How many pages is your employee handbook? Count them…go on…then come back in an hour when you’re done. The one I’m looking at is 106 pages*…God Almighty! First of all, I understand the importance of covering our bases to the Nth degree in this crazy messed up litigious world (or country) that we live in. It’s a pain, but it is what it is. Employee handbooks, though, are like layers of paint in that guest bedroom you’ve been meaning to remodel. Someone put the first version on eons ago and then every HR or legal occupant since then has added their own flair and personality and style. But they didn’t take the time to clean it up…they just piled on. Now you have something bigger than the King James and chances are your employees – new, existing, or old – don’t come close to consulting it when they should. So here’s a little exercise in remodeling: It’s called blow it up and start from scratch. I’m going to demonstrate how easy it really is.
ALCOHOL & DRUG USE POLICY (TRADITIONAL VERSION)*
5 Typed Pages…
ALCOHOL & DRUG USE POLICY (REMODELED VERSION)
86 Words…Don’t do drugs or drink alcohol at work or while driving company vehicles. Don’t buy or sell drugs at work. We retain the right to test you for drug and/or alcohol use at any time for any reason. If you are in a work related accident, you will be required to be tested as soon as it is medically safe for you to be tested. If you are found to be in violation of this policy, you will be subject to employment action up to and including termination
POLICY AGAINST HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION (TRADITIONAL VERSION)*
2 Typed Pages…
POLICY AGAINST HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION (REMODELED VERSION)
158 Words…”Harassment” is behavior of a nature that is unwelcome and offensive or insulting to the person or persons by whom it is received (directly or indirectly) . “Discrimination” can be the result of harassment, but is generally manifested in some detriment to you and your position in the organization on the basis of gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, or any other group protected by State or Federal law. We don’t tolerate either and we take both seriously. If you believe you are being harassed or discriminated against, you have a duty to bring it to either the attention of a superior or Human Resources. That superior then has a duty to report it to Human Resources who will then respond to the matter professionally and maturely. If you bring said matter to the attention of the superior or to HR in “good faith” you can not and will not be retaliated against by the company or its representatives.
You get the point. And don’t copy and paste this into your handbook without having the appropriate authorities (including your employment attorneys) taking a look at it. But challenge them on any stance they take to go much beyond this. If a policy is more than a paragraph, the policy might as well not exist. Sure, you may cover your bases by having one. But isn’t the real purpose to have your people read, recall, observe, and enforce those policies? That’s a really hard thing to do when most of them can’t even lift the thing.
*Actual employee handbook from actual employer (not an employer I have now or in the past had any direct affiliation with).
Photo Credit: Wilson’s Almanac
Other Posts Related to Simplifying HR Communications (and other stuff)
Xpert HR, If I Could Change One Thing about HR: Katherine Connolly…