Have you ever wondered what truly sets thriving companies apart? Here’s a hint: it’s not just innovative products or cutting-edge technology. Great companies are built from the inside out, which means that the people are the main drivers of company success. And behind every great team is a comprehensive employee handbook.

It doesn’t matter if you work for a small business or a booming corporation, an employee handbook is a key resource needed to guide employee behavior. Whether you’re starting from scratch or seeking to refine a dated employee handbook, read on to discover the benefits of employee handbooks. Find out everything you need to know about creating an employee handbook for your company.

What is an Employee Handbook?

Before we delve into the details of employee handbooks, we need to define what is an employee handbook. First, dismiss the dated idea that an employee handbook is something printed out and filed away in a dusty binder in the HR office. Modern company handbooks are adaptable documents subject to periodical updates. That means they live online and are easy to access.

An employee handbook is an important employee resource that should provide details about key procedures and guidelines. It also covers the company code of conduct, the core values of the company, and everything employees should know to have a productive and safe work environment.

Employee handbooks contain easy-to-follow resources, such as:

  • HR forms, legal requirements, data privacy policies, and information about disciplinary actions
  • Company guidelines and policies, such as anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
  • Information about working hours, including sick leave, paid time off, and family and medical leave
  • Employee benefits, referral programs, and benefits the company might cover like gym memberships
  • Procedures to follow, such as travel expenses, reimbursement, or applying for absences and vacations

The key thing to note is that an employee handbook should not be compiled as an overly detailed and descriptive work full of clunky legal terms. Rather, it should have accessible language. The goal is to paint a clear portrait of many aspects of the company without delving into tedious detail.

Why Your Company Needs an Employee Handbook

The most straightforward reason why an employee policy handbook is needed is because it allows all employee policies to be found in one easy-to-access location. However, this is only one of many benefits. Since it exists as a living document, an employee handbook is a fluid collection of policies, practices, and information that forms the composition of a company for all employees.

One of the big benefits of the handbook that is often overlooked is that it establishes the backbone and culture of the company. This has direct benefits on profit. For example, the Arbinger Institute found that 47% of organizations with a successful company culture had significant revenue increases. (Companies without strong cultures only saw a 9% increase.)

Employee handbooks provide numerous and diverse benefits to an organization ranging from legal to organizational to supportive. An employee handbook:

  • Ensures legal compliance by outlining policies on anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, code of conduct, working hours, and equal employment opportunities
  • Outlines employee benefits by sharing policies on sick leave, paid time off, and family and medical leave to ensure employees understand their entitlements
  • Facilitates onboarding to help new employees integrate smoothly by providing a clear overview of company expectations and policies
  • Promotes consistency and fairness by providing all employees with the same information
  • Serves as a living resource by acting as a go-to document for employees to reference company policies and procedures that is updated over time
  • Improves internal communication by clearly outlining important company information and updates
  • Supports a positive work environment by contributing to a transparent and well-managed workplace

Creating an employee handbook might seem like a task you’d rather avoid. But when you consider what to include in an employee handbook, it becomes clear how it benefits a company. Read on to discover the many elements that comprise an optimized employee handbook in the modern workforce.

The Content of an Employee Handbook: 20 Things to Include

Two women looking at a tablet that could contain an employee handbook

Not all employee handbooks are created equal. A survey from People Matters Global found that around 60% of employees avoid reading their company handbook. This can adversely impact the business, as it leads to misunderstanding and a weakened company culture that negatively affects productivity. So, it’s critical to put effort into creating an employee handbook that new hires won’t simply ignore.

When it comes to how to create an employee handbook, the first step is content. However, it’s important to remember the language used when writing the employee handbook contents. Write in a familiar and clear tone that people will want to read. Employee handbooks should be a valuable resource that an employee benefits from, so they should contain language that employees understand.

Keep in mind that all employee handbook examples listed below won’t make it into each company’s final product. However, the following list is a helpful starting point when considering how to create an employee handbook that is comprehensive, clear, and valuable to a company.

1. Company Mission & Values

Employee handbook contents should introduce new hires to your company and the unique company culture it offers. This is a key chance to articulate what the company stands for. To set the tone for the handbook, the mission statement of the company and its core values and principles should be incorporated into the employee handbook design at the start.

Employees must understand the fundamental principles that guide the organization so that they can align their work with them. Moreover, emphasizing the mission and values in the handbook can enhance employee engagement and retention. When employees understand the company’s vision, they are more likely to feel company loyalty and motivation to meet their goals.

2. Workplace Policies

Workplace policies are crucial employee handbook components for creating a safe and respectful environment. Including anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies is essential for fostering a positive workplace culture. These policies meet legal requirements and help protect both employees and the company. They should clearly outline behavioral expectations and the consequences of violations.

Clear workplace policies are needed to ensure that all employees understand their rights and responsibilities. An employee handbook should provide detailed examples and procedures to follow, ensuring transparency and fairness in the workplace. This is essential information to equip all hires with before starting their roles.

3. Code of Conduct

A code of conduct for a company further outlines the standards of behavior expected from employees, such as potential dress code guidelines. This section is vital for establishing the professional environment that the company aims to maintain.

A code of conduct sets clear expectations for how employees should conduct themselves. This includes both within the workplace and when representing the company externally. This is where companies can set expectations where their employees to reduce misunderstanding and prevent damage to their public image. Including specific examples of accepted and inappropriate conduct may be helpful.

4. Health & Safety Procedures

Health and safety procedures are another important aspect of employee handbooks. They include information for emergency procedures, such as how to file for an event or what to do in person if one occurs. This section of the handbook should also cover workplace safety guidelines. This includes the procedure to follow for an accident report or health policies for illnesses.

In a post-COVID workforce, workers want to know what protocols to follow when illness occurs. Providing comprehensive health and safety information helps establish a safe work environment. Part of maintaining a productive workplace culture includes caring for the well-being of the workforce.

5. Compensation & Development

Here is a section of employee handbooks that many new hires won’t skip: compensation. Employee handbooks should clearly outline the company’s compensation structure and include salary scales, bonuses, and raises so that employees understand how their efforts are rewarded.

Transparency in discussing compensation fosters trust and motivation within a workforce, so be straightforward. Additionally, detailing opportunities for professional development, such as training programs and career advancement paths, shows the company’s investment in employee growth.

By providing clear guidelines on compensation and development, the employee handbook can enhance employee engagement and retention. After all, growth is one of the leading factors in employee engagement. The American Psychological Association cites a lack of growth as a major reason why people leave jobs.

6. Benefits & Perks

Another popular category of employee handbook content is the section on benefits and perks. The handbook should clearly describe the health insurance options, retirement plans, and other benefits the company offers. Many companies now include wellness programs, employee discounts, fitness memberships, training reimbursement, and other unique and distinguishing benefits.

Providing comprehensive details about benefits helps employees make informed decisions about their well-being and financial planning. It also highlights the company’s commitment to supporting its employees. This can improve morale and attract top talent to the organization.

Lastly, benefits and perks allow employees to explore wellness initiatives (such as company-supported bike leasing) that they perhaps would have otherwise not considered. Remember: happier employees are more productive. This is the company’s chance to show employees what they will offer them.

7. Working Hours, PTO, & Vacation

Clearly defining working hours, paid time off (PTO), and vacation policies are essential tasks for managing employee expectations and ensuring a healthy work-life balance. Employees who stay with a company will be applying for time off. So, this is a section that will be visited. This part of the employee handbook should detail the standard working hours, overtime policies, and procedures for putting in requests.

Including information about how PTO and vacation accrual work, as well as potential restrictions or blackout periods, helps employees plan their time effectively. Transparent policies contribute to a fair and supportive work environment, promoting overall employee well-being and productivity. Employers should make sure to encourage their employees to use their vacation time to avoid burnout.

8. Employee Resignation & Termination

While this is an area of an employee policy handbook that employers hope doesn’t get much traffic, it’s nonetheless necessary to have clear terms about employee resignation and termination. To facilitate smooth transitions, the handbook should outline the procedures for submitting a resignation. This includes the required notice period and any exit interview processes.

Outlining this process helps ensure that departing employees leave on good terms and with all necessary administrative tasks completed. For termination, it’s important to detail the circumstances under which an employee may be terminated and the process involved. Clear policies help the company comply with legal requirements and ensure that all terminations are handled consistently and fairly.

9. Data Protection & Privacy

One employee policy handbook issue that has become increasingly important in today’s digital age is data protection and privacy concerns. There are two sides to consider in this policy, as companies have legal requirements when it comes to preventing employees from giving away company information (especially with AI).

At the same time, employees also want to know how their data is used and monitored. Policies on employee monitoring should be transparent, explaining what monitoring might occur and why. The employee handbook should also include guidelines on data security, such as how employees should handle company data and adhere to cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive information.

Clear communication about data protection and privacy helps build trust and ensures compliance with relevant laws and regulations to safeguard the company’s integrity and reputation.

10. Performance & Growth Expectations

Outlining performance and growth expectations in the employee handbook provides a roadmap for employee success. This section should detail the performance review process, including the criteria used for evaluations and the frequency of reviews. It should also cover the company’s policies on promotions and raises.

Including information about performance improvement plans can help employees understand the support available if they feel they are falling behind on goals. Clear guidelines on performance and growth encourage employees to strive for excellence and feel valued in their roles. The handbook should also outline clear communication channels between employees and their managers.

11. Remote Work Policy

The truth is that many modern-day desk workers are seeking jobs with remote work policies, so having a clear remote work policy is non-negotiable for many office jobs. This section should outline the criteria for remote work eligibility, ensuring employees know who can work remotely and under what conditions. It should also specify expectations for work hours, availability, and productivity for remote employees.

Additionally, a remote work policy can detail what equipment and tools the company will provide and what the employee is responsible for. Clear remote work guidelines help manage expectations and maintain productivity, whether employees are working in the office or remotely.

12. Social Media Policy

Another modern-day necessity in an employee handbook is a social media policy. Well-defined social media policies help protect a company’s reputation. Employees are the most valuable marketing tool employers have, with unlocked potential for the creation of employee brand ambassadors. However, policies and processes must be outlined.

Social media policies can provide usage guidelines that explain how employees should represent the company on social media. It should also address confidentiality, specifying what information can and cannot be shared on social platforms. Clear social media policies help prevent misunderstandings and potential damage to the company’s image, while also welcoming the opportunity for internal promotion.

13. Diversity & Inclusion Programs

Diversity and inclusion programs foster an inclusive workplace. The employee handbook should detail what commitment the company takes regarding diversity and outline the programs and initiatives in place to support this goal. This can include training programs, employee resource groups, and diversity hiring practices.

Highlighting these efforts in the handbook shows that the company values diversity and is actively working to create an inclusive environment. This can enhance employee satisfaction and attract a broader talent pool, contributing to the company’s overall success.

14. Internal Communication Channels

Effective internal communication is vital for a cohesive work environment. The employee handbook should outline the various communication channels available to the workforce, such as an employee app, employee email, and other team collaboration tools. It should also provide guidelines on how to use these channels effectively and respectfully.

Clear communication policies help ensure that information flows smoothly throughout the organization, which can reduce misunderstandings and foster collaboration. By detailing the available channels and best practices, the handbook supports a more connected and informed workforce where employees are encouraged to work together.

15. Training & Development Opportunities

Training and development opportunities are key to employee growth and retention. In fact, LinkedIn Learning shares that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. The employee handbook should outline available training programs and career development opportunities such as mentorship programs, including how employees can participate and any associated costs the company will cover.

Providing clear information about training and development shows that the company is invested in its employees’ professional growth. This can enhance job satisfaction and encourage employees to pursue long-term careers with the company. It also assists in producing a workforce that is committed to continuous growth and innovation.

16. Whistleblowing & Complaint Procedures

Having clear whistleblowing and complaint procedures is essential for maintaining ethical standards. The employee handbook should provide detailed steps for reporting misconduct or filing complaints, ensuring that employees know how to raise concerns safely and confidentially if issues arise.

These procedures help create a transparent and accountable work environment. By clearly outlining the process for whistleblowing and handling complaints, the handbook encourages employees to speak up about issues, fostering a culture of integrity and trust. Avoiding misunderstandings and offering solutions to be heard are clear steps in conflict resolution and employee wellness.

17. Conflict Resolution Options

Conflict resolution options are crucial for maintaining a harmonious workplace. The handbook should detail the procedures for resolving conflicts, including steps employees can take to address issues. It should also mention the availability of mediation services if requested.

Providing clear conflict resolution guidelines helps employees navigate disputes effectively and ensures that issues are addressed promptly and fairly. This contributes to a more positive work environment and reduces the potential for ongoing conflicts.

Teamwork should be encouraged among employees. A Stanford study found that employees open to collaboration on tasks focus 64% longer than solo workers and display more engagement, less fatigue, and more successful outcomes on average. Such policies help maintain collaboration among colleagues.

18. Survey Schedules

Here’s an optional yet incredibly helpful bit of information to include in your employee handbook. Including information about survey schedules demonstrates the company’s commitment to continuous improvement. This section should detail the frequency and purpose of employee surveys — such as engagement or satisfaction surveys — and how the feedback will be used.

Regular surveys provide valuable insights into employee sentiments and areas for improvement. By clearly communicating the survey process, the handbook encourages participation and demonstrates that the company values employee input. Making surveys anonymous and sharing results with workers can also help in raising participation numbers.

19. Environmental Policies

Environmental policies reflect the company’s commitment to sustainability and are something that many modern workers are interested in reading about. The handbook should outline the company’s sustainability initiatives, such as efforts to reduce carbon footprint, energy use, and waste. It should also provide guidelines on how employees can contribute to these efforts.

Including environmental policies in the handbook shows that the company is dedicated to responsible business practices. This can enhance the company’s reputation and appeal to environmentally conscious employees and stakeholders. It can also help the company achieve sustainability goals by setting clear expectations for workplace locations and travel planning.

20. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Employee handbook contents can also include a section detailing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This demonstrates the company’s commitment to ethical practices and community involvement. The handbook should detail opportunities for employees to participate in community service and volunteering and discuss the company’s social impact efforts.

Including CSR policies in the handbook emphasizes the company’s dedication to making a positive difference. This can boost employee morale and engagement, as employees take pride in working for a company that values social responsibility. It also offers opportunities for employees to engage with each other and form deeper relationships that lead to more fruitful collaboration opportunities at work.

How to Design Your Employee Handbook

image featuring webpage with various design elements

Now that we’ve established the employee handbook contents, one aspect of how to create an employee handbook that shouldn’t be overlooked is the employee handbook design. Let’s face it: we live in a visual world. Emails are being replaced or supplemented with images and videos.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but the employee handbook design process should focus on being both visually appealing to employees and reflecting the brand identity. Since the employee handbook is a living document, there are a lot of options when it comes to digital design.

Incorporating the company’s brand identity into the employee handbook helps reinforce the company culture and values from the very first page. This means using consistent colors, fonts, and logos that align with the company’s branding. By doing so, the handbook not only becomes a practical resource but also an extension of the company’s image, making it more engaging and memorable for employees.

While employee handbooks naturally consist of text, they can also include supplementary sources such as videos and images. This sculpts a well-rounded view of the company and offers additional ways to engage with the information provided. Videos and images also allow employees to explore the company while onboarding and get a firsthand view of their future workforce.

Using an employee handbook template can help ensure that the design is professional and consistent. Reviewing employee handbook examples from other companies can also provide inspiration and ideas for creating an effective and visually appealing handbook.

By integrating these design elements, companies can create a handbook that employees will be more likely to read and reference, ultimately leading to a better-informed and more cohesive workforce. However, there is still a final step to take to ensure that your employee handbook is read …

Create & Share Your Company’s Employee Handbook

Once you’ve settled upon the language for your employee handbook, chosen the content, and selected the design, there is one final step: sharing the employee handbook contents with all employees.

Now, it doesn’t matter how well-compiled an employee handbook is if it is not distributed to all employees in a company. This is where connecting the entire company through a company intranet on an employee app is critical because all employees require equal access to the information.

In the modern workforce, many employees are spread out. Whether companies are global, workers are deskless, or desk workers stay at home, employees need a single solution that they can rely on to distribute company information. Having your employee handbook on a company app allows it to be updated when needed, accessed by everyone at all times, and designed to match the company’s brand.

Closing Words

Overall, employee handbooks are far more than a collection of legal papers destined to be filed away and forgotten. They are useful and necessary tools that employees can keep tabbed on their computers or access on their employee apps to refer to when questions, concerns, or curiosity arise.

And remember, the language in employee handbooks should be accessible and brief. After all, they’re something employees should actually want to read!