Employee Handbooks: Digging Deeper
Posted on March 13, 2013 by TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)
We all know employee handbooks are important and the majority of organizations have a handbook that serves a written document for policies and procedures. These handbooks serve as tools to help employees understand what is expected of them and what constitutes breaking policies. What other purpose do handbooks serve?
One of the most challenging parts of developing an employee handbook is the fact that it is impossible to put every possible violation or expectation in a single book. If an organization tried to do this, not only would it be an encyclopedia, it would be outdated by the time it got to print. Organizations face new challenges with employee policy violations frequently. Unfortunately, sometimes employees like to be clever in doing something not explicitly written in policy form.
What is important about employee handbooks is the way in which they are written. As Goodall (1992) mentions in their research is that the voice that is reflected through an employee handbook should clearly communicate the goals and missions of the organization. For example, if an organization is striving to have an inclusive culture, the language and writing should reflect this goal.
Part of the voice that the researcher talked about was being wary of simply listing “do’s” and “don’ts.” Having lists of what not to do is okay in small doses, but pages of lists will lose the true message the organization is likely striving for. Topics can and should be written in general and specific terms when necessary.
Finally, depending on the general population of employees within your organization, the handbook should be written so that your population clearly understands what is expected of them. A handbook is useless if it leaves employees with a weak understanding of expectations and the mission of the organization.
Think about your organization’s employee handbook. Pull it out and read through it with a critical eye. What is missing and what could be strengthened?
Reference: Goodall, H. (1992). Empowerment, culture, and postmodern organizing: Deconstructing the Nordstrom employee handbook. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 5, 25-30.