What should you include in your small business employee handbook?

You decided to start your own business. You’ve researched your market and have concepts for a marketing plan. You signed a lease for a commercial space and you’ve got your finances in order. You have done all the groundwork to get your business up and running.

Now you are at the point where you need extra help in your business. You need to hire employees. Before you hire your employees, you will want to create an employee handbook.

Establishing a handbook will be beneficial to both you and your employees. They will know what the rules are, and you will have your expectations in writing. An employee handbook can be a useful tool.

What should you put in your handbook?

  • Company description. This section should include the business statement, mission, goals, philosophy, principles and values of your business. You can tie in branding in this section as well. This will give employees a clear sense of your business and what the company stands for.
  • Policies and procedures. In this section you can outline company rules. You can specify any drug and alcohol policies, and how company resources can be used. In this section you can also cover dress code and benefits.
  • Attendance and leave policies. You will want to clearly detail any policies regarding schedule and work hour expectations. Include the process for missing work. You may want to include the laws regarding breaks. For leave, you will want to clearly detail policies regarding vacation, illness and family time. Include how this time is accrued and eligibility.
  • Employment classification. Clearly outline the job. You will want to state that your company determines wages and compensation in accordance with state laws. Let the employee know what it means to be at will, exempt, non-exempt, part time, full time and temporary if necessary.
  • Job performance. Explain how you will assess your employee’s performance. You can also list what you expect for a particular job and how you will make and assess goals for your employees, should you choose to implement a goal-based structure.
  • Employee discipline policies. Clearly detail disciplinary actions and penalties for your employees. This can be in regards to performance and attendance. Outline what will have grounds for disciplinary action. You should allow a way for your employees to communicate any issues they are having. Establish how to communicate problems.

You can write the handbook in a way that makes the most sense for your small business. It may include more information in regards to these categories. Your employee handbook is a way for you to clearly spell out expectations that you have for your employees, as well as what your employees can expect from your business. It may be beneficial to have a document that your employee signs in which they acknowledge receipt of the handbook. The handbook is not meant to be intimidating, so you may consider writing it in a casual tone and going through the handbook with each employee.

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9.2David J. Steele II
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