creating a meaningful staff handbook

A staff or employee handbook tells existing and new employees ‘how things are done around here’. It contains several key sections for easy reference, and includes information about company culture, policies and procedures, and expectations of employee behaviour and work.

Staff handbooks are usually given to employees once they commence employment – although increasingly organisations also provide these to new recruits before starting employment. They should be readily available and referred to during their employment with the organisation. Although employers are not legally obliged to provide a staff handbook, many do as a way to reduce misunderstandings and to clarify expectations. It’s also important to write in plain English – new employees won’t have had time to learn company jargon! 

choose a format that can easily updated and is accessible to all employees

    • electronic versions are easy to keep up-to-date and using the organisation’s intranet means it can also be interactive 
    • printed, loose-leaf binders are better formats in organisations where not everyone is always online
    • both of these options make it easier to personalise the handbook.

    start with a welcome note

    • ask the CEO or a director to write a short welcome
    • where there is a head of personnel or HR, they may also provide an introduction.

    talk about the organisation

    • the history of the organisation
    • what it does
    • its values, mission, vision, and strategy.

    include your policies

    Having a reference tool such as a staff handbook can make things easier when onboarding new employees, or refreshing the knowledge of existing employees.  

    Policies and procedures to include would be:

    • absence and sickness policies
    • equal opportunity policy
    • anti-bullying and harassment policy and procedures
    • internet, email and social media policy
    • disciplinary and grievance procedures
    • appraisal procedures
    • performance management procedures
    • resignation procedure
    • health and safety policy
    • data protection policy.

    personalise it

    Depending on the company size and approach to employee handbooks, there may be an opportunity to personalise the handbook. Some personalised features may include:

    • pay and superannuation details
    • hours of working
    • line of sight or organisational diagram, how the role fits into the overall business objectives
    • dress code
    • personal property in the workplace.

    Some employers prefer to put the above information in a ‘welcome pack’ for the new employee and leave the employee handbook as a general reference for everyone.

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