Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This blog contains original material plus a quote from Jay Goldberg’s book, HOW TO GET, KEEP AND BE WELL PAID IN A JOB (click here to go to the book’s web site), a book that just received a 5 star (out of 5 stars) review from the Midwest Book Review.

Employee handbooks are important business documents. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not have them, and many large businesses have them, but they are not as effective as they should be.

Traditional employee handbooks contain workplace and personnel policies ranging from policies on sexual harassment, discrimination, and conflict resolution, to employee benefits, compensation and workplace safety.

One of the reasons for having an employee handbook is to protect the company against law suits. Employees acting inappropriately can lead to legal disputes. So can employees who are confused regarding company policies, particularly as it applies to raises, promotions, compensation and benefits. Having a clearly written and well thought out employee handbook can protect the company. In legal conflicts, employee handbooks are often viewed as contractual obligations. And if you are familiar with any of the daytime courtroom shows you’ll know that written contracts are much better than oral contracts, which is what you basically have if you do not have a formal employee handbook.

Obviously, the employee handbook is a major communication tool between the company and its employees. With more and more business owners and managers complaining about the lack of work readiness skills in their employees in focus groups throughout the country, the “new” expanded employee handbook becomes the ideal vehicle for a company to define its work readiness workplace expectations (which also makes it part of the “contract”).

The most effective way to teach work readiness is to not just state expected behaviors and skills, but to explain why those behaviors and skills are important in the workplace, and to clearly define what they are. This means that traditional Dragnet (“just the facts, ma’am”) employee handbooks need to evolve into more of a document that will not only state the facts, but change attitudes and educate employees (and be even clearer to judges during legal disputes).

For example, instead of just stating the number of sick days employees are entitled too, an explanation of what sick days are is needed. Below is a quote from my book:

“Please be aware that in trying to be fair to employees many companies allow a generous amount of sick days. Often the longer you work for a company, the more sick days you earn.

Sick days are not vacation days or even personal days. They are an insurance policy the company provides to its employees. They are to be used only when an employee is sick. Since sick days are an unplanned absence, when used there is a negative impact on the workplace. If all employees used all their sick days a company would have no choice but to reduce sick days for everyone. Think how high your car insurance would be if every driver except you had two accidents a year. Insurance companies cannot pay out money it does not have. They cannot survive if they pay out more money than they take in. No business could. In this case everyone’s car insurance rates would go up (including yours) to an amount where the insurance company was taking in more money than it was paying out.”

A truncated and modified version of the sentiment in this quote needs to appear in the employee handbook in the section dealing with sick days. In addition to educating employees on the real purpose of sick days, it would also help the company if it needed to fire an employee who abused his/her sick days.

I strongly believe the “new” expanded employee handbook needs to be a combination of the traditional employee handbook and work readiness topics like the ones contained in my book. To see the topics covered in my book, review its table of contents on the book’s web site.

If you would like me to review, append, modify or create an employee handbook for your company, my contact information (and information about my company) is available at my web site, www.DTRConsulting.BIZ.

On a different topic, I was just nominated and accepted a position on the Children's International Obesity Foundation's (CIOF) Board of Advisors. The CIOF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation that does good work in the area of childhood obesity. Please visit the site by clicking on the CIOF image on the right-hand side of your screen and if you like their work, and the information they provide, make a tax deductible donation. Even small donations help. Thank you.

Catch you in my next blog.