If you’ve not had the pleasure of being exposed to one of the many Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, you are missing out. My kids, who are way too mature for that sort of stuff now, read through every one of them. They took to the relatable characters trying to figure out home and school fit. Our workplaces aren’t much different. We have employees who are trying to figure out culture, process and fit, all while navigating the relational minefield of the company. It’s the same premise for the Wimpy Kid stories, but instead of our workplaces, it’s junior high.
The “good” news is that we’ve come up with a great solution – the employee handbook. As long as it’s in the handbook, our employees have a road map. Now they know all that they should to be successful at the organization. What an amazing gift we’ve given them (insert sarcasm).
Many employees are handed this manual on the first day of work. Whether it’s complied electronically or on paper (electronically is so much easier!), it winds up being a massive mix of compliance, rules, operations and marketing. And if you’re googling “employee handbook” and using a sample or another company’s manual, you’re most likely getting it wrong for your team.
The foundation for the handbook should be considered first. Ideally, it’s meant to be a review of employee policies, so let it be that. Cover the federal, state and local rules in it; make sure the ones you’re using apply to your company based on size, industry and locations. Walk through the time off/vacation policies and accruals. If there are standard policies – dress, travel, etc. – then add those. And yes, I know that this can be lengthy (so sorry California, Massachusetts and New Jersey) but it will give the company the protection it needs while addressing areas that will matter to employees, if not today, then at some point.
Creativity can come into play regarding setup and some language, but bear in mind that some laws should be explained in a very cut and dry way. It is what it is. Being too cutesy with it may undermine the intent of the regulation and cause your lawyers’ heads to spin. FMLA, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination, for example, should be clearly delivered within the bounds of the law’s language.
Some organizations treat their handbook like it’s a love letter to the employee. As long as love is understood to include both compassion and discipline, then love it may be. Yet, refusing to address consequences of violating these regulations doesn’t make your company seem cooler. It makes it seem more open to sue.
If you want there to be other areas to address – operations, culture – then, perhaps, it would be better to create some other material. Trying to put all of this into one handbook makes an 80 page, two-sided manual that will likely not be read.
One other thought is to involve your marketing department on this. The creativity and design for the brand falls on their shoulders. The handbook should align with it – in look and in messaging. It doesn’t mean that we re-write the law in order for the manual to stay on brand. Rather, it will help to make the handbook something that seems to flow better with other communications from the company.
We’re entering that season soon where handbooks will need to be updated. Think about the overall feel and format of it. And then read it. Does it say all you think it should? Does it say too much in this one manual? How can it be edited? Should it be edited? Lots to think through.
As you construct it, you might find yourself getting blurry-eyed with the regulatory language. Grab a copy of any Diary of a Wimpy Kid, regress for about 15 minutes and then get back to it. You will have to fight the urge, however, to add stick figure cartoons throughout the handbook.