How to Use Your Company's Employee Manual as a Business Development ToolBy: Jack Deal
The Employee Manual is another one of those 'groan' topics that everyone gives a sigh and throws up their hands on. Just the mention elicits a painful response. But it's not all that painful.
There are a number of templated softwares available on the Internet for building an employee manual. Pick one and look at the contents.
The first thing you notice is how the Employee Manual is a funny bird and not your normal company document. It's written in a stilted manual format. The manual's purpose is to clearly describe the relationship between your company and your employee. This is not the time to wax poetic or be goofy, even if goofy is in your company culture.
Many aspects of this employer - employee relationship are legal in nature and therefore not optional unless you are running an underground or flea market operation. Nothing against flea marketers of course.
A good employee manual builds a company's credibility in the eyes of an employee. Employees know there are rules and good employees follow company rules. Bad employees don't follow the rules. A company with no rules doesn't care. Employees expect rules and like knowing exactly what is expected of them.
The other reason to keep it neat, crisp and businesslike is that you may be showing a labor commissioner or judge what your company policies are when an employee files a labor complaint or grievance against your company.
When you go before the court or labor commission if you have no written policy you will be considered by the court or commission as not having a policy. If you have no policy the odds are 10 to 1 you lose for whatever infraction you have been charged with. Case closed.
Several of these labor commission settlements can outweigh the costs of creating a solid employee manual. You can chalk it up to the cost of doing business but a good employee manual is much cheaper in the long run.
If you or someone in your company messes up, and that is probable, you can at least show the labor commissioner a copy of your Employee Manual demonstrating that you do have a clear policy. This also demonstrates the mistake should not be a reoccurring one.
Labor commissioners are sharp and wise and they can sense immediately if a company is not serious about its employees. It is not good strategy to get them upset as there are a number of ways they can make your business life less rewarding.
It has been my experience that no matter how grievous or stupid your company's labor commission offense, if you show good faith through your employee manual and promise to not be stupid again then you may be given some leniency. I say maybe.
Most likely you will still have to pay back overtime, lunch breaks or whatever infraction you committed. But if you act in good faith the labor commissioner will admonish but not penalize. The labor commission will realize that you are just another clown employer trying to stretch a margin. You really aren't malicious, just stupid.
What they want is some sense that you understand and will correct your problem and not do naughty things against your employees ever again.
More good news is there are literally hundreds of topics and items you must decide on or omit from your Employee Manual. By going through this exercise you and your company are forced to make the types of decisions that will allow you to grow. Or at least put your company in a position to grow.
Putting together a manual can be a nerve-wracking series of tasks. Since it is tedious it is best to break down the manual into chunks or files and work on each file until it is completed. The exception may be overview or summary type files that can be left until the end after all the other content is entered.
Make sure your good employees understand that your new book of rules is not meant to punish them. Good employees need not be afraid of the manual; it makes their company stronger and allows the company to reward high levels of productivity and deal appropriately with problems that hinder productivity.
It is important to remember that the manual is a very frank and honest discussion about the relationship between company and employee and what is expected of both. There are a number of topics that some folks would rather not discuss but these topics are not optional in a good manual. This is life in the contemporary business world. Get used to it.
Such topics could include descriptions of sexual harassment, policies on theft and embezzlement, prohibited behaviors, workplace violence warning and prevention, the progressive steps toward a firing, probation, etc. Leave these topics in. This is the reality of the world we live in.
Don't be surprised. Be prepared.
© Copyright 2007, Jack Deal
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