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How to Create a Company Employee Handbook

The creation of a company employee handbook is crucial for any type of business.   From private consultants with a handful of employees…

By Hailey Friedman

Jan 11, 2022

The creation of a company employee handbook is crucial for any type of business.  

From private consultants with a handful of employees to mega-corporations that hire a staggering amount of workers – employee handbooks are vital for onboarding employees and keeping businesses running smoothly.

Why? Because these manuals get your entire organization on the same page and ensure compliance.

A comprehensive guide clearly lays out a company’s policies and serves many critical functions. For instance, a handbook can clarify employee performance duties and identify workplace safety issues. It can even safeguard businesses from potential litigation and speak to professional conduct in the work environment.

In a nutshell, employee handbooks enhance organization and keep business operations on track.  So, if you are wondering how to create an employee handbook, look no further. 

This complete guide will show you how it’s done, what to include, and explain why employee handbooks are essential for any business success.

How to Get Started

No matter what size your business is, the prospect of how to create an employee handbook can be daunting. 

  • What details do you include? 
  • Do you say something about retirement plans? 
  • Where should you mention that your business is an equal opportunity employer? 

These and a million other questions about employee handbooks can be potentially overwhelming. Don’t worry.

Read further for a few pointers to give you inspiration (and help you keep your sanity) as you go through the process of organizing and creating an accessible employee handbook.

What is an Employee Handbook? 

Ideally, an employee handbook should be a one-stop, comprehensive guide explaining terms and conditions within a business.

At the very minimum, a basic manual will clearly outline company policies, work performance expectations, a company’s benefits, and procedures.  From there, you can decide how to create an employee handbook according to your own requirements and preferences.

For instance, your employee handbooks might include policies about remote work culture, or you might need to add protocols about appropriate employee behavior, the perils of fraternizing on the job, dress codes, etc.

At its simplest, a well-rounded employee handbook should clearly explain what an employer expects from its employees while working for the company.  Conversely, a thorough handbook will clarify what employees can expect from their employer while working for a company.

The Purpose of an Employee Handbook

The core purpose of any basic employee handbook is to concisely establish policies, protocols, and procedures. When these prime elements are articulated and easily accessible to employees, there is less opportunity for misunderstandings in the workplace.  Furthermore, employee manuals streamline business productivity by onboarding employees with the way your business operates.

Think about it.  When business rules and expectations are succinctly identified in a cohesive guide, the entire workforce is unified and compliance is better established.

For example, there are fewer interruptions caused by employees asking human resources about benefits or paid holidays because that information is already in the handbook.

Employee handbooks also reduce confusion because when in doubt, an employee can consult the manual for answers.

Why Do You Need an Employee Handbook?

If you’re wondering why you should create an employee handbook, just think about potential liability issues.  One of the most important reasons to have a handbook is that it can protect both the company and employee from mishaps that could potentially lead to lawsuits or terminations.

It doesn’t matter if you have two employees or 500, when you have a culture of different people in the workplace, there are bound to be differences of opinion among the ranks.

A well-articulated handbook can cut through disputes and differences.  It can also be a business-saver in terms of streamlining productivity and unifying your workforce to reach common company goals.

Who Creates the Employee Handbook?

Even if you have only one employee, you should think about how to create an employee handbook.  But who is in charge of making it?

In many cases, a human resource (HR) department in a larger company is in charge of crafting comprehensive handbooks for employees.

But what if you are an individual business owner without the benefits of an HR department? In this instance, the onus is on you to produce an employee guide to convey your small business needs and expectations to new hires.

That said, there is an interesting trend in customizing HR docs, guidelines, and policies within the workplace. This trend is sometimes referred to as “team handbook building.”

Innovative companies are starting to collaborate with supervisors, management, and employees to forge cohesive and full-spectrum employee handbooks using real-time collaborative tools like Almanac.

This allows everyone to add their opinions and perspectives which can potentially enrich the company culture.  Collaborative employee handbooks can be a good way to strengthen interoffice bonds and minimize cross-departmental communication gaps.

How to Build an Employee Handbook

There are various details to consider when figuring out how to create an employee handbook. From administration to operations, every business is unique. As such, no employee handbook is created the same.

Here are a few things to consider to help you create the best employee handbook for your business needs.

Consider Your Business Big Picture

If you have a startup business or you’re a small business owner, your employee handbook will look much different than one designed by a century-old corporate entity.  As an independent small-to-medium-business (SMB) owner, your language might be more personable in a handbook.   

Alternatively, you may want to exhibit a more reserved, corporate voice when narrating your employee handbook.   Maybe you want to focus on educating new hires about your business mission and values. The point here is to consider the big picture of your business goals and vision. Start from there and then weave these viewpoints into your employee handbook.

Table of Contents

A table of contents (TOC) will help you stick to the high points of your handbook and allow you to stay organized.  It’s a great place to start when creating an employee handbook because it will keep you on-task as you address each section.  Furthermore, a table of contents will help your employees easily navigate to the information they are looking for in the manual.

Include Company Information

This might seem like a no-brainer. However, it can get so easy to cover all the disciplinary, occupational aspects of a handbook and completely miss the most obvious information.  Don’t forget to include the basics about your company.  Add a section about how your business got started and your company’s vision for the future.

Of course, you’ll want to include information about company protocol and human resources policies too. But don’t neglect to mention the aspects that make your company unique.  This provides employees inspiration and motivation to work well and enjoy their time of employment within your business.

Draft an Outline

This can be as formal or as informal as you like. The purpose of drafting an outline is to capture the high points you want to address in your employee handbook. Here are a few examples as to what to brainstorm as you draft an outline:

  • Jot down occupational aspects that are important to the operations and productivity of your organization. 
  • Sketch ideas on how to speak to professional concerns about employee code of conduct.
  • Draft out procedures regarding time off, paid leave, work schedules, etc.
  • Touch on how you want to address discrimination, harassment and expectations of employee behavior on the job.

These notable highlights should assist you in creating a comprehensible guide for your employees. Remember that drafting an outline is merely a way to help you stay focused on what should be included in your employee handbook. It’s a guide to keep you on-point and organized.

Add Management Resources

When new hires come into your company’s employment, it’s often a good idea to include resources from your management team. This makes it easier for new employees to participate in the workplace because it educates them about managerial expectations.  Feedback from management sets a clear understanding that will help your employees function more effectively in your organization.

Include Hiring Resources

Everybody remembers their first day at work.  Fitting in is stressful enough, but finding the breakroom, figuring out if there are smoking areas outside the office, or just absorbing the new company’s culture can be nerve-wracking for new hires. Help allay new employees’ anxieties by including helpful information like: 

  • The onboarding process
  • How to reach human resources
  • Job descriptions and expected duties to perform
  • How the evaluation process works and when evaluations take place
  • When lunch breaks are and where break areas are located

What Should You Include In an Employee Handbook?

We’ve talked a great deal about how to create an employee handbook and why it’s so critical for any business. Now that you know it’s essential to have one, what do you put in it?  

Perhaps you’ve researched online for a free employee handbook template or checked out handbook examples to get some ideas about what should be covered. That’s great! Because it can propel you to craft a quality guide for your employees. 

Now here are a few additional suggestions for what should be included in your handbook.

Company Values

While not among the biggest requirements of an employee handbook, think about adding a section featuring your company values.  This makes a statement about your business integrity and it has a way of ingratiating new employees.  

Depending upon your company’s business approach, stating your company values can establish a more professional or casual tone. Furthermore, including a values section shows new hires what your business is about, and gets them aligned with your future vision for the direction of your company.

Mission Statement

A well-rounded employee handbook should include a mission statement. This is an overarching explanation of what your company is about and what makes it tick. A mission statement makes a company’s intention and purposes clear, hence making it easier for employees to stay in compliance with the company’s direction.

General Employment Information

This section answers immediate questions about what it means to obtain employment in your company. The general employment information section should outline basic details such as:

  • Details about employee contracts
  • When and how employee reviews are done
  • Job classifications or descriptions
  • How employees are paid and how often they are compensated
  • Overtime policies, sick time policies and holiday pay procedures 

You can think of the general employment information section as a FAQ in your employee handbook.  It should cover basic questions that provide new hires quick, satisfactory answers during their time of employment.

Workplace Safety and Security

This section is essential to keeping your employees safe, and your business protected from all manner of complications. Ensuring your employee manual has a well-defined section on safety requirements while on the job helps you avoid costly setbacks and tragic injuries on the job.

Also include safety and security protocol so that all employees know the exact procedures in the event of an accident or injury.  You might even take this section a step further by adding phone numbers to safety managers or medical providers so that all bases are covered if an incident on the job occurs.

Anti Discrimination and Anti Harassment Laws

Upholding a staunch commitment to mutual respect in the workplace should be the utmost priority in any business.  In today’s world, discrimination and harassment lawsuits have crushed businesses. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to include a clear statement about your devotion to equal opportunity, and appropriate behavior at work.  Draw a clear line in the sand by forging a concise, no-nonsense policy about intolerance against abuse or discrimination in the workplace.

Code of Conduct

You might think this should fall in the anti-harassment section of your handbook.  However, laying out a succinct code of conduct is more about how you expect your employees to behave in the work environment. Points you may want to make in this section may include:

  • The company’s stance on the use of profanity in the workplace
  • How employees should properly greet customers in service or retail settings
  • Dress code and personal hygiene expectations while on the job
  • Use of appropriate, professional language
  • How to handle disagreements while at work 

Everyone has their own idea about “social norms,” which means everybody’s perception is different.  Create a well-defined code of conduct in your employee manual that follows the edict of your business.  In other words, educate your employees about how you want your company to be reflected in their performance and conduct while on the job.

Employee Benefits

This is a pretty straightforward section. It should highlight the basics about what benefits you offer your employees.  This section explains details about:
 

  • Retirement plans
  • 401k offerings
  • Profit-sharing
  • Vacations
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Disability
  • Fringe benefits

Include the contact number for your human resource department in the event your new hire needs more information than the standard, company-wide benefits package.

Confidentiality 

If you’ve looked at any free employee handbook template, you probably noticed a place devoted to privacy and confidentiality.  Provide details about how employees should respect company data, and how they should never use that information outside of the business.  

Conversely, you may want to assure your employees that any personal information (such as social security numbers)  they provide in order to retain their employment remains strictly confidential.

Employee Acknowledgement

Don’t make the mistake of neglecting to provide new hires with a form that shows he or she has fully read the employee manual.  This is often a tear-out page or digital signature page at the end of the employee handbook. 

After reading the handbook in its entirety, request your employee’s signature and keep that in their employee file.  This provides confirmation that your new hire fully understands your company’s policies, procedures, and performance expectations.

Disciplinary Policies

This one aspect of your employee handbook can save you from running into some severe snafus.  Make your disciplinary policies very clear in your handbook so there is no blurring or misunderstanding.  

Walk your employee through the disciplinary process, and provide instances in which discipline will be taken.  This one section of the employee handbook is vital for keeping the workplace safe and avoiding discrimination disputes.

Important Disclaimers

According to federal EEOC law, you are required to disclose your company’s commitment to treating all employees equally.  This is where important disclaimers can succinctly lay out your company’s policy to hire and retain any employee regardless of:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Medical history  

These equal opportunity statements qualifies as a mandatory disclaimer that needs to be included in your handbook.

Other important disclaimers might include language that states the employee handbook is subject to change at the employer’s discretion. 

When you think about adding disclaimers, realize these give you, as the employer, freedom to protect yourself in the event policies might need to be changed, or protect you if they are misconstrued or incorrectly interpreted.

Employee Handbook Template

After reading all these suggestions about inclusions and requirements for a solid company handbook, you might be thinking about using a free employee handbook template. These can be extremely helpful in covering all your basics and guiding you through the process of creating a cohesive manual.  

Here are a few tips to consider when using an employee handbook template.

Employee Handbook Cover

Many template services will allow you to design an attractive cover for your employee handbook.  This can be useful to engage and appeal to your employees while also setting your company apart from others.  Having a creative cover shows your employees that you pay attention to details, and contributes to making new hires feel welcome.

Employee Handbook Design

It’s a regrettable mistake to think of employee handbooks as a repository for essential information related to professional structure and employee compliance.  While this is certainly the purpose and function of a handbook, that mentality can lead to a dry, and uninspired read for employees.

Therefore, it’s important to contemplate the design and aesthetics of your handbook.  There’s no need to make it frilly or studded with .gifs.  However, do consider providing a pleasing, easy-to-navigate design with occasional visual aids and instructional videos that stimulate the reader.  Doing so will keep them attentive, and allow employees to better retain the information. 

Best Tools for Creating Your Employee Handbook

Everybody can benefit from using the right tools to create an ironclad, yet usable employee handbook.  Thankfully, there are several resources available to do just that.  Here are a few online services to ponder as you learn how to create an employee handbook.

Almanac

Almanac is one of the most cutting-edge online applications for creating an effective employee handbook. It allows multiple users, provides slick design features, and even encourages employees to make suggestions on the handbook structure.  In essence, Almanac is a living document in that it grows as your company does.  

Additionally, Almanac offers a myriad of different remote-friendly features and amenities that all business owners and their employees can benefit from.  If your company needs to collaborate, organize and structure shared data and documents, Almanac delivers a champion experience with superior customer service that will meet your business needs.

Google Docs

While Google Docs is a common tool for creating and sharing documents, it does have its flaws. It might not be your best resource for creating an employee handbook, as the navigation can be clunky.  Furthermore, it’s difficult to find a document once it has been created.  

We mentioned earlier that a well-crafted employee handbook should pay attention to design and engaging visual aids. It can be difficult to include these in an employee manual using Google Docs. Lastly, documents must reside in a folder structure that can be cumbersome and hard to keep organized.

Confluence

Confluence is a web-based collaboration tool that allows employees to contribute to an employee handbook or other business documents. It is a lot more flexible and versatile in integrations than Google Docs.  

However, the search function is sorely lacking. Furthermore, the editor feature is difficult to use.  While it does allow multiple users to comment and make suggestions, edits can be glitchy, causing many customer complaints.

How Many Pages Should an Employee Handbook Be?

Ultimately, the answer to this question is contingent upon your business, and what you deem necessary to convey to your employees.  That said, try not to make your employee handbook too lengthy.  

Remember, the more your employees need to read through, the more likely they’ll get distracted or not read your handbook from front to finish.  Try to keep your handbook within 10-15 pages, and avoid going over 40-50 pages.  Keep your employees in mind and stick to the integral points of your manual so you can keep it as succinct and streamlined as possible.

How Much Does it Cost to Create an Employee Handbook?

It depends upon which tact you take in how to create an employee handbook.  If, as an independent SMB owner, you can cut costs by making your employee handbook from scratch; this will cost you nothing but time.  However, if you are an executive, you can delegate the creation of an employee handbook to your HR department, which will cost you hourly employee time or salaried wages.

What Shouldn’t Be Included In an Employee Handbook?

This is a great question you should ask yourself in order to keep your manual relevant yet not overly lengthy.  

Avoid overkill (and losing your employee’s attention) by steering away from using overt legal jargon.  Legal documents in business can often be limited or presented to employees on a case-by-case basis. For instance, non-disclosures, non-compete, or non-solicitation legal documents should be created by a business attorney and provided to employees individually rather than divulged in an employee handbook.

While you may have a section that describes general employee benefits packages, it should go without saying that pay rates should never be disclosed in an employee handbook.  Pay rates should stay confidential and they have no place in a company manual.

Lastly, it might be tempting to make your employee handbook more “hip” to retain the attention of your readers.  However, try to avoid overly casual language.  Even the most innovative companies can stay forward-thinking without compromising professionalism or integrity.

How to Create a Handbook That Your Employees Will Want to Read

When it comes to how to create an employee handbook, it’s hard to leverage corporate policies with an entertaining read.  In fact, the prospect of making an instructional yet engaging employee handbook can seem almost impossible.  However, here are a few tricks you can use to make a handbook enticing, and get your employees more willing to read it from front to back. 

  • Incorporate visual aids or banner images in your manual for a more engaging read 
  • If you are using web-based software to create your employee manual, consider embedding compelling videos into your handbook
  • Emphasize the benefits of being in your employment

Keep your new hires avid about reading your employee handbook by presenting pleasing interface and showcasing the perks of working within our company.  

An engaging handbook shows employees all the joys of working with you rather than making them endure endless protocol and jargon.   When you lean into the advantages and benefits of working at your company, you’re more likely to inspire your new hires to read through the handbook.

The Importance of Updating Your Employee Handbook on a Regular Basis

As a business owner or HR manager, you know that nothing ever stays the same. The same holds true for your employee handbook.  As a company grows, so too will policies and procedures evolve. That’s why it’s imperative you keep your employee manual current and up-to-date.  

Stay on top of handbook improvements and make sure employees receive these updates.  It’s critical that your workers are aware of company changes, so everyone remains on the same page. Remember, your handbook is your best resource to keep employees current and informed.

Look to Almanac For Creating Your Employee Handbook

In summary, it should be clear that the details about how to create an employee handbook can be varied and complex. The process of designing and producing an effective handbook might even feel a bit overwhelming.  Thankfully, there are solutions that make the process far easier than crafting a manual from scratch.  

That’s where Almanac can save you time and help you avoid daunting hurdles when pulling together the best information for your employees. Almanac provides superior support and allows you to seamlessly create and share comprehensive employee documentation that can sustain all of the changes your company may experience.  

With its expansive collaborative features and innovative design options, Almanac is an ace in your pocket.

In essence, Almanac gives you peace of mind with its effortless updating and documenting features, and gives your employees amazing interactive benefits.  A tool like Almanac is a tremendous feather in your cap and an essential asset for your business success as you plan out employee handbooks that make an impact on your company’s future.

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