Do you cringe when you hear the words employee handbook? Once labeled a tedious piece of HR paperwork, this tool has recently become an important piece of a company’s talent strategy. When used correctly, this tool will communicate clear expectations and guidelines to all employees. In this article, you’ll find out why it is important to create an employee handbook.
Employee Handbooks help to establish a consistent culture
At early-stage companies, it’s common for the CEO to play referee and personally guide office norms and culture. Teams are small and it is easier to keep everyone aligned when it comes to core values and the behaviors that support those core values. At this stage of company growth, culture lives within the team members who are doing the work. As you create repeatable processes and office norms, you’re creating your culture from the ground up.
But when teams grow, more autonomy means more responsibility falls on the shoulders of managers. It becomes difficult for the CEO to personally guide behaviors and they must rely on their managers to direct their teams’ actions. This is where things get tricky. With the best intentions, managers can create rules that contradict how business is done on other teams. For example, one manager might allow their employees to work remotely, while other managers require all employees work from the office. These discrepancies create silos, where culture isn’t consistent across the organization. Siloed culture can lead to unhealthy relationships between teams, and in the long run can sink a company. However, with a well-defined employee handbook, norms and culture aren’t up for debate or interpretation.
From an employee perspective, the handbook serves as a reminder that all employees are playing by the same rules. The handbook creates a sense of community and equality, which is important for team building. It’s a guidebook on how employees should treat one another, and it can quell small disagreements that might otherwise escalate into larger disputes.
Employee Handbooks expedite the onboarding process
Employee handbooks assist in the onboarding process from both an operational and cultural standpoint. Operationally, they serve as a guide rail directing new employees who need to quickly learn a multitude of processes. At smaller companies, processes tend to live in the heads of those who most often engage in the activity. When new team members join, those seasoned co-workers are called upon to teach new recruits how business is done. This can be a long and tedious endeavor, as processes are taught and follow-up questions are directed back to the teacher. By investing the time and energy needed to document frequently used processes into an employee handbook, you can greatly flatten the learning curve for new employees.
Culturally speaking, it’s important to recognize that new team members bring past experiences and expectations with them to your company. They most likely have had exposure to other office cultures, and those experiences color their expectations for this new position. New employee onboarding isn’t just about teaching new teammates how to do their job. This holistic process should also serve as a welcome and introduction into what it means to be an employee at your company. The employee handbook is a vital tool that instills a sense of belonging in new hires. It’s your opportunity to teach new teammates about the values you hold dear, and to get them up to speed on all of the “unwritten rules” and office norms that your team abides by. Recognize that the faster new employees feel like they’re “part of the team,” the faster they’ll begin producing at a high level.
Employee Handbooks help scale talent management
Did you know most employees would rather make a small mistake than ask what they deem to be a “stupid” question? Employee handbooks serve as a great primary resource for answering mundane, repetitive questions. Rather than having 20 different conversations about your work-from-home policy, outlining those guidelines in your employee handbook can save time and energy.
Furthermore, employee handbooks save you from having to rehash a plan for every request. When companies are small, making decisions on one-off scenarios, while not ideal, is doable. As your team grows, you’ll need a consistent and documented policy.
It’s also helpful to think of the employee handbook as a talent retention tool. Think about how much time and effort you spend on creating and maintaining your brand to the public. You probably have a very clear strategy for how you want your customers to think about you. Now turn that outside-in. Do you have a clear strategy for how you want your employees to think about your company? This resource can serve as an internal branding tool and an important piece of your talent management strategy.
Employee Handbooks provide cover for legal matters
Employee handbooks provide essential legal coverage for companies of all sizes. This tool instills fairness, encourages equal treatment and establishes employer expectations from the outset. So many small misunderstandings, that could easily grow into larger, more disruptive problems, can be solved by simply outlining policy in a handbook.
Also, when problems between employees and employers escalate, adjudicators will often ask to see what is documented in the employee handbook. By taking the time to codify all of the company’s protocols, you could save yourself countless dollars and hours of litigation time.
So, when was the last time you updated the policies in your handbook? Or are you trying to write a new handbook and don’t know where to start? JumpStart’s Entrepreneurial Talent Team partners with entrepreneurs and business owners to help craft talent strategy. If you’re interested in working with us, feel free to email us at [email protected].