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We need to establish an employee handbook: Now what?

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Question: “I will be meeting with upper management about establishing basic company policies. Some long-time employees come and go whenever and spend too much time on the Internet or personal calls. It’s starting to affect morale. How do I convince them that the company needs ‘basic’ policies such as progressive discipline, drug/alcohol abuse, annual reviews, fair and consistent treatment, etc.?” — Pat


Management must be presented with convincing arguments in favor of establishing an employee handbook. Your arguments must be supported with facts and figures. You have a great start when you talk about morale but you need something that affect their bottom-line (benefits vs cost).

You didn't provide much information about the company. How large? How long in existance? How did you become involved in this issue. Is Human Resources involved in these discussions? You are dealing with issues involving disciplinary action and there are labor laws to take into consideration. I find it hard to believe in this day and age of company lawsuits by employees that you don't already have such policies in place. Do you have polices that are just not presented in a handbook?

Why do you need to "convince" them that there is a need for an employee handbook? What is it that management is questioning? I'm guessing that the upper management of your company doesn't want to be stuck with the burden of researching, writing, revising, and eventually distributing this handbook, which is legitimate. They should be involved in decision-making and final approval, of course. Start out slowly...put together a basic outline to take to your meeting. (Company Philosophy/culture,Employment Procedures, Work Schedules, Dress Code Policy, Pay And Compensation Policies, Attendance And Leave Policies,Insurance Programs For Employees,
Vacation Policies, Employee Benefits Policies, Employee Transfers And Separation From Employment Policy, Work Policies And Regulations, Drug-Free Workplace Policy OSHA and Safety Policy, Transportation And Travel Expense Policies, Conflicts Of Interest and Misconduct Policies) Better yet, google "employee handbooks" and you'll get a giant list of online employee handbooks from other companies that you can mirror yours after. Most are relatively similar, though.

And I whole-heartedly agree with the anonymous responder above who brings up legal issues. I work in my company's legal department and trust me when I say that I see FIRSTHAND how useful a handbook can be in saving the company's butt!

At the risk of repeating the above two, "to avoid lawsuits" would be my main response if upper management asks you why a handbook is needed. Having very clear and precise personnel policies in place, with everyone signing off on having received their copy, ensures that everyone is aware of what is expected in these areas. It ensures everyone is treated the same. A common suit is along the lines of, "I did the same thing as Joe, but Joe was warned and I was fired." Having a clear handbook/policy ensures everyone is treated equally since it gives clear direction to supervisors as well as employees themselves.

I agree with Mark. Also, there are a lot of "off-the-shelf" employee handbooks out there in cyberspace. Do some internet research, and get some ideas to present to the boss. And, if you feel up to it, you might want to "create" the handbook yourself after you do the research. The legal issues can be "killers". A well-written, well-structured employee handbook can be a real lifesaver for both the chiefs and the indians.

One thing the others have not mentioned is discussing the responsibility of managers to take the leadership role in their departments. Employees who come and go as they please and spend lots of time talking on the phone obviously have little or no proper management. When employees aren't properly managed, over time they take the path of least resistance.

When managers insure each employee knows he is expected to maintain a level of productivity; when his achievements are acknowledged and rewarded; when unacceptable behavior is counseled - then employees will begin doing the right thing. Everyone needs some accountability - even the self starters and self motivated. Expect little; get little.

Companies that have an excellent employee base do a lot to motivate their employees. Leadership is not passive. A handbook can only spell out the standards.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Baily July 28, 2009 at 8:36 am

I agree with most of the above comments. I do have one thing to add. Please have your employee handbook legally reviewed. I do not recommend “pulling one off the internet or coping another employers handbook”. Remember, the devil is in the details and words can be twisted. Be careful of putting someone else’s policy in your handbook. The policy may not be correct for your company size. If your handbook is not clear or the meaning of a policy is vague than you will have trouble communicating to every one of your employees. The policy is sound if everyone’s perception of the policy is the same, it’s not in the intention but in the perception of the policy where employers win.


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