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The Why, When & How Of Creating An Employee Handbook

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Tom got his first job at a small company where the other employees were significantly older than him. Being new to the workplace and to professional work in general, he was unsure of many of the basic rules and standards of the office. And as a young employee, he did not want to make a poor impression by immediately asking questions like how to get approval for vacation time or how long he had for his lunch break. On a broader and more significant scale, Tom had a basic understanding of his day to day tasks, but did not necessarily comprehend the vision and culture of the company to which those tasks contributed.

The Why

An employee handbook covers the “why” of the company, as well as clarifying expectations of both employer and employee. By laying out the groundwork for policies and procedures, it can also protect the company from costly litigation as well as provide a workplace consistency that prevents unnecessary conflict. Putting the rules in writing takes the emotion out of some of the less pleasant parts of the employer-employee relationship. And one of the less common but not less important benefits of the employee handbook is that it enables your company to run better without you.

The When

When is there time to put something like this together? Well, there’s no time like the present. The sooner, the better. Don’t wait for conflict to arise or for you to notice a problem with an employee. The information you need is all around you – be proactive and start gathering it today. “Rome wasn’t build in a day” – your employee handbook doesn’t have to be either. Iterations will be needed as your organization grows and software can easily be used to keep track of who has read which version. You payroll provider can likely assist with version control - Paychex, for instance, offers custom employee handbook services - or we really like Kastrack for this purpose.

This can and should be an ongoing task that involves contributions by the very employees that it governs. While they may not get to decide how many days off they get or policies on compensation, they will likely have great suggestions on what to include based on the questions that they had when they started at the company, or perhaps some that have never been addressed.

The How

The process doesn’t have to be daunting. Much of the information may already be on your website or your social media page. Your payroll service can likely assist with the legal-compliance related parts of the handbook, but you’ll need to add the parts that establish the mission, value, and culture. These are much more important to the success of your organization and can’t be outsourced.

Your handbook is unique and should reflect the culture you’re trying to establish in your workplace. In addition to the handbook, on-boarding and off-boarding templates for employees in key roles can be a helpful time saver. These may differ tremendously depending on the role, but will certainly contribute to a seamless transition between employees.

Having consistency in place can help to drive up the value of your business. For more information on your current valuation, you can take our Value Builder Assessment here.

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