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Why you need an employee handbook

10/07/2024 2024/07

It's impressive to see what companies can do nowadays as part of their HR work: a coaching app that supports employees' mental health, a chatbot for labour law issues, a vending machine for healthy lunches that uses AI to evaluate sales and uses this information to tailor the offer to the preferences of the workforce... It all sounds very interesting and very useful and can certainly bring benefits if the basis of HR work is right. Basically, employees want to get answers to their concerns and questions quickly - you could almost say that the quieter the HR work runs, the better. An employee handbook is therefore a good way to relieve the burden on the HR department and create more orientation for employees.

What is an employee handbook?

In the Anglo-American world, employee handbooks are already widespread in many companies. They not only contain answers to frequently asked questions, but also an overview of applicable regulations and those processes in which employees come into contact with HR once or several times a year. An employee handbook also serves as an overview of who is responsible for which topics and refers to currently applicable forms. In German companies, an employee handbook can also summarise the existing company agreements and provide information about possible benefits.

What is the purpose of an employee handbook?

The purpose of an employee handbook is to summarise all information at a glance. This not only benefits new employees during onboarding, but also "old hands" when certain regulations apply to them for the first time. The information on parental leave, for example, only becomes relevant when the offspring are on the way, and a few months later you start to be interested in so-called child sick days. In such cases, people are happy to contact the HR department - or perhaps there is a flyer on the intranet? An employee handbook offers a central point of contact for such and other questions, where all information is stored in its current version.

What does an employee handbook look like?

The employee handbook is a digital document that is kept up to date and contains links to further information or forms. It usually has a corporate design. In addition to the content, the selected images and design give employees a sense of how their company "ticks". Alternatively, an employee handbook can also be organised on the intranet in the style of a wiki, i.e. an encyclopaedia or glossary. It is important that the employee handbook can be easily searched to enable intuitive use.

What are the advantages of an employee handbook?

Firstly, an employee handbook provides orientation for new and long-serving employees. At the same time, it sets out current processes, such as those relating to annual employee appraisals or registration for training courses, so that managers in all departments work according to the same procedures. This creates transparency and reliability. By bundling the answers to frequently asked questions in a centralised location, the HR department is relieved and can better deal with strategic and operational issues. Last but not least, an employee handbook also serves to inform everyone in the company about their rights and obligations. In the event of any breaches of applicable regulations, the handbook can also serve as a basis for disciplinary judgements.


What are the benefits of an employee handbook?

In addition to the aforementioned guidance for employees and reducing the workload for the HR department, an employee handbook is also an important tool for internal employer branding. The internal tone of voice is influenced by how the texts are designed. A modern employee handbook can support cultural change, especially if a new, fresh breeze is desired in the company. But be careful - it's not just about the tone of the texts, but also about the spirit of the regulations they contain. If employees have to request the issue of every pencil, the use of first names in the employee handbook alone does not contribute to a positive, trusting climate.

What do I need to consider when creating an employee handbook?

The first step is, of course, to ensure that the content is as complete and up-to-date as possible. You should therefore compile the latest version of all applicable regulations, company agreements and policies. In addition, the information on legal regulations should be reliable. Links to external sites should be checked regularly. Likewise, the named contact persons and their contact details must be updated as necessary. The employee handbook should also be clearly organized and tailored to all user groups; alternatively, you can offer a version in plain language that provides information on all regulations in a particularly understandable way.

Ideally, an employee handbook is created in collaboration between the HR department, management, works council (if applicable) and marketing or corporate communications or employer branding.

How much work does it take to create an employee handbook?

Depending on the size of the company and its complexity, creating an employee handbook involves different amounts of work. If different locations or collective labour agreements each create their own framework conditions, the need for coordination for an overall handbook is correspondingly higher. Compiling the individual documents can also take some time. Finally, there is also the research into general legal framework conditions if no information sheets or similar are available. In the final step, the texts must be formulated and harmonised and the design determined. Our template gives you an initial idea of what your finished employee handbook could look like and what it should contain.

About the Author
Valeska Szalla
Development Consultant
Since 2017 I have been writing my success story at ARTS, where I can always add a new chapter through the various projects I have been involved in.

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