7 Reasons you Need an Employee Handbook

Photograph of Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd
5 January 2022
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An employee handbook isn’t a legal requirement however, it is a valuable business document for protecting your business and improving productivity.

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook may have many different names, company handbook, company manual, staff handbook and then you have more modern names like employee culture guide. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, although the name should reflect your brand and the aim of the document.

An employee handbook plays a number of roles, it’s key role is in welcoming new employees into the team. It also serves as a one stop shop for employees to refer to information they may need. It should outline what is expected of your people and what they can expect from you.

You may produce a physical or electronic book that contains all this information. It can be nice to give a physical and branded book to new employees. On the other hand you may have a company wiki, the employee handbook may serve as a small part of this and refer only to those matters of the employment relationship.

Protect your Business

An employee handbook should contain essential rules that protect your business, this includes things like data protection rules and procedures, confidentiality and IT equipment rules. Social media policies are also useful to ensure you can take action if someone does say something to harm your brand.

Whilst you don’t want a whole big list of don’ts, by telling people what you expect of them and what happens if they fall below expectations you can deal with it if it happens.

Onboarding / Welcome

Whilst protecting your business is important, a bigger focus should be on making people feel welcome and building a team all heading in the same direction. The employee handbook tells people all about your company, what it’s like to work for you, what will be expected of them and what they should expect.

Brand Bible

It’s not just about welcoming new team members, the employee handbook should be a central pillar to support your team. Particularly in service industries where your people are your product, keeping everyone on the same page is crucial. Your employee handbook is a useful place to share your vision, mission and values. You can detail the customer experience and what is expected of your people to deliver that experience.

Sets Expectations

An employee handbook doesn’t need to be a list of rules, it certainly doesn’t need to be draconian. Positivity is great and expectations can be set positively. You should be really clear about what you expect and what good performance looks like.

Improves Productivity

When you welcome people successfully, have clear expectations, a well defined brand with clear vision, mission and values you will improve productivity. Whilst an employee handbook works well to protect your business when you have this in place those rules and protections are needed far less.

A clearly defined objective gives everyone a direction. When we know what’s expected for us we can take the actions to live up to it.

Consistency and Fairness

When you have a set of rules and expectations placed on everyone and people understand what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations, consistency will create a sense of fairness. When people are treated in a way they expect and they feel that treatment is fair there will be less disputes within the business.

In case you need to go to tribunal (and it’ll help you avoid that situation in the first place)

If the worst happens and you are taken to an employment tribunal, having your rules and expectations in writing will go a long way to helping you demonstrate that you treat people fairly. At the same time, the employee handbook will help you avoid employment tribunals. When your treatment of people meets their expectations they are less likely to dispute actions you take. When your expectations are clear, in writing and demonstrated throughout your business people are far more likely to live up to expectations, avoiding you needing to do dismissals.

How should we share the employee handbook?

Pinning printed sheets to the staff canteen may be outdated, as is a fat binder in the office. This is the image of an employee handbook many people have and the reason they want to turn against it. It doesn’t need to be a list of rules, all the things we can think of that the employee mustn’t do.

There are allsorts of titles you can give it, and how you present it is as much about your brand as the contents. A printed booklet can be perfect, so can a wiki like Confluence or Notion. It could be supported by video or posters to highlight the key points. People don’t need to be reminded of the disciplinary procedure, on the other hand how you greet a customer might be top of the agenda for regular refreshers.

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