What You Need to Know about Writing a Better Employee Handbook

What You Need to Know about Writing a Better Employee Handbook

If you’re an HR professional, you know that your employee handbook is a very important document. It provides your company’s workers with access to essential information. Employees turn to their handbooks to learn about the organization’s dress code, general rules, HR procedures, and more.

That’s why it’s worth keeping the following tips in mind. Companies often edit and update their employee handbooks regularly. If you’re preparing to make changes to yours, these points will help you write a more effective and valuable document.

Use Simple Language

It can be tempting to include professional and industry-specific jargon in an employee handbook. After all, you want to communicate to employees that your organization takes itself seriously. If you’re too casual, they might get the wrong impression.

On the other hand, if the language is extremely complex, you might alienate some employees. Prevent this by writing in short sentences and paragraphs, and avoiding unnecessary jargon.

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Avoid Unreasonable Rules

Again, an employee handbook absolutely should outline your company’s rules. It’s important for workers to have a document which clearly states how they are (and are not) allowed to behave.

That doesn’t mean the rules should be so strict your employees feel intimidated. When reviewing your handbook, identify any rules that, in this day and age, simply feel too draconian. For instance, if your organization was founded several decades ago, the dress code may be very traditional by today’s standards. Changing such rules can make the workplace more inviting and comfortable for employees.

Stay on Brand

Workers are more likely to be engaged with their roles if they are also engaged with the company’s brand. This is why it’s important for HR professionals to develop brand engagement strategies.

This is also something you need to consider when writing an employee handbook. You want to ensure the tone of the handbook’s language matches the brand. If your company is a serious, established law firm, the tone should be serious as well. However, if your company is a hip startup with young employees and a laid-back atmosphere, it’s acceptable to adopt a more casual tone.

The main point to keep in mind is that there is no one “right” tone for all companies. Your brand should influence the language in your employee handbook.

Start with a Mission

Another way to engage employees with your organization’s brand is to clearly articulate your mission, values, and principles. Thus, it’s a good idea to begin the employee handbook with a brief section in which you outline these values. Get the company’s founders involved; they can help explain why they started the organization, and what their vision for the future is.

This information is particularly valuable for new hires. Although all employees will use their handbooks at various times, new workers are likely to read through them fully as part of your onboarding process. By starting with an explanation of your mission, you’ll introduce them to the brand right away.

Include Visuals

Your goal should be to write the kind of handbook that employees genuinely want to read. Making it appealing is crucial. That means the handbook shouldn’t consist solely of text. Including visuals when it makes sense to do so will result in a more dynamic and attractive document.

However, don’t make the mistake of only using practical visuals, such as graphs and charts. For example, in sections where you discuss rules or workplace expectations, include fun pictures of employees at work. They may not be necessary, but they can create a positive tone.

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Include Digital Conduct Information

In the past, HR professionals only had to consider an employee’s in-office behavior when drafting handbooks. That’s no longer the case. With remote work becoming increasingly common, it’s also necessary to establish rules about digital conduct.

Of course, these rules generally shouldn’t apply to their personal online behavior. That said, when it comes to how employees use the Internet at work, you need to be certain the rules and expectations are clear.

Consider New Formats

The traditional employee handbook is a printed booklet (or printable PDF). Unfortunately, this format can be somewhat boring. To make your handbook more appealing to employees, consider other formats, such as videos, Trello cards, and comic books. As always, you want to stay on brand; a comic book probably isn’t the right format for a law firm, but it might work for a tech startup.

Regardless, as an HR professional, one of your responsibilities is to ensure the employee handbook is as strong as possible. If you’re looking for effective ways to improve yours, these tips will help.

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