Throughout history, there has been an expectation that employees turn up to work on a set schedule.
Whether it’s the classic 9-5, Monday through Friday, or three 12-hour shifts, the belief has always been we get the best out of people when they’re in the office. Safe to say, businesses around the world as realising this might not be the case any longer.
In fact, if the past decade has shown us anything, it’s that team members can be just as, if not more productive, working independently or remotely. This is just one of the many reasons companies have begun experimenting with a hybrid schedule.
While hybrid schedules, where employees can work remotely throughout the week, provide a better work-life balance, it also creates a lingering problem for employers.
How do you keep employee engagement high when teams are working from home?
Truthfully, it’s a question that business leaders and HR professionals have been wrestling with. For current employees, having open lines of communication and frequent team meetings can help keep them engaged. However, for new employees, it can be a little more complicated.
One of the best ways to improve employee engagement for both new and current employees is through the employee handbook.
A great employee handbook is a superb way to engage with staff who are remote or independent. It provides a central location where employers can share information and answer questions that new employees might have. Using a platform like AirMason to create a digital version of the employee handbook can also help bring things into the 21st century and provide a modern, exciting take on onboarding.
Let’s dive in and explore how a great employee handbook can help your company grow employee engagement.
5 Ways Your Employee Handbook Benefits Your Team
Some business leaders see the employee handbook as a place to simply lay out the policies and guidelines that workers should abide by. Although every employee handbook does have these components, it can also provide other benefits for your team.
For example, handbooks are a great way to:
✓ Improve the onboarding experience
✓ Showcase your company culture
✓ Establish transparency and set the tone for employer-employee comms
✓ Set out the values you live by
✓ Help increase communication overall
1) Improve Your Onboarding Experience
Companies are always looking for ways to improve the onboarding process and create a welcoming environment for new employees. The employee handbook is one tool which often gets overlooked. While everyone may have one, most organizations use them to just reference policies and protocols, missing out on some key opportunities: to present your culture, highlight the things you want new hires to get excited about, and overall talk about more than “just the legal bit”.
Employee handbooks featuring pictures of current employees at company events or around the office can create excitement for new hires. Likewise, if you have a digital version of your handbook, videos are another great way to build excitement for the first day on the job.
Most of all, a well-laid-out handbook can help calm the nerves of a new team member. It can be overwhelming starting a new position with an organization you have never been a part of. Having a handbook that lays out the expectations and provides vital information while actually introducing them to the team and “who you are” as a business can help build confidence for the first day.
2) Showcase Your Company Culture
Your employee handbook is much more than just a source of information for your team. If done correctly, you can embed your company culture and the values you thrive upon from day one, which will ultimately increase the engagement, fit and therefore longevity of new hires.
While many organizations often opt for a traditional black and white handbook with a professional, conservative writing tone, there are opportunities to push the boundaries a little. For instance, if your brand has more whimsical characteristics, then work that into the welcome letter, the benefits talk, the pieces which don’t require as much “legalese”. Trying writing in more of a conversational tone, adding humour here and there where appropriate, or generally writing in the way that you would in fact speak to staff.
Another way to truly display your culture is to add the evidence! For instance, those who stress a “family first” approach could consider adding photos from company events where family members were invited along to attend. If your culture focuses around giving back to the local community, get out into that community and share the photos and outcomes. Maybe your culture is all about ongoing learning; get someone in to take some snaps of a conference you’re planning on attending or a recent in-house training session. Including all of these pieces in the handbook is another excellent way to build employee engagement for both current and incoming employees.
Here are a couple of other ways you might be able to work culture into your employee handbook:
- Showcase any traditions your company might have
- Outline your mission statement and core values
- Explain what success looks like for the company
- Get the team involved! Don’t have the entire handbook written by the senior leadership team – include quotes or anecdotes on different aspects of the business from employees at all levels
3) Establish a Feeling of Transparency
Many employees cite transparency as one of the most important factors they look for in an employer. As a business leader or HR professional, it is crucial that employees understand what is happening. That could be something as simple as a change in benefits, or it could be big, like acquiring another company.
The employee handbook is one way to establish this feeling of transparency between the company and your employees. Company policies should be outlined thoroughly and often revisited to ensure any updates are made – and, more importantly, communicated – regularly.
Benefits information is another area where complete transparency is needed. Most employee handbooks will have a section that explains what benefits are offered and a brief description of each.
Other information that should be included in your employee handbook to promote transparency includes:
- Compensation information – how staff are paid, and when
- The ways you approach performance management
- Diversity and inclusion statements and activities
- Details on company goals and expansions – what might their journey here look like?
- Your approach to progression, promotions and hiring internally
4) Keep Your Team Informed
One of the keys to employee engagement is information. Team members operate best when they have all the information they need to understand their role, their place in the company, and to know who to contact if they need more clarification on something. If there isn’t a spot to look up company policies, it can be challenging to determine the proper protocol.
Without an official handbook to reference, oftentimes a new team member will ask their teammate about policies, whether it be for PTO, time tracking, how this or that works. This is exactly how people get the wrong idea and, later, when corrected, can feel stilted or confused. Having a detailed employee handbook can eliminate the accidental spread of information.
An employee handbook with updated information can also cut down on the time it takes for an employee to receive an answer about their benefits or a specific policy like reporting a workers’ compensation claim. This also saves time for your HR or leadership team in dealing with enquiries which could be resolved quickly and easily, online.
When reviewing your handbook, you will want to make sure you have thoroughly explained topics such as:
- Time tracking & management
- Vacation & PTO
- Disciplinary procedures
5) Increase Communication with Employees
As with many things in life, communication plays an essential role in improving employee engagement. The good news is that your employee handbook is an excellent resource for opening lines of communication with your team.
Not only is it a place you can refer them to when they have a question, but it is also a tool they can use independently. Generally, new employees can be nervous when it comes to asking questions. The handbook allows them to research common questions and have conversations around essential company policies (you could even have it host a whole Q&A convo with AirMason’s custom Q&A template!).
Handbooks can also be a great way to create a dialog between departments. This is especially true if you are looking to update your existing manual.
Having multiple teams pitch in to help create different sections of the handbook can help give it a more personal touch and open lines of communication between departments.
What Questions Should Your Employee Handbook Answer to Improve Employee Engagement?
In addition to the benefits your employee handbook offers to team members, it should also be an information resource. There are several questions that you should aim to answer through your handbook. The types of questions you seek to answer with your content should be specific to your organization.
One way to uncover the most important answers your employees need is to speak with them directly. Having conversations about what information they wish they had during their first year with the organization is a great place to start.
If you are still unsure about what questions should be answered to help improve overall employee engagement, consider the following to get you started:
→ What can I expect working here?
→ What is the culture and vision of the organization?
→ What benefits will I receive working here?
→ In what ways will I be supported when remotely?
→ What should I do if I need to report an incident?
→ Who should I contact for more information on ___?
Let’s explore some of these questions further below.
What Can the Employee Expect Working Here?
One of the most popular questions in the interview process tends to be, “What can I expect working here? While a fair question, most interviewers will respond in a couple of ways. You may have heard or used some of these responses:
- “You can expect to be challenged and given opportunities to grow.”
- “You will notice quickly that everyone here is like a family. We all support each other and offer help when needed.”
- ‘You will be provided with opportunities to work on several exciting projects within your first couple of months of working here.”
Even though these responses might be accurate, it can be challenging for a new employee to completely understand what life at the organization looks like.
That is where your employee handbook can be beneficial.
Having a dedicated section in your handbook that walks employees through what it is like to work with your organization can be a great way to boost the excitement of new team members. When crafting this section of the culture book, you will want to think about potentially adding some of the following items:
- A walkthrough of their first 7, 30, 90 days
- Testimonials from current employees explaining their experience with the organization
- Success stories of employees who have been promoted internally
- Photos of team events or holiday parts to help showcase your company culture
- Past awards or projects that had a significant impact on the company
- A detailed “day in the life” section that spells out what a typical day may look like working in a specific department
Ultimately, it is impossible to share too many details when highlighting what employees should expect when joining your organization.
What is the Culture and Vision of the Organization?
In today’s workplace, culture is often rated as one of the most important factors a new employee looks for in an organization. Having the right culture can mean an abundance of things to many different people.
For some, culture means more than just flexible PTO and vacation. It definitely goes beyond ping pong tables and bean bags in the office. While perks and benefits certainly play a part, your company culture is about how you communicate with and respect one another, the approach you take to tasks and challenges, and the values you all embody. With a wide range of expectations for an organization’s culture and vision, businesses need to be upfront about what potential employees should expect.
Having a section dedicated to your culture where you specifically call out the way you do things can help in this regard. Don’t be afraid to include all the positives of working at your organization.
If your company invites everyone to a happy hour once a month, mention that – although as an opportunity to invite idea sharing and developmental talks, rather than just selling on the free drinks! If you have box seats at a local sporting venue that employees can enjoy with their families, make sure that makes it into your employee handbook.
Regardless of what it is, if it makes your company stand out, it should be included in your handbook.
What Benefits Does an Employee Have Working Here?
For many people, like it or not, benefits are the ultimate deciding factor regarding whether to accept a company position or not. Once an employee starts with the organization, benefits information becomes even more important. Having a centralized location where everyone can go to find answers to their questions is crucial.
The employee handbook is often a great place to house this information for two reasons.
- Since everyone will have questions about their benefits, placing it in the handbook will mean a higher likelihood of other sections being read.
- Companies with a digital handbook have opportunities to link additional information for benefits that allow employees to explore granular details about policies and coverages.
Another main reason you should have the benefits information in your employee handbook is that it adds another level of transparency. By supplying employees with access to benefits and their associated costs, team members will be less likely to be surprised if and when they start paying for coverage. No surprises along the way!
In What Ways are Employees Supported Remotely?
As mentioned earlier in the article, many companies have shifted to either a hybrid schedule or offer the option to work remotely. Even though this is excellent for work-life balance and culture, it can pose other challenges that need to be addressed.
One of the biggest questions you will want to answer in the employee handbook is, “How are we supporting remote team members?”
Providing an outline in your employee handbook that lays out resources for those working remotely is a great first step. In this section, you will want to cover items such as:
- What equipment you’ll provide to remote employees
- What to do if a team member is experiencing technical difficulties
- The dos and don’ts of virtual meetings
Another big component with remote employees is setting the expectations of what a workday should look like. It can be easy to become distracted at home and start focusing on other items such as housework, kids, or pets.
It might not be a big deal for some organizations for team members to step away from their computers throughout the day. However, if your company requires that each employee be online from 9-5, you will want to make sure it is clearly laid out in the employee handbook.
Tips to Improve Employee Engagement with the Company Handbook
No matter how well your current employee handbook is put together, there are always opportunities for improvement. That may mean adding more photos of current employees, fleshing out the benefits section, or fine-tuning the content to be more conversational and engaging.
Here are a few ideas you may want to consider the next time you update your employee handbook.
Get Rid of the “Employee Handbook” Name
While not necessary, there can be benefits to ditching the “employee handbook” name. For instance, instead of keeping with the traditional vocabulary, try something different, like calling it a “Culture Guide” or the House Rules”.
There are several great examples of current companies doing this already. Netflix, for example, uses the phrase “Employee Culture Guide” to describe its handbook. The Motley has also given their employee handbook the name “Fool’s Rules.”
Both of these examples demonstrate how you can showcase your culture by simply changing the name of your employee manual.
Giving a unique name to the handbook also serves another purpose. It is something fun that new employees can share with their friends and family, helping to spread the word of a fun culture within the organization. This itself may lead to an increase in employee referrals, so everyone’s a winner.
Promote Unique Perks and Benefits
Every company offers basic benefits, which makes it more important to highlight any unique perks or benefits that make your organization stand out.
It doesn’t have to be nap pods and foosball tables, but if your company has a unique perk like a healthy living program, you should call it out.
Instead of just listing the perks in the manual, try adding a little creativity to it. For example, if your organization does a company picnic each year, showcase some of the photos.
Some businesses that have relationships with the local restaurants will also include free meal tickets to have lunch during their first week on the job.
Present the Employee Handbook in a Unique Way
Many organizations struggle with getting their employees to engage with the company handbook because of how it is presented.
Often the book is more of a list of policies and guidelines written with long paragraphs and complex language. Not only does this make it difficult for team members to read through the manual in one sitting, but it can become tiresome.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to present your employee handbook in a unique way that will promote employee engagement. For example, companies like Zappos have turned their handbook into a comic in the past. Using the pages to tell a story while still presenting the necessary information for employees.
Here are a few other ideas you may want to consider:
- Turn your current handbook into a digital handbook with the help of a company like AirMason
- Make reading the employee handbook a scavenger hunt where employees have to find a set of hidden words to obtain a gift card or other small prize
- Use shortened paragraphs and simple phrasing to make the content easier to digest
- Give sections skimmable headings that will make it easier to find information quickly – better yet, make them fully searchable with the use of AirMason’s auto-navigation builder
Ultimately, how you present your employee handbook is only limited by your own imagination. For inspiration, here are some of the clients that have worked with AirMason to craft a digital version of their handbook.
Learn How AirMason Can Help Make it Easy for Employees to Engage with Your Employee Handbook
Organizations are always looking for new ways to engage with their employees. While perks like sporting tickets, happy hours, and fitness center reimbursement can all help with employee engagement, there are simple things you can do to achieve similar results.
A well-structured employee handbook that showcases an organization’s culture has been proven to be one of the most effective tools to engage your staff. Not only does it provide transparency into the inner workings of the company, but it also allows employees to feel confident in the work they are performing.
If your organization is considering updating your current employee handbook, it could be beneficial to consider creating a digital version.
A digital employee handbook with AirMason can be quickly edited and customized to match your company’s brand. It also features a search function that will allow employees to quickly move through the book when they have a question. Most of all, your handbook will be available to employees as a mobile-responsive website.