Many workplaces don’t know how vital a strong, updated employee handbook can be to their success. The best employee handbook can shield a company from legal exposure, create a strong company culture, and even help protect the company and staff during emergencies like the pandemic. It’s important for compliance and it can also be the blueprint to meeting the organization’s business goals. To optimize your employee manual, MP’s HR services team outlines the top 10 handbook mistakes to avoid.
Top 10 Employee Handbook Mistakes:
- Using a boilerplate or borrowed handbook. Borrowing another organization’s employee handbook or using a boilerplate handbook can be a good start, but it can’t be the whole process. Every employer is subject to certain laws and regulations based on their size, their locations, their workers’ statuses, and their industry. The best company handbook also tells the company story and helps create corporate culture, which you can’t find in a boilerplate template or another organization’s handbook. Making this mistake can leave an employer out of compliance and weaken its ability to build and nurture a great company culture.
- Using a one size fits all approach. Many employers have multiple handbooks. This can be helpful for a few reasons. The main two are because the employer operates out of multiple locations and because they have workers with different statuses and job requirements. Instead of trying to create policies that fit every worker and every location, it’s better to just create two (or three, four, etc.) company handbooks. This allows organizations to write employee policies precisely to target the workers they were meant for and all language and policies required by the state, city, etc. can be included.
- When your policies don’t match what you practice. The best company handbook, even one that is updated and reviewed regularly, is useless if supervisors aren’t managing to the policies. Especially when it comes to reinforcing policies, consistency is important. A manager cannot hold one employee accountable for something when nobody is. Policies need to be followed and applied consistently across the organization.
- When managers and supervisors aren’t trained on the employee handbook. If managers and supervisors aren’t trained on the policies, they can’t enforce them properly. It’s also hard for them to create and nurture the kind of company culture that is laid out in the handbook. All of this is a recipe for the kind of workplace where talent feels uncomfortable and untrusting because they don’t know the expectations, the standards of success, or how to interact with teammates and managers.
- Failing to distribute the employee handbook. Many organizations make this mistake, and it’s critical because employees cannot be held responsible for policies they haven’t been made aware of. Workplaces spend months revising and revising, but then forget to share the updated employee manual. Or perhaps they leave it to the bottom of the priorities list.
Here are a few tips for better distribution. Firstly, do it on a regular basis. It will help if you do it around the same time every year because everyone will expect it and management will get that extra push to update it and share it to meet expectations. Create the handbook electronically. It will be easier to share, easier to update, and easier to refer back to over the year. MP’s iSolved system allows employers to upload and distribute employee handbooks electronically. Lastly, MP’s HR consulting team suggests getting acknowledgements from all employees upon receipt of the handbook, and then again each year as it’s updated. This acknowledgement should be done electronically and saved in an HCM system.
- Restrictive social media policies. Some employers will write policies that discourage workers from discussing anything about them on social media. This actually infringes on employee rights per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Workers must be able to speak freely about the conditions of their workplace.
- Omitting required policies: Employers need to ensure that they include policies and legal language as required by their states, cities, and federal legislation.
- Omitting the at-will statement and disclaimers. This language is legally required in all employee handbooks, no matter the state.
- Writing overly detailed discipline procedures. While it’s great to have procedures for discipline, it can be restrictive to have ones written out with too much detail. Ideally, a handbook will leave room for managers to discipline in the best way for the scenario at hand. Some scenarios require a complicated inquiry, while others require immediate termination. If an employee manual details out a long procedure, managers will be held to it to maintain consistency, even if it doesn’t make sense for that particular circumstance.
- Not revising the handbook regularly. A company handbook needs to be a living document. Laws and regulations change on a federal, state, and city level. Organizations change size and become subject to new laws or requirements. Organizations may change things about their mission, their culture, or rebrand. An employee handbook must stay up to date with all these kinds of changes and that employees see and acknowledge them.
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