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9 Tips for Writing Your First Employee Handbook

Your employee handbook is a great way to communicate with your staff. You can use it to tell your workers how you expect them to behave at work and what they can expect from you. If you’re writing your first handbook, you might not know where to start. Check out these nine tips to make the process easier.

1. Make your employee handbook easy to navigate

Write an outline for your manual before you start writing it. This will ensure that you’ve included everything you want and that its organization makes sense.

Once you have your outline, include a table of contents, subheadings, and bullet points to help your workers quickly find what they’re looking for. They will use your handbook to find answers, so don’t make it difficult to access the information they need.

download how to optimize your new hire handbook

2. Make it easy to understand

Your handbook sets the tone for how you and your staff communicate, so make it easy to understand. You’ll have to include some legal agreements and policies in your manual but try to explain them in layman’s terms whenever possible. And, make sure your team members know that they can come to you with any questions.

3. Make your employee handbook adaptable

As your business changes and grows, you’ll have to update your manual. Make sure to include a disclaimer saying that the handbook can be changed at any time. Consider reviewing your manual at least once a year to make sure your processes are still working and update them if needed.

4. Don’t try to recreate the wheel

You’re certainly not the first small business owner trying to write their first handbook, so don’t start from scratch. Instead, start with a template and customize it to fit your company’s needs and culture.

Workful has a great example.

You can also find some inspiration from one of these four manuals:

  1. Valve’s Handbook for New Employees
  2. Netflix Culture
  3. Trello Employee Manual
  4. The Zappos Culture Book

5. Share your story

Your employee manual is one of the first interactions your new hires will have with your company. So, begin your handbook with your company’s history. Share how and why you got started and include your mission statement and core values.

6. Answer your team’s questions

Your handbook should answer any questions your workers might have about how to act at work. By answering these questions in your manual, your staff will all have the same answers and know that each policy applies to everyone equally.

You might want to answer questions like:

  • How long are lunch breaks?
  • Can I have my cell phone out at work?
  • How do I request a shift change?
  • What’s the dress code?
  • How do I report my tips?

Read also: What’s in an Employee Handbook?

7. Include paycheck information

Your team members don’t just work for you because they connect with your mission and believe in your vision. They also expect to get paid for the work they’re doing. Use a section of your handbook to answer questions about your workers’ paychecks. For example, tell them how often they’ll be paid (weekly, biweekly, or semi-monthly) and on what day.  Then, explain things that could affect their paychecks – business hours, time off policies, observed holidays, and any benefits you offer.

8. Review your state’s laws

Some states require you to post certain notices where your entire staff can see them. In some states, you can meet those requirements by posting the notices in your employee handbook. Research your state’s specific laws and make sure you meet the standards.

Read also: What Posters Do I Have to Display for My Small Business?

9. Have an attorney look at it

Your manual can help you if there’s ever a legal issue, so ask an employment attorney to review it. This will help you to finalize your handbook and make sure it complies with any state and federal laws before you release it to your staff.

Read also: 7 Employee Handbook Rules and Regulations to Stay Compliant in 2019

Final thoughts: When should you write your first employee handbook?

No regulations state that you must have a manual, so it’s up to you when to write one. Because it documents your policies, procedures, and company culture, it’s a good idea to write one when your team is still small, so everyone has the same information. After you’ve written your handbook, make it easily accessible by emailing it to your staff or uploading it to your HR system, like Workful, so that everyone can read it.