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The purposes and the scope of employee handbook policies and 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 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.
To increase the effectiveness of their employment policies, organizations will have to:
Thus employee handbooks will increasingly have to ensure that they are aligned with strategic and business objectives, are properly drafted, and are effectively implemented. Additionally, they will have to:
From this perspective, employee handbooks will continue to play an important role in communicating with and providing information for employees.
Employee handbooks are a critical tool in providing important information to employees. They describe what employers expect of their employees and what employees can (should) expect from their employers. They provide critical information about employers and their workplaces and how employees are expected to fit in.
Employee handbooks further 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 committing 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 employers the opportunity to make their workforce more committed and supported of their goals. Unfortunately, they also provide the basis for employees’ legal action and can significantly reduce employees’ commitment to organizational success