Now that you’ve put in the prep work, it’s time to focus on the tangible steps of your project. This means bringing in departments across your company and working on a project timeline.
Pick a few people you trust. Keep the team small.
Who Can Add Value?
You’ll want to start with a small team in the beginning; we all know that saying about too many cooks in the employee handbook. Different perspectives can feel like potential obstacles, but instead, reflect on ways in which multiple viewpoints can result in more comprehensive, beneficial handbook.
Does IT need to support any software you select? If so, they’ll probably have questions for the vendor you choose. If your organization is audited as a requirement for obtaining certain certifications (e.g. SOC 2), you may want to ask IT or finance about reporting requirements.
Will your new policies have an impact on sister companies, subsidiaries, departments, or parent companies? If you’re a global company, you may want to involve HR from another part of the world. By including HR colleagues from other locations or divisions, you have the opportunity to consider the needs of all employees.
The Right People at the Right Time
As you identify potential collaborators, consider when to involve them. To give your project the greatest potential for success, working with these people at the right time is critical. For example, you’ll likely want to engage executive leadership early to let them know about policy changes and your proposed solutions, but you may also need to get budget approval for any outside counsel or software.
Attorneys / Legal
Engaging your attorneys early may prevent a rewriting frenzy later. While your attorneys review your existing handbook and flag areas that may invite litigation, you can gain buy-in for your recommended changes and identify areas to highlight your company culture.
Marketing / Design / Communications
In the initial planning stages, you may also want to talk to someone responsible for the brand, which can cover everything from visual design to editorial guidelines. To publish a guide that your employees will actually read, you’ll want to write it in the company voice and use a tone that’s conversational but still appropriate for communicating company policies.
Your marketing team can also provide recommendations and resources for copywriting and visual design. They can work with you to translate legal-speak into more digestible copy, and provide summaries about your company, your policies, and the reasons employees should care (your mission, purpose, cause, values, vision, etc.). With enough notice, your marketing team can plan their workload to support you when you’re ready.
Sometimes it’s not feasible to have internal support for writing or visual design, so there are other options you can consider. For example, a design, branding, or communications agency can help you create a friendlier, more engaging handbook; plus, there are always freelancers who are eager to take on a new client. By providing them with your brand and editorial guides, they can add some magic to all your hard work. Some policy management platforms (like Blissbook!) can even provide this as a service.
You can add emotional depth to your guide by including a brief statement from your CEO. It’s common practice for CEOs to provide a shareholder statement at the beginning of annual reports, so why not have your CEO write a short letter to your employees to serve as an introduction to your policies? Consider stories like why the company was founded and the importance it plays in the lives of employees, customers, and the community. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to build such a message, our other eBook: How to Write a Culture-First Employee Handbook, is an excellent resource.
Also, don’t feel like everything has to be in writing. Instead of a letter from your CEO, try a video where the CEO speaks directly to your company. This is a great way to show your employees how much they are valued, and it sets a tone that’s likely to be different from any other handbook they’ve seen. Companies who build the right culture find that they don’t need to write page after page.
Case Study: Policy Writing Process
When it comes to creating policies, many from scratch, Lindsey Kucharski has learned a lot about what works. Having been through it multiple times, she recommended the following process:
- She starts by writing the first draft of any policy, then she engages her team to review.
- From there, she looks for legal buy-in to make sure the policy works to protect the company.
- Then, if she has an internal communications or branding team, she looks to them to provide recommendations on tone.
- After that, she’ll bring in executive stakeholders to provide feedback.
Former Global HR Business Partner & HR Manager at Blue Prism
What’s the Plan?
Once you’ve defined your needs, who to involve, and your timing, you’re ready to develop your project plan. Some find it easier to start with the final product in mind, building backwards from the end state to the first discussion. By using a project management program, you can easily adjust timelines and communicate changes to all stakeholders. Since your handbook may take several months and require support from various departments, setting and communicating delivery dates will help keep your project on track.
Common milestones for an employee handbook overhaul project:
- Build the project foundation with leadership approval, vendor approval, and paperwork
- Implement, draft, and get new content approved (the lengthiest part of the project!)
- Prep for distribution with your IT department
- Implement design with your marketing or design team