Whew! Now that “hiring season” is over, it may be time to take a look at your business and the processes it may need to adopt, create or update as we look forward to the second half of 2017. May through August seems to be “slow-season” for hiring as company executives and decision makers take time off from work to recharge and vacation with family. So, this is a great time to take a look at the document that governs how your company conducts business, that provides risk management and employee related protection from fees and fines, that houses your vision and mission and that serves as the roadmap to how your staff should conduct themselves as employees of your company…yes, your Employee Handbook. This book should be reviewed annually and updated as your business’ needs change and as employee expectations and new guidelines go into effect.

Creating and updating your company employee handbook can seem like a daunting task, but having an updated, state-specific, and customized employee handbook brings many benefits. Here are seven reasons your organization should have an employee handbook:

1. Relays your culture, mission and values to your employees:
Perhaps the most vital element of your handbook is introducing employees to your company’s culture, mission, and vision. Having a clear sense of your company’s purpose, standards, guidelines, policies and procedures and receiving employee “buy-in” early helps foster pride and a sense of belonging to the company, which studies show will help employees be more creative and productive in a shorter period of time. The introduction should answer questions like:

“How did the company get here?”
“What is the company passionate about?”
“What sets us apart from the competition?”
“How do I fit in and become a part of the culture?”

2. Communicates clear expectations
A well-crafted handbook provides employees with a clear understanding of their responsibilities and expected performance. The handbook guides employees through an organization’s policies, procedures and expectations and informs on whom is responsible for what and how to conduct business as an employee.

The handbook assists Management in communicating to employees their roles and responsibilities regarding safety, timekeeping and reporting. An employee handbook also provides companies’ objectives, leadership styles, and best practices, to facilitate healthy management-employee relationships at work. By providing clear, accessible information, handbooks ensure companies’ messages are clear as they move operations in the right direction.

3. Helps ensure key company policies are clearly and consistently communicated
Lack of consistency leads to ineffective policy practices. A handbook will accurately communicate your organization’s policies regarding employment, conduct and behavior, compensation and other policies and procedures when it is properly followed by Management. Moreover, managers can refer to the handbook when answering questions or making decisions regarding your policies and are ensured their answers and actions are consistent with company policies and best practices.

4. Spotlights the benefits your company offers
Your handbook should outline your employee benefits (i.e. vacation, sick time, 401(k), health insurance, dental, vision, FMLA, etc.) as well as who is eligible to receive them and when the employee will be eligible to receive the benefits. A robust benefits package can help you retain the best and brightest employees, so be sure to clearly communicate your full suite of offerings and requirements in the handbook. Remember, there are several benefits that are very cost effective and some that are no-cost to the employer but may be very attractive to your employees.

5. Ensures compliance with federal and state laws
Regardless of the state your company conducts business in, or the number of people you employee, as an entity, you are subject to state and federal employment laws. Your handbook is not only useful in communicating employee expectation, guidelines, and entitlements, it also displays your company’s commitment in remain compliant with these regulations (i.e. military service leave, FMLA, state disability leave, and other government mandates).

6. Helps defend and reduce risk of employee claims
Regrettably, employers are being faced with when an employee claim will be filed against them, not if they will face a lawsuit or a claim from a current or former employee. When this occurs, one of the most useful documents you can provide to a third-party investigator or attorney is your employee handbook along with the acknowledgement page signed by the employee upon hire. A thorough, updated, and compliant employee handbook will help demonstrate to others that you did your due diligence and exercised “reasonable care” regarding its employees by providing clear expectations via your employee handbook prior to the employee’s first day on the job. The employee’s signed acknowledgement page demonstrates that the employee had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the organization’s policies, a chance to ask related questions, knew whom they could turn to for help within the organization, and agreed to follow the terms and conditions of employment set forth by the organization.

7. Informs employees of where to turn for help
It is imperative for employees to feel comfortable turning to a trusted member of Management for assistance when they need to report workplace violations, obtain workplace-related assistance and get answers to any other questions they may have. They also need to know where to go if they feel that they have not received the assistance that they needed to resolve their issue. Employees should know where to turn outside of the company to resolve any issues, like EEOC or DOL, which could trigger a costly and time-consuming investigation. Having a handbook that identifies more than one individual in Management to resolve employee issues may result in a reduction of the likelihood for employees to turn to third-parties, which could be a great outcome for employers.

So, I challenge you to review you employee handbook and your policies and update them as you deem appropriate. If you do not have an employee handbook, consider the contents of this article, and ask yourself if you are doing your due diligence to safeguard your company from employee related risks.

If you have questions about your handbook or are looking for suggestions in how to get started, reach out to us and we will be happy to consult with you…the first 30-minute consultation is always free!