Many small business owners overlook the importance of having an employee handbook. You might think of an employee handbook as something only needed by big corporations, but no matter how small your team, an employee handbook will serve as an essential management tool for effective leadership.

No matter how small your team, an employee handbook will serve as an essential management tool for effective leadership.

Your employee handbook is more than a document that outlines company policies; it is a foundation for building the work culture you aim to establish and grow. If you want happy, loyal, productive employees, hand them a well-crafted employment manual on day one and it will help to set the tone for their success.

woman in leadership

Organizations of all sizes are stronger when leadership is dedicated to being of service to employees, and an employee handbook can lay the groundwork for creating a fair and equitable workplace. It’s a fundamental way to communicate consistent expectations to all employees, across all teams.

Benefits of Having an Employee Handbook

Managing a team comes with its challenges, which is why you need to be proactive about ensuring employees are aware of your commitment to them, the standards everyone is expected to uphold, and the general responsibilities required of every individual who works for the company. 

Not only does an employment manual ensure your employees know what is expected of them, but it also helps you be the best leader you can be. Having clear policies in place creates a framework from which you can make key leadership decisions efficiently and consistently. 

When your team comes to you with questions or challenges, you need to have the answers. A thorough, well-written employee handbook anticipates the issues that may arise so you can meet them head-on with a plan. 

A thorough, well-written employee handbook anticipates the issues that may arise so you can meet them head-on with a plan.

If the thought of developing an employee manual seems daunting, stifling, or you’re concerned that putting official policies in place will be backing yourself into a corner, think again. 

By putting structure in place with the rules and guidelines set forth in your handbook, you’re creating freedom for yourself as a leader. You’ll spend less time and effort thinking through how you want to handle a situation, how to answer an employee’s request, or whether or not you are being fair and equitable across the board. 

No longer are you coming up with answers on the fly or reinventing the wheel each time. Being able to reference the handbook liberates you to focus on the bigger picture and the activities that will move your business forward. 

Having a handbook also empowers your employees and helps to create self-sufficient teams. When questions or challenges arise, they don’t have to waste time or energy wondering what the answer is, how their manager will respond, or how the company will handle it. Rather than being distracted by unnecessary worry or uncertainty, your team members can simply consult the handbook and be prepared to make the right decision or take action based on what they find.

How to Write an Employee Handbook

While having an employee handbook is critical to your company’s success, there’s no need to write a big complex manual that nobody wants to read. Instead, think of the handbook as a way to communicate the essential information your employees need.

To be a useful tool for employees and leaders, your employee handbook must be:

  • Comprehensive
  • Easy to navigate
  • State-specific
  • Industry-specific
  • Company-specific

You’ll need to provide information on applicable federal and state laws. Plus, you will want to share important information and expectations, such as attendance policies, codes of conduct, holidays, safety policies, employee benefits, and workplace rules and responsibilities. 

To get started:

Make a list of frequently asked questions. If you find yourself answering questions about the same issues or policies often, those are the first items to include in your handbook.

Keep in mind, the purpose of the handbook is to not only enforce company policies but also to lay the foundation for your company culture. 

So rather than just listing policies, stating the rules, and outlining disciplinary procedures, make the effort to spell out why it’s important to everyone to follow suit. For example, when you provide details about your paid time off programs, explain that PTO is available so that employees can use it to care for themselves and their families. 

Avoid using overly technical language or legal jargon and be careful to avoid language that creates a contract. Your employee handbook or employment manual is not the same thing as an employment contract, employee agreement, or standard operating procedures. 

Need help writing your employee handbook?

Overall, having a current, updated employee handbook is a key measurement for human resources success in your small business. Employee handbooks serve as an indispensable tool for employees, managers, and all decision-makers on your team.

At HRAnswers, we believe that employee handbooks should be a tool that serves to assist in the development of the workplace culture that you dream of creating. 

We guide our clients through a unique 4-phase strategic process to ensure your employee handbook is a meaningful resource for organizational leaders and their team members.

If you need help writing your small business employee handbook, you can learn more about this process here and schedule a strategy session with Niki Ramirez, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP, THRP, Founder & Managing Partner, HR Answers, LLC.