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Susan M. Heathfield

You Need an Employee Handbook

By March 6, 2012

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Opinions differ about the value of an employee handbook, but every time I lean away from them, the employee handbook proves its value in our organization once again.

Employees come up with the darndest questions and issues. An employee handbook gives you the documentation necessary to handle questions and requests equivalently and with some forethought and planning. Questions this week have ranged from telecommuting from another state to selling our products as an affiliate of Amazon.com.

The answers were easy because we had thought about these issues in advance and documented guidelines in the employee handbook. Especially the affiliation, was solidly covered in our conflicts of interest policies in the employee handbook. On the customer side, we worried how the potential conflict would look and feel to customers.

I would have your employee handbook reviewed by an attorney to avoid the problems that come with the territory. Employee handbook mistakes are easy to make, even when you have good intentions.

Employee Handbook Mistakes

One employee handbook mistake to avoid is thoughtlessly making promises or leading employees to believe that their employment is secure, when it's not. Another employee handbook mistake is presenting the content as if the guidelines in the handbook are not changeable. They are, if you say that they are. Best practices encourage you to train employees and provide notice of significant or important changes to your employee handbook.

The employee handbook is not thought of as a contract, but it can be treated as if it is, so you need to take the contents of your employee handbook seriously. A third employee handbook mistake is taking away the latitude of your managers to actually manage in your workplace. For example, your disciplinary action rules need to include flexible language such as "may" and "up to and possibly including employment termination", or the employee handbook places your managers in untenable positions.

Finally, putting your employee handbook online for easy access is recommended as is providing early online access for a new employee.

Have ideas about the contents of an employee handbook? Please review mine and provide feedback about the contents of an employee handbook.

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