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6 Key Steps to Creating an Employee Handbook

The employee handbook is one of the most important documents for any business. It outlines your company's policies, guidelines, benefits, and everything else that your employees need to know. The handbook should function as an introduction to your business for new hires as well as a helpful reference for your existing employees.

A good handbook not only defines the rules and expectations for your workers, but it also communicates the company's mission and values. Writing a handbook can seem like a daunting task, but it's a necessary part of a functional workplace. You should understand why employee handbooks are important, what's included in a strong handbook, and how you can write one for your business.

How Employee Handbooks Benefit Your Workplace

The main purpose of an employee handbook is to inform your team of their responsibilities and the company's policies. It should answer the common questions about benefits, timekeeping, safety precautions, privacy measures, and any other topics that are relevant to your business.

Consistency with your company policies is the key to a functional workplace. The employee handbook is helpful for everyone on the team, from new hires to upper management. It's a convenient reminder of the rules and regulations that anyone can reference when there's confusion or a dispute.

The handbook should be more than just an overview of your policies, though. It's an opportunity to introduce new employees to your company culture, and it can be a valuable tool for new hires while they adjust to the workplace. A sense of identity and belonging is important when settling in at a new job, and the handbook can explain to your new employees how they fit in.

The employee handbook is also a good way to ensure your company's compliance with federal, state, and local laws. It can highlight the relevant laws so that no one forgets them, and it demonstrates that your business strives to comply with government regulations.

How to Create an Employee Handbook

Crafting an employee handbook can seem overwhelming, especially if you're starting from scratch. Try to break the process down into smaller tasks to make it feel more manageable. Here are six steps to writing your handbook:

1. Start with an outline.

An employee handbook is not a small document, so don't stress yourself out by trying to write a perfect first draft. Instead, begin with a brief outline with the basic points of each section. A strong and thorough handbook usually includes the following information:

  • Company history and mission statement
  • Core values and goals
  • Policies regarding pay, timekeeping, working conditions, and nondiscrimination
  • Relevant laws and how the business complies
  • Employee benefits

You may decide to include other topics in your handbook, too. Because working environments vary so much in different industries, certain topics are highly relevant and important for some businesses but not others. You understand your own company's operations, so trust your instincts when planning what sections to include in the handbook.

2. Read examples.

Because employee handbooks can vary depending on the industry and the size of the business, reading examples from similar companies can be very helpful. Handbooks from other businesses can help you decide on formatting as well as content for your own document. Notice what you like and don't like about the handbooks you read, and use these examples to guide your writing.

3. Begin adding your existing content.

A large portion of your handbook may already exist. For example, you probably already have a mission statement, and you should have existing policies regarding benefits, time off, and other topics. Filling in your outline with these points should be fairly straightforward as you may be able to simply copy and paste the content from other documents.

4. Write new content.

After you've added all of your existing content to the handbook, you can start filling in the gaps. This is a great opportunity to review and solidify important company messages. For example, you may not have a written history of the business, but a brief biography can be helpful for establishing or strengthening the company's brand image.

The handbook should clearly define what you expect from your employees and what employees should expect from management. You probably already have a general idea of your company expectations, but writing them out is a chance to solidify and clarify these ideas. This may be the most difficult step in writing the handbook, but think of it as an opportunity to define your company's culture.

5. Get feedback.

Once you have a working draft of the handbook, run it by your employees for feedback. Make sure you listen to input from different departments and from all levels of employees. A good handbook should benefit everyone in the workplace, so it's important to get feedback from a wide variety of team members.

Remember to be patient during this step. You may need to write several drafts until you and your team are happy with the handbook. Incorporate as much feedback as possible, but don't worry about perfection. It's better to have a functional handbook than none at all, so accept that there may be some flaws in the first official handbook.

6. Make changes over time.

Writing an employee handbook isn't a one-time project. Every year or two, review the handbook to determine whether or not the content is still relevant. Businesses evolve over time, so you should update your handbook as your company grows and changes.

You can continue asking for feedback from your team, too. Consider sending out an annual survey to your employees with questions about the clarity, consistency, and helpfulness of the handbook. If the handbook is starting to become outdated, make some adjustments and release a new edition.

The employee handbook is the ultimate guide to your company. It should reflect your company's culture and values while outlining the specific policies that keep the business functioning. If you don't already have an employee handbook, start drafting one today. It will help you, your existing employees, and your new hires understand the business and each team member's role in the workplace.

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Alex Sumner