By now, I’ve written at length about the benefits of having an employee manual. It’s a good way to level expectations with employees, encourage great workplace habits, and enforce positive working relationships.
In my experience, having an employee manual has become something of a necessity.
For this article, I’ll be running through the list of features that a quality employee manual should contain. It isn’t by any means a definitive list (I mean, I’m good, not perfect) but I’m confident that these are must-have inclusions to any handbook worth its pages. Read on to learn more.
1. Procedures for Breaks, Time Off, and Emergency Leave
Breaks are important for any professional, and your employees are no exceptions. Whether it’s a five-minute break, a break for lunch, some time off for vacation, or an emergency leave, you want to make sure to have clear protocols for sanctioned unproductive time.
You want to include these in your manual so you can make sure that everyone’s on the same page. Be as generous as you like, and remember to comply with federal and local laws –prison is a long way to go for a couple extra minutes of office productivity.
2. Stopover Guidelines
You have to put a lot of your faith in your mobile teams when running a home service business. You take it on good faith that they’ll do their best to reach your clients on time and take only as many stopovers as necessary –all while they’re running trips on your company gas allowance.
While I’m sure you’ve done your best to train them to peak professionalism, it helps to have your guidelines for stopovers listed down in clear, unambiguous terms in a book they can reference. This is partially so they don’t forget how long they’re supposed to take while filling up at a gas station or making other, miscellaneous stopovers, and also because having it written down means they have little in the way of excuses should they “forget” their time allotment.
Note down the situations when stops are called for, and a fair amount of time-to-completion. You’ll be glad you have your rules enshrined in a document should the time ever come when you have to discipline your troops.
3. Appearance and Dress Code
Presentation is powerful. While the first impression of your company is often made with your website, a close second is how others view your employee’s on the job! Beyond making a professional impression on anyone who happens to interact with you and your staff, wearing the right outfit for the job affects your focus and demeanor.
Include your dress code policies in your employee manual, making sure to be as precise as possible when describing your regulation attire. “Dress well,” helps nobody. It also helps to include the rationale behind this particular set of rules –some people really take the “free spirit” thing to its logical conclusion, and resist any attempts to tell them how to dress.
4. SOPs When Completing a Job Order
Every business has a different standard for a job well done. Take a full inventory of yours, and plot them out –remember, your goal here is to provide your employees with a simple reference. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some of the more common inclusions under this theme:
- Expected arrival time at a job site or back at your office facilities,
- Arrival time updates (keeping your customers and dispatchers in the loop),
- Procedures for interacting with customers (from the first, “Hello,” ‘til payment),
- Standards for leaving a job site unattended, and
- Standards for ‘completing’ and documenting a project.
The list goes on and on. You might feel tempted to throw everything into the mix, but since the best employee manuals are just short enough to feel like a welcome read, you might want to limit yourself to either the most important procedures, being sure not to dive into unnecessary specifics.
5. Tool Management
Rules on how to handle, store, and track your tools are imperative. Again, these are things that should have been handled during your training, but it never hurts to safeguard your investments with a few reminders in the manual.
5. Employee On-site Behavior
Your business’ reputation rests on your employees’ shoulders. Given that, enforcing professional behavior is an important step in protecting your interests and keeping your operation on-course.
Plan ahead for all possible situations in the field. How should your employees interact with clients? What happens if something goes wrong, or gets damaged? How should your employees deal with angry customers?
7. Pay and Promotions
Your manual should include guidelines for the different ways your employees can avail of their salaries, how often they get paid, and details on any compensation packages you offer for different circumstances.
If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that bonuses can be a very effective employee motivator –if you have a set of conditions under which your staff can qualify for bonuses, list them down along with the extra amount they’d be able to take home. It keeps them excited, gives them more reason to provide better service, and builds loyalty.
8. Equal Employment and Non-Discrimination Policy
We live in pretty divided times, and it’s important to try and keep your office space free from any of the mess that makes cooperation difficult in practically any other setting.
Clear policies for equal employment and non-discrimination (against fellow employees and customers) have to be made clear across every step of employee orientation, then enshrined in the manual. Ideally, they’d cover a set of guidelines for handling a range of situations, a list of not be tolerated, general principles for how to treat customers irrespective of their personal backgrounds.
Sensitivity to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion can be a difficult subject to approach, but it’s one worth figuring out if you have any plans of becoming a community fixture.
9. Your Company Story and Mission
It’s important that your organization be rallied around a clear set of values, and directed towards a clear goal. There are a number of ways you can do this, but including it as a preface to your employee manual can be great for reinforcing the narrative among your staff, and improving their willingness to follow through your policies to the letter.
While company story is often geared towards the owners/founders and marketing message, your employees should be informed on how to use the story itself and how to create their story as it relates to the company. This will lead to increased connections, which is a foundation for satisfaction, referrals, and further sales.
A strong company manual is an employer’s best friend. Invest in assembling and presenting your most important policies through a handbook that your employees will feel comfortable reading, and you’ll be in a much better place than if you didn’t.