Writing An Employee Handbook For Your Small Business, Part 2

It may be appropriate to also include a history of the business to give a new hire a sense of how he or she fits into a larger context of the enterprise. It may be that the business' service to the community needs to be spelled out in the handbook, again, to develop a sense of your business' direction. The history and philosophy set the overarching tenor of your customer service philosophy. What will follow next are the details that identify the specifics of employment and performance.

First and foremost, professional conduct must be spelled out. People, even those who have extensive retail or customer service experience, might have very different ideas about what is appropriate behavior with customers.

These are examples of what should be considered for inclusion in the handbook:

  • Dress code: Long fingernails, pierced body parts, jewelry, skimpy clothing, clothing with slogans
  • Verbal interaction: Tone of voice, loudness
  • Communication: At the customer, not across the room
  • Confidentiality: Talking about customers as if they're not there or talking about a customer to another customer.

The following policies are standard workplace issues and must be included:

1. Attendance policies

  • Expectations for daily attendance
  • Procedure for calling in ill
  • Participation in staff meetings and/or customer meetings
  • How absences and attendance at meetings are paid
  • Work shift
  • Breaks: meal and mid-shift

2. Payroll issues

3. Evaluation procedures

4. Job-related complaints

5. Interpersonal relationship problems

Other points to cover include definitions of appropriate interactions between staff, or staff and customers:

  • Disciplinary actions and remedy for grievances
  • Termination and/or resignation

Once the handbook explains to employees the issues that affect them personally, the handbook should then cover policies and procedures that affect the business and its customers. If your business has a licensing component, you will include licensing issues here, as well.

Depending upon how your program works, the employee handbook might identify specific job performance expectations. This would include the responsibilities for the managers opening and closing the business, how the customer service, care, and interaction environment is set up and maintained, and who is responsible for those activities.

Finally, a handbook should identify the responsibilities of each staff member when it comes to maintaining contact with customers. Is there a chain of command for communicating with a customer about problems? Is there a written system for communicating by daily notes, newsletters, customer boards, customer meetings?

Ultimately, a handbook is a work in progress. You may write one now, and then, a year from now, realize that something new needs to be added based on something that occurred during the year. You will also notice that most of what is included in this article are ideas and not specific statements to be included. This allows the uniqueness of each business to shine through, to be creative.

You should take time to consider what elements keep your program running smoothly and include those in your handbook. Everybody, including staff, management and customers, benefits when policies and procedures are written down for referencing at anytime. Once you have run a business with the benefit of a properly written and comprehensive employee handbook, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it!

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