man's hand pulling out a binder from a shelf

9 Tips on How to Write Your First Employee Handbook

Your employee handbook is a great way to communicate with your employees. You can use it to tell your employees how you expect them to behave at work and what they can expect from you.

If you’re writing your first employee handbook, you might not know where to start.

When Should I Write My First Employee Handbook?

There are no laws saying that you must have an employee handbook, so it’s up to you when to write one. But, it’s a good idea to write one when your team is still small.

Your handbook documents your policies, procedures, and company culture, so every employee will have the same information.

After you’ve written your handbook, make it easily accessible by emailing it out or uploading it to your HR system so every employee can read it.

9 Tips for Writing Your First Employee Handbook

Before you start writing your first handbook, check out these nine tips to make the process easier:

1. Make Your Employee Handbook Easy to Navigate

To help make it easier to navigate, write an outline for your handbook before you start writing it. This will ensure that you’ve included everything you want and that the organization makes sense.

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

2. Make Your Employee Handbook Easy to Understand

Your handbook sets the tone for how you and your employees communicate, so make it easy to understand.

You’ll have to include some legal agreements and policies in your handbook but try to explain them in layman’s terms whenever possible. And, make sure your employees 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 handbook. Make sure to include a disclaimer saying that the employee handbook can be changed at any time.

Consider reviewing your handbook at least once a year to make sure your processes are still working and update them if needed.

4. Don’t Recreate the Wheel

You’re certainly not the first small business owner trying to write their first employee 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.

4 Samples of Employee Handbooks

You can also find some inspiration from one of these handbooks:

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

6. Answer Your Employees’ Questions

Your handbook should answer any questions your employees might have about how to act at work. By answering these questions in your handbook, your employees 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?

7. Include Paycheck Information

Your employees 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 employees’ paychecks.

Tell them how often they’ll be paid (weekly, biweekly, or semi-monthly) and on what day.

Explain things that could affect your employees’ 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 all your employees 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.

9. Have an Attorney Look at It

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