How to Write an Employee Manual

Starting a business can be a daunting experience, but a strong team of employees can be one of the greatest assets to your company.

Your own leadership will play the primary role in determining the team’s success. An important first part of being a good boss means outlining a few standards of conduct, meaning an employee manual can be an incredibly helpful resource for your employees. After all, even the best employees will feel lost sometimes, and communicating your company’s needs and expectations clearly can help keep them all on track.

Most businesses need an employee manual to keep the guidelines clear. In fact, federal law requires that any business with 15 or more employees must maintain records in a written form, which may be in the form of a manual.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Be as clear as possible. An employee manual is of no use if it’s impossible to understand. Steer clear of overly formal or flowery language. For example, if you want your dress code to say ”no sleeveless shirts,” simply say that. Be succinct, but try to avoid sounding like a dictator. Stay brief, or it will feel like crime and punishment to your employees.

Express your expectations. Your manual should communicate your expectations of employees. This could include guidelines on code of conduct, customer service relations, dress code and technology. A handbook is also a good opportunity to express the terms of probation or termination, using nonthreatening and matter-of-fact language. Employees typically come from a variety of work backgrounds, and defining standards of work and behavior can ensure a consistent professional environment.

Provide all important policy information. The handbook is a great way to answer most employee questions in one place. Your staff will want to know about insurance benefits, payroll procedures, vacation and attendance requirements. You can also include information on any available employee discounts, an employee recruitment bonus and safety procedures. Your employee manual will likely be a constant work in progress, so you can add answers to any frequently asked questions over time.

Include all pertinent legal information. The manual is also an important legal document. Use it as a space to articulate your company’s legal obligations to your employees and include the course of action for handling employee complaints. There is a great deal of litigation surrounding employment, and these legal guidelines can help prevent any sticky situations. You may want to work with a lawyer directly to iron out the details, or you can check out the National Federation of International Business, which has a helpful guide to federal employment law.

Keep it simple. An employee manual should not be a bureaucratic document alienating you from your employees. These manuals work best as a way to clearly communicate about the nature of your relationship. Your manual can even be written as a WORD document, and you can check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Employee Manual Template for tips and guidance.