Does Your Employee Handbook Undermine Your Company Culture?

In a tightening market for talent (especially tech talent), your company’s culture is a key differentiator. The CEO of Scentsy, (a company known for being a great place to work) recently said: “The right company culture attracts the right people and repels the wrong ones.”


Have you taken the time to harmonize your Employee Handbook with your culture?  You could have a terrific culture that is undermined by a handbook containing 80 pages of dictatorial policies and procedures.


It is common for early-stage companies to be very frugal with their cash.  This is generally a good practice, but it can also be penny-wise and pound-foolish.


Here’s a common example of pound-foolishness: asking a friend at another company for a copy of that company’s Employee Handbook and then not changing it in any meaningful way.


Copying someone else’s Employee Handbook contains many legal risks, especially if that handbook hasn’t been regularly updated to keep it in synch with the ever-changing landscape of employment law.


There is another kind of risk lurking in that copied handbook, namely, risk to your culture.


We think it makes sense to schedule annual reviews of your handbook. Assemble a team to review it from the standpoints of (i) culture fit and (ii) legal compliance. Ideally, keep the team together year after year to ensure consistency and to take advantage of lessons learned.


Identify the legal risks that really need to be covered in the handbook, such as policies prohibiting harassment and unlawful discrimination. Also decide on a writing style for the handbook that is consistent with the company’s culture.  A high-compliance industry such as banking probably warrants a more directive tone than does a web development company.


Also identify those attributes of your culture that are the most important for the company’s overall strategy.  Keep those attributes in mind when selecting employment policies.  If family friendliness is the most important attribute of your culture, use it to evaluate every current or proposed practice.  Adding flexible scheduling and working from home would be in alignment with that attribute.  Installing an onsite time clock and punch-cards? Not so much!


If your company doesn’t have a General Counsel to place on the review team, give us a call!  We’d love to help.



Stuart Blake

Mobile – (949) 842-9379


Michael Oswald

Mobile – 208.914.3086




© 2017 InnovaCounsel

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