7 Tips for Creating a Modern Policy Manual

By Lance Haffner, Heartland – April 23, 2021
7 Tips for Creating a Modern Policy Manual

Do you dream of writing up a company policy manual on a Saturday night? No? You’re not alone. But operating without a well-written policy manual can put any business in a bind.

Policy manuals, which translate into employee handbooks for team members, have a variety of benefits. Whether it’s documenting workplace policies, complying with regulations or establishing team norms, the manual really is a must for any employer.

Here are seven tips for creating a modern policy manual:

  1. Start simple. Using a template will save you valuable time. You can check with government resources, like your state’s small business association or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, if a template isn’t cutting it, start small! Jot down a few bullet points on the topics most relevant to your business.
  2. Prioritize compliance. Research which laws are applicable to your business at the local, state and federal levels. Don’t forget that many laws and regulations become applicable based on industry and number of employees. It’s always wise to have an attorney review once you have a draft. But no matter your location or size, you’ll likely want to include boilerplate statements on compliance topics such as:
    1. Sexual harassment
    2. Discrimination
    3. Wage and hour (overtime)
    4. Workplace health and safety guidelines
  3. Address attendance. Setting expectations around attendance keeps employees from being surprised or frustrated. Can they miss a shift as long as they get it covered, or do they need manager approval? What documentation is needed for an unexpected sick day? Establishing the minimum expectations when it comes to attendance will save you and your team members a lot of frustration.
  4. Review the dress code. No one wants to have the awkward conversation about an inappropriate clothing choice. So be sure your dress code policies are straightforward. Provide both a category (business casual, professional, etc.) and examples that your staff can easily reference.
  5. Tell them what matters. Your manual can be more than just policies and employment standards. Workplace cultural norms and company values are most effective when laid out clearly from the start. For example, is relationship building the most important thing when your employees are working with clients, or do you prioritize efficiency first?
  6. Clarify social media boundaries. We’ve all seen viral videos where a post that was intended to be funny goes awry, resulting in reputational harm to the business and a terminated employee. If you aren’t comfortable with employees publishing anything they want online, a social media policy is a necessity. The goal isn’t to be overly restrictive, but rather to set clear boundaries (i.e., no making TikToks in the office).
  7. Give it a good name. While it’s perfectly fine to call your collection of policies and employment standards a policy manual or an employee handbook, consider something a little less bureau­cratic. Have some fun with it and make the title fit the ethos of your company.

Be sure to perform an annual review to keep things up to date; certain employment laws are triggered as you meet certain thresholds. When you need to adjust a policy or create a new one, simply note it in your master copy and work on it when time allows. What’s most important is that you make a plan. To quote famous author Simon Sinek, “The hardest part is starting. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll find the rest of the journey much easier.”

Heartland is a financial technology company that has affiliations with regional partners such as New Jersey-based Provident Bank to offer innovative business solutions in a variety of industries. Learn about Heartland at heartlandpaymentsystems.com.

Lance Haffner

Lance Haffner is the president of payroll solutions at Heartland, a financial technology company.

This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.