The Value in an Employee Handbook

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Did you ever read Calvin and Hobbes? If not, do yourself a favor and do that tonight. Pure genius. Anyway, they played a game called Calvin Ball. Basically the rules were always changing and were often the topic of heated conversations. However, that was the point of the game.

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Your business is not Calvin Ball. This is why you need an employee handbook.

I know, you’re thinking, “Even if it’s just me?”

Yes. You don’t know how long it will be “just you” and you need to be prepared for that moment.

The true value in a handbook is the clarity it holds. For everyone in your business, it outlines the expectations for both employee and employer. See that word – expectations? Great word. It means that if you have a handbook and review it with your employees when they are hired, they sign off saying they’re aware of the expectations of employment. What to do and what not to do. The handbook covers each facet that many of us take for granted until it becomes a problem. Dress code, acceptable jewelry, hairstyles or color, time off, sick leave, vacation, computer policy, safety, bulling, reviews, promotions – they’re all in there.

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Point 2 – it can serve as a guiding light. When you’re interviewing or hiring, you can address potential issues before they become one. An easy example is asking an employee to cover a visible tattoo while they are at work. Maybe you don’t have an issue with having the tattoo personally, but the image your business needs to project doesn’t jive with body art. No big deal – a clear expectation has been laid out. Now, if the employee chooses not to follow it, a clear expectation of discipline has been formalized and written down and they’ve been aware of it since day one. If it leads to eventual termination, you as a business owner are protected from discrimination claims because your handbook addresses the reason for termination.

Now, if you’re like me, you might be bristling a little – I mean, you shouldn’t get to tell me what to do with my hair, right? It honestly took me some time to warm to that idea, but the first time I had an issue with an employee, I was able to go right to the book and knew how to handle the situation quickly and professionally. Problem solved and happy productivity continued on.

handbookSee, the thing is, as small business owners, we tend to get attached. Conflict can feel personal, even if it’s not. Having the handbook creates a separation between employee and employer that keeps it professional. It’s a buffer of sorts and the best thing is while it lays out the rules, the rules are yours to make.

If you’ve never had an Employee Handbook, you can make one yourself, but it is a lot more work that you may think – trust me. I didn’t realize how many teeny tiny details there were in it. Thankfully, many resources exist online and offline. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a sample handbook you can modify to meet your needs and the U.S. Small Business Administration website has lots of details for each topic.

If this looks too daunting (it was to me) you can reach out to a professional for some help. Check with your local Human Resources firm for employee handbook services. Other companies offer HR work as a value added service. I met with a Paychex rep yesterday who educated me on a slew of HR services they can provide, handbooks included. Good stuff people.

Remember, an Employee Handbook will be an asset to you. It can grow and change as you improve your business, and ultimately will be a tool that will help you thrive. Just make sure to lay the foundation down while it is “just you”.

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