Effective Practices : Human Resources
Employee Handbooks and Procedure Manuals
Human Resources Section 3
1. Does your school have an employee handbook and a procedure manual?
2. What types of subjects do they include?
3. How are employee handbooks and procedure manuals developed?
4. How are the handbooks and manuals maintained?
5. Who receives copies of the handbook employee handbook and procedure manual?
6. What do schools report as the best features of an employee handbook and of a procedure manual?
7. What are the underlying philosophies that inform a school’s practices with respect to the employee handbook and procedure manual?
Does your school have an employee handbook and a procedure manual?
Most of the schools surveyed have employee handbooks, and those that do not have had them in the past. The most common difficulty with an employee handbook is the failure to separate general personnel policies and collegial practices from the detailed operational procedures appropriately found in a procedure or operations manual. The rule of thumb for success in this area is KISS - Keep It Simple and Straightforward.
The employee handbook is most effective when its design and content helps employees know the personnel policies and understand the values and expectations of colleagues and community. Detailed operational procedures should be noted and referenced in the employee handbook, but should be kept in a separate publication - the procedure manual.
The procedure manual should contain detailed procedures and supporting forms and documents. These manuals are often large and are likely to contain forms which are updated more frequently than those found in an employee handbook. It is sensible and convenient to keep the procedures manual in a readily accessible central location rather than providing one to every employee.
What types of subjects do they include?
The topics listed below for an employee handbook provide employees with an overview of the school structure and philosophy as well as specific personnel policies. In practice, separating the employee handbook in two sections simplifies making updates to personnel policies as laws and practices change. The employee handbook can also be a useful document to provide to potential and new board members and committee chairs.
The employee handbook might include the following topics:
- School History and Mission Statement
- Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy
- Faculty/Staff Meeting
- Consensus Decision Making
- Colleagueship: Working Together in a Social Way
- College of Teachers
- Board of Trustees
- Committee Descriptions
- Position Descriptions Participation in the Life of the School
- General Expectations regarding:
- Work Week
- Cleaning and Maintenance
- Committee Work
- Pedagogical Responsibilities
- Mentor and Peer Relationships
- Evaluation Process for Faculty and Staff
- Personnel Policies
- Employee Code of Conduct
- Employee Wage and Benefit Information
- Benefits including:
- Health Care
- Tuition Remission
- Workers Compensation
- Disability Insurance
- Sabbatical Policy
- Jury Duty
- Maternity Leave
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- Absence from School
- Termination of Employment
- Student Policies including:
- Reporting of Abuse and Neglect (see: Mandated Reporting)
- Anti-Harassment Policy
- Sexual Harassment Policy
- Disciplinary Policy
- Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol
- Dress Code
- Media Policy
- CPR, First Aid and Blood Spills
- Off Site Walks
- Dismissal Policy
- Parent Permission Slips
- Parent Driver Policies
- Parent Proof of Automobile Insurance
- Field Trip Supervision Requirements
- School Bus Use
- Budget Development process
- Departmental Budgets and Expense Reports
- Purchase Authorization
- Expense Reimbursement Request
- Earthquake and Fire Drills
- AIDS and Infectious Illness Policy
- Accident and Illness Procedures
- Chemistry Safety Requirements
- Bathroom Supervision
- Playground Rules and Supervision
The topics listed below for inclusion in a procedure manual provide both information and, when appropriate, the form or document that puts the procedure into practice.
Budgets and Expenses
Detailed procedures, with supporting forms, are frequently updated and new ones added, making it cost prohibitive to keep reprinting the procedure manuals. Schools have learned that it is simplest to keep one centrally located procedure manual updated, and to have it maintained in a three ring binder that allows old procedures and forms to be easily removed and new items added. Interestingly, most schools find that separating the employee handbook from the procedure manual increases employee use of both books.
How are employee handbooks and procedure manuals developed?
Each school shared a different story of how its handbook came into existence. In one case an attorney Board member and the school administrator took a sample employee manual from another organization and updated it for the school’s use. This had the advantage of giving the school a template from which to work, but did not produce a handbook that truly reflected the key philosophies and values of the school.
In several schools the handbook was the initiative of one individual. A draft of the handbook was written, and then turned over to the Human Resources/Personnel Committee of the school for editing.
One school recommended a book titled Creating our Employee Handbook by Jossey-Bass Publishers in San Francisco for the Management Center. The book illustrates three ways in which a handbook can be approached, allowing schools to tailor a program that best reflects its unique situation.
How are handbooks maintained?
In the schools where the handbook is maintained over an extended period of time, responsibility for maintaining and updating the handbook is the work of a designated committee. In some schools it is the Human Resources/Personnel Committee. In other cases it is a mandated group of teachers and administrative staff members. Often times the administrator is responsible for maintaining a list of the policies and procedures that have changed, and for keeping the appropriate committee on top of making changes or drafting the necessary new documents.
If responsibility for the handbook remains with one individual it is often the case that, when that person leaves the school or takes on significantly different responsibilities, the employee handbook falls by the wayside. Handbooks cannot remain an individual initiative if they are to survive over time; they must be assigned either to a committee or as a responsibility of a specific position.
Several schools mentioned that they try to review a policy or procedure each week or two, identifying any changes that have been made in operating practice and updating the procedure to reflect those changes. In other schools updating the handbook is a task for the summertime. The procedures needing updating are identified and updated in a short, focused period. Secretarial help is often more available in the summer months, making the job of updating easier to manage.
Who receives a copy of the employee handbook and the procedure manual?
When schools have a well-edited handbook that outlines general philosophies and personnel policies, it is common for all colleagues, both full and part time, and the members of the Board of Trustees to receive a copy. Schools that have not yet made the step to separate the handbook from the procedure manual often recognize that it is too bulky to reprint. A central copy is housed in the school office, and all too often is rarely looked at.
What do schools report as the best features of an employee handbook?
As one school reported, “The most important aspect of the school’s personnel handbook is that there is one. The handbook lays out a general expectation of conduct so the school is protected, and so the employee has a general sense of expectations. The handbook does not try to anticipate and cover every aspect of behavior, but rather to provide a general framework for the school’s values and operating practices.”
Another school shared that for the school the most important section of the handbook is the at-will employment policy, the code of ethics and the setting of general expectations. It is an important tool for orienting new hires. From the perspective of employees the most important sections explain compensation, benefits, vacations, and general expectations.
In addition to a table of contents, a good index can be a very important and helpful feature.
What are the underlying philosophies that inform a school’s practices with respect to the employee handbook?
The employee manual is an important opportunity to ensure employees understand what the expectations are of them from the school, and where they can go to get answers to their questions. It must include things that will protect both the teachers and the school. Schools can benefit from putting things into writing; it adds clarity and unity of purpose.
The key idea is that the handbook be an easy and available general reference. It should be clear and describe the general thinking, not dwell on the detail that flows from that thinking. The statements in the handbook should have broad buy-in. The handbook should be more about creating the tone of the organization and establishing the environment so someone coming in will have a personal experience of the spirit of the school.
There should be a detailed procedure manual available on the shelf for all employees, accompanied by a handy reference guide that is given to all new employees. The reference guide would deal with basic legal, financial and operating policies on topics that come up frequently.
Handbooks should never include names; they should be generic in nature. Never say give the form to Susie, say give it to the business manager. Names change frequently and require a tremendous amount of editing to keep the book current.
The school recognizes that there is only do much that can be done in written form, and works to keep the employee handbook manageable. The employee related systems and procedures that are in place at the school are adequately described. It also includes clearly stated consequences if an individual fails to follow the procedures as outlined.