Your Employee Handbook: Do Your Managers Really Know How to Use It?

by | Mar 24, 2011 | Blog, Employee Handbook, Human Resources

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Not too long ago my family was out shopping at a popular retail chain when I noticed that my usually outgoing first grader was ducking behind the counter hiding.

When asked what she was doing she whispered back that the girl, (indicating the young lady ringing up our purchases), was being mean and scary.

Not ready to debate while balancing purchases, coupons, debit card, and her baby sister, I nodded gravely as if I understood, shrugged at her dad,  and let her maintain her hiding spot while we finished checking out.

Long story short, my daughter explained that the young woman had been sticking her tongue out and making faces at her. It took me a moment but then I realized what she had seen.

The cashier had a tongue piercing. It was rather large and noticeable and she did keep, well, messing with it. I don’t know if it was recent or if it was irritating her or what, but it was impairing her speech and she had been sticking her tongue out and making faces.

I had dismissed it with a “yuck” and moved on, but my six year old had not, and she was probably right to be more indignant. I commented to my husband that I was surprised that this particular chain would allow someone to have such a tongue piercing like that on their front line when it did in fact have an impact on how she communicated to their customers.

My husband shrugged and responded that their company polices are only as good as their managers. An extremely intelligent observation indeed!

Do Your Managers REALLY Know How to Use Your Employee Handbook?

He’s right. We’ve written much lately about policy and (partly) because of this, many of our faithful blog followers attended our recent seminar on employee handbook development.

Now that those attendees (along with many others) are working on getting your policies updated – or written at all – the next step is making sure those policies actually get put into practice and implemented by your managers and supervisors.

There actually is something worse than not having an employee handbook, and that’s having one, and having managers that don’t follow your employee handbook.

So what action do you take to make sure they do?

  1. Educate Your Organization:
    Everyone in your organization needs to know about the policies.  Whether it’s a new policy that introduced or an overview of “popular” policies, it’s a good idea to review company policies whenever the handbook is re-issued, or even annually in larger organizations. More often that not your employees are going to stuff their employee handbook in a drawer never to be seen again.What are “popular” policies? Anything with a considerable detail that employees and managers can confuse –  Attendance and Absenteeism (how to record, to whom to report, disciplinary process), Vacation and PTO (accrual process, request procedure), Timekeeping (signing off on timecards, adjustments to timecards), etc.
  2. Train Your Managers:
    Managers and supervisors need to not only be educated on the policies, but also be trained on the procedures that implement the policies.They need to fully understand what it takes for a policy and procedure to come full circle. This also includes performance reviews, disciplinary action, and the interview process.  Without specific training on procedure, you are leaving each manager to interpret how to carry out that policy on their own, and that leads to nothing but trouble.
  3. Document:
    Have separate written procedures for managers on the processes that support the policies. This is where a lot of copmanies fall short. They develop the handbook, but forget to develop the processes that support it.These supporting procedures are not included in the handbook. They ensure that managers are doing things consistently among employees and among departments. Or, at least, they ensure that you have put systems in place so that this will happen, and if a particular manager fails to do so, you have a basis for discipline. Consistency wins.
  4. Follow Up With Your Managers:
    This is a no brainer, but all too often organizations leave out this critical step of process improvement. Make sure that your managers are doing what they are supposed to do!  If the managers are breaking policy, or allowing their employees to break policy, rein them in and fix it!

So… What Now?

Does this mean that you have to micromanage and make every decision for your managers?  Of course not!  But you do need to provide parameters in order to make sure that they are following the guidelines set forth in your policy manual. Otherwise there will only ever be controlled chaos.

One last closing point, if you determine that it doesn’t really matter to you if the managers follow a particular policy or not, then it’s time to evaluate whether or not that policy needs to exist at all, or whether it can be removed or edited in such a way to allow for more manager latitude.

The bottom line is this – your policies are only as good as your managers.  Make sure your managers are suited to enforce and support them. Let us know if you need help with that.

Recommended Resource:

Article written by Paula Agee, SPHR

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