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HR & Benefits News: Create A Handbook That Will Protect You

Chris Cooley, HR
Chris Cooley

HR & Benefits News is a monthly column by Chris Cooley, co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors.

One of the hardest things an employer deals with is how to get workers to give attention to policies and procedures.  In most states, employers are not required by law to issue an employee manual or handbook.  The decision is largely a practical matter and not a legal one. 

We do know an employee handbook is a great way to communicate your workplace expectations so your employees always know what their roles and duties are, as well as what you are willing to provide in return by way of compensation (both financial and otherwise), protection, and workplace safety. But there are two sides to everything. Some feel that it is a hindrance.

In this article, we will share some of the pros and cons and let you decide:

Pro: Employee handbooks are also a great resource to draw upon should you find yourself at odds with a member of your staff resulting in some form of legal action.

Con: The biggest con of an employee handbook is one that is either poorly written or somehow incomplete. In order to be a valuable resource, and one that both you and your staff can draw upon to help guide employment-related issues, it has to include enough information but not so restrictive that it inhibits you from running your company effectively.

Pro: An employer generally benefits from having an employee manual that specifically states the at-will relationship with the employee rather than leaving that unclear, helping to avoid legal risk.

Con: It takes time and/or money to create a thorough and properly written handbook. Because of this, we recommend using someone who is an expert at this and can help either write or review yours. Because investing in the handbook can often relay company expectations and protocol, you want to create one that gets attention.

Take a look at these five great suggestions from Fastcompany for writing or rewriting your employee handbook:

  1. Call it something else. Come up with a new name that engages employees, piques their curiosity, and conveys your company culture right off the bat. Examples can range from conventional (e.g., “Team Guide”) to unconventional (“The Way Things Work” or “Our How-To Book”).
  2. Start with your mission. The reason why your employees come to your workplace each day, and why they should be proud to work with you.
  3. Write policies that personify your company’s values. Rather than copy and paste generic policies into your handbook, explain your policies and your reasons behind them, and do it in a tone that’s consistent with the way you typically speak with your employees.
  4. Promote your perks. If you’ve invested in building programs or perks for employees, include them in your handbook. And don’t bury them deep in your table of contents–put them up front.
  5. Don’t attach it; present it. Be creative with how you present your handbook. Bring it to life with an interactive survey, playful quiz or a reward (like a coffee gift card) once read.

Work procedures and policies are not to be taken lightly and sometimes presenting it in a creative way can help relay these matters more effectively.


Holiday HR to ring in the season

It’s that time of year. The hustle and the bustle of holiday cheer abounds! This cheerful time of year can be a major issue for the grocery industry. Two prevalent issues that come to mind relate to time off issues and cultural differences. 

As a grocer, all of these are relevant. There is a culturally diverse nature to the grocery business in general, so all of these issues do come up. The key to handling these situations is to be prepared. In this article, we hope to shed some light on these issues and help to answer questions about holiday HR topics.

Bah Humbug. Time-off issues will come up. Time-off requests this time of year will start coming in quickly. There will be requests for personal time off, family events and unexpected sick days because cold and flu season is in full swing. There are always things we do not expect; however, there still is a business to run. HR policies and expectations should be set early in the onboarding phase of hiring and within the company’s handbook. Remind employees to plan in advance. That way, what does come as a surprise can be minimized.

In addition, having an action plan within the management tier of the grocery industry is just as important. Communicate with your management and high-level staff to diffuse possible issues. In some instances, employees may be able to work together to compromise and offer solutions to management. This not only shows great leadership skills but can maintain morale for the department. Having a problem-solving mindset can truly set someone up for future growth and promotion as well, so it is a win-win.

Celebrate diversity and holiday inclusiveness in the workplace. While you may be excited about the holidays, which may mean Thanksgiving and Christmas to you, don’t forget that many are celebrating a different season. Tens of millions of Americans don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, either as followers of non-Christian religions (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews—among others) or as individuals with no religious affiliation, possibly atheists or agnostics. Celebrating diversity and inclusiveness is about using the holiday celebration time with friends and family to build understanding and awareness of the traditions and beliefs of others. 

Keeping the emphasis on these areas will allow everyone to feel like part of your grocer family and keep morale and trust at a high level. Be respectful of these differences by taking an interest in other people’s traditions and making them feel welcome. Don’t be afraid to ask people what holidays they celebrate. We are all different and we are all human and for that, we have many things to share, and should celebrate that as well.

Prevent holiday HR stress with a strong HR team. In summary, use HR practices and policies to make clear to employees what your expectations are. Be sure to look at the holiday time off and pay policies toward the end of the summer/early fall to be sure you know what your business practices are, including how holiday pay can differ. It’s also not a bad idea to know how other businesses (including your competitors) are handling this important area.

For more information on HR topics or Handbook Information contact Chris Cooley at 855-538-6947 Ext. 108 or email [email protected]. To order a Handbook Review or complete Handbook Order, contact [email protected] or visit and click the “order” button at the top of the website.

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