Published On: Monday, 02 October 2017

Is An Employee Handbook Really Necessary?

Is An Employee Handbook Really Necessary?

- Marcia Hammonds, CPHR, is a Senior HR Consultant with the Chemistry Consulting Group.

HR - The answer to this question is an emphatic “yes”! All organizations can benefit from a well-written guide that describes what is expected from staff and, just as importantly, what staff can expect from the organization.

The challenge is to determine what to include in a handbook and how to set a tone that reflects the organization’s culture, including how employees are treated and the values and philosophies for which the organization stands. An employee handbook should not read like a “list of what not to do” or “what will happen if an employee does something they shouldn’t”.

Instead, the language and presentation should be clear, support the culture of the organization, and lay a foundation that will enable rather than hinder staff performance and engagement. Effective employee handbooks help staff to do their jobs well, including ensuring they understand what this means.

Employee handbooks also play an important role in an organization’s risk management strategy by identifying applicable provincial and federal legislation. Employers can face significant risk and the potential for costly lawsuits (not to mention ill-informed employees) by not ensuring that workplace HR practices complement current legislation. For example, if the Federal Government legalizes marijuana, employers should develop a policy around its use in the workplace.

In addition to serving as an ongoing resource for all employees, employee handbooks serve as a very useful source of orientation information for new employees and can help determine a new hire’s first impression of your organization and set the tone for their employment.

So, how do you get started with what can appear to be a challenging task? Firstly, identify what is important to your business and workplace culture and use this insight as the basis for determining what policies to include.

Possible sections include: Company History, Vision and Mission, Employee Leaves, Compensation (include pay and benefits), Employee Relations, Professional Development, Health and Safety, etc.

You can find all kinds of employee handbook information, including templates, suggested topics and formatting styles, on a variety of HR websites including BC HRMA, HRReporter, HRInsider, SHRM, and HR Council of BC.

Finally, there is little point in creating an employee handbook and documenting policies and procedures, if they are not adhered to, or if application is done in an ad hoc manner. Employees have an expectation that what is written in an employee handbook will be upheld in a consistent and fair manner.

A well-written employee handbook can support and protect employers and employees and help reinforce a company’s culture and values. As such, creating and maintaining such a document is worth the investment of your time.