Your employee handbook is only useful and an effective employee handbook when it’s read and understood by all of your employees. But unfortunately, the majority of handbooks are created with the law and policies in mind, giving no thought to the people who are actually going to be reading them. Your employees!
Your handbook is of no use to anyone if the information is quickly skimmed at the beginning of the onboarding process, then never to be remembered again. To make sure the content that you’re delivering is fully retained by your staff, it’s crucial that you write your handbook in a way that gets them engaged and excited. But what exactly separates an average employee handbook from an effective one? For that, we’ll take a look at how to make your handbook clear, compelling, and oh so captivating!
Skip the legalese in your employee handbook
Have you ever read a book or article and switched off when they started using complex language you didn’t understand? You’re not alone. In fact, a study published by US researchers argued that using specialized jargon (such as legalese) when communicating with readers doesn’t just make the language hard to understand, it can actually turn readers off.
When your employees are reading through your handbook and they come across tons of legalese, it acts as a signal telling them ‘they don’t belong’. Their brain will indicate that the message isn’t for them and so they will skip the jargon and move on.
We recommended avoiding legalese and breaking the complex language down into easy-to-understand chunks. To do this, ask yourself;
- How would I explain this to a ten-year-old?
- What are the key messages here?
- How can I shorten and simplify this section?
If you haven’t got the time to do this, AirMason can whiz through your copy and transform it into a friendly, simple format that’s easy for everyone to understand.
Focus on culture and reiterate your values/mission/vision
Employee engagement goes hand in hand with a strong company culture. When employees fully understand what is expected of them and what they’re working towards, they are much more likely to be deeply engaged and committed to their role.
This is why all effective handbooks focus heavily on culture, and fully explain the company’s values, mission and vision to inspire their team and ensure everyone is on board.
It’s a great idea to include these at the beginning of your handbook. This is so they are fresh in your employee’s minds before they get bogged down with policies and procedures.
Remove the divisive language in your handbook
The enemy of employee engagement is having a strict hierarchy, and this can be reflected in your employee handbook when you use language like ‘employer’ vs ‘employee’. When your employees feel like it’s you against them, it creates a divide making them feel unimportant and disengaged.
Instead, you need to close this divide and create a family-feel by using inclusive language, such as ‘we’ and ‘us’. This will automatically make your employees feel more engaged because it feels like you are asking them to join in rather than telling them what to do.
No one likes being bossed around and this is exactly the same for your employees. Make them feel valued, respected and important and your employee engagement levels will catapult as a result.
Bring some life to your handbook by using imagery
Images don’t just look nice, they’re actually essential in ensuring your employee handbook is effective and engaging. According to Brain Rules when people read information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of it three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
So, to avoid that awful wall of long, boring text which absolutely no one wants to read. Think about where you can place images to break your text up and keep readers actively interested and engaged. Below are some examples of where you can easily add images to animate your points:
- Company Culture – Use images to illustrate your culture. For example, if your company culture is all about honesty, kindness and being supportive, why not include an image of your team smiling and laughing with one another.
- Policies – Use imagery to reflect certain policies. For example, if you want your staff to dress smart/casual include a photo of what this ‘does’ and ‘does not’ look like.
- Meet the Team – If you include a ‘meet the team’ section in your handbook (which we highly recommend) you can insert headshots of your senior leadership team. This will help employees familiarize themselves with their colleagues making them feel involved and engaged.
Think beyond the policies and procedures for your employee handbook
To make your employee handbook efficient and effective it has to be more than a list of policies and procedures.
Think about it like this, you give your employee the handbook and they are immediately faced with a list of demands of you telling them what to do. It’s all about you and nothing about them. This is an absolute disaster for employee engagement.
To get employees interested in what you’re saying, you have to make the employee handbook about them too. Let them know why your business is a great place to work and why they’ll be staying with you long-term. Assuming they’re engaged just because they got the job is a tad naive and can lead to your new starters feeling disappointed and discouraged. So how do you make the handbook about them too?
- Talk about the benefits that you offer – Do you offer; health insurance, discounts, workplace schemes, complimentary food and drink, company trips, flexi-time etc.
- Discuss their opportunities within the workplace – How can they progress? Do you offer career frameworks? Are regular pay reviews commonplace in your workplace?
- Let them know what it’s like to work with you – It’s fun and exciting at your workplace, right? Your new employees don’t know this, so shout about it in your handbook. Let them know what it’s like to work for you and what they should expect on a typical day. This will get them excited and motivated.