I recently read an interesting blog from the HR Capitalist which questions what we can do to increase readership of a company’s Employee Handbook. The Employee Handbook is one of the Company’s most important communication tools and communicates Human Resource laws, as well as the company’s specific policies with respect to employee benefits and workplace policies. If employees aren’t reading it, you’re loosing the opportunity to establish a ground work for the employer-employee relationship and may also be opening yourself up to risk of non-compliance to certain laws. Typically an employee handbook is 25 plus pages of text and legal speak. The writing can be dry, boring and often overwhelming for an employee trying to take it all in. What can be done to make an employee handbook more interesting and hopefully increase usage and readership? It made me think of designing an employee handbook that is “out-of-the-box.” While I’m not suggesting the legal side of the employee handbook be neglected, think about writing in a way that will grab the reader and make it more palatable to read.
- Visually appealing – If the writing in the handbook were briefer and presented in bullet points, it would create more white space and be easier to read.
- Graphics – Typically there aren’t graphics in an employee handbook, but adding graphics could make certain sections pop and draw attention. Once you’ve got them reading, it’s likely they’ll continue.
- Tone – Most handbook are written in a dry business tone and while it’s important to maintain the professionalism of the handbook and keep all the necessary legalese, think about how you can write it in a way that captures the audience. Writing in a way that corresponds to the tone of your organization will likely increase readership. For example, if your company is more informal or has a younger workforce, then the handbook should be written with that in mind. That’s not to say the information isn’t the same, just the way in which it is delivered.
- Multi-media – Rather than a typical hard copy Employee Handbook, think about using technology. If your company has an intranet this can be a great medium to distribute the handbook. Think about how you will break up the topics so that it can be read in sections and easily referenced. Also, think about how you can use other types of media. For example, perhaps you can link a welcome video from the company CEO instead of a welcome letter, show a demonstration of an employee using your time clock and clocking in for work, or linking your benefit forms directly to the handbook. Integrating other types of media will break the monotony of reading.
- Tie in the business – Your employees are, hopefully, passionate about your business, so why not tie in what you do into your handbook? Think of a theme that relates to your business and develop the handbook around that theme – and have some fun with it! For example, a company that bakes sweets could write their handbook around a baking theme – first are the ingredients, then the recipe steps, decorations, etc. Tie in the sections of the handbook to each of these. This is where you’ll really need to be creative and think out-of-the-box.
We’re missing a great opportunity to connect with employees if they’re not reading the Employee Handbook. What ideas do you have to increase readership?