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Developing recruitment partnerships

By NEHRA, 4/25/2005

Employee handbooks are no longer just for large organizations. If you have more people in your company than fingers on your hands, then it's time for an employee handbook.

You might ask, "But why do I need one when lots of companies that are larger than mine don't have one?" Some owners and CEO's choose not to introduce an employee handbook into their organization, for reasons such as:

  • "If I put it in writing, I'll actually have to adhere to the policy."
  • "To me it's a game. I like to see if I can answer the same question over and over again with the same answer. Good for the memory."
  • "I prefer face-to-face interaction, particularly when I'm trying to leave the office for an important client meeting."
  • "Things have been working out great. Why change them now?"
  • "Handbooks are way too corporate."
  • "I've never been sued - excuse me, I need to take this call from my attorney."

A typical scenario

Have you ever worked in an organization that didn't have an employee handbook? As the owner or manager, you may have felt relieved to escape all of that bureaucracy. That was until someone approached you with a question on company policy that you couldn't answer. Oh sure, you could have made up a response, but you knew your employee would go back and compare notes with his co-worker. Now if only you could remember what you told the other employee. . .

What a handbook can do

Scenarios like this happen every day in organizations that don't have formalized human resource policies. Having a well-written employee handbook can help your organization avoid situations like this. But a handbook can do so much more for a company if it's done right:

Provide protection - Let's not kid ourselves. One of the main reasons companies invest in employee handbooks is to protect themselves from future lawsuits. In today's litigious environment, you have to be prepared for the worst. If your human resource policies are well documented in a handbook, you will be in a stronger position to defend your company. Don't wait until you are in the unfortunate situation of having your employer/employee relationship go south to test this theory.

Give managers a playbook - Sending a manager out to the front lines without an employee handbook is a lot like sending your quarterback onto the playing field without a playbook. The only thing you can bet on is chaos. Can you really expect your managers or team members to play by the rules if you don't tell them what they are? Comprehensive employee handbooks ensure that everyone knows the rules of the game before they go into the field.

Set expectations - There is a lot of talk about ethics lately and with good reason. What better place to reinforce your code of ethics than in your employee handbook. To avoid becoming tomorrow's Tyco, place your code of conduct front and center.

Performance expectations are vital to the success of any organization. Use this platform to provide a brief overview of how your organization rewards and recognizes excellent performance.

Toot your horn - We can't tell you how many times we hear from our clients that employees don't appreciate everything they do for them. We respond by asking our clients if they think their employees even know what's being provided for them. The response is often a shrugging of the shoulders. We then ask our clients to explain their employee benefits to us as if we were one of their employees. Too often they are unable to do so. We then point out that if they are unable to do this, what makes them think their managers should be able to do this?

Employee handbooks are a great way to communicate the benefits of working for your firm. You don't have to go into extensive details regarding all of your benefit plans, but it does make sense to remind employees you have their welfare in mind. After all, if you don't toot your own horn, who will?

Borrower beware

When it comes to employee handbooks, one size does not fit all. Think twice before making a few changes to a friend's "borrowed" handbook and calling it your own. The tone of the handbook may be appropriate for a transportation company, but is it really suitable for your financial services organization?

Keep in mind that the integrity of a "borrowed" document is questionable since you have no idea who originally wrote the handbook and if it is in compliance with current laws and regulations.

As tempting as it may be, avoid downloading handbooks from the Internet. Yes, the handbook may be fine for a company based in California, but it may not be appropriate for a multi-state employer like you. You don't want to find out the hard way that you are giving out a document that is inappropriate for the state(s) in which you operate.

So, if you are still one of those doubters that thinks employee handbooks are just for big business, consider purchasing a tape recorder so you can remember your answers to the questions you are most likely to hear over and over again. "Do we get Martin Luther King Day off?" "When am I eligible for three weeks of vacation?" "How much maternity leave am I entitled to and what will happen to all of my benefits while on leave?" Then see if you change your mind.

Mary Lucal Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the principal of Human Resource Solutions www.yourhrexperts.com and is also a NEHRA member. She can be reached at 617-566-8978 or .


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