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How to Develop an Employee Handbook

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Writing on 4/19/20237 min read

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At least once in their career, most employees, both new hires and experienced ones, have faced a situation when they lack information concerning their working routine, business relations, or legal counsel (information about their rights and responsibilities). Each time this happens, employees find themselves in an information vacuum which is a fertile ground for the spread of misinformation.

People start looking for information in unofficial sources. These are often informal conversations with colleagues, getting advice from friends and family, etc. As a result, instead of getting the right, legally proven information, people get it from hearsay.

Misinformed employees make wrong steps, and misinformed employers make wrong decisions. This may lead to profound misunderstanding between co-workers, employees and managers, and employees and employers. The extreme form of such misunderstanding is a workplace conflict.

A good way to avoid this is an employee handbook, and this blog will teach you how to develop and effective one.

Step 1. Determine the Purpose and Scope of the Handbook

An employee handbook is, in fact, the formalized content of all the company policies and procedures. It describes all the company practices and is used to avoid the informal interpretation of the rules. It clarifies the rights and responsibilities both of the employer and employee. The absence of a handbook can lead to confusion and even conflict.

Creating a stunning employee handbook for new companies has the following main purposes:

  • A reference document. The main purpose of a handbook is to give employees a document they can read and refer to whenever they have problems or questions. These issues mostly concern everyday routines, such as benefits and leaves, health and safety, etc. For example, a handbook contains a description of procedures for requesting time off or a vacation. A good handbook does not only describe the procedures but gives samples of business letters, forms and applications required to follow these procedures. For example a handbook may include a sample of a request letter for a vacation leave.
  • Deflection tool. An employee handbook is also a means of ‘deflecting’ often repeated questions to the HR or accounting department. Such questions accumulate when employees face the same situation quite often. For instance an employee may want to know how a maternity leave is paid and whether it is necessary to submit any documents. Each time this situation arises, employees ask HRs or accounting specialists for explanations. This iteration wastes the time of all the parties. To prevent this, the repeated questions and the following actions should be deflected (or diverted) to a comprehensive document covering all these issues.
  • Workplace conflict prevention measure. An employee handbook will also help to prevent workplace conflicts and legal disputes that might follow. That is why this document should inform the readers about the company’s anti-discrimination policies, sexual harassment policies, pay and promotion policies, rules of conduct, technology use policies, etc. In addition, an employee handbook should cover the effective local and national laws.

Summing up the purposes listed above, it should be said that, in general, the handbook is a tool for streamlining the overall workflow in the company. It allows all the employees to work efficiently and save precious working time.

By saying ‘all the employees’ we mean that the readers of the handbook are all the company staff from frontline employees to top managers. The latter are also part of the target audience, as quite often they need to consult some reference document concerning the company procedures and policies.

storks discussing projects

Step 2. Develop the Content

The content of the employee handbook should include your company's policies and practices. When compiling the book, think of the information you most need to get across to the employees and, on the other hand, the information they most often request. This will help to avoid misunderstanding and confusion, and streamline the whole work process.

Generally, the essential elements to include in your organization's employee handbook may look as follows.

Introduction & Contents (ToC)

An introduction should be concise. A good way to start is to explain your company mission. Try to keep the introduction as compact as one page or even half a page. Then pass over to the Table of Contents. Its purpose is to make the handbook navigable. Mind that the employees won’t read the whole of the document. They have to be able to choose the information they need.

Legal Aspects

Though an employee handbookis not a legal code or tool, it should include a set of instructions based on legal information. This will help to prevent the staff from violating labor laws.

The following aspects should be included:

  • Employee rights (your team members should be informed about their rights);
  • Workplace policies (or SOPs – standard operation procedures describing the way the workers should fulfill their duties), such as confidentiality and data protection, health and safety, harassment and violence, anti-discrimination, etc.;
  • Regulations concerning working time and attendance (everyone in the office should know such things as workday start and end time, meal and rest periods,the way wages are calculated on the basis of working hours, etc.).

Code of Conduct

A code of conduct should be formalized and documented. Otherwise it will never work. As soon as you fix the rules in the handbook, you will be able to regulate the daily routines of your company in what concerns dress code, the use of internet, social media, insider information, etc.

Benefits

An overview of benefits presented in the handbook can be a great motivation tool for your team. You can cover such aspects as health insurance;remote work policy (which has become very relevant in the present conditions of COVID restrictions);compensations;mobile phone reimbursement policy, etc.

It is worth saying that you will hardly ever find the ultimate guide to developing an employee handbook. Rigid rules are not applicable in this case, and the content of your employee handbook is not limited to the points listed above. You may enlarge it by adding things that are specific for your country and its law.

Step 3. Draft the Handbook

For sure, you have already realized that an employee handbook is in fact a compilation of many documents concerning SOPs, company policies and practices. So, actually, an employee handbook is practically available in your company. Only it looks like disassembled equipment that needs to be assembled from the different parts you have, installed, and commissioned. Only then, your employees will be able to operate it.

Here is a tool that will help you ‘assemble’ new documents from the fragments of other texts that have already been created by the team of your tech writers. ClickHelp is an online documentation platform that will help you draft, review, publish, and disseminate your employee handbook.

With ClickHelp, you can assign roles to the employees involved in the process of content creation. They can work as writers, reviewers, and even translators. The latter role has been made available with the introduction of Translation Module to the platform.

Don’t forget that creating a coherent document implies not only a consistent presentation of information. It also means that the compiled text fragments should be unified by one tone of speech or style.

A universal style is a feature that cannot be maintained by AI yet. So, it is here that your team of reviewers comes in. ClickHelp makes it possible for reviewers to work in parallel with the technical writers. This will boost the speed of content creation in your company.

Step 4. Review and Revise the Handbook

Your handbook is now almost ready. What you have to do now is to check whether everything has been done right.

It is essential that the book should be reviewed by the legal department. Thought the handbook is not a legal document, legal counsel is still important. It will help to check whether the technical writers who compiled the book presented the information correctly, whether all links and references to laws were used right, etc.

Besides, there are some tricky areas that will probably lead to misunderstanding, confusion or even law suits if tackled inaccurately. These issues include notorious workplace policies, such as prohibiting employees to discuss their pay with coworkers, withholding pay until company property is returned, etc.

Another thing that you should check is completeness. The handbook should cover all the issues relevant for the working process, employees and employers. To ensure that your handbook is really comprehensive, it is worthwhile asking a few people from the different ‘strata’ of the company to provide feedback and give you expert advice on developing an employee handbook.

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Step 5. Distribute the Handbook

The last step is the distribution of the handbook. If all your employees have access to ClickHelp, distributing the handbook will be no problem. It will be stored in the cloud and you will be able to make it accessible to whom it may concern.

If you don’t have an online document management platform, you will have to use the documentation management tools available in your company. Most often, documents like the employee handbook are stored in a shared folder and the employees get a link to the folder via the company mail.

Anyway, it is better to develop a distribution plan. It is usually developed by the company knowledge manager. This person does not only give the tips for drafting and distributing an employee handbook. He/she will set the dates to distribute the handbook and its updates to the employees. The knowledge manager is also responsible for the training of the team on the use of the handbook.

Conclusion

Summing up, an employee handbook has a number of benefits for both employees and employers. It plays an important role in the on-boarding of new hires, it introduces them to the company culture and mission. It educates employees on their rights and responsibilities. It is important for employers as it communicates their vision, expectations, and ideas to employees. It also prevents conflicts and provides procedures for solving conflicts.

You may say that you don’t need an employee handbook, as you have a large knowledge base in your company. Still, consider developing a handbook, as your employees need instructions for solving their everyday problems and usually don’t have time for searching the company's knowledge base. An online documentation management platform, such as ClickHelp, will provide you with handy tools for developing an effective employee handbook.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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