How to create an employee handbook is a question we’re frequently asked here at BrightMatter HR. Employee handbooks are a valuable resource and reference for employees of all levels of the organization. It points your staff in the right direction in terms of policies and is also a good accompaniment to the employee contract. Although the handbook itself is not a legal requirement, having one on hand helps avoid confusion or misunderstanding should an employee issue or concern arise.
Above all, it’s a way to confirm your company’s culture. It sets out your expectations when it comes to your work environment, and it shows your employees that you have put a lot of thought and consideration into your business operations.
Even by knowing this, many employers don’t know where to start when they sit down to write it. Here are some crucial tips that will serve as a starting point. This guidance will also help your employee handbook provide the most value as possible to your team.
#1 - Include a message from the founder/president
It is important for your team to know who the message is coming from, whether that be the president or CEO, or the founder of the company. No matter what, this is a good introduction to your handbook.
This message might include a welcoming introduction to tell the employees that you are excited to work with them, or it might be more focused on on the culture of the company, and the organizational goals. The welcome message should always include a little bit about the company, its history and what the purpose of the handbook is.
A lot of employers are well aware of this, but many still don’t know where to start when they sit down to write it. Here are some crucial must haves and pointers that will serve as a starting point and hopefully help your employee handbook provide the most value as possible to your team.
#2 - Communicate your culture through your wording
The tone of writing in your handbook is an important aspect of getting your message across, not only about policies and procedures, but about who you are as a company.
Larger, more hierarchical companies may choose to use formal wording, while some smaller or more creative companies might choose to keep it a bit lighter. No matter what direction you take, it is important to always stay professional.
Along with the right tone, employers should use key phrases that you would use in the office or words that you emphasize in your mission or values. This will give the reader a good impression of what it’s like working for your company.
#3 - Lay out your mission and values
After the message from the writer, it’s a good idea to lay out your mission and values. Depending on what type of orientation process you have in place, some employees may not be aware of these important details.
When your team is aware of what your mission is and what you stand for, they can better align their work and goals with those of the organization.
When this happens, you create a stronger strategy to hit your organizational objectives.
Check out BrightMatter’s values on our who we are page for some pointers!
#4 - Keep it short and concise
Although this is a place for employees to reference policies and procedures, it should not be as long as your policy manual. Most companies have a separate policy manual that includes each policy in full, making it at least 50 pages or more. See how the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) explains the difference between an employee handbook and a policy manual here.
The main points of each policy should be included in your handbook, with a message pointing them to the full policy to read further.
Keeping your handbook as short and concise as possible is important to keep the reader engaged and attentive until the very end.
#4 - Get employee sign-offs
Getting employees to sign a copy at the back of the handbook indicating they have read and understood your policies and procedures is crucial. This serves as evidence of them adhering to your company rules and certain government legislations should you ever need it. Above all, it means your employees are informed and up to date on the company culture and expectations. This is the real value of the handbook.
The most important policies should be individually signed off to protect the rights of your company and your team. You may want to choose the full policies from the policy manual, not just the condensed version in your employee handbook. It is important to have employees pay special attention to these policies and read them in full.
Once they signed off on them you should add a copy to their personnel file. Some of these policies will require further training in order to comply with the required provincial legislative training, however this is a good starting point.
These policies include: sexual harassment & workplace violence policy, health & safety policy and accessibility policy (AODA). On top of these, I always encourage employers to have their team sign off on a COVID-19 policy if your staff are not working remotely. If you need help developing one, contact us or check out the Ontario government’s advice on developing a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.
#6 - Review your manual yearly
It’s crucial to review your employee handbook at least once per year to ensure all of your policies are up to date. As legislation is changing constantly, you will need to keep compliant by having the most recent versions of policies in place. Moreover, your company will be continually growing and changing, and with it, so should your employee handbook.
For help creating a unique and tailored employee handbook, reach out to BrightMatter’s HR professionals to get started.
About BrightMatter HR
BrightMatter HR is a Toronto-based Human Resources Outsourcing (HRO) provider that brings years of experience to delivering results-oriented, flexible HR solutions and employee management services. BrightMatter provides a personalized touch to HR outsourcing while focusing on modernizing your workforce, reducing your costs, and bringing peace of mind to employers and their growing teams.