have will save time and help them acclimatize to the working environment.
- To keep everyone on the same page: While your company doesn’t legally require a handbook, it certainly helps work as a warranty. It is a document you can refer to, add to, and request that employees confirm they have read and understand.
Now that you can see the benefits, you’re likely eager to create an outstanding content piece to guide employees. Let’s get right to the writing recommendations.
A Brief Guide to Writing an Employee Handbook
Writing the company guide usually falls onto the shoulders of the HR department, but involving the top management and any creative personnel is also a good idea. An employee handbook should be a collaborative project because everyone will benefit from making it clear and human-readable.
There are generally two types of handbooks:
- About company culture. Culture handbooks outline what the company stands for, its mission, and its values. These are often more creative and publicly available. But they don’t have to be. For example, Netflix’s guide on culture and responsibility is a simple black font on white background. Also, you can make use of tools to help maintain company culture.
- General information. Such guides are more private and contain company-specific information. They are usually stored on the company’s cloud drive or sent to new employees as part of the onboarding package.
Yours doesn’t have to be either type or it could combine both. If you have ideas on how to make it more creative and worthy of a read – all the better. But there are some elements that any handbook can benefit from, so let’s get into details about what you should put into your employee manual.
The 10 Must-Have Elements of An Employee Handbook
There’s no particular order to this list but starting it with a welcome note is good manners, so let’s commence with the same:
- Welcome message. You’ll hand the guide to new employees, so a formal greeting from the chief person in the company will help the hires feel welcomed and appreciated. It plays into a positive first impression – a foundation of a loyal relationship.
- A note on the purpose of the handbook. This can include instructions on using the guide and what it contains.
- An overview of the company. A guide on your company could benefit from a brief description of its history — make it more engaging by visualizing the timeline — mission statement, a bird’s eye view of each department, and equal opportunity policy.
- Terms of employment. This part includes the benefits and expected working hours that new hires agree to when accepting an offer. Along with that, you can describe different procedures like attendance policies, arranging a vacation, termination, payroll practices, and other such policies.
- Code of conduct. This section should explain how an employee should represent your company in front of peers and competitors. For example, it’s recommendations on what they can post on social media or dress code during work hours.
- Safety notice. A good idea is to include a section on how your company ensures a healthy and safe working environment. This can include everything from handling incidents of harassment to what you should do if you feel you are coming down with a cold. Data security standards can also go here. Try some safety management applications for this purpose.
- Perks. If your company offers any bonus benefits, such as a company car, training compensation, or wellness programs, a section disclosing them wouldn’t be amiss.
- Work from home policies. Especially if your company is fully remote, you need this section in the current climate. It can include instructions for handling different cases, such as communication between workers, time-tracking, privacy ensuring practices, or what to do in case of a power outage.
- State laws. If your region has specific legal clauses about jobs, it’s worth disclosing them in the handbook.
- Other processes and procedures. New employees should know how you handle employee evaluation or the recruitment process for different kinds of jobs if they want to refer someone.
That’s a long list but certainly not complete or definite. The key is to add information valuable for any employee. Each department should ensure it is up-to-date and easy to retrieve. The latter is crucial.
Here’s an example of when to update your employee handbook:
Say your handbook has a resource section that highlights which email client, time tracker & timesheet, or collaboration software everyone has to use. Now, say you were using Outlook for email communication within the team, but eventually, you decided to go with an Outlook alternative that supports something other than Microsoft accounts.
If an employee started working after the transition, it would be confusing to read instructions related to Outlook. Each screenshot and reference to the email would have to be updated.
That’s why it is worth keeping your handbook in electronic format, so you make changes and keep the handbook current. This brings us to another question.
How Should You Store the Employee Handbook?
Any place that an employee can access the handbook at any time. The easiest way is on Google Drive. Guides usually come as a PDF, so you can store yours in a folder on Google Drive with other onboarding documents that you send to newcomers. An employee can easily open a PDF file in Google Docs for better viewing, and you can update the file if it had gone through changes.
The same goes for other formats. If it’s in images or presentation slides, they are more easily accessible from cloud storage.
You can also go the Trello route and dedicate a Kanban board to your employee handbook. This way, employees will also get notifications about any changes to the cards on the board.
HubSpot has its handbook on SlideShare as the company practices transparency in all aspects of its work. However, if you want to add more sensitive information to yours, posting it publicly might not be the best idea.
5 Awesome Tips for Writing An Employee Handbook
If there’s one rule to writing a guide to your company, it’s staying passionate about your business and making sure you’d love to get such a handbook yourself. After all, it’s a great way to instill company pride.
Here are some ideas to make it an enjoyable piece of content:
1. Choose a Format That Is Relevant To Your Company
Creative industries might benefit more from a handbook filled with photos or images. Best if they are of your company’s creations. Pick a format that is most likely to attract your employees’ attention. If you have the resources for a learning platform, try developing your handbook into a mini interactive course.
2. Focus On The Positive
Case in point when you’re talking about things that aren’t allowed, like smoking indoors. The positive aspect is that everyone working for you has an equal opportunity for health safety.
Writing with a positive mindset will help establish a welcoming tone rather than an authoritative one. Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re on a strict diet after reading your handbook.
3. Add Some Humor Where Appropriate
Humor lightens the mood and helps their conversation with the handbook proceed. Add a few humorous images here and there, but don’t turn your book into comedy.
If your company has a mascot, it can pop up on a few page corners with a witty statement.
4. Align Your Tone & Language With The Company Culture
So, the language of your handbook should be positive throughout and funny in a few select places. Along with that, it should also complement your culture.
Your employees are an extension of your company, and the handbook should support and lead them toward reflecting your culture.
5. Simplest Terms Work Best
While you’re writing an essential document that should encompass different company areas, try to keep it light. The company guide should engage employees and allow them to learn more about your company, not put them to sleep with lengthy explanations and jargon.
Most people can retain focus for all but 20 minutes, so make sure they can read the entire book in that time. Or make it into an animated video.
An employee handbook is an essential piece of content about your company. It can serve as an onboarding tool, providing more information about the new workplace. It can also be on hand any time a worker needs to refer to your company policies.
The handbook can come in various formats, as a PDF file, dedicated website, slide presentation, or even hard copy. But the key to a good handbook is including only the most essential information and making it easily accessible.
But if you’re unsure how to start and format your company guide, there’s always the option to check out the publicly available books from peer companies.
Post By: Carla Andre-Brown
Carla Andre-Brown is content strategist at Mailbird. She’s interested in consumer empathy and gets excited to share discoveries and best practices with other marketers within the SaaS industry. She’s also studying Educational Technology and Design at the University of Saskatchewan.