Troubleshooting the Employee Handbook Process

Creating and maintaining an employee handbook can be fraught with problems that can cause miscommunication and frustration. Following are some of these problems and suggested remedies to smooth the process.

  1. Expectations are not established early in the handbook development process, and consensus is not achieved on what will be in the final product.
    Remedy: Human Resources staff cannot create a handbook in isolation. Conduct a meeting of the key players who will be involved in handbook development, policy review and final approval. Obtain feedback about the expectations of the group so that time is not wasted in the process.
  2. Management does not believe that written policies are important or necessary, and views the creation of the handbook as optional.
    Remedy: A handbook is a tool for educating all employees about important policies on harassment, discrimination, equal opportunity employment, etc., which can reduce the risk of employment-related legal claims. Management should be educated about the morale problems that arise when employees become confused about the standards to which they are being held because they don’t have any written guidelines.
  3. The employee handbook becomes a mixture of policies, procedures, processes and management guidelines.
    Remedy: Remain focused on the purpose of the handbook as a tool to inform employees about important policies, guidelines, rules and employee benefits. Some simple procedures may be included in the handbook, such as on completing timesheets or submitting leave requests. However, consider a separate manual for more complex procedures that the average employee is not likely to need often. A separate manager’s guide also can be created, with specific policies and guidance relating to progressive discipline, preparing performance reviews, etc.
  4. A timeline for completion of the handbook is not developed and the project never comes to a successful conclusion.
    Remedy: Create a project plan outlining each policy to be revised or developed, and identify the responsible parties. Gain agreement on the timeline, allowing for draft reviews and rewrites. Revise the timeline as needed, but always keep a focus on moving the process forward and eliminating obstacles.
  5. Employees are poorly informed about the handbook changes and new policies.
    Remedy: When changes or enhancements are significant, call an all-hands meeting to present and discuss the new handbook. Travel to remote worksites if necessary, using the visit as an opportunity to discuss other important projects and to address employees’ concerns. Use multiple methods of communication to make sure that all employees are informed about the handbook.
  6. The completed handbook is not reviewed regularly.
    Remedy: Immediately upon completion of the handbook, develop and confirm a schedule to review and update it. Human Resources will most likely be the “handbook champion,” managing the process of reviewing and revising it.

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