Whether you have 1 employee or 1,000+ employees you should always have a handbook of some sort in place. The handbook will inevitably become more robust as your employee count grows but there are still basic policies that should be in place even if you don’t have a lot of employees. This serves both the employer and the employee because if you do not have written expectations that you have communicated to your employee(s) then how can you ever presume to hold them accountable to those expectations? And employees need a handbook to understand what they should be doing and not doing while at work. The argument that people should just know how to behave is unfortunately very inaccurate. This happens for various reasons such as the generations see appropriate behavior differently, different industries will have different expectations and the biggest one is that companies have different cultures that they are trying to foster, and policies feed directly into that.
As an employer, the process of accountability is much easier to move through when you have a policy to quote during documentation. With a handbook, you’ll also have the signed acknowledgement that the employee got the policy and agreed to read it and follow it. Without both of those things, unemployment is going to be difficult to win and if it is a particularly messy accountability process and it becomes a lawsuit, those are also difficult to win without proof of a policy and proof that the employee knew the policy.
Creating and having a handbook is only the start of the process. Things change so frequently within the employment law world and with the rate at how companies evolve, it requires that handbooks be consistently reviewed and updated to stay compliant with the laws and in alignment with the company’s values and direction. Then if changes in either of those results in changes to the handbook, all the employees need to be issued at least the revised policies and a new acknowledgement form identifying they received the new updates.
Once there is a handbook and a process in place to keep the handbook up-to-date, the next obstacle that organizations have to overcome is actually holding people accountable to the policies. It is not useful to have policies that you are not actually enforcing. It can cause unnecessary turmoil when you have employees who are following the policies and they see that other employees who are not following the policy do not face any repercussions. It is important for the leadership within an organization to know, understand and enforce the policies outlined within the handbook.
Cover photo by Enrico Mantegazza