Employee Handbook How-To

Creating and implementing an employee handbook can help you better manage your business and get more out of employee performance.

Even though they may be unaware of the benefits of having one, many businesss owners realize they should have an employee handbook. Creating one can be simple, and when done properly, save you a lot of trouble.

“An employee handbook will not make you more money, but it will eliminate a lot of headaches,” says Bob Clements of Bob Clements International. “Most small business owners dislike dealing with employee issues. A handbook helps.”

Why a Handbook is Helpful

As Clements explains it, many business owners expect their employees to think the same way they do about running a business, and offer little instruction.

“The reality is that if our employees thought like us they would have their own businesses,” says Clements. “So with an employee handbook we have the ability to clearly define, communicate and standardize what we as owners expect of our employees.”

An employee handbook also answers questions about things such as time off, dress codes, acceptable behavior and discipline policies, before they are even asked. If it is thorough enough, it isn’t necessary to have a separate handbook for each department.

“Dealers should make sure that they have job descriptions and expectations for each position in the dealership, which feed into the policies outlined in the employee handbook,” says Clements.

Implementation & Creation

Creating an employee handbook is a smart step. Once it is completed, it can only help you, your business and employees if it is used properly.

“Each new employee should be given the handbook and expected to sign off on each page to show they have read and understand what the expectations of the dealership are,” says Clements. “Each year the dealership should review the handbook, make changes based upon behavior they want to encourage or change, and update the handbook accordingly.”

After the initial training, each year employees should be presented with the new or revised handbook. “At the time the employees are given the updated handbook, they should be asked to sign off on the changes, and are then held accountable to standards outlined in the handbook,” Clements explains further.

Handbook Contents

Below is a suggested outline for an employee handbook. It can be expanded upon or simplified to better reflect the goals of your dealership.

1. Brief Welcome

2. Company History & Mission Statement

3. Company Overview

In the company overview, there should be an explanation for what the handbook is designed to do and what actions will be taken if the guidelines aren’t followed.

Outline what the employee can expect of the company and what the company in turn expects from them. Lastly, explain that the customers are the root of any business success and should be treated as such.

- Introduction
- At Will Employment
- Wavier of Breach
- What You Can Expect
- What is Expected of You
- Customer Relations

4. Employment Policies

The Employment Policies section explains how employee conduct should mirror the beliefs of the company. Explanations of suitable and unsuitable behavior and appearance are outlined, as well as consequences.

- Code of Ethics
- Employee Non-Compete & Confidentiality
- Outside Employment
- Company Vehicles and Property
- Personal Appearance
- Reporting Concerns / Complaints / Grievances
- Progressive Discipline
- Sexual and Other Unlawful Harassment

5. Hiring & Terminations

Explain employment laws and agreements as well as specific job descriptions in this section. Doing a thorough job of explaining job duties, schedules and attendance policies will leave little room for dispute when and employee underperforms.

- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Immigration Law Compliance
- Job Descriptions
- Employment Categories
- Employment Applications
- Introductory Period
- Credit / Employment Verification
- New Employee Orientation
- Work Schedules / Meal Periods
- Employee Absenteeism Policy
- Access to Personal Files
- Job Abandonment
- Employee Termination
- Exit Interview

6. Benefits & Time-Off

A full explanation of benefits and attendance policy should be outlined here. Eligible employees should receive a booklet further describing insurance coverage. Attendance policies, and how they relate to pay, should also be highlighted.

- Health Insurance, Life Insurance and Long-Term Disability
- Social Security
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Holidays
- Vacation Paid Time-Off
- Sick / Personal Time
- Unpaid Leave of Absence
- Absence Due to Work-Related Injury
- Bereavement Leave
- Jury Leave
- Military Leave
- Employee Discounts

7. Compensation & Performance Employees will likely show the most interest in this part of the handbook. Outline when the pay period at your dealership begins and ends, and whether it is weekly or biweekly. Also mention changes in compensation due to performance or incentive programs.

- Payday and Your Check
- Overtime Pay
- Timekeeping Procedures
- Administrative Corrections
- Direct Deposit
- Advances and Loans
- Performance Evaluations

8. Business Tools

Outline for employees when it is suitable to use the business phone or their own personal cell phone. Think about how this impacts your profitability and customer satisfaction. Employees may need training on phone etiquette and usage of the business management system (BMS).

- Telephone Usage Policy
- Cell Phone Usage Policy
- Voicemail / Email / Internet Policy
- Computer and BMS Usage
- Mail Use

9. Safety

Keeping employees and customers safe should be a priority. Outline the dealership’s rules for safety and be sure each employee understands why these rules are important. Expectations for employee conduct towards each other should also be summarized.

- Workplace Violence Prevention
- Workplace Safety
- General Housekeeping
- Smoke-Free Environment
- Drug and Alcohol Use
- Security
- Employee Arrest

10. Closing

The closing section of the employee handbook is the best place to offer employees a chance to address any questions or concerns they may have.

11. Employee Acknowledgement Form

Once you have gone through the employee handbook with them, the employees should sign a sheet formally acknowledging their understanding of the rules within. This process should be done the first day on the job, before any work is completed.

Consider hiring a human resources professional or business management consultant to help you create your employee handbook. There are also free online resources such as managementhelp.org that offer many useful tools.

It may seem like a lot of work to create an employee handbook, but once it is in writing it can be easily updated as needed in minutes. Having one can save you a lot of time and headaches in the end.