More Than 6 in 10 HR Professionals Say Getting Employees to Read the Employee Handbook is Challenging, According to XpertHR Survey

Getting employees simply to read the employee handbook is the most challenging handbook-related issue, according to 619 US employers responding to XpertHR’s 2020 Survey on Employee Handbooks.

The survey covered seven major handbook-related challenges and found that 66% of participating HR representatives rated “getting employees to read their organization’s handbook” as either “somewhat” or “very” challenging, followed by 62% who gave the same rating for “keeping it compliant with state law,” and 57% for “training for managers so they can enforce the handbook.”

While it sounds relatively straightforward to ensure employees read the handbook, the survey results show that this is a real challenge for HR departments. Given these findings, organizations may want to make sure their workers are indeed reading the handbook, as these are immensely important documents that cover a wealth of information, such as company values, benefits, and compliance.

The survey also found that organizations’ HR departments generally create their employee handbooks, usually with review by a lawyer. Nearly three-fifths (58%) of surveyed organizations noted their HR department created their employee handbook (with review by a lawyer) and 17% said their HR function created the handbook without review by a lawyer.

Other options for creating employee handbooks are uncommon, such as using a consulting firm, a professional employer organization (PEO), a law firm, or in-house counsel.

Additionally, the survey found that the COVID-19 pandemic has had only a modest effect on the content of employee handbooks. When asked if their organization had revised their employee handbook due to the coronavirus pandemic, 27% of responding HR representatives said yes, 69% said no, and 4% were not sure. (The survey was conducted in June and July of 2020.) Among the organizations that have revised their handbook due to the pandemic, provisions concerning health and safety, work from home/telework, paid leave, and flexible working arrangements were all common targets for revisions.

While COVID-19 has upended many organizations’ operations and workflows, the results show that – as of this summer – most employers had not felt the need to update their employee handbook due to the pandemic. However, more organizations may decide to update their handbooks depending on how long the pandemic continues and if any changes to their operations become permanent.

More about this survey: XpertHR’s 2020 Survey on Employee Handbooks was conducted from June 30, 2020, to July 24, 2020, and published on August 20, 2020. The survey includes the responses from 619 US employers of various industries and workforce sizes. The total estimated number of employees of responding organizations is 1,113,698. The survey report covers several topics, including:

  • Handbook creation and revision,
  • Distribution,
  • Approaches to multi-jurisdictional compliance, and
  • Resources (e.g., spending).
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