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Winter is here, and it seems to have something to prove.  All over the country, states are getting hit with deep snow, cold weather, and icy conditions.  You might have the desire to curl up with a good book, but being trapped inside because of the cold is actually a great time to be productive.  Why not use some of the time to update your employment handbook?

In this post, I’ll present the three questions I’m asked most often by business owners, leaders, and supervisors and my perspective on each.  Whether or not you currently have a handbook, this article will give a clearer understanding of how they impact productivity.

Is an Employment Handbook Really Necessary?

An employment handbook is a critical tool for communicating information to employees.  It provides employees one place to get everything they need to know about their employment.

It’s much more efficient for managers and HR staff than having to repeatedly answer the same questions from employees. That alone is a big increase in productivity.

It certainly ensures more consistency in the answers provided. If two employees compare answers and they don’t match up, they will spend time looking for the “right” answer, and others will spend time answering the question again.  A clearly written handbook avoids all of this.  Another point for increased productivity!

By clearly laying out what the organization expects of employees as well as what they can expect from the organization, it lays the groundwork for an open, positive work relationship.  When employees feel there are no secret lines they might inadvertently cross, their minds are freed up to focus on their work and customers.  More productivity!

Of course, a handbook also serves as a method for complying with various labor laws that require policies or employee notifications.  In the event of a legal challenge, having a well-written handbook can save money in attorney fees and penalties and also save countless hours that it takes to deal with a legal issue.  Once again, productivity.

What about Organizational Flexibility?

Some of you may not have a handbook.  You may simply not have had the time to create one, or you may feel it’s unnecessary.  After all, isn’t flexibility the name of the game these days? How can you stay agile with a handbook to follow?

From my experience, employment handbooks don’t limit flexibility; they actually unleash it by clearly defining the boundaries of what is not acceptable.  That enables the employees and supervisors to make reasonable decisions about anything else that isn’t addressed.  This has a significant positive effect on individual and group productivity.

One way to ensure organizational flexibility isn’t at risk is by making the handbook a living document.  That means that it’s not set in stone but is, instead, changed as the organization changes.

A handbook must be regularly modified to ensure it has the most up-to-date organizational items such as policies. Employment laws are constantly evolving and being interpreted, so keeping handbooks current on legal issues is essential.  Having an out-of-date handbook can be as risky or riskier than having no handbook at all when it comes to defending against legal claims.

How Often Should It Be Updated?

DocumentationChanging employment policies weekly or every few weeks would be confusing and a drain on productivity, so I’m not recommending that. It’s best practice to perform a thorough review on a handbook every year–or, at the most, every two years.

Even if a review doesn’t lead to any changes, it should be part of your annual human resources maintenance plan.  If there are minor changes throughout the year, keep track of them.  If the list starts to get long, go ahead and update it rather than holding all changes to the next update.  That’s the beauty of having electronic document storage, you can update documents easily at any time!

Bottom Line

An employment handbook is a key piece of clear employee communications.  Remember to customize your handbook so it’s workable for your organization.  Set up a method for tracking necessary changes and regular deep review so it continues to serve as an effective tool for your organization.  Doing all these things will ensure that your employment handbook improves employee productivity.

Question

What are some examples of when you’ve found your employment handbook useful, when it seemed like it’s gotten in the way, or other questions you have about handbooks?

You can leave your answer in a comment below.

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