Tips for Developing an Employee Handbook

Every growing business needs a clearly defined set of workplace guidelines. If your once one-person operation is now a team effort, it may be time to create an employee handbook. While you may not enforce every rule to a T, having these rules written out can help keep everyone organized and on the same page and also limit your liability. Here are six tried-and-true tips for developing an employee handbook that your team can appreciate.

Get to the Point

While it may seem advantageous to add a paragraph for every possible legal situation and create a massive list of rules and consequences, labor laws are rarely that simple. You'll waste valuable time compiling such a project, and it's highly doubtful your employees will use their break to digest a novel. Communicate your point clearly and concisely, and have confidence that your employees already have a fair concept of professional etiquette.

Unify, Don't Alienate

Speak to your employees as their leader, not as a judge or prosecutor. Use casual pronouns such as "we," "us," "you," etc. in place of stuffy words like "the employer," "management," or "the employee." Include example scenarios of appropriate and inappropriate conduct, and encourage your employees to reach out to you or to your HR team (if you have one) with questions.

Put Yourself in Your Employee's Shoes

Before publishing your handbook, read it over and ask yourself if you would feel respected and motivated to work under the same set of rules. If not, chances are your employees won't either. Revise, get feedback from your employees, and remember that they are your teammates, not your prisoners.

Define Ethical Standards Clearly

Every employee handbook should contain a chapter on ethics. While you don't have to list out every possible ethical dilemma, try to include several examples relevant to your business. Set clear boundaries between ethical practices and criminal activity. For example, you might want to define proper and improper uses of company funds during a business trip, or define what constitutes harassment. Again, it's important not to persecute, but to educate and enlighten.

Address Proper Use of Data and Technology

Data and technology are crucial components of nearly every business, and it's more important than ever to ensure your employees understand how to use company devices and internet connections properly. For example, you may want to set rules for personal internet use on company time, revealing company information online, and telecommuting. Make sure that your employees know how to keep passwords and customer data secure.

Keep Everything Fair and Consistent

Inconsistencies in your employee handbook can cause confusion and leave you in hot water if an issue arises. Make sure that you communicate your expectations clearly, fairly, and consistently across the board. All employees, managers and new hires alike, should be held to the same standards of conduct, and you should lead by example.

Your employee handbook should serve as a just-in-case guide; it’s your leadership and your organization's culture that will have a much more profound impact than a handbook.

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