As soon as you hire your first employee, the employee handbook becomes one of the most important tools of your business. It acts as both a resource for your staff in learning company policies and procedures as well as legal protection for you as an employer with obligations and responsibilities to your employees. Compiling one, and then keeping it updated, should be high on the priority list.
As important as this document is, it’s also high on the list of most-dreaded tasks. Legal documents aren’t often thought of as a good time, whether to read or to write, but we’re going to share some tips in making this handbook not only effective but, dare we say it?, enjoyable to use. At the very least we’ll take easy and efficient.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Whether it’s the first draft or an update, compiling the correct legal information is paramount. Make sure your sources are legit, and also have the information looked over by your peers, if not legal counsel or an outsourced HR resource (like Eos HR!). You’ll really want to make sure that you’re thorough with this part of the process because, as we stated earlier, this handbook serves as legal protection for your company should an employment dispute arise.
Once you have all the information you need to include, putting it together is actually the part that takes the most finesse because it needs to be written in such a way that gets the message across without putting your audience to sleep (or even worse, doesn’t get read at all). Here’s some tips:
- Feel free to write in an engaging manner. Professional doesn’t have to be boring so while you don’t want to pepper the text with trendy slang, do consider a more conversational tone.
- Consider design! What does that mean? Use white space to your advantage. Look into how things like sentence length, paragraph spacing, and the use of images helps break up the text so that it is easier to read.
- Make that table of contents mean something! Entire blogs have been written about this topic alone. Make sure the table of contents if correct. Don’t bury one topic in another and leave it out of the list.
- Liberally place contact information throughout the document. Having a department head’s email and/or phone number included will help your staff direct their questions to the right person the first time.
- Add some ‘flair.’ Include personal anecdotes from current and past employees about the company culture, map out the company history and its’ growth, and use images to help new employees get a sense of their new workplace.
- If you use a template, customize it! Find and replace has no use here. If the handbook is not written in-house, it’s important to make sure the language matches the tone of company’s brand.
- Make it a company-wide project. The job doesn’t have to be the responsibility of solely one person, instead it can be broken up by topics and written by several staff members. However, this can get a little tricky in making sure the language and tone is consistent throughout so if you do take this approach, know you may also be doing some editing while reviewing the content.
We think utilizing some of these tips will get you a handbook that you’ll be proud to present to new employees and most importantly, a resource that will be utilized throughout their time at your company! One last tip, if you think of the handbook as a product of the marketing department, it could help motivate you to make the extra effort in designing a great one.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Eos HR can take the project off your hands! We’re a team of HR professionals helping small businesses efficiently provide essential materials to employees so management can focus on other priorities. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.
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