How to Create an Employee Handbook

9 min read
Dec 6, 2023
Writing a employee handbook

Employee handbooks are sometimes a tough nut to crack. It should include all the most essential information for the new employees, such as workplace culture, communication details, and critical product processes.

Creating an employee handbook allows easy access to company information and HR policies, reducing the need for frequent meetings and emails regarding company guidelines. Specific instructions when starting a new job are extremely helpful for the employee.

So, let's see how to prepare the best employee handbook.

What is an employee handbook?

You need to know that an employee handbook is a collection of legal documents, HR policies, procedures, and guidelines explaining workplace functions.

Such a handbook is often a “living organism,” regularly updated according to organizational changes, industry regulations, or company policies.

Some businesses even provide employees with bound booklets of such a guideline. It's quite lovely, although I personally find the digital version much more convenient and environmentally friendly.

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What is the purpose of an employee manual?

The primary purpose of the employee handbook is to educate employees on the legislation. Most such guidelines combine federal and state employment rules and expectations of the company.

Employee handbooks typically include the following topics:

Some companies even require employees to sign a document acknowledging that they have read the handbook.

What are the benefits of creating an employee handbook?

Creating guidelines for your employees can bring several benefits. Let's discuss them in detail.

#1 Streamline the employee onboarding process

According to the BabooHR report, only 12% of new employees consider their onboarding successful. Unsurprisingly, as many as 28% of HR professionals say that the employee handbook is the most essential part of the overall impression of starting at a new company.

BabooHR report 2023
Source: https://www.bamboohr.com/blog/onboarding-infographic

Research shows that having an employee handbook is valuable for companies. However, you need to remember that effective employee onboarding involves more than simply distributing a handbook. The employee handbook will be a foundation and reference for employees adapting to the organization and business.

As well as being an excellent guide to the workplace, an employee handbook can also warmly welcome new teammates. It will make it easier for them to familiarize themselves with the company's history, mission, and values, which can increase engagement and loyalty.

#2 Legal compliance

Although not required by law, an employee handbook is necessary to inform teammates of their workplace rights as mandated by federal and state laws. And how better to communicate this to them than through a handbook?

An employee handbook will enhance your team's ability to stay compliant with the various laws and regulations that apply to your company.

Having a clear policy also gives the company a firmer legal footing. If an employee takes legal action for any action taken by the company in response to a breach of this policy, the company will have a solid foundation to defend itself in court.

#3 Conflict mitigation

Having an employee handbook is crucial as it clearly defines the behaviors that are acceptable in the workplace and those that are not.

It also outlines the consequences of inappropriate or toxic employee behavior beforehand, which can discourage employees from engaging in conflict and encourage them to maintain healthy and friendly relationships with colleagues.

What to include in an employee handbook

We already know that the employee handbook provides a comprehensive look at what it means to be a team member.

The document should include information on areas such as:

1. Introduction and overview

Usually, the employee handbook starts with a brief introduction to the company and an overview of what to expect in the guideline itself. The sections may look something like the following:

2. New employee information

Joining a new job can be overwhelming, but an employee handbook can clarify what to expect. The handbook should document the rules for any induction or probationary periods that apply to employees.

At the same time, you should include information on health insurance, paid time off (PTO), sick leave, or other aspects of employment to which employees still need to be entitled - and include information on when they can unlock these benefits.

This section should include transparent induction processes for new employees, outlining their initial training and expectations during their induction period.

3. Workplace policies

It is also helpful to provide employees with more targeted and detailed information on the parameters of their employment. Including information on where employees will work in the guide is also a good idea. These are most commonly:

4. Benefits information

Obviously, when someone joins a company, they know how much they will be paid. However, adding information about benefits to the guide is a good idea, as these often need to be written into the contract.

These include things such as:

5. Anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy

One of the most challenging topics to include in an employee handbook is policies and procedures for dealing with discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

This part of the guideline must explain to those exposed to such activities what they must do and inform employees how to report the issue. At the same time, it must assure them of their safety and provide support. Creating a transparent reporting process ensures that employee complaints are heard and addressed.

That part should also detail the process for investigating and resolving the issues brought to their attention. This process allows all parties to present their case and ensures appropriate measures are taken to resolve the issue or minimize the damage caused.

Of course, the consequences for a person found guilty of discrimination or harassment should also be clearly defined. It can deter anyone who may (intentionally or not) act in a way that could be considered harassment.

At the same time, the employee handbook should ensure that people who continue to act this way will be punished according to the standards set by the organization.

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6. Job performance reviews

The following section of the employee handbook should concentrate on how an employee's work is evaluated and how they can progress within the company.

This will help individuals assess their current level of development and determine the necessary steps to progress to the next level.

7. Employee resignation and termination

There comes a time when the contract with a company ends (on the employee's or the company's part). It is worth including the so-called offboarding procedures in the employee handbook.

It most often contains information about:

You should also include documentation outlining policies such as confidentiality agreements and the return of company property to ensure the safety and security of your organization.

Employee handbook template examples

Now that you know what a good guideline should include, let's look at some concrete employee handbook examples.

Many companies may only cover some points they want to include in their employee handbook. However, starting with a single rule and then filling in the rest later is a smart move, as it helps to convey the simple message effectively. For instance, Nordstrom's employee handbook comprises a single card that reads "Use good judgment in all situations.".

On the other hand, Valve's employee handbook has gained a lot of attention due to its exceptional execution. It covers many topics, including the company's philosophy and step-by-step guidance for new hires on their first work day. Valve might have come up in conversation if you've been inquiring about employee handbooks.

Netflix's employee handbook is well-known in HR circles for clearly outlining the company's values and culture while providing actionable steps to uphold them.

Trello uses its platform to store its employee handbook, which they call an "employee manual." The interactive design is engaging and user-friendly.

Zappos’ employee handbook – “The Zappos Culture Book” – highlights its dedication to workplace culture. It includes information on the company’s values and mission and numerous employee testimonials.

Using a knowledge base for managing and distributing your handbook

Using a knowledge base for managing and distributing your handbook
Source: https://www.knowledgebase.com/.

Collecting and distributing employee handbooks is made more accessible with knowledge base software. It allows employees to access vital information and find answers to their questions quickly.

A knowledge base helps employees stay informed about their organization's policies, procedures, and expectations. It is a central repository of relevant information that can empower and inform employees and create a positive work environment.

Employee handbooks often require frequent updates. A knowledge base can be easily updated and accessed from any device with an internet connection. This ensures that employees can access the latest information and resources remotely or on the go.

Additionally, a well-organized knowledge base can save time and reduce frustration by making it easy for employees to find the necessary information.

Welcoming new employees and affirming company values

Creating an employee handbook is crucial to standardizing your operations, regardless of the size of your organization. Without proper policies and procedures, minor issues can disrupt your operations and hinder your team's productivity.

Therefore, creating a documented employee handbook and ensuring your employees are familiar with it is essential. By including a digital version of your employee handbook in your internal knowledge base, you can refer to it when necessary and ensure your employees understand their role in the organization.