How to write an employee handbook for small businesses

What is an employee handbook, and why do I need one?


Employee handbooks for small businesses bring together all of your outlined goals, policies and procedures, and company culture so that everybody on staff is aware of what you’re expecting of them. It can also make onboarding new employees easier, prevent legal disputes, and hold even the leaders accountable for their actions.


You can think of it as your company bible. You know, “thou shalt not leave the shared microwave uncleaned.” That sort of stuff.




Are employee handbooks required by law?


Technically, no. In the United States and Canada, you don’t need to have one mega-document to house all of your company policies and procedures. But you are required by law to abide by those procedures and give your staff access to them whether they’re in a tidy employee handbook or not. In short, it’s going to make your life as a business owner a lot easier.


Let’s get to work.



Step 1: Think big

Before you get into the nitty gritty stuff like policies and procedures, start by trying to paint a picture of your company as a whole. Who you are, what you believe in, what you’re trying to accomplish, and what’s it like to work there. This is the first piece that your new employees will see, so make it engaging enough that they’ll stay for the fine print.


This introduction section could include:

● Mission statement

● Company history

● Core values

● Executive profiles

● Big company wins so far

● Company culture

● How you work (remote, in-office, etc.)



Step 2: Table of Contents

It might seem counterintuitive to put the table of contents together before any content, but it’s a useful exercise for outlining what you’ll need as you build your employee handbook.


Stuck on what to include? Click below to download a sample employee handbook table of contents.


hr-policies-TOC
.pdf
Download PDF • 91KB


Step 3: Policies and Procedures

Now that it’s time to start filling in the important information, you’re likely going to want to consult a pro. Human resources policies and procedures like compensation and benefits policies, health and safety procedures, AODA compliance, leave policies, codes of conduct, anti-discrimination and DEI guidelines, and non-disclosure agreements are the backbone of both your company’s legal protection, and the mental and physical safety of your staff… but they’re also super boring.


We’ve got a team of legislative compliance experts who love developing this type of content. Learn more about how we can help.


Step 4: Employment Information

This is the part that staff will likely bookmark and reference anytime they have a question about their employment at your company. This is the information that directly affects them even if they’re following all those new policies. It should include:


● Compensation

● Performance Management System

● Training and Development Opportunities

● Employee Benefits (and company perks)

● Expense Reporting

● Required equipment for the job

● Vacation and leave policies

● Paid holidays

● Paternal leave policy

● Termination


It’s important that you give adequate thought to each aspect of your employee handbook and produce content that is specific to your company and employees’ needs. Put yourself in a new hire’s shoes: when they read this handbook, will they walk away with a clear idea of what it’s going to be like at your company, or will they have even more questions?


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