The Importance of Staff Manuals

| Sunday July 1

It’s not about the wonderful staff you have now who are fair, sensible and trustworthy; it’s about the one coming. You know that employee; who seems really good on paper, great references and credentials out the wazoo. But pop them in your team and the problems start.

We all know how poisonous a bad employee can be, not only because they are time wasters or fail to meet your expectations, but also because they can change the culture of the workplace. So how do you effectively communicate your expectations when you’re busy madly training this new employee to get on with client work?

There are some fantastic HR businesses out there who can help you with this exact dilemma. But when your business is growing exponentially and needing staff right away, there’s no time to engage with another supplier.

There is one process which can help with this which isn’t difficult to implement in your business, and that’s the Staff Manual. It’s a simple document for all your employees (and contractors when worded correctly) which ticks all the policy boxes when it comes to your expectations of your staff’s behaviour, social media use and general workplace culture.

Why is a staff manual so important?

Your company Staff Manual clearly outlines policies, procedures and staff expectations and should be made available to all staff to refer to (particularly when there is confusion with a HR issue – such as being late to work).

Like all good procedural documents its tailored to your business and reflects what you as the business owner expect. Unlike the employment contract which is generally signed when the employee begins work (and should be regularly revised by your legal team), it is NOT a legally binding document.

The Staff Manual works in conjunction with your employment contract and can be updated regularly. As long as your employees are issued with the new copy, you can change it as many times as you choose.

A simple sentence in your employment agreement links the two; The company Staff Manual outlines policies, procedures and staff expectations. All staff who sign this agreement are therefore expected to adhere to the policies and procedures outlined in the Staff Manual document. The company reserves the right to change these policies at any time. This enables a tailored staff manual to become a powerful admin tool for your business.

It is very important that you tailor your staff manual for your business and get it right the first time. You need to tick all the policy boxes but also cover potential foreseeable concerns that are unique to your business such as specific workplace hazards or unique staffing issues.

What should you include?

  • Mission Statement – A couple of lines explaining your company ethos
  • What does your business do? – helps new employees gain an overview of the business as a WHOLE; they may only be one small cog in the machine.
  • Engagement – covers all specifics such as leave policy, basic operations, absences, training, probation etc. Some of these will have been covered by your employment agreement also.
  • Policies – may seem wordy but are all very important: Code of Conduct, Internet/Email, Workplace Health & Safety, Anti-Bullying, Grievance, Intellectual property
  • The all-important sign off page

How to use it

  • That sign-off page is the most important aspect, and you MUST be diligent to ensure all staff sign it every time the manual is updated and store it in their employment file. It shows staff have read and understood the document.
  • When you induct new employees make it clear to your staff that the Staff Manual exists to ensure your workplace is safe, equitable and secures that both staff and employers are treated fairly in your workplace.
  • You can encourage fairness and understanding by including a clear grievance policy, showing how you’ll handle issues as they arise.
  • Don’t forget you need to adhere to the policies too!

The main reason you have a staff manual is to cover yourself. If staff are late all the time well, you covered that in staff expectations regarding punctuality. If they’re poorly dressed, well you covered that in the dress code and if they’re just mean, well you covered that in anti-bullying.
It’s really just another plate of armour when it all goes wrong with an employee.

This document is not for your wonderful staff who have been loyal, hardworking and with you for years; this document is for the pain in the neck who’s coming. But you need to explain to everyone that whether they’re new or existing employees, they need to adhere to the policies outlined within.