The importance of a comprehensive employee handbook

A well-drafted employee handbook can offer significant benefits.

Although often overlooked, the employee handbook should rank among an employer's most valuable assets. More than just a list of dos and don​'ts, the handbook serves as an introduction to your organization for new hires, a description of your legal obligations as an employer and a powerful tool for communication. However, for this value to be realized, employers first need to invest the appropriate time and thought into its construction. A well-crafted handbook can offer significant benefits, and better protect your organization from liability. 

One critical reason for an employee handbook is legal protection. Having clear, comprehensive policies in writing will help you avoid legal problems. When all employees are treated evenly and "by the book," you are less likely to experience a situation that results in allegations of discrimination or harassment.

Another reason for an employee handbook is personnel administration. An employee handbook saves time and cuts down on administrative burdens by providing quick answers to employee questions. This saves time for managers and other HR professionals who can then focus their time on other strategic issues of the organization.

When bringing in new hires, the handbook shows that you have legal, organized policies in place to protect them and ensure fair treatment. The fact that your organization has a thorough and current handbook communicates to new hires that they have joined a professional organization. When you communicate that employee issues are matters of importance, your new hires will realize their importance to the organization.

In the unfortunate event that an employee sues you, an employee handbook will strengthen your case in court by showing that your policies are lawful and uniformly applied to all employees. To ensure that your handbook will provide you with the protection you need, be sure to have a qualified labor attorney review it before distribution.

A crucial aspect of an effective handbook is that it informs employees of the behaviors that align with the organization's unique goals and values. A well-constructed document allows employees to clearly see how their work coincides with the best interests of the organization, and how their actions and behaviors reflect on the organization's image.

If you regularly encounter time consuming employee issues, it could be time to look at the message your employee handbook is sending. If you're unsure if your handbook is comprehensive, take a look at the sample index that is found on my website. This will ensure that it effectively reinforces your organization's values, mission and expectations while also protecting you from legal vulnerability.