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It's Time To Update Your Employee Handbook

Written by CMG News Contributor, Inspiring HR

As HR professionals, we know employees hate employee handbooks. We also know that companies hate developing and maintaining them. They’re not typically fun, and sometimes they are so bogged down with legalese they are hard to read.

So why do we bother?

Inspiring HR broke down the practical reasons previously with our blog on The ROI of an Employee Handbook. It’s a quick read, and we recommend you take the journey to check it out.

But in addition to the practical reasons we’ve previously outlined, it really comes down to setting clear expectations and communication; Employees can’t successfully self-manage if they don’t have access to information that guides their behaviors, and managers struggle to consistently coach or hold employees accountable if they don’t have guidelines with which to do so.

That brings us to “today.”

2020 brought about a ton of change in the workforce and how businesses operated. How did your handbook fare in addressing new questions or new and old challenges? Did your handbook help? Hurt? Or was it pushed to the side and ignored altogether?

Inspiring HR took a look back and narrowed down the top 5 reasons to update your handbook, and soon!

1. Keeping up with your business culture.

Remember I said handbooks are sometimes hard to read and no fun? Well, if that’s the case, fix it! Your handbook is as much a part of your company culture as any other document, process, or philosophy you put in front of your employees. If your company culture is that of a family, take the time to articulate that and use language throughout the handbook to support it.

Sure, you’ll have to have specific and boring legalese in harassment policies, etc., but when you develop your optional internal policies ask yourself: Am I treating my employees like adults with these expectations? Am I using a tone that represents our values and culture? Am I speaking to them or at them?

Take the time to make your handbook a helpful tool, instead of a necessary evil.

2. Keeping up with the boring legalese.

Well, I did say you’ll have to have some boring legalese in there, but is it current? 2019 and 2020 experienced a huge uptick in both state and federal regulations that affected a large portion of the US workforce. From Wage and Hour scheduling and exemption requirements to State Paid Sick and Family Medical Leave requirements, companies that haven’t updated their handbooks in the past two years risk being out of some type of federal or state law compliance.

It’s time to dust off your policies and make sure your legalese is still, um…, legal.

3. Did you go “remote” for the first time?

Remote workforces are not a new thing, but prior to 2020, going remote was not exactly a “go-to” solution when worksite employees needed to steer clear of the office. Inspiring HR was no stranger to it, however, as we have been a fully remote team since inception in 2007.

What we anticipated, and saw play out, was that companies didn’t have a grasp on managing their equipment as it left the office, leveraging employees’ personal equipment, dealing with home wi-fi and connection issues, dealing with employee behaviors and blind spots that created cybersecurity risks, a lack of understanding on how to manage remote hourly workers, or morale dropping because of a lack of communication channels and so on.

Moving forward, it’s imperative that companies incorporate remote work-oriented policies into their handbooks so that legal challenges with protecting company physical and intellectual property are resolved, and that employees have guidance to meet behavioral, security, and software and hardware use expectations when working autonomously.

4. Social Media

Yes, we know. No one wants to touch this one with a 10’ pole, that is until it becomes a problem for your company.

Employees have rights to free speech and opinions, and boy o’ boy did we hear them on various political views in the last few years, but are they using personal social media platforms to harass and threaten other employees? Are they representing their personal views as those of the company? Did they post a picture of themselves breaking the law wearing a company shirt? Are they falsely associating themselves with the company online in a way that damages your reputation, client relationships or profitability?

This is where companies need to seek legal and HR consult and decide where you are going to draw the line with being dragged into an employee’s social media activity. It’s equally important to train and communicate these policies to employees clearly so they know what is and what is not okay when it comes to bringing work to their online life. Having the policy in place BEFORE a problem happens is critical, otherwise, you may have no recourse to protect the company from damaging employee behavior online.

5. What handbook?

Oh yeah, there’s that. Don’t have a handbook? If your small team of 2 enterprising entrepreneurs has blossomed into 20 employees with your sights on being 150 by the end of your three-year plan, you need one, fast. There are sooooo many responsibilities, notices, and wage & hour requirements that companies need at certain growth thresholds that can, and will, blindside and break you with a single little, itty-bitty, bitter ex-employee, that you’re foolish to neglect HR and handbooks in your infrastructure plans early on.

Don’t know how to develop or update your handbook? Inspiring HR helps our clients with development and maintenance of handbooks on a regular basis, and we specialize in managing remote employees. Feel free to contact us if you would like to learn more about our handbook templates and services, or download our free remote work e-book, today!


Mindy Flanigan has 25+ years of experience as a Human Resource Management Professional. She is the Founder and CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) of Inspiring HR, LLC, as well as PHR certified since 2002 and SHRM certified since 2015. To contact Mindy directly, please email her at


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