Five Common Mistakes Business Owners Make With Employee Handbooks

Employee handbooks aren't just for large organisations. No matter what size your organisation is, the employee handbook is an essential tool for any employer to guide the actions and processes of their employees.


Where many employers are going wrong is assuming that the handbook just needs to list company policies and share some mission statement that was cobbled together in the kitchen while making around of teas.


Over the years we've seen some memorable examples of businesses creating their own handbook - mainly for mistakes we're highlighting below. It can be achieved but be mindful to avoid these common errors.


Mistake 1 - Taking a cookie-cutter approach


Free templates from Google - don't do it! Yes there are certain things that all employee handbooks should include. But filling in the blanks on a sketchy template isn't good practice. Your business is unique. Its culture and practices make it individual, and your handbook needs to reflect this. After all, first impressions count, so you need to make sure that you’re giving your new recruits a quality document that reflects what you’re really all about.


Don’t be scared to showcase your business’s personality and create something that demonstrates what it’s like to work for your company. Make it memorable for the right reasons! Your latest recruits should feel inspired, motivated, and ready to face their new challenges.


Mistake 2 - Speaking in legal lingo

Always remember to keep your audience in mind. Your handbook will need to be created in accordance with the latest employment legislation but it needs to be understandable by everyone you employ. A greater understanding of what’s expected will ultimately lead to higher rates of compliance.


You may feel that stuffing your handbook with jargon will give the impression of a powerful and legal document but we recommend you keep things as straightforward as possible. Make the important information easy to digest. The handbook is there to help people – not overwhelm them.


Mistake 3 - Letting the document gather dust


You don't need us to tell to that the world of business changes and adapts every single day. As a result new legislation comes into place, advances in technology offer new ways of working (as well as present new challenges) and longstanding team members clash over the ideas of newbies because "that's how it's always been done."


What works right now in your business isn’t necessarily going to be fit for purpose in the near future. We recommend that before you sign off your document as complete, set a date in the diary for a review. Tweaking the document in a timely fashion will be less daunting and a more manageable job. It's estimated that some 3% of employers don’t even know when they last carried out any reviews or changes to their employee handbook!


Mistake 4 - Neglecting to seek out a professional opinion


Throughout your business you will speak to professional advisers such as your accountant and solicitor. After all, they are experts in their field and have been qualified in giving such advice. The same is true for HR professionals. They have trained and gained qualifications in order to provide HR advice. Having your handbook created with, but certainly reviewed by, an HR professional will allow the opportunity to spot things you might have missed, unearth any points that could potentially get you into hot water, and give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that everything’s in order.


Whether you’re starting from scratch with your handbook, unsure where to begin, or you’ve done the work yourself and just want a second opinion, we can help. Call us for a chat today about your employment document essentials. It's confidential and there's no obligation - call 01722 325833.


Mistake 5 - Forgetting to make sure that every employee has their copy (and reads it!)


The final hurdle is making sure that every employee receives their copy and actually bothers to read it. Your staff need to be given time to digest the information. Technology does help here, though it can also hinder. Many organisations choose to share their employee handbook via email or save it to an intranet system. It's a quick and cost effective way to distribute - especially following updates.

It's easy to demonstrate that employees have access to the document, but how exactly do you prove they have read it? We are seeing more and more employers use the benefits on an online HR system like breatheHR for this very reason. Employees get their own account where they can access all their employee related information and documents, including contracts and employee handbooks. The system can prompt them with a notification that a new document is there to be read, and

the employee confirms they have read it with a tick box and declaration.


Finally - we remind you to lead by example. When’s the last time that you familiarised yourself with the content? Are you confident that you could answer questions about the points that are covered? If not, consider this your wake-up call!


If this has prompted you to look a little more closely at the employee documentation, take a look at our comprehensive HR kit...

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