This should be the guidebook for everything employee related within your company. There are numerous samples and templates available to you to create an employee handbook, but the cautionary words are less is more. The more complex your handbook is, the more rigidly you’ll have to handle all situations and, consequently, the more things you can potentially be sued for. The less you have specifically identified, the more freedom you’ll have to use common sense. Like me, you might have wondered how big corporations, unions, and governments create employees who are incompetent (think of the DMV) and in a lot of cases downright scary (think of the U.S. Postal Service). The simple answer is too many rules. Too many rules takes the power to think away from your employees and makes them dependent on structure. From a management perspective, the more rules you have, the harder it is to fire someone legally.
Once you’ve decided on the source of your template or hired someone to write your handbook, you will also need to find a third party to review it. At its most basic, your HR manual should accurately reflect all of your company policies. But it should also include three additional elements: adherence to current law, enforceability, and, most importantly, common sense. Your employee handbook should start out with a company history so that how you started and what you have been working on are recorded somewhere. This also gives your new employees a little window into what the company has done. Your handbook is also a good place to reinforce your intentional purpose: your mission, vision, and values (those three statements you worked so hard on). If you do so nowhere else in your company, you should have those things recorded here. Of course, by this point, I hope you have them in many more places than just your handbook!
A note of caution before you start: as you develop your manual be careful to use the word “behavior” instead of “attitude.” Behavior is concrete and observable, while “attitude” is very subjective and interpretive. In the event that you need to fire someone, you’ll be on much firmer ground pointing to specific behaviors.
Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.