Tag Archives: HR

Do We Need an Employee Handbook?


As with many things, there are various points of opinion on whether or not to have an employee manual. Some attorneys will advise you’re better off without one, as you won’t set yourself up for trouble that way. (Essentially because of the pesky law of unintended consequences, and how things in print may be interpreted the wrong way and/or how you have more leeway to make individualized decisions if there aren’t formal policies in place.) On the other hand, you’ll also receive plenty of advice about the importance of having an employee manual, and having it up to date with all of the latest legalese.

After reaching second stage, it’s pretty safe to say it’s time to create an employee manual. Why? When you were a close-knit group of people that all hung out in the same room all day long and probably knew each other even before you started working together, clarity happened practically through osmosis. In second stage, you start hiring people you don’t know, spreading out geographically (whether in different rooms in the same office, or different locations altogether), and certain rules of organizational dynamics will start to surface just because that’s the way larger groups of people interact (somewhere between 12-20 people by most definitions). If you’re already hiring more people and spreading out geographically, that osmosis thing will reach its limitations. I guarantee it.

Now that it’s (hopefully) clear you’ll need an Employee Handbook “someday”, I’m betting it’s at the bottom of your list of to do’s as it doesn’t seem to forward the direct mission of your company. Here’s the kicker – it *is* part of your direct mission as CEO. Your #1 mission is to create clarity so simple silly stuff doesn’t get in the way. This is not to trivialize any issues; the point is that the creation of many issues is completely avoidable in the first place, and you’ll want to kick yourself later when you realize how easily they could have been prevented and how much wheel-spinning could have been avoided.

We both know you have at least 200 things to take care of, so how do I propose you get an employee manual done? Pick your favorite from one of these three options:

  • Ask your attorney for their standard Employee Handbook template
  • Ask your Payroll Service for their standard Employee Handbook template
  • Ask your HR consultant for their standard Employee Handbook template

I recommend making the investment in a template for two reasons:

  • You’ll be better off in the long run to have a Handbook that your service providers are already familiar and comfortable with, and
  • you’ll also instantly have a handbook that covers at least 80% of what you need.

The trick is not to get lost in the last 20%. The good news is, by the time you’ve reached second stage, you’ve likely already decided how to accrue things like Paid Time Off (PTO), etc. so completing a handbook is largely a matter of writing things down. With a template to fill in the blanks, it doesn’t have to be a big project.

What may take longer is giving the handbook the voice of your culture. For an example of the most culture-infused handbook I’ve ever seen, buy a copy of the Zingerman’s Staff Guide for only $10. If you want to add the flavor of your culture without creating something fully custom, a one-page (or even one paragraph) intro from the CEO is a great personal touch that will help you efficiently create an Employee Handbook, create clarity, and continue to grow. Happy handbooking!