Liz Sheffield

Why You Should Consider Creating an Employee Training Manual

Ask anyone who’s tried to assemble furniture without reading the directions first: It’s worth taking a peek at the manual before diving into something complex.

Introducing an employee training manual can make life a whole lot simpler for employers and employees. When it’s done well, it provides essential guidance and information about the organization’s mission, values, policies, procedures and benefits — keeping employers and HR decision-makers from having to answer the same questions over and over again. They can use the time they save to recruit new talent, develop aspects of the business and offer strategic support to the people side of the business.

Your employee handbook could be elaborate or very basic depending on the investment you want to put into it. Here’s how to create an employee handbook to minimize confusion for your whole organization.

What to Include in an Employee Training Manual

First and foremost, let’s lay out the role of an employee manual: The handbook should focus on providing information that new hires and existing employees need. However, the handbook can also be used, if necessary, for legal protection.

“Employers use the policies in an employee handbook to provide the roadmap to the ethical and legal treatment of employees,” according to HR consultant Susan M. Heathfield. “They protect themselves from lawsuits, such as harassment claims, wrongful termination claims, and discrimination claims. ”

For these reasons, it’s important to choose the contents of the manual strategically.

The topics you can cover range from general information about the organization’s mission and employment practices to a thorough list of every policy ever created. Even if you don’t want to go quite that far, at least include the laws employees are more likely to run encounter, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), anti-discrimination laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Make sure not to include too much. “Organizations with an overabundance of policies can be restrictive and stifle employee engagement. Opt for policies that are an absolute must and train leaders to navigate through everything else,” one HR leader recommended.

How to Structure the Manual

Your handbook should embody the voice of your workplace culture, communicate a warm welcome and be easy to understand. Consider using these general categories as a framework.

  • Introduction. Welcome employees and provide information about the organization’s mission, history and commitment to equal opportunity employment.
  • Key policies. Highlight procedures that are relevant to employees and help address risk. Many organizations choose to highlight their sexual harassment, safety, drug and attendance policies within their employee training manual.
  • Benefits. Provide a quick reference guide to the benefits you offer. You can’t go into the details of every benefit, but be sure to summarize the ones related to paid time off, employee leave, health insurance, retirement plans, worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.
  • Safety and emergencies. Depending on the industry, your safety section may be more robust; at a minimum, though, reiterate your commitment to a safe work environment and outline relevant emergency procedures.
  • Standards of conduct. It’s essential to set clear expectations and standards for your organization concerning employee behavior, as well as the disciplinary action that follows instances of misconduct.

Consider asking a few employees to review your first few drafts of the guide. They will have valuable insights about the tone and any additional information you might need to include. As a final step, send the document to legal counsel for review. It’s essential that your guide meets legal standards and helps address potential employment risks.

After you’ve circulated the guide, follow it up with an in-person staff meeting to summarize the most critical points. To manage risk, you may also want to get confirmation in writing from employees that they’ve read and understood the handbook’s contents.

How to Make the Manual Accessible

Once you have the content for your new employee training manual, you want to ensure all employees can easily access the information. At a minimum, post the document on your organization’s intranet, and communicate any updates when they occur. As part of employee onboarding tips and training, provide the material as a download or handout, and require an acknowledgment of receipt.

When creating a training manual, aim to avoid producing an endless list of policies and procedures. Your guide should engage employees, not bore them. Keep your content relevant and look for ways to make it as interactive as possible — when employees are engaged with the guidelines that support the daily goings-on of the business, they’ll be more committed to helping it grow and succeed.

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