How to Make a Human Resource Policy Guidebook

A human resources policy guidebook is similar to a playbook for human resources staff – its primary focus is tactical HR processes, not strategic HR planning. This isn’t the same as an employee handbook. An employee handbook contains workplace rules and procedures for employees. It describes the working relationship and what employees can do to better understand employer expectations and rules. An HR policy guidebook is a manual for HR staff use in carrying out workplace policies.

1. Gather your workplace policies from current and historical employee handbooks, standard operating procedures, collective bargaining agreements and all other materials generally housed in the human resources department. Obtain copies of everything related to workplace policies and human resources procedures.

2. Meet with human resources staff to discuss the project. Explain that you are constructing an HR policy guidebook, which will contain policies from every human resources area and processes for every HR job function. Ask each member of the team to summarize his job duties and tasks, including notations about where to find resources for each responsibility. For example, the payroll clerk should list the tasks he performs on a monthly, bi-weekly and daily basis to ensure employee payroll is distributed on schedule. The documents payroll clerks use are W-2 forms for employee withholding status, benefits election forms for employee contributions for group health plan and documents related to employee taxes, employer taxes and other deductions.

3. Draft the steps necessary to perform HR tasks, such as storing employee records off-site after an employee is terminated. List each step and the HR staff position responsible for each step in the series. Attach sample copies of forms for every task and describe how to complete each form. This is especially helpful for complex forms, such as detailed injury logs, equal employment opportunity spreadsheets and employment eligibility forms such as the I-9 form required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

4. Study recent legislative changes and employment laws to prepare updates to human resources policies. Access federal and state government agency websites for rules and regulations that affect the workplace. An example of legislative changes that affect HR policy is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Under ARRA, employees whose eligibility for group health plan benefits changed between September 2008 and May 2010 became eligible for 65 percent subsidy on their COBRA premiums. Employers required to absorb the costs received reimbursement of subsidy amounts through reductions in their employment taxes. This legislation prompted a series of HR changes to benefits computations and payroll processing.

5. Assemble input from human resources staff involved in creating the policy guidebook and compile HR staff contributions into book format. Distribute a draft copy to every HR staff member and reconvene the department for a review of the book. Refine sections of the policy guidebook as necessary and assign staff to periodically update portions of the book. Finalize your HR policy guidebook and disseminate additional copies to executive leadership, and maintain a file copy for human resources department use.

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