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Ask Agnes Sarthou about management: The employee handbook

Our management expert\\\'s column debuts with a question on the employee manual
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Q: I have just started my business, and I have less than 10 employees. I heard that an employee handbook is important. But does a small, startup company really need an employee handbook?

A: Whether your company has less than 10 or over a hundred employees, it needs an employee  handbook. It  embodies the company's rules of engagement which is one of the most critical things to be discussed with an employee upon hiring. So, regardless of the size or complexity of your business, having a handbook is a must.

Why  an  Employee  Handbook?
The employee handbook, also referred to as the HR Manual, is a compilation of company policies stating how the business is to be conducted. It is the company's most important communication tool to level expectations in terms of employer-employee relationship.

Employee handbooks should be discussed with employees at the start of employment to acquaint new employees on company expectations, policies and procedures. Establishing clear expectations through the employee handbook enables the company to preserve order and harmony, and enhance performance.  


The handbook is especially useful in the event of a dispute over performance reviews. A well-written employee handbook is the company's first line of defense against unnecessary tussles with an employee resulting from mistaken or unclear behavioral expectations.

I recall a case when an employee complained that she was unfairly rated by her superior for poor attendance despite the fact that she rendered more hours than what was required (and yet did not charge any overtime pay). The employee assumed that it was justifiable to come in late for as long as she is able to comply with the eight-hour job requirement. The misunderstanding over the company policy could have been prevented if the employee handbook specifying working hours was discussed at the start of her employment.

Dr. Agnes "Aggie" Sarthou serves as an Organization Development (OD) and Training Consultant to various government and private institutions. Her experience spans over 30 years of corporate and private practice in the specialized ares of organization development, communications, leadership, organizational diagnosis and change interventions, strategic thinking and planning. You can email your questions to or post it here .



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