As a small business owner, you're loaded down with paperwork on a daily basis. Keeping up with it all can quickly become overwhelming, and it's often tempting to push the busywork aside in order to focus on the more fun aspects of your business.
But one thing you should never take lightly? Your employee handbook. This vital tool has more weight than many small business owners realize when it comes to running a smooth operation. In case you're wondering what the big deal is with employee handbooks, here are five good reasons to re-evaluate your priority list.
1. To Keep Your Workplace Safe
Safety is a major concern in any small business, regardless of the industry. Keeping both employees and customers safe at all times should be a top priority--and your employee handbook can help.
For the most secure workplace environment, include safety policies in your handbook. Specifically, the procedures you have in place that help your small business remain in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations.
In addition to those basic safety policies, your employee handbook needs to also explain what employees can expect during bad weather situations, as well as your commitment to ensure the wellbeing of staff members.
2. To Avoid Discrimination Lawsuits
Every small business owner is at risk for discrimination lawsuits...unless you include your policies regarding equal employment opportunity in your employee handbook.
It's not enough to simply note that you are an equal opportunity employer. To stop any acts by your team members that may be seen as discriminatory, you want to specifically detail within your handbook the ways in which your employees are expected to comply with anti-discrimination rules.
3. To Protect Valuable Information
Though it's not legally required for small businesses to have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or a conflict of interest statement, these documents are beneficial in protecting the proprietary information of your company.
NDAs and conflict of interest statements inform employees of what is private information and needs to be protected. Including these pieces of information in your employee handbook allows you to hold staff members accountable for leaking trade secrets.
4. To Outline Expectations
Conduct, dress code, ethics--these are all things that you want clearly defined and available for anyone who clocks in at your place of business. The employee handbook is the ideal place to outline any and all expectations you have of employees when they're on the job.
Additionally, this is a good section in which to incorporate any legal responsibilities that go along with each job description, especially if your business is government-regulated such as a healthcare facility.
5. To Create an Open Line of Communication
One of the most effective HR solutions for small business is the ability for employees to communicate openly with management. Your employee handbook is a good start. When written properly, this handbook gives employees all the information they need to succeed in your small business, and it increases employee engagement.
To get the most out of your handbook, hold regular staff meetings during which you address questions or concerns staff members may have regarding any section of the employee handbook, and update the policies as needed. This tells your team that you're open to change and that you truly care about their success.
Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.