Key Points to Address
in Your Employee Handbook

Whether you’re running a small coffee shop or a big hotel, the importance of a comprehensive and well-written employee handbook cannot be overstated. Providing stellar customer service is paramount, so not having a carefully planned and constantly updated manual for your customer-facing employees not only puts the company’s image and reputation at risk, but could also land you in legal trouble.

A good employee handbook that touches on everything from your internal rules, policies and expectations to company values and goals is an essential tool in both ensuring smooth operation of your business as well as building a positive company culture and employee loyalty.

Which is precisely why writing one is not an easy task. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of the key points you should keep in mind when developing your employee handbook.

An Introduction

In the service industry, perhaps more than anywhere else, your colleagues can feel a lot like a family. By using your employee handbook to offer a word of welcome to your new hires and introduce them to the company you can accomplish multiple goals at the same time: promote a culture of friendliness and teamwork, ensure a smooth and painless onboarding process, and engage new folk from the very first day.

Speaking of engagement, the introductory part of your employee manual is also a great place to discuss your company’s vision, and how it translates into your mission statement and core values. The values and goals of your company define its purpose and serve as a foundation of its culture that manifests in everything, from the interior design of your establishment, to employee dress code and rules of customer interaction.

Understanding the goals that drive the company forward helps employees form a personal investment in its success, which in turn contributes to building a culture that embodies commitment to exceptional service and customer satisfaction.

Clearly Defined Roles

Consider dedicating a separate section of your employee rulebook to a detailed guide on specific policies and rules for every job role in the company. Reception, servers, kitchen and everyone in-between should have a standardized document that they could refer to for a description of their direct responsibilities, rules, safety procedures and requirements, etc.

This is not a simple task mind you, and with the amount of information you’ll need to document, it’s entirely possible that you’re going to miss some things out. Grab a couple of employees so that they could take a look at your first draft and leave their notes. Or better yet, involve them in the writing process and make it a collaborative project.

Having a comprehensive resource with information on specific job roles will not only save yourself and your employees a lot of trouble, but also help you maintain fairness and consistency, making sure that everyone is always on the same page as far as their core functions go.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Service

When it comes to the service industry, the reputation of your business rests entirely on your front line employees. Whether you like it or not, they represent your brand and the impression they leave with your customers can determine the fate of your business.

It’s a very delicate and important subject and one where specific guidance on how to effectively communicate with customers and resolve any customer related issues is absolutely critical. As such, this section can include a wide range of different policies, from restricting the use of mobile devices, to prohibiting smoking and profanity on and around the hotel premises.

Employees in service jobs have to interact with hundreds of customers every day, a lot of whom come from vastly different cultural and social backgrounds, so occasional difficult or even conflict situations are practically inevitable. Having a separate chapter of your guide devoted to some practical conflict resolution tips and advice on how to appropriately deal with specific groups of customers could be incredibly helpful for your staff.

Legal Information

Legally speaking, you are required to inform your employees of their rights, and compiling all of the necessary legal information into a handy manual is easily the most convenient and practical way of going about it.

When writing the legal section of your employee handbook, try to look beyond the bare minimum requirements and use it to ensure compliance to all relevant laws.

Consult the federal labor laws, as well as your state and local legislation. If your business operates in different states, be sure to include a separate section in cases where local or state laws differ from federal requirements.

Make sure you include a section outlining your equal employment and anti-harassment policies with detailed instructions on what to do should an employee find themselves the subject of harassment or otherwise inappropriate behavior.

Leave time also deserves a mention. If you have more than 50 employees, you may be legally required to have an FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) policy as well. It provides employees with great benefits allowing them to take unpaid job-protected medical or family leaves with continued health insurance coverage. Make sure your handbook contains all the necessary information regarding FMLA, such as eligibility, terms and proper procedures for taking a leave.

Maintaining a safe work environment should be one of your primary concerns as an employer. In addition to the safety measures mandated by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), you can use the handbook to inform your staff of the necessary safety procedures and protocols, thus reinforcing the importance of safety in the workplace. A good safety manual will not only help your workers deal with any emergencies or safety concerns, but also to prevent any accidents from taking place.

Summing up

Writing an employee handbook is a challenging task. Start with an introductory section, and then expand into more specific areas like job roles, service policies and legal information. Be sure to keep it up-to-date to reflect any changes as your business grows and develops.

It may take a while, and you may not get it 100% right the first time, but the benefits of having a good employee manual are absolutely worth the trouble.


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