Handbook Policy or Procedure Manuals

Handbook Policy or Procedure Manuals – What’s the difference?

Many times when I’m asked to review employee handbooks, I find a mish-mash of policies, procedures, directives, and threats that contains pages and pages and pages of details most of which are out dated almost as soon as the handbook is printed. So what’s the difference between handbook policy or procedure manuals?

To keep this from happening, I always suggest that you write your policies with a “forty-thousand foot view” in mind, and leave the minutiae for your procedures or operating manual.  What I mean by this is that your handbook policy should be a summary of what you want employees to know, and leave the “how-to” out.  Your handbook should be a place where employees get an understanding of what is expected of them and directs them to their managers for day to day directions.  Your employee handbook policies should set up the essential terms and conditions that outline the employee relationship without going into the “how” and the “why”.

Understanding Handbook Policy or Procedure Manuals – This is what your handbook should include:  

  1. Cover the “at-will” relationship between the company and it’s employees. Ensure your handbook has the proper disclaimers and notices that will clearly define the employment relationship.
  2. Include an Acknowledge of Receipt form that all employees must sign and return to the Human Resources Department for inclusion in their personnel file.
  3. Have policies that show your compliance with federal and state laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the American’s with Disabilities Act.
  4. Give clear direction to employees where they can take complaints and concerns, along with suggestions and ideas that will benefit the company.
  5. Provide your employees with a list of accepted behaviors and grounds for corrective actions when violations occur.

Procedures manuals on the other hand, should contain all of the directions a manager needs to safely and effectively manage employees.  And remember – your managers are the intended audience not your general employee population.  Be sure your managers understand that this manual is for them, and hold them accountable to maintain it’s confidentiality.

Typically a procedures manual will drill down to describing how your policies are implemented, and who has responsibility to ensure they are enforced.  Your procedures manual may include forms, checklists, guidelines, and who is next in command when tough or litigious decisions need to be made.

At the end of the day, both employee handbook policies and procedure manuals are necessary to a smoothly running company.  Just remember, each book has a different audience and a different purpose.