April 30, 2019

How to Write an Employee Manual Employees Will Read

the applied companies employee handbook

You put a lot of time and energy into your employee manual. It communicates vital company information and helps you keep your assets covered. But wouldn’t it be nice if your employees actually read it? Make it engaging and useful and they’ll take the time to read it, refer to it for simple questions and have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities and your expectations.

Here’s what to cover when writing an employee manual:

Culture, Mission and Values

You are imparting vital and often legally required information. That doesn’t mean you should be afraid to let your company’s unique personality shine through. Communicating your values and what sets you apart from other companies sets the stage for the rest of the handbook.

Policies and Procedures

This early section helps employees learn what is expected of them. It answers questions like, “Can I text my supervisor to tell her I’m sick, or must I call and speak to her?” "What is my recourse if I am harassed at work?”

It’s important to show employees what your rules and policies are and that they apply to all employees equally. A properly written manual can help protect the company from sexual harassment, wrongful termination, or discrimination lawsuits.

Be sure to include:

  • General employment information
  • Equal employment opportunity language
  • Working hours, attendance and dress code if applicable
  • Review process and how to get a promotion/pay raise
  • Sick leave, Paid vacation and family leave/FMLA policy
  • Pay policies such as information on paydays, timekeeping, and overtime
  • Disciplinary policies policy when behavior doesn’t meet expectations
  • Anti Harassment and anti retaliation policies


This is probably the most frequent reason people have for referring to their employee manual. How many vacation days do I get? How do I set up my 401k? Can I wear my Hawaiian shirt to work?

Set up this information in an easy-to-read format such as a table. It can be complicated, and the stakes can be high. People don’t want to make mistakes when choosing their health insurance or setting up their direct deposit. Provide the information they need to make informed decisions and keep your company compliant with federal, state and local laws and regulations, but eliminate any fluff that can make the manual tougher to understand.

Don’t Forget Existing Employees

When you hire a new employee, they get a brand spanking new employee manual. But what about your existing team? They deserve the latest and greatest version and it’s in your best interest for them to have one.

The most effective way to keep everyone up to date without killing trees is to provide the manual online and update it as needed. At least once a year or when significant changes are made, managers should go over the manual with their team and have them sign that they have received it. Note: Create a new version when changes are made – don’t overwrite previous versions. If legal issues or other disputes arise, you’ll want to be able to produce a copy of the manual that was active at the time.

Looking for more HR assistance for your Reno or northern Nevada business? The HR/Benefits team at The Applied Companies is here to help!

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