10 Ways to Improve Your Employee Handbook

Images: _Dana_ / iStock / Getty Images Plus

When a new hire starts work at your bar or nightclub, you train and onboard them and give them your employee handbook to read through. And then they probably never see it again. Or, just as detrimentally, they forget everything they’ve read.

However, your handbook can be more engaging and more memorable.

Here are 10 ways to make it better:

1. Make it accessible, regularly.

“Many companies provide copies of their handbooks to employees at orientation and no one ever looks at it again,” says Nannina Angioni, a labor and employment attorney and partner of Kaedian LLP law firm in Los Angeles.

Read this: Update Your Employee Handbook Today

“Make it digital too,” says Christina Zaberto, HR manager with Associated HCM in Plainview, N.Y. This could be on an app or a web portal. “If it’s possible for people to get it on their cellphone, that’s the best bet, since they’ve always got it with them.”

2. Know what’s in it.

Management needs to be aware of the pertinent policies without having to refer to the employee handbook themselves. This is particularly true for policies and procedures that employees are most likely to ask about, such as time off, shift changes and sick leave.

3. Spell everything out.

A solid handbook that everyone in the company, from new hires to top management, understands and uses can be an excellent tool. Employees know where to go to get information, they are empowered to answer their own questions, the company’s expectations are clear, and if followed, the company minimizes complaints about disparate treatment—everyone plays by the same rules.

4. Make it reader-friendly.

“No one is going to sit down and read page after page—walls of text,” says Angioni. Describe policies in a way that is clear, easy to understand, and visually appealing. Employees should see it as a reference guide, a place where answers to their questions is easily located and the information is in plain language.

5. Harassment spelled out.

Employees should know exactly what harassment is and what to do if it happens. Preferably, they have different ways to report it, so they have a choice, and all of them should be confidential.

Read this: Sexual Harassment: It’s Not If, But When

“It’s really important to spell out who they are protected from,” says Zaberto. “Just because you’re a pretty bartender, guests can’t just grab your behind.” Employees need to know they are protected from customers, colleagues and management.

6. Make it relevant.

Also, don’t bog down a handbook with needless boilerplate or policies that don’t apply to your business,” Angioni says. “That kind of handbook is useless. Employees shouldn’t have to guess which handbook policies apply to the business and which don’t.” Instead, she says, if you do use a boilerplate version, go through it line by line and tailor it to your business.

It’s especially important to be specific in your handbook, says Zaberto, given that laws can be different in different locations.

7. Make it fit with your brand.

If you’re a fun, quirky brand, don’t write your handbook in a stuffy way. Or if you are a more serious type of business, don’t try to get cheeky with it. “It has to reflect your culture,” says Zaberto.

8. Your mission.

Make sure it’s clear in your handbook what your business’s core values or mission statement are. For example, Joe’s Crab Shack believes in PRIDE: Passion, Respect, Integrity, Determination and Excellence.

Read this: A Core Value Walks Into a Bar

9. Language.

Have your handbook translated into other languages if you have even one employee whose first language isn’t English, Zaberto explains.

10. The basics.

Finally, don’t forget to include the basics: Alcohol and drug policies; standards of conduct, workers’ comp; safety and security; dress code; benefits; how to file a complaint; disciplinary measures; work hours.

Read to get going on your employee handbook? Great! The links below can help you get it done!