Google does not have an HR degree!
Establishing a custom employee handbook for your business is essential to creating a successful workplace and remaining compliant.
As a leader, you are responsible for ensuring that everyone on your team understands the expectations and your business complies with legal requirements.
Using an existing template for your employee handbook or policies may be tempting. However, creating a custom employee handbook is highly recommended because it ensures you meet all legal requirements while considering any unique elements of your business.
Crafting a custom employee handbook does take more time, but it’s well worth it in the end, as having one can ensure that you remain compliant (read as: no lawsuits) and keep your entire team aligned.
We’ve written this blog to help you throughout the various stages of drafting and formalizing your employee handbook. Keep reading to discover what a custom employee handbook is and why you and your team will love having one!
What goes into a Custom Employee Handbook?
A custom employee handbook is a document that provides your team with an overview of your business’s unique policies and procedures. It will echo your company’s voice and authenticity and, most importantly, provide your employees with documented, accurate policies.
Every custom employee handbook should be designed with your growing company in mind. There are some policies, like a Sexual Harassment policy, that are mandatory to have once you have 5 people on your team and an AODA policy with 50 people.
With an HR Professional on your side, you’ll be confident that each policy works to protect your business.
Each of your policies should be written concisely and provide ample detail so that employees can find the information they need.
What should be included in your custom employee handbook?
- Legal Policies – These may include policies on Sexual Harassment and Workplace Violence, Safety and Attendance, Compensation and Benefits, etc.
- Best Practice Policies – This includes dress code, vacation information, computer and cell phone etiquette, and other information that helps set expectations.
- Company Specific Policies – This is where you will include information about your Remote Work policy, Company Vehicle and Property policies (along with any others specific to your company).
Custom policies vs. templates – what’s the difference?
Your custom employee handbook will be tailored to your business, thus protecting your team (and all you’ve built). While templates may be tempting because they are presented as a quick solution, you’d not only run the risk of having an impersonal employee handbook but also an irrelevant one with outdated policies.
Essentially, we’re saying templates are the enemy and can do more harm than good!
If you’re at the point where you only have a few loose policies or templates, don’t worry, you are not alone. We see most businesses in this situation when they join the Castle HR family.
The concern with loose policies is that they are typically created retroactively, whereas a custom employee handbook is created proactively and is meant to help you avoid costly future scenarios.
Why will you love your custom employee handbook?
There are many reasons why you’ll love having a custom employee handbook at your business, as it will help you accomplish many things, including:
Risk reduction and compliance
Policies are ever-changing, and no ‘one size fits all’ solution exists. Rather than taking chances and putting policies in your handbook that aren’t suited to your exact business/needs, establishing a custom employee handbook is a proactive step you can take to ensure your company is protected and compliant!
Value and culture alignment
You have an authentic culture! When it comes to your custom employee handbook, an HR professional will use those values to craft the tonality and ensure that your handbook nurtures your winning culture.
Your custom employee handbook should be an extension of your company’s beliefs and values and will reduce the chances of having contradicting or unclear policies that don’t align with your values (this often happens with templates).
Having your custom employee handbook communicates to your team that you’re a professional and authentic organization – A-Players will want to join your team!
When we start working with companies, we do a baseline survey. We ask our clients’ teams if their employer is making their workplace ‘the best place to work.’ Then, after six months, we conduct the same survey, and we typically see a noticeable uptick in positive responses whenever a custom employee handbook has been implemented!
Based on our data, having a custom employee handbook protects teams, sets expectations, reflects your culture…and also shows that you’re a professional and organized company. The positive impact one can have on your business is exponential.
Why will your team love your custom employee handbook?
Your team will love having a custom employee handbook for these three reasons:
Your team will appreciate having policies and expectations set based on your company values – rather than being based on a policy or template you found online.
Your team will also know that you are working to protect them and the business you’ve built. When everyone knows and respects the ‘rules of the game’, you’ll see a positive impact, and your team will benefit too! (Leading to happier people overall).
Having a custom employee handbook amplifies your professionalism and shows your team that you are dedicated to them, and to the growth of your company. Your custom employee handbook further perpetuates your mission, vision, and winning culture, and this won’t go unnoticed!
What else do you need to know about Custom Employee Handbooks?
A custom employee handbook can differentiate between an engaged, professional workforce and having to mitigate issues and fight legal battles constantly. But, once you’ve established yours, you won’t be entirely off the hook!
Here are a few common questions (and answers) we believe will help you:
Do employees sign off once they have read the handbook?
Yes, employees MUST sign off! Without a valid signature, it doesn’t exist in the eyes of the law because you’ll be unable to prove that they have read your custom employee handbook.
Will policies in my custom employee handbook ever have to be updated?
Yes, you should review your custom employee handbook and all policies every 12-18 months. Outdated policies aren’t protecting your business!
How should employee handbook updates be handled?
Your custom employee handbook is meant to be a living document; no single version will be evergreen, so someone must update this document.
As your team scales and evolves (and as laws change), someone must update this document to reflect the current landscape and remain compliant.
This is something that Castle HR helps every client with by owning updates.
Do business leaders have to discuss policy changes with their teams?
Your team must be informed of any changes made to your custom employee handbook!
At Castle HR, our team of HR Professionals regularly update their clients as laws and regulations change over time; compliance is a focus for us.
Does a custom employee handbook’s language need to be formal?
You do not need to write in legalese! Your team should be able to understand the information in your handbook, so it’s important to remain authentic and speak their language.
It will be a formal document, but that doesn’t mean you cannot incorporate your company’s personality and branding in your custom employee handbook!
How Castle HR can help with Custom Employee Handbooks
At Castle HR, we have helped create 100+ custom employee handbooks! Business owners are often relieved when we sit down with them and systematically go through ~80 policies to understand which ones are necessary. Once we have the policies we need, we customize them and draft them for their business.
Creating an effective, custom employee handbook is no small undertaking and should include HR and legal advice.
To have the best custom employee handbook, you’ll need to work with someone who has been in your position before.
As we mentioned before, Google doesn’t have an HR degree, and this is something you don’t want to get wrong.
This is one of the reasons we require our HR professionals to have at least 10 years of experience before joining Castle HR – they’ve got firsthand experience and understand the needs of small businesses.