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Tire Dealer Survival Guide: How to Use Your Employee Handbook to Set Expectations

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"The employee handbook is the cornerstone of the employee-employer relationship," writes Ford.

This Tire Dealer Survival Guide exclusive can also be found inside the May edition of MTD.

Should your organization have an employee handbook? This question has been debated by business owners and attorneys over the course of many decades. 

If you, as a business owner or manager, are receiving advice from an attorney or an outside advisor that your organization is either too small to have an employee handbook or that you shouldn’t put anything in writing, seek more contemporary counsel immediately! 

It is critical, now more than ever - regardless of your dealership’s size and number of employees - that you develop an effective, compliant employee handbook. 

It is vitally necessary in today’s regulatory and competitive environment that you do not attempt to operate without a clearly worded, up-to-date employee handbook. 

Clear and concise

The employee handbook is the cornerstone of the employee-employer relationship. Many years ago, when hiring an employee who would likely stay with you until retirement, you could say, “Come to work, do a good job and we’ll take care of you.”  This is no longer the case, especially with younger employees, who are now shopping employers and are asking, “What’s in this for me?” before and during the job interview. 

If you cannot clearly articulate, in writing, your organization’s culture, values and employment offerings in a very proactive and professional way, you are fighting an uphill battle. 

The employee handbook is a basic, written publication that is designed, published and distributed for the purpose of providing employees and their family members with two major pieces of information: 

1. What employees and their families can expect from your organization; 

2. In return, what your organization expects from its employees. 

Between the covers of a well-written, published employee handbook, these two things should be addressed clearly and honestly. 

Although face-to-face and one-on-one employer-to-employee communication is essential to establishing and maintaining your management credibility, it is too easy for verbal explanations given by management to be forgotten, misunderstood or misinterpreted. 

As such, it is critical that you put in writing all the details, facts and procedures that concern both employees and their families. 

Such written policies reinforce your intent, as well as the practical understanding of the benefits provided to employees, the standards of performance you expect, safety and health rules and other basic policies and procedures. 

By establishing this information in an employee handbook, you can measurably improve communication, which is the hallmark of any successful business organization — again, no matter what size.

Benefits for employees

What are the advantages of an employee handbook to your valued employees? 

First, the employee handbook should not have the tone or intent of a “legal” document. Be very careful about having an attorney prepare your employee handbook, as the last message you want to send to employees is that this document is a legal tool designed to protect management and your organization. 

A well-written employee handbook will send a very positive message of promoting the advantages of employment to your associates and their families. 

The following are the major advantages of having a current, clearly stated employee handbook: 

  • An employee handbook provides new employees with their first employee education and orients them to what is expected of them in terms of on-the-job performance; 

  • An employee handbook provides the new employee’s family with a basic understanding of all employee benefits available to the employee and their dependents and also of the eligibility and waiting period necessary before certain benefits become effective. 

By communicating your company’s employee benefits program in dollar value and the eligibility of those benefits, the handbook helps both your organization and the employee’s family begin developing a positive, favorable working relationship. 

When members of the new employee’s family have read the handbook, they should come away with a favorable  first impression of the organization. 

A handy recruitment tool

In addition to serving other functions, an employee handbook can be an important, useful tool in attracting desirable new employees during the employee recruiting process. 

In this profession, labor markets are extremely tight and highly skilled, productive employees are difficult to locate and attract.  

Your employee handbook can - and should - be your organization’s “winning edge,” projecting a favorable image of your company by its description of what the prospective employee may expect in terms of working conditions, employee benefits, performance standards and other things. 

A well-drafted employee handbook also can provide employees with a sense of self-esteem and job security. 

Your employee handbook can support a motivating workplace environment because it serves as tangible proof to employees that management does care about them. 

The contents of an effective employee handbook can provide employee recognition and appreciation through its writing style, content and format. 

Your handbook should be drafted in such a way that it clearly tells your employees that they are essential and important to your organization’s continued growth and operating success. 

In addition, your handbook can create the favorable impression in the minds and hearts of your employees that your organization values their suggestions and constructive feedback about how it can be even more productive and profitable. 

Is your book compliant?

The reality is that most organizations do have some sort of employee handbook. However, many organizations have either only downloaded an example from the internet or have copied an employee handbook provided by a friendly competitor. Others may be using an outdated, in-house manual. 

Frankly, any company that has implemented an employee handbook in one of these manners is better off not having an employee handbook at all. 

In today’s regulatory environment, both from a federal and state standpoint, it is critical that your employee handbook be reviewed and updated at least annually. Employment regulations are changing rapidly, especially from a state law standpoint. 

More and more states are adopting and implementing their own regulations to include minimum wage, paid sick leave, substance abuse regulations and others. 

As such, it is critical that your employee handbook be developed compliantly and with attention to critical regulatory matters. 

Need-to-know-basis

The reality is that it isn’t feasible for every employment-related topic to be addressed in an employee handbook. It would be too confusing. However, it is critical that you prioritize the following: 

  • The history of your dealership; 

  • Harassment policies and penalties; 

  • Equal employment; 

  • Confidentiality and intellectual property; 

  • Use of social media; 

  • Use of computers and cell phones; 

  • Paid time o (PTO) details, including accrual; 

  • PTO pay-out procedure at the time of separation or termination; 

  • Workplace violence policy; 

  • Open-door policy; 

  • Progressive discipline policy; 

  • Substance abuse policy; 

  • Damage to customer and organization vehicles. 

Always keep in mind that employee handbooks aren’t worth the paper they are printed on if employees don’t appreciate their goodwill intent. 

Ensure your employees know that this manual has been developed for them and their families and that they should regularly use it. If your employee handbook is not current, then it becomes a liability to your organization. 

Bill Ford is the president and CEO of SESCO Management Consultants, the oldest human resource and employee relations consulting firm in America today. SESCO has been authoring employee handbooks and personnel policy manuals for most of its history. SESCO has authored “How to Develop a Personnel Policy Manual” Sixth Edition and “How to Develop an Employee Handbook” Second Edition, both of which are best-sellers. Ford can be contacted at (423) 764-4127 or bill@sescomgt.com

Click on the following to read other Tire Dealer Survival Guide articles:

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Tire Dealer Survival Guide: How to Create a Repeatable, Superior Customer Experience

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