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14 things every employee manual should include

5 min read


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Q. What is the most important thing to include in your employee manual and why?

1. Clearly explained confidentiality rules

Since startups often deal with sensitive information, it’s critical that every new hire be very clear on confidentiality policies and how they apply in real-world settings, including family. Sometimes information leaks can be malicious, but it’s much more likely that someone’s mom or roommate will inadvertently share something on Facebook (out of excitement) that she didn’t realize was confidential. — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

2. Videos

Most people are visual learners, so while you could fill your employee manual with long checklists and written content, video will convey much faster. Video is especially useful for training step by step and showing examples of what you expect. Screen capture video software like Jing is free, and everyone on our team uses it to create this type of video. — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

3. HR guidelines

The most important thing to include in your employee manual are the HR guidelines so they can understand the rules of formal operation. Understanding this formality will ensure your employees’ success and growth in your organization, if they are willing. — Jon Cline, Rokit SEO

4. Operating guide from earlier employees

When going through team member transitions, some important details can be glossed over. When your workers tell you that they are leaving the company, kindly ask them to write a letter for their replacements with tips and tricks that will make the job easier. Over the years, you can add these letters to the employee manual and filter out unnecessary or outdated information as needed. — Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

5. Core values

Make sure that your employee manual includes the core values of your company, in addition to the typical legal and procedure text. Including core values in your employee manual will make sure that the key tenets of your business are accessible to your whole team. Core values should be a critical guiding light for the company, so inclusion in the employee manual is key. — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

6. Culture code

The culture is the foundation of the company. It is what matters most to a business as it is the key to recruiting and retaining talent. People want to work for companies with a great culture and strong values, so make sure to clearly document the culture of the company in your employee manual. == Randy Rayess, VenturePact

7. Legal disclaimers

It’s great to make a friendly, down-to-earth employee manual, but it’s also important to protect your business and make sure you include appropriate legal disclaimers regarding disciplinary procedures, employment contracts and rights of modification. For that matter, it’s a really smart investment to get a lawyer to review the employee handbook for potential legal issues before you release it. — Jared Brown, Hubstaff

8. Employee growth opportunities

While much of an employee manual is based on company rules and functionality (vacation policy, NDA, sick days, etc.), at ZinePak we like to focus on the individual employee as well. Within our handbook we outline ways in which employees can personally grow at our company. From online classes to conferences, we want employees to know the importance of constantly evolving to be their personal best. — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

9. “Day One” expectations

We send our company handbook to new employees soon after they accept their offer letter. My favorite section is titled “Day One.” Here, we lay out what’s expected, dress code, typical day, breakfast/lunch routine, software they should set up, etc. The worst part about showing up for a new job is getting there and feeling immediately out of place and asking for things when everybody else is busy. — Anthony Scherba, Yeti

10. Complaint procedures

It’s unfortunate when employees have to file a complaint for unsafe or inconsiderate workplace behavior, but it does happen. Give them the tools and info they need to protect themselves from potential discrimination or harassment by clearly outlining procedures for filing complaints. You want your employees to feel that you’ll protect them from unfair or bigoted behavior. — Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff

11. Employee bill of rights

At Adzerk, we include an employee bill of rights for what we feel are the inalienable rights of an employee. Things like unlimited vacation, freedom to work from home, ability to work on non-conflicting side projects, and insurance for them and their families. — James Avery, Adzerk

12. Customer information security policies

In today’s day and age, every business handles sensitive customer information. We’ve all been on the phone with customer support where we found it just a little too easy to get our own information out of them without being asked any verifying questions. Each company needs policies regarding who’s authorized to look at and release that information and what needs to happen before it’s released. — Brian Fritton, Patch of Land

13. Employee expectations

Look, we’re a startup. I don’t need dress codes or attendance policies. I need to know that people are going to deliver, the way I expect, all the time. Expectations about communication, client treatment, colleague interactions and what good work looks like here are best enforced the first week — AKA the only time anyone reads a manual. — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

14. Social media policy

Every business is on social media these days, but unfettered employee access to social media accounts can be a risk. It’s important to work with a lawyer to make sure you have a comprehensive (and legally valid) social media policy in your handbook that outlines appropriate use of branded accounts, as well as how employees can use social media while in the workplace. — Basha Rubin, Priori Legal