Writing and reading employee handbooks can be tedious, so it isn’t surprising that many small businesses skip over them entirely. When your team is small, it may seem easier to talk about ideas, policies, and procedures as they come up in an ad-hoc way.

However, employee handbooks are useful for many reasons. Avoiding working on one because it’s not fun can cause you pain and strife down the road, including high staff turnover or even lawsuits. Effective handbooks clearly state expectations between the employer and employee. When everyone is on the same page, there are fewer risks to the employee, the employer, and the business as a whole.

As a small business owner, it’s not enough to just have a basic, boilerplate employee manual. It needs to be both useful and engaging. If it doesn’t meet those two criteria, it’s probably not going to get read. It’s not going to do you any good if it just sits on a shelf collecting dust.

Useful

The basic purpose of an employee manual is to get everyone on the same page when it comes to expectations. Employees need to understand what their role is within the business and how they’re expected to reflect the values of the brand. 

When expectations are clearly stated upfront, you will be better able to recruit quality employees and prevent high turnover. In an increasingly millennial workforce, this is crucial. According to a study from Gallup, 21% of millennials say that they have changed jobs within the past year. That number is three times higher than non-millennials. Preventing turnover is essential today.

It’s important that you only include the information that your employee absolutely needs. Employees will be much more likely to read through an entire employee manual if it is focused and relevant to their position.

For instance, Nordstrom’s employee handbook contains only one rule: “Use good judgment in all situations.” If that’s all you need, then that’s all you need. Don’t bog down employees with unnecessary information. While your business may be a bit too complex for a single-line handbook, the idea remains the same: Say what they need to know and say it quickly.

Engaging

When thinking about handbooks, benefits information, onboarding materials, and basic information about the way the business functions probably come to mind. None of these topics are particularly engaging.

To make things a little bit more interesting, some notable companies have opted for a more innovative employee manual design. This approach leaves the basic, boilerplate information out of the employee manual and instead offers that information digitally.

For a small business, this approach might be a bit much.  However, there is no reason a web-based employee manual can’t be an engaging mix of both aspirational brand values and informative policy information. Your handbook or manual should focus on helping the employee better understand the business, their role within it, and the company’s brand and values.

Employee manuals don’t need to be endless pages of boring corporate information. You are in control of what it contains. What do your employees need to know about working in your organization? What does it mean to be a part of your team? What is acceptable and unacceptable behavior? With a well-written employee handbook, you and your team will work together like a well-oiled machine so that your business can thrive and grow.