Anyone who’s worked for a company is familiar with policies and procedures manuals and their briefer, more concise cousins, employee handbooks. Policies and procedures manuals serve two purposes—to satisfy legal requirements such as hiring and environmental issues, and to articulate a company’s mission and vision through thoughtfully considered, detailed guidelines. A policy outlines what a company wants employees to do to achieve organizational objectives, and procedures describe in detail how to accomplish those policies. Ideally, a company will follow a simple formula: Establish mission and vision statements, develop strategic objectives, create supporting policies and produce tactical procedures to implement the policies.
Develop a process and structure and pull together a team (if you’re not the project’s sole conduit). Decide on team member responsibilities, including research, writing, legal issues, approval mechanisms and production methods. Although most companies provide employee literature in electronic format, you’ll also need to print hard copies. Determine team leaders and contacts for each step of the process. Conduct an organizational meeting to decide how the manual will physically flow—chapter by chapter and step by step.
Address the legal aspects of the manual. Include passages that address equal opportunity, sexual harassment, discrimination and drug testing. Make sure that no wording in the manual violates existing laws or contradicts a labor agreement. Establish a corporate legal contact to review and approve the manual for legal issues. Negligence and torts are the most common legal concerns for companies, and policies and procedures manuals are legally binding on companies. Most violations by companies are unintentional, but if manuals are poorly worded, ignored or don’t clearly explain consequences of employees’ actions, legal issues can arise.
Include the company’s mission and vision statements and its history. Explain how the policies and procedures serve to support and reinforce the values outlined.
Write about benefits. Include mandated benefit issues such as Social Security, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation, military considerations (reserve duty, for example) and family leave. Also outline non-mandated benefits like vacations, overtime, comp time, insurance, vesting and retirement plans (include any 401k provisions), and sabbaticals and leaves of absence.
Develop and maintain a positive writing tone. Establish parameters within which employees can successfully achieve their objectives. Avoid, when possible, proscriptive language. Consistently telling employees what they can’t do or shouldn’t do creates tension, especially when the do's and don’ts prohibit easily recognizable poor behavior.
Create a draft and review, proofread and edit—then review, proofread and edit again.
Send the draft through the approval process. Have a couple non-team-member employees read the manual for their input.
Make changes to the manual after the approval process and get final approval if necessary. Prepare the manual for production. Select graphics or photos and format the manual.
Produce the manual, both in hard-copy form and electronically. Make sure that you’ve identified a “gatekeeper” for any future changes.
An employee handbook should be a brief introduction to your company, with a welcome, orientation information and brief discussions of rules, expectations and benefits. It will probably be the first thing employees read (before the policies and procedures manual) and shouldn’t mimic the manual in tone or detail.
If your company’s employees are represented by a union, the collective bargaining agreement in place often will serve as the basis for most policies and procedures. Be careful not to contradict union agreements with policies and procedures.
- Three office workers image by Vladimir Melnik from Fotolia.com