Employee handbooks and policies and procedures manuals
Spend a little time as an HR professional and sooner or later you are bound to be put in charge of developing or revising an employee handbook. Depending on where you work, it may be referred to as a policy and procedure manual. Is there a difference? If so, what?
Have you ever seen an employee handbook that was more than fifty pages long? That went into painstaking detail on how to process [not submit] paperwork for a leave of absence? Provided details about the medical or retirement plan when the plan documents and enrollment materials already do that? How much of it is even relevant to an employee on a day-in, day-out basis?
Employee handbooks and policies and procedures manuals are not the same thing. They each have specific uses and are appropriate in different circumstances. But a lot of our clients don’t understand the difference so they include a lot of things in the employee handbook that are better placed in a policies and procedures manual.
The best example we can think of to explain the difference between the two is to think of your car. In your glovebox [really!] there is an drivers’ manual. This manual seems long…but it really only provides you what information you need to make your car go, and help you resolve basic issues, like how to fill your washer fluid reservoir, or how to find and use the jack to change a tire. What the drivers’ manual does not tell you is how to change brake pads, replace struts, or resolve why your ‘Check Engine’ light is illuminated. That is way too much detail for the typical driver who just needs basic information to operate the car. All that other stuff is in the shop manual, the place the mechanic goes to make the repair properly. In other words, the employee handbook is like the drivers’ manual in that it tells employees important information they need to do their job, and the policies and procedures manual is like the shop manual the helps those who manage a process or program can do it completely and consistently.
We recommend that you keep your employee handbook concise and as readable as possible. Ideally 35 to 45 pages is best. Details about how to process leaves, expense reports, etc. can be kept in the policies and procedures manual for the people who need to do the actual processing and when employees have specific questions that require a more detailed response.
Bottom line…you should have both an employee handbook and a policies and procedures manual for personnel and other administration activities. Keeping the manual succinct and oriented to what employees and managers need to do their jobs on daily basis is the right way to go.
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