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Writing An Employee Handbook For Your Small Business

Updated on March 20, 2011

Most small businesses owners never take the time or the trouble to write down a comprehensive employee handbook as they figure it's a waste of effort, or that no one is going to read it and / or follow it anyway. Surprisingly enough for these Doubting Thomases, a small business employee handbook can be one of the best investments of your time that you can make on a multitude of levels. First of all it will allow the staff to clearly understand exactly what is required of them and provide them with a clearly outlined, written reference that they can check whenever a questionable situation arises. It is far preferable to have firm policies in place at the outset than make it look to your staff like you're making it up as you go along. Furthermore, having the employee handbook available instills a sense of professionalism in the entire enterprise which will build respect and loyalty in your employees.

An employee handbook serves as handy reference guide for staffers to educate themselves and learn more about your small business' policies and procedures. Although it does not eliminate the need to train new staff as well as managers, it can be a great learning tool and also gives staffers a reference to return to when questions arise or they are just in need of a review. Think of writing a handbook as creating a road map that provides direction to keep staff members from getting lost.

An important point before getting started is to remember to write your policies and procedures in third-person point of view. Avoid using the words You and I/We, because this makes the policy personal. Instead, use phrases such as This Program or It Is Expected That. This writing style is more professional and takes any personal implications out of the handbook. Also, when writing these policies keep a positive perspective rather than pointed statements. These abrasive statements put the writer in control, while readers find the phrases offensive. Positive statements imply a respect for the reader's ability and make the point. For example, if you write You Will Not you might want to replace this phrase with This Is The Preferred Way...

There are specific objectives for writing a handbook. As the writer, you must dispense uniform, standardized information and ensure that those reading it will be held accountable to the same standards and expectations. Once the aims of the handbook are clearly defined, the book will become easy to write. Having a well written handbook creates a safety net for your business. When questions arise regarding specific issues of performance or expectations, you can refer to the written policy or procedure for support.

In any small business, an employee handbook must begin by describing the business' philosophy. A philosophy may explain a particular style of customer care or outcomes for overall sales, turnover, etc. The rest of the philosophy section develops this concept. For a staff member being hired, a philosophy position lays out the expectations for the day to day activities that will occur.

Continued In: Writing An Employee Handbook For Your Small Business, Part 2


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      I would NEVER use the internet for private purposes at the workplace... well... maybe never. :)

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      A written handbook with clear policies removes many excuses that employees trot out when they find themselves crossways with the boss. Internet usage is a prime example.