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Refreshing Insights

Every company has certain policies and legal requirements when it comes to informing employees about their rights and what’s expected of them. Some employers choose to do the minimum by simply hanging a Department of Labor (DOL) poster on the wall and calling it a day, while others draft an exhaustive employee manual that can be overwhelming and rarely gets read.

Neither approach is ideal. Employee handbooks — when effectively built — can serve both employees and employers in ways that go beyond compliance and help to improve your company culture and reduce turnover. Let’s take a look at how a resource that’s tailored to your organization can meet your unique needs and those of your valued workforce, along with some employee handbook best practices.

Showcase Employee Benefits and Legal Requirements

Uncertain about what to include in an employee handbook? Some companies only include current federal, state and local employment law requirements because they prefer to deal with other concerns on a personal level.

Employers need to communicate expectations in an inviting way if they expect to hold employees accountable for issues that aren’t documented, and they also need to encourage an “open door” atmosphere so workers feel comfortable bringing up concerns.

In general, employee handbook content should include information about:

  • How harassment complaints are handled
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • Military leave
  • Equal employment opportunities
  • Accommodations for those with disabilities (ADA)
  • And other regulations

Showcase your robust benefits package to show your commitment to workers and highlight opportunities, such as:

  • Retirement plan participation requirements and possible match
  • Health insurance summary
  • Payroll schedules
  • PTO, holiday and vacation time policies
  • Continuing education opportunities

Other topics may include dress code, remote worker policies or social media protocols. While an employee handbook isn’t a contract, it is a document employees can go to for “need-to-know” information.

A Tool for Fostering Employee Culture

A handbook is also an important tool for communicating the nature of your company’s culture. Content that goes beyond the basic legalities and benefits may include:

  • Company history
  • Mission statement and goals in the industry
  • Community involvement, charitable causes and volunteerism
  • Ethical behavior and how to approach challenging situations
  • Company philosophy about success, service, collaboration, wellness, etc.
  • Personal and professional enrichment opportunities
  • Expectations about the work environment and conduct

Highlighting these types of employee initiatives helps them feel valued and empowered to make a difference. Rather than focusing on restrictions and what your organization is against, it emphasizes what your company is for. While there certainly are rules, they don’t become the main focus.

A highly engaged workplace experiences a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. (Gallup)

Best Practices for Communicating Employee Handbooks

Some companies put a lot of work into their handbooks and introduce them to their employees with a lot of enthusiasm...and then rarely speak of them again. Practice good communication from day one by providing your handbook as part of your onboarding process; then, follow up in a few days to discuss points of greatest importance and answer questions.

At a minimum, all employees should be encouraged to review the handbook annually. Keeping your handbook on a secure portal or your company’s intranet can be helpful and give employees easy access.

You can also share portions of your handbook with potential recruits to help them (and you) determine if they’re a good fit for your organization. The content of your handbook can actually be a recruiting tool that sets your company apart from competing organizations.

Workers today are just as concerned with feeling a sense of connection and culture in the workplace as they are with finding fulfilling work. Seeing your commitment to those values documented in a robust employee handbook can go far in convincing them that your company is the place for them.

Best Practices for Maintaining and Updating Employee Handbooks

Too often, when a company revises its mission statement or adopts a new initiative, the handbook can be the last consideration, so keep it top-of-mind when anything changes.

Review your handbook and keep it as up-to-date as possible to reflect any changes in compliance or government regulations. It’s important, not only from a legal standpoint, but to ensure employees are equipped with accurate and timely information.

How to Get Started

Whether you’re starting from scratch or revising your existing employee handbook, there are a number of resources that can help. Online templates are available, but they often don’t address your company’s unique needs and are typically stale and unengaging. It can take a lot of work to make it what you want it to be.

Depending on the strengths of your Human Resources department, you may be able to craft a great handbook. It’s important, however, to ensure that all the follow-up, updates and employee communication surrounding it are planned for and followed through on as well.

Another option is to enlist the help of an HR services provider like McClone. We can help you determine your needs and make sure that all the important compliance and culture aspects are covered. We’ll help you tailor a result that reflects what your organization is all about, and we’ll also conduct reviews and develop a communication plan that works for you down the road.

If you’d like to have a conversation about what’s involved, reach out, we’d love to help.

HR Best Practice Checklist

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A collection of articles from the McClone team with the helpful knowledge and insights to ensure your organization is well protected.