“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” ~ Simon Sinek

Barbara, a new employee, was doing a fine job.  She loved her new company and the opportunity it offered. One Tuesday, after she finished all her work for the day, she used her office computer and printer to write and print flyers for a local charity which was having a fundraising event that weekend. She then used her company email address to promote the event.

Unfortunately, Barbara didn’t know about a strict office rule that prohibited employees from using company equipment or work time for personal reasons. One long-time employee was recently let go for the same reason.

What should the Manager do?  Fire a good employee and show everyone he was being fair to all employees, treating them the same way. Start a disciplinary action? Call another meeting? (Please, not another meeting.)

Well, that depends. Was Barbara ever informed about this rule?  Was it part of the new hire orientation? Was it in the company manual?

Every company, from very small to very large, needs to have some sort of written guideline (online and hard copy) for all employees, and certainly for all new hires.

There are many positives to having this employee guideline (or manual or handbook) for both the company and employee. Most people want to know what the company’s expectations are for them, and the company needs to set performance standards concerning work and personal behavior. If the rules are clearly stated, fairly enforced and relate to business operations, you can manage those expectations.  Additionally, having things in writing will help protect a company from any claims or litigation.

Manuals can be simple or very detailed. For example, a company with fewer than 10 employees may have a 2-page handout that lists all federal, state and local regulations that pertain to the workplace. Things such as harassment, drug or alcohol use, discrimination, workplace safety, etc. Larger companies may have a 50 or 100 page manifesto that lists everything from job descriptions to dress codes to what types of ingredients you can order on a pizza (Okay, I made that last one up).

A few tips to consider when starting or updating your company policies:

  • Include a clear articulation of the company vision and culture.
  • Include Federal and State laws that pertain to the workplace
  • All rules and regulations should be reasonable and relate to the business
  • Have established employees help with the writing and updating of the manual
  • State that the manual is not an employee contract and is to be used as a guide only.
  • Each rule or regulation should have a good, logical reason behind it. Being overly restrictive will have a negative effect on company morale.
  • Show a little style and humor. It should not put people to sleep.

A manual can be divided into sections, including:

  1. Code of Conduct. This section can include personal behavior expectations including harassment, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, unethical conduct and something of increased importance—a social media policy about what can and cannot be posted online that might have a detrimental effect on the company.
  2. Safety and Security. This might include the sharing of confidential information, as well as all safety regulations at the place of business.
  3. Job Descriptions. Includes all duties to be performed. Make sure you give yourself some flexibility in case of unexpected circumstances.
  4. House Rules. This includes everything else, including hours of operation, breaks, dress codes, sick days allowed, personal use of company equipment, etc.  You might also want to include such things as how to record hours worked, overtime policy, the disciplinary process, use of personal music devices, facial hair, languages allowed in the office (some companies are English only in the office), etc. Basically anything else you feel adds to the smooth running of the operation.

Having an up-to-date employee manual will create boundaries, which will help foster a positive atmosphere and well defined company culture.  Make sure to ask for feedback from your employees and update on a regular basis. I strongly suggest you have new employees sign a sheet stating they have received the manual, know where to find it online, and will abide by all company regulations.

If done correctly, an employee manual will help ensure that employees conduct themselves in a professional and safe manner as well as encourage open communication between management and employees.  Moreover, it will create an atmosphere where employees are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Now that sounds like a great place to work.

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