When I was a young girl, I was a Girl Scout. Our Girl Scout motto was (and still is I believe) “Be Prepared”. In the 1947 Girl Scout Handbook, the motto was explained this way: “A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.” I think that in today’s society this is even more important – in business, especially in Human Resource Departments.
One area that is very important in being prepared is in developing, communicating, and managing company policies. The most efficient way of doing this is through the company Handbook (or Employee Manual – whichever you call it). Today it is important because we are in an ever-changing world of laws and regulations – all that impact our working environment. For example, the COVID pandemic is ended, climate changes have devastated communities requiring new policies in many areas, Federal and State legislatures are debating and passing many regulations impacting businesses, employees are restless in trying to understand what is expected of them, hiring is more difficult than ever, remote workers are reluctant to return to the workplace – and the list goes on and on.
HR’s preparedness is one of the ways to manage this ever-changing turmoil with an up-to-date Handbook, explaining in easy to understand and follow policies. While Handbooks are not mandated or required by law, they are in fact the cornerstone of any business. So, why are Handbooks important? In order to “be prepared” a Handbook can:
- Provide details of the mission, vision and values of the company.
- Communicates company policies and expectations – what the company is expected to provide the employee and in turn sets expectations for employee conduct and performance.
- Ensures consistent enforcement of company policies.
- Minimizes risks by acknowledging the requirements of important laws and how the company will follow the requirements.
- Helps minimize conflict.
- Provides a code of conduct and is a valuable resource to employees to understand the culture and values of the organization.
So, the first step in “being prepared” is to prepare a Handbook. Each Handbook is unique and should be prepared based on the specifics of the organization. It shouldn’t be copied from some other company’s handbook – it may not be compliant with the state or size of the current company. Take the time to think of the policies you want to cover. Talk with management and get agreement. The worst thing you can do is put a policy in place and never follow it!
Whew – you have a working handbook and it is GREAT! This area of your job is done! Well, that may be but laws change. Companies grow (or down-size). Handbooks are not carved in stone and are living documents that grow and change based on a variety of issues. They need to be reviewed on a regular basis. It is recommended that Handbook Reviews be conducted at least every two years. It is one of the areas of HR that requires constant management overview. What goes into a review:
- The “must-haves”
- Harassment Policy
- Dates and Revision Dates
- Pay dates and hours of work
- Leaves (if applicable)
- Compliance of Key Policies – It’s important to go over critical handbook sections that could be subject to change, whether that’s because your business is growing, or regulations are evolving.
- Leaves and benefits
- Wage and Hour
- New Laws and Regulations – check state and federal laws to make sure you have the correct information in your policy. For example:
- Marijuana Laws
- Paid Sick Leave Laws
- Paid Family Leave
- Make sure policies reflect the reality of your organization – as stated before – If you don’t follow a policy – don’t include it!!!!
Now you are “prepared”! Being a Girl Scout has helped me in better understanding and dealing with the HR Department of growing businesses.