HR Policies & Procedures

The Who, When, and How of Employee Handbooks

Yesterday’s Advisor examined how emerging HR issues are shaping handbooks, as reflected in a recent survey conducted by XpertHR. Today, how handbooks are managed.

Most organizations need employee handbooks, but there are a lot of questions to be answered: How to distribute (print or digital); how to write, review, and update; how many versions are needed, and so on.

The XpertHR Survey of Employee Handbook Practices, conducted in February 2015, which garnered 521 responses from employers representing a variety of sizes, types, and geographical regions, attempted to answer those questions.

By Whom Are Handbooks Prepared?

By far the majority of employee handbooks are prepared in-house by HR with review by a lawyer (58.5%), with nearly 1 in 5 respondents (18.8%) preparing handbooks in-house by HR without this review. The third most common means of preparing a handbook is via an outside consultant with legal review (6.2%),

  • In-house by HR and not reviewed by lawyer: This option was much less common for the public sector, with 22.3% of the private sector, 17.7% of the nonprofit sector, but only 7.5% of the public sector using this method.
  • In-house by HR and reviewed by legal: This option was far more commonly used in the public sector (76.3%) compared with 53.7% in the private sector and 57.6% for nonprofit.
  • Outside consultants: The public sector does not typically use outside consultants to prepare their handbooks where private sector indicated that 4% used consultants to prepare their handbooks (without legal review) and 7.3% used consultants to prepare their handbook AND added legal review. Nonprofits indicated 2.4% and 8.2% respectively for the same options.

How Often Are Handbooks Reviewed and Updated?

Those with handbooks do a rather good job of keeping them updated, with 78% of respondents reporting that they last updated their handbook within the past 2 years; 14.2% had updated within 3 to 5 years.


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How Are Handbooks Distributed?

Handbooks continue to be distributed primarily via print (64.5%), although intranet is a close second at 55.3% and e-mail at 28.2%.

Handbooks continue to be distributed primarily via print (64.5%), although intranet is a close second at 55.3% and e-mail at 28.2%.

Different Versions of Handbooks

Four of 5 respondents indicate that they do not have different handbooks for different departments or groups of employees. Other respondents reported a variety of approaches, including:

  • Seasonal Employees vs. Permanent Employees
  • Corporate vs. Stores by State
  • Hourly vs. Salary
  • Union vs. Nonunion
  • Field Workers vs. Office Workers
  • Staff vs. Faculty vs. Administration
  • Exempt vs. Nonexempt

Is a Written Acknowledgment Required?

More than 9 of 10 respondents require a written acknowledgment of the receipt of a handbook by employees, reflecting widespread adoption of this best practice.

Greatest Challenges

Respondents find that keeping their handbook current with an evolving workplace and workforce (41%) is the most challenging aspect of managing their employee handbook, but keeping it current with the law is a close second (35.6%).

Demographic details and the complete survey may be found at www.xperthr.com/pages/employee-handbooks-research-survey-report?cmpid=PRL|USAG|HUGMN-2015-0312-HB_Research_Survey_Report|PR_pitch&sfid=701w0000000wLLw.

The finer points of the various programs you offer to employees may also make an appearance in your handbook. You may offer an employment assistance program (EAP) along with additional wellness offerings—but have you considered integrating them to increase their effectiveness? Where do you start?

Fortunately, there’s timely help in the form of a new webcast—Integrated EAP & Wellness = Improved Employee Well-Being. In just 60 minutes, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the technology required to integrate your employee assistance and wellness programs, as well as the cultural shifts that accompany them—with real-world examples of successful integration.

Register today for this free (thanks to sponsor Ceridian LifeWorks) interactive webcast.


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By participating in this interactive webcast, you’ll learn:

  • How Hormel successfully integrated their wellness and EAP and how to bring these best practices into your organization
  • Why integrating EAP and wellness programs can identify employees with potential risks for costly health issues not easily uncovered during typical health screenings
  • How program integration can boost employee participation and overall engagement
  • Why program integration improves HR staff productivity
  • What metrics to capture and evaluate the success of your integrated program 
  • And much more!

Register now for this webcast.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
2:00 p.m. (Eastern)
1:00 p.m. (Central)
12:00 p.m. (Mountain)
11:00 a.m. (Pacific)

Approved for Recertification Credit

This program has been approved for 1 recertification credit hour toward recertification through the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI).

Join us on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, for the free, in-depth Integrated EAP & Wellness = Improved Employee Well-Being webcast.

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