Building Your Policy Manual From the Ground Up
By Tierra Madani, CPHR, HR Consultant, Chemistry Consulting Group
Why do we need Employee Policy Manuals? What are their purpose?
Employee Policy Manuals are a must-have for organizations, large and small. Whether you’re a team of 10 or a team of 500+, an Employee Policy Manual is an incredibly valuable tool in establishing not only expectations for workplace behavior, but provides a guide to your employees by highlighting your core values, code of conduct while outlining current and comprehensive policies and procedures.
Although Employee Policy Manuals are not legally required, there are mandatory policies that employers must have in place, such as a Bullying & Harassment Policy as required by the BC Workers Compensation Act. A well crafted Employee Policy Manual can mitigate risk for the employer while providing a ‘one-stop shop’ for all policies and procedures, whether required by law or a best practice.
So how does one go about developing and designing what is arguably one of the most critical employment documents aside from your employment agreement? Here are four tips to help in developing an effective and engaging employee policy manual.
Four Tips on Developing Your Policy Manual
Employee Handbook? Employee Field Guide? Culture Book? Staff Manual?
Whichever title you choose, make sure it vibes with your team and your culture. The title you choose does not matter as much as the content that is inside of the document, where the language and terminology you use will need to ensure your policies and expectations are clearly communicated and understood by your employees.
If your culture boasts having fun and is more casual, then choose a name that matches that. Rather, if you’d like to promote a more professional and structural culture, then sticking to a more traditional title is appropriate.
2. What’s included?
For small business, creating an Employee Policy Manual can be simply focused on fundamental policies and procedures. There is no pressure to go into every detail, rather provide an outline of your policies to help your employees become familiar with the workplace and the organization’s mission, values and culture.
General policies may include (but are not limited to):
- Code of Conduct (ie. behavioural guidelines, harassment & discrimination policies, progressive discipline)
- Attendance & Work Hours
- Payroll & Benefits Information
- Paid Leave Entitlements
- Training Programs
- Dress Code
- Observed Holidays
- An Equal Opportunity Statement
Customize your Employee Policy Manual with the inclusion of policies that are specific to the way your team works and the benefits offered to eligible employees. Some considerations include a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Policy and a Maternity & Parental Leave Top-Up Program. Facilitate a discussion with your team and/or seek expert advice from a third-party certified HR professional who can provide guidance on what should be included within your manual based on your unique needs.
3. Who Reviews & Approves?
Whether your manual is drafted internally or developed with the help of an HR consultant, it is critical to involve the owner, GM, or top executive in drafting the policies from the start and for the ultimate approval once the document is finalized.
Reviewing the policies and drafted document with your senior leadership team can elicit valuable feedback about the flow of the manual and to address any sections that are not as clearly understood. Consider engaging your culture champions and communication teams to add any additional feedback on the design and to ensure it is inclusive. Revise as needed as you engage the appropriate stakeholders during the review process.
4. Is it Accessible?
The Employee Policy Manual is to be shared with a new employee either prior to their start date or during their onboarding/orientation on their first day of work. A printed copy is not recommended to mitigate outdated versions being kept on hand, while a pdf email attachment is the simplest way to share your Employee Policy Manual. In our evolving digital world of work, documents can be shared in a variety of ways and in different formats which can make things much more accessible. Employee online dashboards and web portals are examples of accessible spaces for your employees to access your most up-to-date policies, including your manual.
Most organizations follow an annual review process of their Employee Policy Manual, and this is suitable only if there are no significant or regulatory policy changes to be made. How do you keep up with changes and how often are you revisiting your workplace policies? Have a discussion with your people team or engage with an HR consultant to ensure your organization is in step with any regulatory changes that may affect your policies.
As well, be sure to ask your new employees for feedback after their initial review of the policy manual. A fresh perspective can help determine if any areas could be improved or built upon.