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Employee handbooks have become a valuable tool in providing important information to employees. Handbooks describe what employers expect of their employees, and what employees can (should) expect from their employers. Handbooks provide critical information about their employers, workplaces, and HR policies and procedures, and describe how employees are expected to fit in.
Additionally, employee handbooks formalize the mutual expectations of organizations and their employees. In delineating these expectations employee handbooks create opportunities and risks for employers. Handbooks provide organizations with the opportunity to enhance the value of their human capital, make their organizations more competitive, and improve individual and organizational performance.
Conversely, handbooks can impede the achievement of business objectives, increase employment related liabilities, and reduce managerial prerogatives by making promises or commitments to certain procedural safeguards that the organization did not intend to make. As noted in the recent memorandum from the General Counsel of the NLRB: incorrectly designed employee handbooks can violate the law and have a “chilling effect” on employees’ activities.
Thus, employee handbooks increasingly provide for employers the opportunity to make their workforce more committed to and supportive of organizational goals. At the same time, they also provide the basis for employees’ legal action and can significantly reduce employees’ commitment to organizational success.
The purposes and the scope of employee handbook process, policies and the practices are changing and expanding. From a siloed HR activity that creates insular documents concerned primarily with communicating the organizational work rules and benefits, employee handbook process, policies and practices have evolved into a critical component of an organization-wide management process that maximizes organizations’ achievement of business objectives, enhances the value of their human capital, and minimizes legal risk.
Thus, to increase the effectiveness of their employment policies, organizations will have to: 1) enhance their business, operational, and legal intelligence to ensure they have identified the changing external and internal factors that affect their policies; 2) increase internal stakeholder participation in the handbook development process to obtain greater employee commitment and operational alignment; 3) establish new metrics to assess handbook policy and practices performance and measure the achievement of organization goals; and 4) implement internal controls that identify and alert management about employee handbook issues.
Thus, employee handbooks will increasingly have to ensure that they are aligned with strategic and business objectives, are properly drafted, and effectively implemented. Additionally, employee handbooks will have to:
From this perspective, employee handbooks will continue to play an important role in communicating with and providing information for employees.
Ronald Adler is the president-CEO of Laurdan Associates, Inc., a veteran-owned, human resource management consulting firm in Rockville, Md., specializing in HR audits, employment practices risk management, benchmarking and HR metrics, strategic HR, employee surveys, and unemployment insurance issues. Mr. Adler has more than 42 years of HR consulting experience working with U.S. and international firms, small businesses and non-profits, insurance companies and brokers, and employer organizations. Mr. Adler is a consulting expert on work force, employment practices, and unemployment insurance issues to Bloomberg BNA, HR Magazine, and other publications and newspapers across the country. His research findings have been used by the Federal Reserve Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business, insurers, and international organizations.
Mr. Adler is the co-developer of the Employment-Labor Law Audit™ (ELLA®), the nation's leading HR auditing and employment practices risk assessment tool, and is a frequent lecturer and author on HR management and workplace issues. As an adjunct professor at Villanova University, Mr. Adler teaches graduate courses on HR auditing. He is also a certified instructor on employment practices and insurance issues for The CPCU Society, has conducted continuing professional education courses for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants on "Assessing Employment and Personnel Policies," and has conducted continuing professional education courses for SHRM, the Institute of Internal Auditors, and the Institute of Management Consultants.
As a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Mr. Adler serves as a subject matter expert (SME) to SHRM on HR metrics and formerly served on SHRM's Human Capital Measurement/HR Metrics Special Expertise Panel. He is a consulting expert on workplace issues to SHRM's legislative staff, has contributed materials for The SHRM Academy and the SHRM Learning System, and has represented SHRM in meetings with the EEOC.
Mr. Adler is an appointee to the State of Maryland Legislative UI Committee. Additionally, he belongs to the Institute of Internal Auditors, chairs the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's UI Subcommittee and is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Labor Relations Committee.
Mr. Adler holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Maryland and an M.B.A. degree from Southern Illinois UniversityView all trainings by this speaker