By Jennifer Meek
We recently shared the ways your BSC could strengthen its training program to improve retention and performance. In this blog, we provide some helpful tips for BSCs that would like to take that even further, documenting some of the key aspects of their training programs and employee rights and responsibilities in an official employee handbook.
Naturally, in this day and age an employee handbook means something different than it used to. While a bound document may work in some settings, today’s employee handbooks should exist in a living document online. This way you can easily update the handbook as changes inevitably arise. You can make these resources easily downloadable from your website, being sure to email to new employees when they are hired.
As a general rule of thumb for all training documents, and especially your handbook: Keep it short and to-the-point. We recommend going no longer than 25 pages if you want your employees to actually read it. Many businesses may be tempted to focus on what not to do in their employee handbooks, worried about liabilities. Don’t do that. Rather than listing all the don’ts, focus on the positives. This reinforces the correct procedures and rules, rather than listing off all the ways your employees can lose their jobs. We’ve heard this type of employee handbook classified as an “integrity-based” handbook. Integrity-based handbooks reflect your BSC’s internal values. They are positive, inclusive and encouraging while remaining informative and easy to adapt.
Still, certain policies may need to be included in your handbook as required by law, and others will need to be included to protect you from liability. Be sure to frame that content in a way that is integrity-based and lays out what is expected of the employee in a positive way. This will help them to engage better and ensure they feel vested in performing well.
Begin With Your Values
Start with what matters most. Your handbook is an opportunity to highlight what is most important to your BSC in writing, so that your employees can be informed and better aligned with your mission. After stating your mission, be sure you include your company values and objectives. You may have gone over these topics in your training of new hires, and you may feel like these values and objectives are clear as they are consistently expressed to outside customers. However, the chances are your frontline employees aren’t as familiar with the company’s mission, values and objectives as you might believe. Your employee handbook may be the first time employees see them clearly written in plain sight. Use the opportunity to engage your employees and encourage them to become vested along with you.
Keep It Clear
You’ll want to include a directory of employees at your company in your handbook, explaining who does what, where they fall on your company hierarchy and how to get in touch with each person. This will ensure that your employees are able to express concerns, ask questions and learn from the people who can teach them best. Ensure that this part of your handbook is frequently updated to allot for promotions and staff that has left the company.
What’s a handbook for if it doesn’t go over the HR policies? Your HR section will be specific to your company, and should include the important rules you have in place for requesting time off, calling in sick and more. You will want to touch on compensation and payroll information, including when and how employees will be paid, and information regarding the opportunity to get paid more over time. Consider including a section on dress code. The way your employees dress has a huge impact on the way your clients perceive your business. This is your opportunity to express that to your employees, and provide specific guidelines on what should be worn. Make sure this section is comprehensive and clear. You don’t want any employee showing up to work unsure of whether what they are wearing is allowed.
Review of Key Training Components
At this point in the manual, you should include an overview of the key training components. This will be an invaluable opportunity to reinforce what you’ve already gone over in your training programs and help your new hires keep their training top-of-mind. We recommend a brief overview of daily cleaning tasks, a technical overview of more specific procedures and some information on cleaning equipment. This will not take the place of a comprehensive training program, but it can serve as a documented recap of what you reviewed in training and provide a place to touch on the most important cleaning tasks and procedures.
Don’t Forget the Legalese
Any attorney will tell you to include a clear harrassment policy, a non-discrimination policy, a code of conduct and clear information about discipline. Your harassment policy should be very clear in explaining what harassment is and how employees can report harassment in the workplace, including a very clear and fair procedure. Make this as clear and fair as possible, including more than one person to report to, in the case that the person who is responsible for the harassment is the direct report. Consider including reporting forms in the handbook itself.
We recommend consulting with a lawyer to ensure that you cover your company and also protect your employees by providing them with all of the key details they need to know to work safely. Make a plan to have your lawyer review this section regularly, because laws and regulations change. When you change any part of this section of your handbook you will want to ask your employees to review the changes and sign off to ensure they are familiar with new rules.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you are starting from scratch. Follow these tips to make the process simple and to ensure you don’t leave any of the important points out. Use your network to find out what works and doesn’t work for BSC employee handbooks. When creating your own employee handbook, talk to colleagues in the field and reach out to other small businesses for employee handbook templates.