PITTSBURGH - Elizabeth Fletcher was curious as to why people would attend her seminar on creating good and useable employee handbooks. The operations manager for F.H. Furr, a plumbing and HVAC contractor from Manassas, Va., and Nexstar member, is an authority on employee handbooks and wanted to share her expertise with attendees to the Nexstar fall meeting in Pittsburgh. The answers were predictable.

Some people wanted to take back new ideas to improve their existing handbooks while others didn’t have a handbook and needed to create one. “You need a handbook because it keeps you out of trouble,” Fletcher said. “And that is an important reason from where the owners sit.”

Fletcher acknowledged that a handbook is an important communications tool, which should give a complete history of the company. It should tell where the company began and where it is going. A handbook should also serve as an employee relation’s tool to bridge the communication gap between management and workers.

“The handbook can set the standard for a company and new hires can base their opinion on a company by what the handbook is like,” she said. “Handbooks will tell me instantly about your company and it may not be the message you want me to know.”


Fletcher cautioned that a handbook should not be hard to read or comprehend; rather, it should be able to answer all of an employee’s questions. She said the handbook should be an instruction manual which states, “This is what I expect you to do.”

With the influx of Generation Yers to the workplace, Fletcher said that handbooks will likely become larger because one trait of this class of workers is to challenge everything.

She said it is absolutely necessary that a handbook contain all government rules and regulations regarding hiring practices and these practices should not just be a set of words on paper. “Make sure you know what the regulations are and that you follow them in your workplace,” Fletcher added. “Don’t put laws into your handbook if you don’t understand the laws.”

She noted the handbook should also be positive despite the fact that many rules and regulations are not positive by nature. “It is all about a positive delivery and presentation,” she said. “You don’t want to make employees mad when they read the handbook. Use words like ‘encourage’ and stay away from words like ‘don’t.’ And don’t use phrases like ‘use common sense’ or ‘use good judgment’ in a handbook.”

Fletcher said that even if something is obvious, it should be written in a handbook - and at an eighth grade reading level.

She gave an outline for suggested handbook sections, which should include:

• Welcome letter from owner or president;

• Company history;

• Company mission statement (values/visions);

• Organizational chart;

• Federal and state policies;

• Specific information including benefits (compensation), employee relations, management policies, selection and placement, technology, training and development, and health and safety.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Fletcher at mefletcher@fhfurr.com or visit the Nexstar Website at www.nexstarnetwork.com.

Publication Date:12/03/2007