How To Create Your First Employee Handbook

You, just like all other business owners, want consistency with your employees. At some companies, everyday feels like the Wild West with employees deciding how they are going to show up and act. At others, you know what you are going to get from your employees because you have clear “lines on the field” when it comes to their conduct. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you may be on, you know that the best way for your business to grow is to have a purposeful consistent culture. This depends on you providing your employees with a clear standard of conduct and behavior.

The problem is that everyone in the business knows they need guidelines, but no one wants to make them. The “HR Hat” gets passed from person to person, with each one along the way scratching their head as to why it has landed with them. Everyone wants someone to own the rule making, but nobody has the authority to do it in a small organization outside of the owner. Stop passing this HR hot potato around and be the guide for your employees!

The longer the Wild West philosophy remains in your business, the harder it becomes to establish these guidelines. Your people will continue to act as they see fit in the moment, rarely taking into consideration the far-reaching impact of their actions and the precedent that it may set. Good people will see this part of your culture and be pushed away. Think of the establishment of these guidelines as part of the solid foundation to build your business upon.

What if you could start building this foundation today? What if there were simple steps to begin creating this standard? What if your people consistently showed up each day with an understanding of what kind of culture you are trying to build? What if that understanding impacted their behavior in a positive way?  How would that affect your day-to-day work? How would that affect the growth of the business?

The foundation starts with an Employee Handbook. Before you huff and stop reading this article, let me explain why this is important. You may already have an Employee Handbook that you paid an attorney to write that is sitting at the bottom of a drawer somewhere. To be clear, if you have no intention of living by the handbook that you write, then STOP RIGHT HERE. If you want to put on paper the way that you want your business to go, then keep reading. Handbooks are the “lines on the field”, they are your thoughts on what kind of company you want, in writing. They are a starting point in creating the culture you envision for the company you are building. Your people have no understanding of how to act in your business because you have never written it down. You have never shown them your complete expectations. Start here.

Here are 4 simple steps to creating your Employee Handbook:

1. Begin with the end in mind.

  • You need to first understand how you would like your people to act each day. Write down 5-7 standards of how your employees would act each day.

2. Decide on the most immediate standards.

  • Changing the culture of your people is not going to happen overnight. Instead, it is going to be a focus on a few standards at a time. Of the 5-7 listed above, select 2 that you want to change in the next 90 days. These will be your primary focus, ones that you will reinforce and contrast with your actions.

3. Write a first draft of these standards.

  • This draft is in simple terms. Describe the standards in depth, what and how they look. They do not need to be long, but they do need to be comprehensive.

4. Commit to living these standards.

  • If you are not meeting the standards that you expect of your people, start there. Your actions either reinforce or contrast with your people. Make sure you are reinforcing or contrasting the right activities.

As you walk through these 4 steps, utilize the attached questionnaire. This questionnaire will guide your thoughts on what kind of standards you want with your people. You will know what is important to your business culture and know how to get it. You will no longer be battling this Wild West philosophy with people acting as they would like. Invest in your business now. Your future self will thank you for all the time you saved.

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