Why You Need to Review Your Handbook Every Year
In order to run a business successfully, it’s vital to have an employee handbook put in place that lays out exactly what is expected of employees and policies that shape your company culture. However, the business environment is constantly shifting and changing; therefore, your employee handbook needs to be adapted to reflect those changes.
Reviewing your employee handbook on an annual basis will ensure your policies are up-to-date regarding both employment regulations and your company culture. Failing to review and potentially update your handbook could result in far more harm to your business than you think. We recommend reviewing your employee handbook annually, with the following considerations in mind:
How big is your company now?
If your company is growing and hiring, there may be new policies you need to address based on increasing your number of employees. For example:
- Family medical leave (FMLA)
- Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
- Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
- Non-discrimination policies (ADEA, ADA, GINA)
- Worker’s compensation
Furthermore, when bringing on new employees, you want to ensure they have an accurate and up-to-date handbook, so they know what to expect and what is expected of them, at their new job.
Has there been a change in leadership?
Is there a new leadership style in place? Not every person in charge is going to run things exactly the same or have the same expectations.
Transitioning to a new leader can be difficult and can cause the company culture to shift. To navigate these changes, it‘s imperative new leaders communicate directly with employees about what is expected of them, and these expectations should be outlined in the handbook.
Are there new laws and regulations?
Every year, new employment laws and regulations are enacted that affect the running of businesses. Whether they are local, state or federal, it’s important to update your handbook according to these changes as well as let your employees know directly of the change, so there are no misunderstandings.
What feedback have you received from your employees?
There may not be any pressing or required updates that need added to your handbook, but it’s always a good idea to see where improvements can be made. In fact, hearing from your employees about what they like, may have misunderstood, or think needs improvement could help when reviewing your handbook. It’s for the employees, after all, so it is beneficial to hear where there might need to be some extra clarification.
Consider adding an annual review policy that requires your handbook to be reviewed once per year to ensure it’s accurate and reflects current policy actions.
Have you had any employee policy issues?
Do your employees know what’s expected of them? If issues or concerns arise, review your handbook immediately to determine where clarification may be needed, and ensure the policy is addressed appropriately. If the policy is not included in your handbook, quickly determine the best course of revision and get it added immediately.
There’s always the possibility that employees choose to not read it, or have forgotten about specific policies. It’s a good idea to remind your employees to regularly review their handbook, communicate about any and all changes made, and to provide your handbook to new employees upon hire with a receipt signature required.
Are there any outdated policies?
Having outdated policies not only has the potential to make any situation exponentially worse, but can also leave your business vulnerable to legal issues.
Sexual harassment in the workplace has been a prevalent topic in recent years, especially with the rise of the Me Too Movement. Due to the sensitivity of this subject, it’s crucial that your employee handbook’s policy on sexual harassment is updated and extremely clear.
Another topic with an increased awareness is parental leave. Your handbook should clearly outline what your company offers in terms of parental leave. If adoption is included within the policy, this needs to be clearly stated as well.
Have you implemented any technological advancements?
With technology now a core aspect of most businesses, many companies are providing their employees with devices to assist with their work. If your employees use a company cell phone, tablet, or computer, it’s a good idea to have usage policies in place.
It’s also a good idea to address the use of personal devices at work, such as when and where it’s appropriate to be on a cell phone. Internet use should also be addressed in your handbook, including what isn’t considered appropriate to access on company time or property.
What kind of cultural shifts have taken place?
Times are changing and with that comes new ways of doing things. As new trends come about, many should be addressed within your handbook according to how your business plans to handle them.
For example, pets at work is becoming a popular trend due to the fact that they are proven to reduce stress and increase socialization. Consider addressing this trend with a policy regarding whether it’s allowed or not.
Dress code is an important policy to continually review in your handbook. You may have a “business casual” dress code, however this definition has shifted in recent years, and can mean different things depending on the industry. Specifications should be listed under dress code about what is and is not appropriate to wear.
Another rising trend to consider addressing is the shift from normal work schedules to flexible work schedules. Flexible work schedules give employees a level of autonomy to decide when they want to begin and end their days. They still must work a certain number of hours, but they have more free will on when they complete those hour. Flexible work schedules have been proven to increase productivity and happiness among employees.
With the immense growth of social media consumption, your company needs to be concerned with how your employees use their social media accounts. If not already done so, a policy needs to be put into place that explains your expectations of how your employees should conduct themselves online.
Do you need to update your compensation/benefit structure?
Over time, the labor market changes and you may need to make revisions to your compensation structure to ensure you aren’t overpaying employees or paying them too little. Other reasons that may cause you to review your salary structure is new competition nearby or if your company has undertaken a merger or acquisition.
Benefits play a huge part in attracting and recruiting the best employees. Depending on the generation of employees the company is trying to secure, your benefits might differ. Older generations prefer a salary increase, whereas younger generations care more about flexible work schedules and tuition reimbursement.
Keeping your employee handbook up to date with current laws, trends, and the overall changes within your company will result in a more positive work environment and put the company at a lower risk for any potential problems.