Employee HR handbook/HR manual as a prime communication tool
Any company is akin to an organism or a machine with various moving parts which need to function in tandem for the smooth functioning of the system. As a company and its departments grow in numbers and count, it becomes difficult to engage effectively among each other to ensure the departments work together and understand each other. Communication becomes a challenge as the system becomes complex. There are certain communication factors, however, which are standard and can be disseminated by the HR at a high-level. One such tool at the disposal of an HR team is an HR Manual or an HR handbook. It is a guidebook for all the employees in the organization which serves as a blueprint to fall back to in times they need a common reference point. It is especially beneficial for new joiners in a company as the HR can set expectations from the company for the new employees and kick-start a discussion with them.
An HR Manual or an HR handbook serves as a guide to establish the principal values of the company and explain it in easily accessible terms to all and sundry. An employee may get a unified explanation about certain aspects in the company life like its culture and fact-checks around the rules therein. It also doubles as a welcome book of sorts for the new employee. This can be especially useful in an SME as such a brand value proposition is not conceived or publicized there sometimes as opposed to a big corporation with separate departments and processes in place for disseminating the brand values. An HR handbook is an easiest and most efficient way to house all the information generally required by employees on a regular basis. It is an initial handshake to company values by a new employee. It must leave that first impression likewise.
Contents in an HR Handbook/ HR Manual
The question that presents itself when you as an HR head decide to launch an HR Handbook is – “What is the content-structure that should be presented in the manual. Here we shall provide a general guideline regarding that.
The first and foremost article on the HR handbook for the employees should be the mission statement of the company. Most companies have one and thrive on the same. You can elucidate the company values in that section. The HR team can discuss the company values with the founders or the core team members in case they have not been clearly communicated to them earlier. The HR can explain the motivations of the founders in starting the company through this section in the HR handbook. It helps set the professional tone within the organization and helps the employees align in the same direction. This can be followed by a note from the Chairman or the CEO of the company. This can be a personal touch from the executive that helps him or her connect with all the employees in the organization. Thereafter, you can elucidate the history of the organization. A brief introduction with a good story goes a long way in creating a consciousness regarding the organization as a purposeful entity.
The next section could be the “about company” section. You can explain herein in a bit detail as to what your company does and hopes to achieve through its product line. You could enlist the product-line in a limited manner with brief explanations for them as well. You can explain as to how the company is different from competition to create a sense of awareness and belonging among the employees. If you have a brand logo, the employee HR Handbook is a good place to explain the different aspects of the logo and how it was created.
The next and the most impactful section of the HR handbook could be the policies section. This would perhaps be the longest subsection in your employee handbook.
You can next detail the duties for an employee based on designation in a smaller company like an SME.
Then you can have a section for a nametag in case someone misplaced their copy. Other important points like the organization chart can follow. A fact-sheet could follow from the next page which includes information like the wifi address, social media links, various important addresses, etc. Some important office protocols like lunch hours if there be such defined hours, opening and closing times for the premises can be detailed. You can end the subsection with information on some benefits and perks like a library, study room or recreation area within the company premises. An Orientation checklist, training procedures during onboarding that can be signed off can be added also. Optionally some forms can be added in the appendix like leave and reimbursement forms. Do also have an ebook. If your company has some buzzwords or lingo used in everyday business or cultural life, please end the employee manual or handbook with that information. It is a great way to conclude the manual in a light tonality.
The policies section in an HR Manual/ HR handbook
The most significant section in an HR Handbook for employees is the one that details the policies of functioning in the company. This is information which is pertinent to some most important discussions and decisions are taken by the management and the employees. It serves as a written reference point which helps everyone at various points. You can start the section with general information around job classifications, policies on smoking, email usage, proxies, internet usage, payroll facts and systems, overtimes rules and compensation info. You can provide brief information regarding the union of employees and its regulations if there exists one in your company.
Then there can be policies around some more serious issues which may need a little more detailing. Such policies include issues like sexual harassment, employee benefits, leave policies, safety and security issues. Sexual harassment is a sensitive topic and it is a challenge to walk the thin line when communicating the policies in the most lucid manner. While you can’t go too much in detail about it in such a general purpose book, it is a common reference point and hence must include sufficient information so that various parties can refer it as and when needed. The HR Handbook must detail the definition of the event of sexual harassment in brief. You should give some examples to explain situations where an employee may not otherwise understand behavior to come under the purview of sexual harassment like asking a coworker repeatedly for a date. List the response options in case an event of harassment occurs. Also, state briefly the disciplinary actions that can and will be taken based on the seriousness of the offense.
Other important policy areas to be covered in an employee HR Manual are regarding employee benefits, leave policies, safety and security policies, time and attendance policy, parental leave policies. If you may offer it, then list the work from home policy also. Details like who is eligible for it, how do they apply it and what are the details of rules should also be mentioned in the employee handbook. Parental leave policy, disability leave policy are the other areas that should be detailed in your handbook. Vacation leave, Sick leave structure and count, Paid Time off policies and their detailing conclude this subsection of the handbook for employees.
In case you may face any difficulty in formulating these policies or any other difficulty, please reach out to our HR adviser team at Kredily which shall be more than happy to help you resolve those issues
Important considerations in designing and distributing an employee HR Handbook/Manual
Once you have created an HR Manual for your employees, the next important task is to distribute it effectively so that the participants actually read it thoroughly and make use of the wealth of concise information it contains. For that, you need to make the handbook as engaging as possible. Illustrations and images go a long way in creating a better connection in the first reading. Make use of infographics as and when required. Invest in the graphics and the visual aid for your employee handbook. It goes a long way to add the touch of creativity. Do not overdo that part as well as its a reading manual and not a visual map. You can start the serious sections in the HR Employee manual with some interviews. The interviews can be those of the founders or the employees. Keep them concise and to the point. Try to add humor as and when possible to create a sense of warmth and belonging. It need not sound like a usability-manual.
You can hand over the employee handbook during the orientation program of the new employee or keep it at the desk of the employee the first day they arrive in the company. You can make a presentation out of the contents of the handbook during the orientation program. You can even send it with the offer letter. You can as well send an ebook copy of the employee handbook when making that offer.
Take some time to think over a good and apt name for the handbook as well. It sounds very dull and low-impact to call it as it is. You can try rhyming it with your company name if you may.
As part of the orientation process conclusion, you may get a signed letter or declaration by the employee stating they have perused the manual thoroughly. If you feel enthusiastic, you may even conduct an after the test. If possible take the services of your attorney or lawyer to conclude the design and contents of the employee handbook. The HR handbook is an evolving entity as is your organization and needs an update on an annual basis. Keep revisiting it and run it by the stakeholders.
Conclusion regarding an HR Employee manual or handbook
An HR manual can be a great tool in your company to spread awareness about the values and priorities within the company. You may start the endeavor in a small way if it appears as a daunting task. You can keep updating the handbook towards its final avatar over the period of time. It can run in its own beta state and the employee may be made aware of its progressive nature through a note. It is a robust communication mechanism which also serves as a common reference point to all employees. It builds a brand image internally for the company and its personnel or management if done correctly. It can be especially useful for an SME which generally does not have such processes and mechanisms at their disposal otherwise. All the best in your endeavor to create that awesome employee handbook for your unique organization.