A Letter from Your Employee Handbook: What a Solid Handbook Can Do for Your Organization

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Dear Business Owner,

Hello. It’s me. Your Employee Handbook. Now, before you stop reading, can I share what is on my mind? I know you are busy, and I evoke a lot of eye-rolling. But, I have some important things to say. I cannot blame you for being annoyed with me as I routinely insist on being updated, re-signed, and discussed. Granted, I was last updated when George W. Bush was President, Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl, and cargo pants were a fad. If you will give me five minutes of your time, I will make it worth your while. I know I can add value to our organization. 

Let’s not pigeonhole me as a thing we “have” to have. Let’s not wait until the next potential lawsuit to “tighten up” our policies. Rather, here are ways that I can make our organization better:

1. Highlight the Company’s Culture—Let’s showcase who we are and what we believe.

You created a great place to work! Why not let the employees know who we are, what we believe, and how our team-members behave? It is important that our employees feel the “humanity” in who we are. They need to know how they fit in with our company. This helps foster a sense of pride and belonging. The better this is done the better they will perform. We need to show them how we got here, what we do, and what we value. Remember what our good friend Steve Black from Brixey & Meyer wrote in his article discussing structures supporting strong cultures? If not, check it out. As a Handbook, I am one of those structures that supports a strong culture. Let me highlight who we are because it is awesome!

2. Communicate the Company’s Expectations—Let’s be clear what we expect from our employees.

Most people want clearly defined expectations. This helps them make sense of their world. A well-written handbook directs people regarding what they need to do, when to do it, and how it is done. For instance, if a person wants to take a day off, we should tell them how to do this (e.g.—what form to use, who to inform, amount of notice time). Employees need to know our expectations related to safety, timekeeping, dress code, and so many other items. Oh, by the way, our current dress code currently includes “slacks.” I need an update! 

3. Help Our Employees Know Where to Go When They Need Help—Let’s ensure employees know who to talk to, where to go, and when to go when needing assistance.

Unfortunately, bad things happen both outside and inside the workplace. Our employees need to know where to go when/if they face trouble. What if an employee lost a loved one? S/he needs access to our Employee Assistance Program. What if an employee feels discriminated against? S/he needs to know we have a grievance process, so we can address this issue immediately. The alternative is having great people leave our organization. If employees do not feel supported, they may turn to third party resources such as attorneys, the EEOC, or the DOL depending upon the issue. This leads me to my fourth point.

4. Minimize Distracting Non-Compliance Issues and Potential Lawsuits—Let’s be proactive about how we protect the company related to governmental compliance and legal standing.  

EEOC, DOL, FLSA, ADA, FMLA, FFCRA, ICRA…so many acronyms! There is so much we must monitor. I am concerned that we have no idea what potential landmines we may set off by not having proactive plans. For instance, one of my handbook friends on the other side of town told me about a lawsuit her company avoided due to having a specific FMLA process laid out informing employees what to do and when to do. As it turns out, the under-performing employee did not follow the defined processes. When the company let the employee go for performance reasons, the employee tried to sue the company charging FMLA interference. Well, fortunately, the company did exactly what they needed to do, and it saved them tens of thousands of dollars. However, this took up a lot of time and energy from many workers. It could have been worse, but we must remember that being proactive to understand legal issues, communicate how we comply with them, and house accurate records saves time, energy, and money in the long run.  

5. Highlight the Company’s Benefit Offerings—Let’s ensure employees know what great benefits we provide.

Have you seen how much money our company spends on employee benefits? Yet, I hear so many employee’s confusion about what they have and concern about what they do not have. After a little research with the Benefit’s team, I discovered that this came down to a lack of education! We need to layout the benefits people have and where they can find information about each benefit. We spent the money, so let us make sure people know what they have!

6. Communicate the Company’s Key Policies, Procedures, and Practices—Let’s make sure we are clear and consistent in order to minimize confusion. 

I wonder how many dollars we lose every year due to misunderstood and misaligned policies, procedures, and practices? When we provide clarity in our handbook, we have a common place to point people when they have questions. Doing this saves time, money, and energy. A handbook accurately communicates our policies related to a variety of topics such as: employment, behavior, compensation, holiday time off, and so many other topics! Clarity leads to time, which leads to greater productivity!

7. Educate Our Employees about What They Can Expect of Us—Let’s make sure our employees know what they can expect out of us as well. 

As an at-will employer, employees can come and go as they see fit. They need to know what to expect from management and leadership. You have a tough job leading the organization. It is easy to forget that employees need to know how we will handle various situations. They need to know the organization’s commitment to their development and growth. They need to know when they will be paid. They need to know when performance reviews will take place and if raises are attached to these results. This stuff matters. Eliminating confusion helps employees do their jobs with greater confidence and clarity.

I am hopeful that you did not stop reading and delete this message. If you are still reading, let’s figure out a time to meet. I am open to meeting face-to-face, but if we need to schedule a Zoom call, let me know. I know I am not the most exciting aspect of your business, but I promise I can and will promote the things you value and help you build a bigger, better, faster, and strong organization. 


Your Employee Handbook


Need assistance with addressing short and long term HR needs for your business? Contact me at steve.black@brixeyandmeyer.com, and we will address them proactively.

Disclaimer: This blog is not legal advice, but merely informed opinion or general information meant for no particular purpose. Issues addressed in this blog often implicate federal, state, and local labor and employment laws. This blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Readers should consult labor and employment counsel to determine whether their particular policies, procedures, decisions, or courses of action comply with such laws. 

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