What To Include In Your Employee Handbook
The modern-day employee handbook no longer has to be a dry, boring document that no one wants to read. In addition to mitigating liability, a well-written handbook is an effective tool for establishing your employer brand and creating a guide for employees to successfully navigate their careers within your organization.
It is important that employee handbooks are well-designed, concise, and easy-to-read. The handbook contains truly important information you want your employees to read and know. They are more likely to read and understand a visually pleasing, well-written document.
Good Design Is Important
Just as good design and branding matter to customers, they matter to employees. An organization wouldn’t send a dry, boring newsletter to its customers or have a website without pictures and graphics. Reason is, well-designed content is more likely to be read by customers. Just as it is by employees.
Research shows good design:
Makes a good first impression
Establishes your brand and keeps the brand memorable
Builds trust and loyalty
Makes content stand out
Make Sure It’s Easy-to- Read
There is no need for the handbook to sound like a legal contract. Important legal policies and information can still be included but the bulk of the document should read like a communication piece, such as a guide or website content. Employees are more likely to read and understand the information if it’s written primarily in plain English, not legal jargon.
The handbook also needs to be concise. There isn’t a need to repeat the same statement over and over or use long-winded, formal sentences. Concise and to-the-point is the best way to go from a readability standpoint.
Include Non-Traditional Elements
To engage employee-readers and further establish the employer brand, I recommend including the following non-traditional elements in your employee handbook:
Pictures of high-performing and key employees with quotes on what they like most about working for the organization
A visual timeline of your organization’s history with important milestones noted
The organization’s mission, vision, and values displayed as an infographic
Tips for employees who want to get promoted
Testimonials from leadership who were internally promoted and how they were successful in doing that
A conversational “welcome message” and photo from the organization’s leader
Policies to Include
Depending on your specific business, this list may vary or additional policies may be needed. Generally speaking, a handbook should have the following policies:
Exempt/Non-Exempt Schedule, Breaks, & Time Tracking
Sick Time, Vacation Time, Holidays
Respectful Workplace/Standards of Conduct
Equal Employment Opportunity
Americans with Disabilities Act
FMLA/Medical Leaves of Absence
Jury Duty, Bereavement, & Personal Leave
Conflict of Interest
Safety& Accident Reporting
Drug & Alcohol
Computer Security & Use of Equipment
The Handbook is a Dynamic Document
It’s important to keep in mind the employee handbook is a dynamic, not a static document. Policies and other elements may change as the organization changes. I recommend posting the handbook to a shared online space and having employees sign-off on the document whenever major substantive changes are made. Otherwise, things such as pictures and design elements can easily be changed. It’s also important to make sure new employees sign off on the handbook and to provide printed copies upon request for employees who don’t have access to a computer.
Always Have an Attorney do the Final Review
There’s no need to pay an attorney to write the entire document, but it is a good idea to have an attorney conduct a final review. This step is to make sure the handbook reduces and does not create legal liability.
Do you need help with your employee handbook?
As a HR Consultant with over 15 years of experience writing and reviewing employee handbooks, I help organizations all over the US by:
Reviewing, updating, and revising established handbooks
Building and writing handbooks from scratch
Writing or reviewing one-off personnel policies
Contact me at: SkyeMercer@gmail.com
Skye Mercer, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
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