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The Crucial Role of Employee Handbooks in Small Businesses

by Julie Tuggle-Nguyen

In the dynamic landscape of small businesses, where every decision can make a significant impact, the importance of a well-crafted employee handbook cannot be overstated. It serves as the cornerstone of communication between employers and employees, and it can have a significant impact on your organization. Small-business owners who prioritize the development of handbooks are laying the groundwork for long-term success and employee satisfaction.

Why Are Employee Handbooks Necessary?

Employee handbooks, sometimes called policy books, do three main things for your organization. They:

1. Create a level playing field around team members’ expectations. They provide a clear and consistent reference point for company policies and procedures, so they’re not open to interpretation. Such clarity is essential in fostering a positive work environment, reducing misunderstandings, and promoting fair treatment.

2. Provide legal protection. By clearly outlining policies related to workplace conduct, discrimination, harassment, and other legal matters, you create a foundation for compliance and protect your business from potential legal disputes.

3. Set the tone for your company’s culture. An employee handbook is an opportunity to articulate your company’s values and culture. This alignment fosters a sense of belonging and contributes to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

How Do I Create an Employee Handbook?

A good place to start is the Internet. There are many resources available, such as employee handbook examples and online templates. You can also use artificial intelligence (AI) as a writing assistant. If you want to outsource the process, then you can hire local vendors to help you write it, or you can hire an attorney. The handbook can be a physical document or a folder on a shared intranet, but it must be accessible to all.

What Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?

What your handbook looks like is up to you. Every company is different. When you’re writing your handbook, keep it clear and concise, and make sure it reflects your individual company and industry. Consider engaging other leaders in your company as well. Solicit feedback and insights from multiple people to ensure it fully reflects your workplace.

In general, here is what I recommend including in your employee handbook:

1. An introduction to your company and its mission, values, and culture. It can be written as a letter to feel more personal. This is one of the first documents that new employees read. How do you want to welcome them?

2. Employment policies and procedures, including work hours; what defines part-time work; family and medical leave (FMLA); breaks; remote work; dress code; paid time off; and so on. Be sure to research your state’s legal policies or consult an attorney to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

3. Codes of conduct/ethics, such as anti-harassment; anti-discrimination; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies; privacy and confidentiality; social media use; IT security; and alcohol/drug use policies. Defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace is key to maintaining a respectful and inclusive environment.

4. Health and safety policies, including how to report incidents or unsafe conditions; location of first aid; when to stay home if you’re sick; etc. These will vary greatly depending on the industry.

5. Compensation and benefits. Outline who is eligible to receive benefits and bonuses and summarize the benefits package for full-time employees.

What Comes Next?

After you’ve finished writing your handbook, it’s a good idea to have an attorney review it to make sure all your bases are covered. Then comes one of the most important steps: Request that every employee read it and submit written acknowledgement of their understanding and agreement. Require a hand-written or digital signature on each acknowledgement, then save and file signed acknowledgements in their respective employee files.

An employee handbook is a living document. It is very important for you to review your company policies and update your handbook annually. Businesses grow and change. Industries and laws change. We mature and change as people and organizations. Think about what is and is not working for your company and employees. Are any of your policies outdated? Once a year, take a good look at your handbook and make sure that it still accurately reflects your business.

The creation of a well-crafted employee handbook is an investment that pays off in numerous ways. Not only does it provide a roadmap for smooth operations; it also helps to shape your culture, the respect that employees are expected to show each other, and the relationships that they foster. It also protects you as an employer. Develop your handbook with care, and watch it become an invaluable asset in your journey toward a thriving business.

Julie Tuggle-Nguyen is Chief Human Resources Officer at Midwest BankCentre.
 

Submitted 115 days ago
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Categories: categoryHR By The Numbers
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