Policies and employee handbooks can be the bane of an HR leader’s existence. Navigating a complex document that may be outdated and in need of some updates while trying to make sure that rules are followed and employees are satisfied is really challenging work.
So that companies aren’t falling too behind (and putting too much on the shoulders of HR), it’s recommended that employee handbooks and policies are updated annually.
In addition to legal liability, employee handbooks are killing the businesses they’re trying to protect because, according to hiring software provider Hyrell, “Companies can feel ‘boxed in’ by restrictive, outdated policies. Regular review and revisions can help to keep you on track.”
A2. Companies can feel “boxed in” by restrictive, outdated policies. Regular review and revisions can help to keep you on track #NextChat— Hyrell (@hyrell) June 7, 2017
However, updating those policies can be a lot of work, taking up valuable resources to do the reviewing and decision making. If you’re still not sure why you should put in the effort, here are three reasons:
Laws and regulations change. Stay up to date so that you avoid legal trouble & so that you are more reputable with employees. If you take the time to update the manual, it shows that you're paying attention and that you care.
You know better about what’s working and not working. Some handbooks are so outdated that it’s implied policy not to follow the handbook in specific situations. If you don’t follow your own policies, it’s a good time to think about why & how to make it so that you and your employees are more consistently following the policies.
Technology changes: Social media policies, for example, need to be considered and implemented if not already. New policies regarding recently implemented software also needs to be updated. Timesheet & expense reporting software policies, for example, can be essential systems with specific policies that need to be clarified.
“Keeping your employee manual up to date is essential to the well-being of your company,” says HR-tools provider PEOCompare.com. The company advises that updating employee manuals is essential, especially when avoiding risk of litigation.
SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management, provided some helpful advice for writing and revising policies in a 2015 blog. According to blog author Jeffrey M. Beemer, “a handbook typically has a long shelf life, and mistakes, misstatements and ambiguity can come back to haunt a company when legal problems arise.”
Here are the tips that SHRM suggests when writing and revising policies:
Looking toward 2018, here’s what you should consider adding or clarifying based on what’s new from the courts in 2017:
#nextchat We don't have a handbook. Everyone here is here to help you succeed. Want to know how stuff works? Have a conversation.— Simon (@SimonHeath1) February 8, 2017
A2 - A concise handbook is ideal, but for places like California and New York, it may not be plausible. Know your jurisdiction. #nextchat— Michael Jacobson (@HRTerminator) February 8, 2017>
Several companies are trying new out new endeavors to help their employees better understand the policies and encourage employees to follow them.
First and foremost is attorney & legal editor Michael Jacobson (A.K.A. the “@HRTerminator”)’s advice: “Gather all of your paper copy handbooks and burn them.”
A1 - Gather all of your paper copy handbooks and burn them. #Nextchat— Michael Jacobson (@HRTerminator) February 8, 2017
One major trend in handbooks and policies is to make them public documents, acting as a sort of recruiting tool, as HR professional Kate Bischoff of Thrive Law & Consulting says:
Biggest handbook pet peeve - a copyrighted/confidential handbook. Why is it so secret? Should raise employee eyebrows #Nextchat— Kate Bischoff (@k8bischHRLaw) February 8, 2017
With a more public venture in mind, many companies, like Co-op Food Stores, are turning towards social media to spread the word about changes in their policy:
Others, like Zappos, are changing the medium of the handbook entirely. Zappos invested resources in turning their handbook into a comic strip, as explained here:
The Motley Fool published their employee handbook online in 2014 in a form that was more fun and more aligned with their culture of casual fun. The Motley Fool’s “Fool Rules” is an interactive website that brings readers through pages that don’t sound like policy, even though they actually are policies. It’s worth a read!
Another excellent source of inspiration (and an often-cited example) of the employee handbook made to fit company culture is Valve’s Handbook for New Employees. At first glance, it’s just a stylized document, but diving into its pages provides an intimate look at who Valve is at its core. Plus, it’s just fun to skim through and check out the timelines, drawings, and graphics.
To see all of the great conversations concerning the #NextChat about handbooks, check out the SHRM blog’s recap. We end on this excellent advice from @TraceyJewell:
A6. Maybe its spin - change angle from "what we have to do" to "who do we want to be" then tell the story in a handbook #nextchat— Tracey Jewell (@TraceyJewell) February 8, 2017
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