Employee Handbook 101

Employee Handbook 101

With November also come Employee Handbook season! At Engaged we have a few policy projects on the go right now, which are highlighting some common employee handbook pitfalls. An effective employee handbook can be a great way to communicate expectations, meet legal requirements, remove anxiety and mystery for employees, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

But all handbooks are not created equal, and a poorly crafted handbook can even do more harm than good. Many employees don’t even read their employee handbook in the first place, and I would hazard a guess that the majority of employed Canadians have no idea where their company handbook is right now. There is hope, though!

“Your employee handbook doesn’t have to be collecting dust in the back of a filing cabinet.”

Here’s some practical advice for updating your handbook so that it has a real, lasting and positive impact on your organization.

It’s nice to meet you. You want your new employees’ first impression of your organization to be a favourable one. Since the employee handbook is one of the first and most important ways employees are introduced to your organization, it’s worth considering the question: What does your handbook say about your culture? Yes, your handbook is about laying out guidelines for acceptable behaviour and ensuring compliance and best practices are met, but it’s also about putting your best face forward as an organization and setting the tone for a long and fruitful employment relationship.

Keep it simple. Keep language clear and concise to ensure your handbook is accessible for your employees. It’s much easier to integrate guidelines and policies into your organization’s daily practices when they’re framed in language your employees can actually understand without getting a headache.

Add some colour. Sure, it’s never going to be a page-turner, but you can make your employee handbook more likely to be read simply by making it more visually appealing. Nix the dense blocks of text in favour of some open white space and clear formatting, and make it more approachable by adding some eye-friendly fonts and a splash of colour. Maybe even add a video that speaks to your organizational culture or one of your specific policies.

Save the trees. You don’t need to print out hard copies for every employee in order for your handbook’s message to be effective. Chances are, at least some of your new hires belong to a generation that expects most materials to be available immediately to them in a digital format. When your handbook is virtual, it can be accessed on a variety of platforms, and becomes easier to search for the exact information you need. Updates, additions and changes to policy are also more straightforward when you’re not trying to track down outdated hard copies from 1999.

Use it. A handbook can be a valuable tool for employees and employers – but only if it’s actually used. Set aside time to review your policies annually so that your handbook accurately reflects your organization’s practices. Make the employee handbook an integral part of your onboarding process, and ensure employees are familiar with the guidelines it contains and are kept updated on any changes.

Your Engaged Assignment: Take a look at your handbook through the eyes of a new employee. Does the formatting make you want to read it? Is the language clear and concise? Do you have a digital copy that is easy for employees to access? Does it say what you want it to say? Ask yourself if your handbook reflects what your organization is really about.

Feel like you could use an employee handbook fairy who can wave a magic wand? Give us a call and ask how we can make the process painless!