The Employee Handbook Project: Company Culture and Legal Language

Dennis Crowley kitchen mtg Flickr

The intent of the Employee Handbook Project is to create a useful, easy to understand employee handbook that helps your company to grow and balances communicating the culture of your organization with legal protections for your business.

I hope that you will be excited to join in and leave your comments below.

In the first post, we announced that the Employee Handbook Project was beginning. Nothing has happened yet, however.  Now it’s time to get down to business.

Company Culture and Legal Language

The Employee Handbook has three objectives:

1 – communicating company culture, in familiar terms, who, what, where, why, and how.

2 – providing legal protection for the company in case of disputes

3 – communicating specific rights and benefits of employment

You can be most creative in the first section, the Introduction. Busy company owners often gloss over this area, but it is an ideal place to start educating your employees that “This is a special place to work.”

 INTRODUCTION

The Introduction is divided into these parts:

1.     Welcome to the Company!

2.     Company Profile

3.     Mission Statement

Here is a generic example of all three sections:

Welcome to the Company!

Example

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Company. We are happy that you have chosen to join our team and we look forward to working with you to reach our common goals.

You have joined an organization that has established an outstanding reputation for quality products and services. Credit for this goes to every one of our employees. We hope you too, will find satisfaction and take pride in your work here.

John Q. Sample

CEO

Company Profile

Example

John Q. Sample founded the Company over 20 years ago with a single idea, which has grown to a diverse group of products and services. The Company provides products and services used by consumers everywhere. We were founded with a single mission, to satisfy the needs of our customers. With offices around the area, the Company has become a leader in its industry.

 Mission Statement

Example

The Company is committed to becoming the industry’s leading product and service enterprise through:

  • Continuous refinement of the quality of our products and services
  • Expanding our capabilities
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Superior level of customer service
  • Setting the standard of excellence in the industry

Pretty straightforward! But have fun with it, and take it seriously as well. Here are a few well-known examples from companies that are leaders in their industry:

Google: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful (its famous motto is: “Don’t be evil.”).

Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Nordstrom’s: to provide outstanding service every day, one customer at a time.

Southwest Airlines: To connect People to what’s important in their lives though friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.

Let’s linger a bit more on this nebulous idea of “company culture.”  It is not just a pretty slogan or a marketing message.  It is the far more important idea of “how we do everything here.”  In other words, the strongest companies have found successful ways of satisfying their customers, and they train every new employee how to do it their (successful) way.  The mission statement’s contribution to the company culture is to create an environment.  “To provide outstanding service every day, one customer at a time.”  “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  The role of all company policies, therefore, follows from this mission, and provides the internal structure to support it.  No company can shake free from a state of mediocrity unless it provides a unifying mission, supports it with policies supporting that mission, and follow those principles in its daily interactions.

PREFACE

In contrast with the Introduction, the Preface is loaded with legal language. In the Introduction and Preface, you have the essential yin and yang of an Employee Handbook – welcome to the company, followed by showing who’s the boss! But both are necessary types of communication. Below is a sample Preface, with all the tough legal language that a good Employee Handbook should have. The three most important points are:

  1. The employee has an obligation to read, understand and comply with the handbook
  2. The handbook is a summary of general information, and the Company has the right to change policies at any time.
  3. The handbook is not an employment contract. Employment is “at will.” This will be discussed in more length later.

Example

This handbook is designed to give you general information about the Company and an overview of some of the policies, programs and benefits available to our employees. Our objective is to provide a work environment that is conducive to both personal and professional growth. You should read, understand, and comply with all the provisions of the handbook. If you have any questions or need further clarification of any of the rules, policies or benefits discussed in this Handbook, we urge you to contact your supervisor or Human Resources department for assistance.

The statements in this handbook concerning the Company’s policies and benefits are in condensed form. Neither this handbook nor any other Company document, confers any contractual right, either express or implied, to remain in the Company’s employ. Nor does it guarantee any fixed terms and conditions of your employment. Your employment is not for any specific time and may be terminated at will, with or without cause and without prior notice, by the Company or you may resign for any reason at any time. No supervisor or other representative of the Company (except the President) has the authority to enter into any agreement for employment for any specified period of time, or to make any agreement contrary to the above.

The Company reserves the right to revise, supplement, or rescind any policies or portion of the handbook from time to time as it deems appropriate, in its sole and absolute discretion, except to the extent that provisions herein are mandated by law. Policies may be changed before the issuance of a new handbook, but the Company will try to inform you of any changes as they occur.

Finally, this handbook should be treated as confidential. No portion of this handbook should be disclosed to others, except to other employees and others affiliated with the Company whose knowledge of the information is required in the normal course of business.

Next

In the next post, we’ll discuss the first thing that happens to all employees:  Employment.

Continue following the links in the Employee Handbook Project as we discuss each section and policy of an employee handbook.  Don’t have an Employee Handbook?  Click here for more information.

Please join in and share your comments with the Best Employee Policies community.  We can all learn from each other.

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Photo:  Dennis Crowley kitchen meeting, Flickr

 

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