All leaders have expectations of their team, be they employees or volunteers. While some are agreed to in employment contracts, job descriptions and health and safety plans, it is rare for these documents to list all that is expected. When staff do not comply with unstated expectations, and leaders manage against the unspoken standards or are inconsistent in their application, confusion, low morale and substandard customer experiences can result.
An employee handbook helps to prevent these issues by clarifying how ‘things are done’. Depending on the industry, topics can include: the history and vision of the business; the culture you want to create for staff and customers; dress code; training and development opportunities; when rosters are published; timing of breaks; applying for leave; important payroll dates; staff discount policies; personal use of emails, telephones and internet; who/how to make contact when they will be absent; performance reviews; and emergency procedures. It should clearly state zero tolerance for bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment by leaders, staff, customers, and suppliers and outline avenues to report this behaviour and seek help.
Ideally the handbook is developed in consultation with staff and explains why the specified behaviour is expected. It is written clearly and concisely in conversational language using diagrams and pictures for ease of reference. Once issued, the standards need to be applied consistently across the team and modelled by the leaders. Keep the handbook up to date through regular reviews and give it to new employees as part of their induction.
This article was first published in the Mercury Bay Informer of 26 June 2019. See www.theinformer.co.nz