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How to Modernize a Shop’s Employee Handbook

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An employee handbook symbolizes the heart of a company, Jim Siegfried says. 

A handbook serves as a guide for staff members, explains the president of Crystal Lake Automotive in Lakeville, Minn. It can be a valuable reference when a manager or an owner is not available to answer a question, for example.    

Siegfried’s employee handbook began as a simple document in the 1980s and eventually evolved into a Microsoft Word file. Now, the handbook is also located on the shop’s main server because of its extensive length: 27 pages. 

Uploading the handbook into a digital copy made it easier for the staff to search for any areas in the book and made it a faster process when it came to updating the file regularly. 

In order to move the handbook online, Siegfried took the hard copy pages and scanned them into a computer. Now, through Sharepoint, the handbook link can be shared with anyone as long as they have an internet browser. Not only has Siegfried’s employee handbook gone digital, he’s also had to update a few policies to incorporate the evolving changes in technology over the years. 

When done correctly, an employee handbook should answer any question a staff member has about a business. 

A handbook is essential because it’s the company’s guiding employee principles, says Tony Lee, vice president of editorial for the Society of Human Resource Management. He says factors like the length of the book should be determined by the content going into it. After all, if someone had a term paper due, the paper could be 3 or even 10 pages based on the background information and research.(See Sidebar: Lee’s Handbook Advice)

Below, Siegfried shares how to set up an employee handbook to accommodate modern technology.

 

As told to Melissa Steinken

 

Making it Digital

I have a shop that not only does collision repair work but also performs mechanical repairs, and we have an administrative department. I created only one handbook for all of these departments so that the rules are streamlined.

Think of the handbook as a mission statement for your business. It’s a place everyone can go to find the company’s rules and values. 

I recommend updating the book every year, or at least every other year. The digital copy of the handbook is located on the company’s main computer server and is automatically updated every night.

When updating the book, I’ll sit down with my management team, which includes me and the three other partial owners of the shop. The other owners are the body shop’s owner, general manager and estimator. These meetings take about an hour to complete. 

We’ll also always have an attorney take a look at the employee handbook and approve the changes we made. This is a very important step because a lot of the changes are made in areas regarding employment law.

Then, we have a back page of the book ripped off as a document for the employees to sign off that they’ve read the material. We put that signed sheet of paper into each employee’s file.

Lee's Handbook Advice

Tip: Any time a rule or policy changes in the shop, the handbook should change. A good example is if a state law has changed like one on which questions can or can’t be asked legally in an interview.

Tip: An owner can download tools like the SHRM Employee Handbook Builder to use as a template for an online handbook. The owner can create a handbook on a computer this way using a browser and internet connection, and host it on a server to have available for employees over the web.

Updating Policies

Make sure to include topics like employee time off, vacation policy, and what’s not acceptable in the facility itself.

For example, it should include employees’ rights laws and how to handle employee complaints or events internally. 

As years passed, I did have to add more content to encompass the changes in technology. For instance, we now have two new policies in our digital handbook: social media policy and a cell phone policy.

Social Media

Today, a lot of people can get carried away by social media and pull out their phones frequently. We had to create a policy that encompassed rules like when not to post photos of cars in the shop and how to respect personal and professional boundaries. 

The staff cannot take photos of cars and license plates, and of other employees.

Cell Phone

There is a gray area to consider with all of the photos needed to be taken for proper documentation of the car during disassembly on the collision repair side. Our policy makes sure that while the technician is working, he or she is not allowed to use their cellphone but they can take the occasional personal call. If they take a personal call, they have to stop working and go outside or to the break room.

Technology

Due to updates in software, we added a technology policy. This included details on sharing passwords and how to use the various software in the shop.

 

Lee's Handbook Advice

Tip: No matter what format the book is in, have a way to track if the employee saw the book, read the book, and signed the book. 

Tip: Give the employee a link to the digital handbook that has a tracking mechanism to track when the employee has read the book and signed it electronically.

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