Employee Handbooks – What Not to Overlook

Are you finding that you are answering the same questions from employees over and over? Do you sometimes think that your “in the moment” answers are creating confusion and inconsistency? Luckily there is a tool that can be used to address those questions that is convenient, easy to reference and helps to create clarity instead of confusion.
An employee handbook sets the tone for the employment relationship and clarifies expectations.
Welcome to your Employee Handbook!  An employee handbook is a valuable investment that pays off quickly. The handbook not only welcomes new employees to the team and the culture of your company, it also helps with starting their onboarding process. It sets the tone for the employment relationship, clarifies what you expect from employees, is an excellent resource for many of the common questions that may come up during employment, and ensures both new and existing employees have access to the same information.
An employee handbook is a reflection of your organization, and there are a lot of possible topics to cover, so identifying the topics and sections you’ll include in your handbook is the best place to start. Want to make sure you don’t miss anything? Here are five often-overlooked topics you’ll want to feature in your employee handbook.

1. Mission, Vision and Values. This section typically appears at the beginning of the handbook. It introduces your organization, includes your welcome statement, and sets the tone for employees. This is a great place to introduce the strategic objectives of your company and provide valuable background on who you are – use this opportunity to motivate and inspire your employees!

2. Code of Conduct. The code of conduct lays out employer expectations regarding appropriate workplace behavior, and provides guidance on how employees should handle a variety of situations. It acts as your organization’s “rule book” and presents a snapshot of your company culture. Some examples of common topics to include in your Code of Conduct:

  • Business Ethics
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Substance Use
  • IT Acceptable Use
  • Social Media Use
  • Equipment & Property

3. Performance Management. Feedback and continuous learning are critical in any organization, so the handbook is a great place to include an outline of the performance review process. Performance management plays a fundamental role in career growth.  In addition to including details of the performance review process, consider including language about training and development opportunities for employees to support them in envisioning their career path with the organization.

4. Disciplinary Procedures. Unfortunately, sometimes situations arise that require a disciplinary process. This section is the best place to reiterate expectations, and to define your policy and procedures around discipline, including the steps followed when an incident comes up. This section typically includes step by step information on progressive discipline (typical steps might include: verbal warning, written warning, suspension, and termination, depending on the nature and seriousness of the situation). This section also clarifies for employees what the course of action might look like if things aren’t going well, helps provide accountability on both sides, and makes sure there are no surprises.

5. Bullying and Harassment. This sub-section details your company policies regarding what bullying & harassment is, and what anti-bullying and harassment training, complaint reporting, and the investigation process looks like in your organization. This section also provides examples of unacceptable conduct, lays the foundation for a respectful workplace, and ensures your organization is compliant with legislated WorkSafe BC requirements.

Your Engaged Assignment: Are you experiencing writer’s block when it comes to your employee handbook, or having trouble knowing where to start? Use the list above to get the ball rolling on your organization’s employee handbook and, as always, contact us if you need any help getting started!