Employee handbooks are a great tool for creating strong relationships with your staff. It sets expectations and is a guide for how you want your agency to run.
As a new insurance agency, it’s a good idea to have an employee handbook in place before making your first hire. That way you are setting expectations and working to build your agency culture from day one.
Why You Need an Employee Handbook
An employee handbook creates a standard so you can be consistent with your policies. It also gets everyone on the same page for expectations, policies and procedures.
When you hire new people, your employee handbook can help make training easier. (More on training next month) It will introduce your new team members to your agency and culture.
Plus, your employee handbook will be a resource for your team. So, when they have questions or want to know how to handle certain situations, they have a place to go for answers.
Tips for Creating an Employee Handbook
Use clear, direct language.
Your employee handbook needs to be clear and easy to understand. You don’t need to fill it with legal jargon because it’s impractical to cover every possible legal issue. The purpose of your employee manual is to communicate, not enforce laws.
Write in a casual voice.
When writing your employee handbook, use a conversational tone. Use first- and second-person pronouns, i.e., we and you, instead of formal nouns like management. This will help nurture a culture of teamwork and collaboration.
Avoid unnecessary rules.
Unnecessary rules are only good at one thing. Driving employee morale into the ground. Consider each rule before you add it. Is this rule necessary for ensuring the agency runs smoothly and successfully? Do I need this rule to best serve our clients and carriers? Do I need this rule to help secure the fair treatment of all employees?
Have a lawyer look at it.
Your employee handbook is not a contract guaranteeing employment. But, it is still a good idea to have your lawyer review the document. You don’t want to find yourself in a legal situation because of wording in your employee handbook.
Sections in an Employee Handbook
Here are some of the sections usually included in an employee handbook.
In your introduction, state the purpose of the handbook and set expectations. Include statements about how the handbook is not an employment contract.
2. Employment policies
This is where you put your policies that comply with regulations for the workplace. That includes policies for equal opportunity employment, unlawful discrimination and harassment, and employee eligibility.
You may also want to include your confidentiality policy, evaluation period (if you have one), and standards of conduct in this section. If employment at your agency is at-will, make sure to include that as well. At-will means the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time with or without reason or notice.
3. General policies and procedures
Federal or state laws may determine some of your general policies and procedures. But, some will be important and specific to your agency.
Policies like work hours, attendance, punctuality, pay schedule and breaks. Also, technology use, performance reviews, dress code, new employee orientation and training.
4. Leave policies
Employees will need to take time off on occasion. Provide clear expectations for your leave policies and how to request leave. Make sure to include the types of lead covered. Like paid time off – some separate this into two types… sick and vacation.
Other types of leave include jury duty, bereavement, parental leave, military leave, and leaves of absence. You may also want to list the holidays for which your agency will close.
5. Health and safety
Your employee handbook should cover any workplace safety and security measures, including cybersecurity. If you have a bad weather policy, this is a good section to put it.
6. Employee benefits
You don’t need to include a full description of all your employee benefits in your handbook. This section is more of an outline of benefits offered, who is eligible, and who to contact with benefits questions. The full detail of your employee benefits package should be a separate document.
7. Discipline and termination policies
Though not a fun section to write, your agency’s discipline and termination policies are important to include. You need to communicate these expectations and adhere to them.
8. Acknowledgement form
Don’t forget to include an acknowledgement form that every employee must sign. This helps ensure each employee has received the handbook. And, by signing they indicate that they understand and agree to the policies and procedures established in the handbook.
Keep a copy of the signed form in each employee’s personnel file. If you update the handbook, make sure to get an updated signed acknowledgement form as well.
Your employee handbook doesn’t need to be full of legal jargon. In fact, it’s better if it’s not. (Though you should have a lawyer look at it.) Use these tips and outline to write a handbook your employees will read and understand.
Got a question about starting a new insurance agency you’d like us to answer in a future post? Leave it in the comments below.
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