February 13, 2007

Employee Manuals

By Paul Bieber

Every business should have one. But if you read surveys, only 25% of businesses under 50 people have one. So, you are saying to yourself, we’re a small company, everyone knows everyone, and we don’t have any problems. I’ll get to this chore next year, or the next year, or…..

Wrong choice.

An employee manual doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it does take time and forces you to make some decisions. A proper employee manual can help you recruit better employees as they see you are a professional business. And a manual sets a tone, sets a style that you want for your business.

Do you dock an employee’s time when they are three minutes late, or nine minutes late. Do you let them make up the time so they get paid? These questions, and a hundred more go into preparing the manual that works uniquely for the operation that you want to have.

If you allow an employee to be be nine minutes late, the real cost is for the rest of the crew, who will not be as productive, and the reinforcement of the concept, that everyone can come in late and there is no consequence.

Do you allow vacation at any time the employee requests, even your busy times? When you set the vacation times, publishing them in your manual, people will still complain, but they know you set the rules before the start of the game. There are a couple of hundred small decisions that you make once, and then stay in the glass business, not the personnel business. Of course, there are always valid reasons to change anything. Keep a short note with the details in the employee’s file when you make an exception to a rule.

The problems of running a business come from “You let him do something special, why won’t you let me”? Problems with unemployment boards and discrimination preventing authorities come when you treat people differently. Your policies are what you want, all you need do is enforce them fairly to all employees and you will not be in trouble.

Type in “employee manuals” in Google and you will see pre-written formats for sale under $100.00. Use these as a guideline, putting your name in the correct spaces. The hard part is done just once…deciding all the basic rules. If you are the average shop, you make the rules on the run, they vary and can be inconsistent. I have set up employee manuals for various companies. It takes about ten to fifteen hours with an advisor to go over and firm up your policies. The important part is to introduce the policies to all employees, and then follow them.

At one company I recently did a survey for, 70% of the employees did not know the full scope of the employee benefits. The owner was paying for the benefits; the employees for the most part didn’t know it. We set up meetings to go over the new employee manual where we discussed the company’s benefits and the employees were really pleased. I’ve also done work for a company that did the opposite and stopped paying for a benefit that two out of thirty people were using. They spent the same money on a different benefit, and 23 people ended up using the new benefit.

This was a home run for the company and the employees.

In my experience reviewing your company benefits as part of a revised or newly created employee manual pays for itself with renewed enthusiasm for the company and better control of the whole organization.

So, put “Creating an Employee Manual”, on your personal to do list. If you work with a labor attorney, they should have a pre-written book that will be specific for your state.

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