Personnel Policy Manuals (Employee Handbooks)

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    Personnel Policy Manuals (Employee Handbooks)

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business and Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff

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    Purpose of Employee Handbooks

    Document all intended employment policies and procedures and collect them in a policies and procedures manual. (See Personnel Policies.) Having all policies and procedures in a manual facilitates training about them to all employees. All employees should have read the manual to understand and accept its contents. They should sign a form indicating so, and provide the signed form to the organization’s administrator.

    All supervisors should be trained about the policies and procedures. A large number of suits brought against organizations is because, although the organizations had clear policies, supervisors did not enact the policies because they did not understand them. Note that courts may consider policies and procedures as superseded by the actual behaviors displayed by supervisors.

    The Board of Directors (in the case of corporations) should authorize all policies in the manual and every employee should receive a copy of the manual.

    Each policy should include wording to the effect that the policies are for general guidance in the relationships between staff and the agency, the board has authorized the policy, that policies can be changed at any time and that the policies do not constitute a contract between the organization and the employee. Consider the following wording on the cover of your policies manual:

    “Nothing contained in or implied by this manual creates or shall be deemed to create or constitute a contractual obligation to employees on the part (of the organization). The policies, procedures and guidelines contained in this manual are subject to change at any time, do not confer any obligation (on the part of the organization) and do not create any right to employment on the part (of the organization).”

    The Employee Handbook- Is There an Update Needed?

    © Copyright Sheri Mazurek

    So what do you say when an employee asks, “What’s the policy regarding [insert any random employee concern here]? If the answer starts with, “Well, the handbook says […], but we usually we just do it this way. Then you may be in trouble. Or, have you ever given the answer that you believed to be correct just to have the employee state, “well, the handbook says I am entitled to […].” And as soon as it is out of their mouth, you say, “well, that is not how we do things.” Or, instead of saying a word, you pull out the handbook and frantically search to find the source of their comment certain that you are going to prove them wrong. If any of the above scenarios sound familiar to you, your handbook or your handbook compliance may need a tune-up.

    Having an accurate, up to date handbook has many advantages in the workplace. It provides employees and supervisors with guidance on how to handle situations as they arise. However, compliance with the policies contained within consistently across the organization can be even more important to mitigate risk to the organization. And while mitigation of risk shouldn’t be the only priority of HR professionals, it is a necessary part of the job. And even if you are not concerned with risk mitigation, just having the consistent compliance with policies provides a better workplace for employees. They like knowing what is expected and what consequences will occur for not meeting those expectations.

    Below is a list of things to consider when creating, updating and communicating your employee handbook or Standard Operating Procedures.

    • Have it reviewed by an attorney.
    • Review it at regular intervals to ensure policies are current and up to date.
    • Have a plan in place to address updates to policies. How will the updates be communicated to the organization?
    • Ensure the communication of all policies to everyone in the organization.
    • Provide training to supervisors and company leaders on the importance of consistently following all policies.
    • Keep a log of all updates and changes to all policies. Don’t lock yourself into consequences you don’t want to enforce. Doing so, will encourage non-compliance and get you into trouble.

    Additional Perspectives on Employee Handbooks

    For the Category of Human Resources:

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