Your Employee Handbook: Beyond Rules and Regulations

 

You know it’s important for businesses to have an employee handbook, but you may be wondering how having one in place can benefit both you and your employees.

Beyond spelling out company policies and rules, a well-written employee handbook can be a very useful workplace tool for both employers and employees. Some of the things it can do may even surprise you!

Here are a couple of unexpected ways this document can facilitate business growth and help you recruit and retain employees. 

A tool to manage growth

When companies are very small or just starting out, it’s easier to set and manage expectations, self-police behavior, and maintain a cohesive company culture.

As businesses grow and evolve, these things become exponentially more difficult and the need to formalize organizational policies, systems, and expectations becomes much more critical.

An effective employee handbook will clearly outline essential business processes such as behavior standards, safety information, leave policies, anti-discrimination policies, compensation, and employee benefits.

Clarifying HR processes can significantly reduce the amount of time spent going back and forth to resolve employee issues and misunderstandings. This can be especially important for small businesses, where both time and resources are scarce. Your employee handbook will also promote consistency in how employees are treated, helping to keep your business in compliance and out of court.

A culture enhancer

In addition to serving these very practical purposes, your employee manual can be a great way to reinforce your company culture and values.

The employee handbook is one of the first documents your new hires will receive. Keep in mind, they’ve just gone through a hiring process that portrays your company in a certain light. Now is the time to keep that light shining bright by reinforcing all the things you talked about during your recruiting and interview phases.

If your recruitment process is based on a “We care about our employees” message, your employee handbook is a great way to reinforce that notion immediately after. On the other hand, if it reads like a clinical set of procedures, rules, and discipline polices, your new hires are going to notice that these things don’t match up. This could put your new team members on the defensive and cause them to question the decision to jump onboard.

Here’s how you can use your employee manual as another way to make your employees feel good about joining your organization:

  • Include information on your company mission and vision
  • Talk about how you demonstrate your organizational values
  • Outline your employee benefits and compensation packages
  • Promote your employee wellbeing programs and/or initiatives
  • Offer information on where employees can go if they have questions and complaints
  • Let employees know what resources are available if they need professional and/or personal help

If you view your employee handbook as a formality, an afterthought, or a formal list of company rules, you’re wasting an opportunity to showcase who you are as an organization.

Folding an employee-first message into your manual will not only strengthen your company brand and message, it will remind your happy new hires why they chose you.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Africa Studio

 

Are You Working Remotely or Remotely Working?

Remote work is getting a lot of attention right now. So is oat milk. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody. Every business is different, and so is every employee.

If you mention working remotely to a group of people, you’ll likely get two distinct reactions:

  • A dreamy look crossing the face of those imagining days of peaceful productivity with no commute, no interruptions, and total freedom over their schedules.
  • A visible shudder from those trying to picture getting any work done in a home office with no structure, no coworkers, and an endless swirl of constant distraction.

Some people love the freedom of managing their own time. Others crave routine, structure, and guidance. Some employees thrive in environments full of people and noise and chaos. Others crave chunks of uninterrupted quiet time and working independently.

The remote work trend

It’s no secret that today’s employees and job candidates are looking for flexibility and work-life balance. When employees say they value remote working options, they mean it. But they may not have actually done it. Which means they may not be prepared for the reality of it.

Here are some common things remote employees struggle with:

  • Isolation
  • Anonymity
  • Disengagement
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Lack of leadership/guidance/communication
  • No clear line between work and home
  • Distractions (too many or not enough)

Sometimes these challenges are temporary and disappear once a healthy and effective remote work routine is established.

Other times, these issues are more about the person than the structure.

If you’re the kind of person who hates leaving things unfinished and your office is right down the hall, this can quickly lead to overworking and burnout.

If you’re the kind of person who gets easily distracted and has a hard time reining yourself back in after an interruption, your home office could be a recipe for disaster.

Despite all the shiny promises and benefits of remote work, the truth is it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Remote employees may find themselves craving more quality face time or office time, and some businesses may be wondering if they should continue to offer telecommuting options or try to shove their remote work program back into the magic bottle it came out of.

In either scenario, there are some good lessons to be learned here.

Whether you’re a business owner trying to figure out how to offer remote options or an employee trying to work remotely, sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. Admitting this is the first step to finding a solution that is.

What works for you? 

Having a solid remote work policy can reduce business operation costs and open up a whole new candidate pool for employers. It can also be a big differentiator when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.

Employees say they want to work from home, but what they really want is the flexibility to balance the many demands of work, family, and life. Sometimes this means remote work, but it could also mean something else. A flexible schedule, paid time off, employer sponsored healthcare, or some other workplace benefit.

If remote isn’t working for you or your organization, don’t try to force that square peg into a round hole. Work on finding something that fits.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Three Ways to Think About Workplace Safety

According to an analysis by Liberty Mutual, the two most expensive causes of workplace injury are overexertion and falls. These two things alone cost employers nearly 23 and a half BILLION dollars last year. But that’s not the only reason to think about raising your workplace safety game.

Workplace safety is a concern for many people on a variety of levels. Employees expect to be provided with a safe place to work. Customers expect to have a safe experience in the places they frequent. Banks and insurance companies want to work with companies that aren’t being unnecessarily risky. And business owners have a whole other set of worries:

  • What happens if an employee gets hurt?
  • Who will cover shifts if an injury causes someone to be out for an extended time?
  • How will an accident affect our operating costs? Healthcare? Business insurance?
  • What about expensive fines, penalties and litigation?
  • Are we even in compliance?
  • How can we protect our employees and ourselves?

These are all very valid questions and concerns. Let’s talk about how to keep your company and everyone in it as safe as possible.

1. Think big

Safety is about more than just checking the boxes required to comply with Federal and local regulations. If your company is doing the bare minimum to meet workplace safety requirements, you’re going to get the bare minimum when it comes to results.

If you really want to put safety to work for you and your business, you need to think bigger. Create a culture of workplaces safety. Don’t just make it a priority, commit to making it one of your core values. Weave it into your infrastructure, your operations, and your daily reality.

Here are a few quick ways to get started:

  • Make time for it. Move safety to the top of your to do list and keep it top of mind.
  • Include workplace safety as a critical part of all business decision-making processes.
  • Train staff and leadership thoroughly from a safety-first perspective.
  • Communicate about safety openly and often.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in a safer workplace.

There’s a big difference between talking about safety and actively working to create a safe environment. Employees can tell the difference between an employer who says they care about safety and one who truly does. Be on the right side of that equation.

2. Think small

While you’re building your strong foundation for safe practices, don’t be tempted to let the little things slide. When it comes to workplace safety, little things matter. Workplace safety often lies in the details, where little things can become big things in an instant.

A loose cord, a slippery floor, or a cracked pair of safety glasses may not seem like a big deal, but in the wrong set of circumstances, it could be.

If an employee comes to you with a safety concern, no matter how large or small, take it seriously. Better yet, be proactive about finding potential unsafe areas, equipment, and practices. Do a safety audit to determine what tools and processes need to be fixed, replaced, or thrown out entirely.

Not only will this keep your workplace safe and your business protected, it will show your employees that you care enough to invest in their wellbeing.

3. Think smart

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment. That’s a no-brainer. So how come so many businesses don’t do what it takes to actually get there?

Perhaps they think that fully committing to workplace safety sounds way too:

  • expensive
  • complicated
  • time consuming
  • unnecessary
  • paranoid

If you’ve run into some or all of these objections at your company, now is the time to refer back to the Liberty Mutual study, which found that disabling workplace injuries cost employers over $55 BILLION dollars last year. That’s right. Billion. With a B. Now which strategy sounds more expensive?

Focusing on workplace safety is smart business. It’s not just good for the health of your employees. It’s good for the health of your organization. And that’s good for everyone.

 

 Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 Photo by Michael Simons 

The How and What of Employee Handbooks

An effectively written employee handbook protects the both the employee and the employer by providing clear, concise terms and expectations on both sides. When done right, this useful HR tool can serve several important functions.

Here are some key things a well-written employee handbook can do for your business:

  • Clarify organizational policy
  • Answer common employee questions
  • Save your HR staff time and headaches
  • Highlight your employee benefits and perks
  • Address legal obligations and employee rights
  • Help make sure your company is in compliance
  • Reinforce company values, mission, and culture
  • Properly set employer and employee expectations
  • Provide a common set of rules and accountability for everyone
  • Make new team members feel good about joining your organization

Who wouldn’t want to put together a document that can do all this?

Plenty of people, actually. It’s not that they don’t want to do it. It’s just that many people aren’t sure how to make it happen, so they get stuck.

How to get started

Putting together a top-notch employee manual may sound overwhelming, but it might not be as hard as you think.

If you have a current handbook, start there. Revisit the content to see what information is outdated and what parts are still a good fit with your current processes, systems, culture, and vision. As you evaluate your existing content, keep an eye out for anything that is missing or needs to be added.

If you don’t have a current handbook, there are resources to help. Employee handbook builders can be a great way to get started. If you don’t know where to find these kinds of tools, talk with your employee benefits broker, commercial insurance agent, or employment law attorney. Anyone in your circle of trusted business advisors should be able to point you in the right direction.

What should be included

What kinds of things should you be looking out for? Here’s a list of common things to include in an employee handbook:

  • Code of conduct and behavior expectations
  • Compensation, timekeeping, and payroll
  • Attendance and remote work
  • Employee benefits and perks
  • Paid holidays, vacation, and time off
  • FMLA and employee leave
  • EEO and anti-discrimination
  • Anti-harassment and anti-retaliation
  • Workplace safety and security
  • Technology
  • Social media
  • Data privacy
  • Employee wellbeing and/or assistance
  • Dress code and appearance standards
  • At-will disclaimers (as applicable)
  • Acknowledgement of receipt (signature page)

Because every organization is different, you will want to base your exact content on your own unique business model and situation. To make sure all of your bases are covered, have an attorney review your manual before you consider it complete. 

Keys to employee handbook success

Your employee handbook can be a powerful document in your business tool box. To maximize its effectiveness, you’ll want to follow a few basic guidelines.

Stay true to your brand – Your employee manual should be consistent with your company voice and values.

Stay away from industry jargon – Use language that is clear and easy to understand.

Pay attention to spelling, punctuation and grammar – Don’t leave any room for confusion.

Format your handbook for easy reading – Use plenty of section headers, bullet points, and paragraph breaks.

Keep it simple – Your employees don’t want to read a novel, and you don’t want them skimming over important information.

Keep it up to date – Set aside time each year to review and update your employee handbook.

Ask an expert – Have your attorney look over the final draft to make sure it has everything that needs to be included and nothing that shouldn’t be.

Once you’ve put together an employee handbook you are proud of, don’t just admire your work of art. Make sure it gets in the hands of everyone on your team so it can fulfill its many missions. Your organizational leaders, your HR department, and your happy employees will all appreciate it.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by OoddySmile Studio

 

Why Getting Rid of Your Annual Reviews Won’t Work

You want to get rid of your annual performance reviews— and rightfully so. Nobody looks forward to those stressful, once-a-year meetings.

But simply getting rid of annual reviews isn’t a good idea. You’ve got to replace them with something better.

The “good” old days

The annual review process is clunky and antiquated, harkening back to the days when job security was the norm, employers and employees were happy sticking together for the long haul, and regular raises were pretty much a given. (Two martini lunches may have also been a thing.)

In this Mad Men environment, stability and consistency were the names of the game. Getting together once per year to review standard processes in a standard format was standard fare. Meeting annually to document last year’s performance and this year’s raise was generally seen as good enough.

But times have changed.

The workforce is much more dynamic and diverse. Business and technology are rapidly evolving and changing. Processes change. Consumer expectations change. Employer/employee expectations change. Technology and markets change. And, perhaps most importantly, employees are more mobile than ever.

If you wait an entire year to discuss employee performance, processes, metrics, needs and expectations, you will be having two completely different conversations. If that person is still on staff.

In the current business environment, stability and consistency can lead to a slow and painful death.

An inefficient model

Let’s think about things we do once a year, shall we?

  • File taxes
  • Cook a turkey
  • Try not to forget Valentine’s Day

Sure, you may be pretty good at some of these things. But imagine how much better you’d be at them if you did them more regularly. Chances are these skills would begin to come naturally and these occasions would be much more pleasant for everyone.

Let’s face it. You’re not going to be great at something you only do once a year, which is all the more reason to ditch the annual review process, right? But simply getting rid of it isn’t a good answer. Moving from awkward, inefficient feedback to no feedback won’t solve your two basic problems.

1. Both you and your employees need to talk about what’s working and what isn’t.

Employers need a workforce that can deliver results, and employees need to be clear about what those results are and how to best achieve them.

You can replace the annual review with a system for delivering timely, relevant feedback on a regular basis. Doing so will make performance management much more effective and much less stressful and intimidating. This is definitely a step in the right direction. It may even be the magic fix on the employer end of the equation.

But there’s a second piece to the performance puzzle that can’t be ignored.

2. Employees don’t just want feedback and kudos. They need to feel valued and appreciated.

Which means you need a plan to address career paths and, more importantly, compensation.

If you want your employees to stick around, they have to be able to see a future for themselves in your organization. Having weekly or monthly check in meetings with employees is great! And it would make sense not to talk about compensation during each of these sessions, because that would be serious overkill. But if you take compensation out of your feedback loop and just never bring it up, you’re asking for trouble.  

Like it or not, your employees expect to be recognized, not just with praise and accolades, but with raises. Sure, they may also want new titles, responsibilities, and promotions. But without an increase in compensation, all you’re doing is rewarding high performers with more work. Even if that’s truly not your intent, it’s how your staff will feel.  

Talking about compensation and pay increases is a natural part of the annual review process. So if you want to ditch the annual review, you’ll need to find a way to work those compensation conversations back into the rotation.

Feedback is great, but it isn’t everything

Creating a culture that doesn’t value employees is a surefire way to kick them out the door. But positive feedback, praise, and heartfelt appreciation won’t necessarily convince them to stay.

Employees associate high performance with increased pay. And many of them think the only way to get a significant bump in compensation is to change jobs and/or companies.

Don’t let this be the accidental message you’re sending your team. As you let go of annual performance reviews, make darn sure to put processes in place that address employee development, career paths, and compensation.

If you don’t, your employees will go looking for these things somewhere else.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by  Antonio Guillem