We spend countless hours generating documents to support us with working better, or more efficiently, as a team and then we promptly forget about them. We forget to update them, we forget to use them and eventually we forget why we made them in the first place.
Employee handbooks are a classic example of a key document that ends up collecting ‘digital dust’ yet is vital to every workplace. If you want your employee handbook to function as a real living document here are 7 simple tips to bring your handbook to life:
1. Clarify what you want from your handbook: do you actually want an employee handbook or an operations manual? These two documents are often get confused for one other. Handbooks are designed to introduce your staff to the organization and the company’s culture, including your key expectations of staff. They are not intended to outline every rule, policy or guideline the organization has.
2. Use your handbook to introduce your Culture and the history of your company – where you are now, how you came to be and where you want to go. Let the introduction to the manual make your team feel excited about, and grounded in, the company’s vision and values.
3. Be Common: using language common to your organization makes your handbook accessible. This means avoiding ‘HR speak’ (yes, this is a thing). Your handbook will be most effective if you use language that reflects your work culture. For example, many tech companies use very informal, colloquial and work-specific language in their every day.
4. Get Clear: employee handbooks should address the five w’s - who/what/when/where/why and how. This means it needs to be clear and accessible and describe things that are relevant to the employee about the organization. This is your opportunity to set the tone of your dialogues with employees. You want your employees to read this document and use it so that you can rely on it to hold them accountable.
5. Communicate with your staff by reviewing your handbook in person. This eases the onboarding process and informs a conversation about your culture and its expectations.
6. Stay Current by keeping your manual updated and ensure all employees know when there are changes to the handbook. Offer your in-person availability on request to review any changes or answer questions and make sure they sign-off on understanding the changes.
7. Handbooks are your opportunity to be Creative. A handbook can be quirky – make it original! Don’t pull other companies’ items off the Internet and stick them in a manual or include policies and procedures that your company doesn't adhere to. Remember, if you don’t use it you lose it - its really tricky to hold staff to a standard you don’t embody or enforce. All content in your handbook should be well thought out and really explain the expectations for everyone and the parameters for their workplace.
Here is an example of a handbook I love: Valve Handbook.
See, it really can be fun!