Conversion to e-handbooks considered
Q: Our company wants to provide employee handbooks in an electronic format. What issues do we need to take into consideration before making this transition?
A: Considerable growth in high-tech information delivery systems has led to many employers using the Internet or company intranets for delivery of various employee communications, including employee handbooks.
Some employers view this as a simpler, more efficient and economical method of making handbooks available to employees. Regardless, it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of an employee handbook is to provide employees with essential information about an employer's policies and procedures in an easily accessible and understandable format.
Electronic handbooks do of course have certain advantages, such as reducing printing costs and making it easier to revise or add to the handbook. But employers need to take practical issues into consideration before offering handbooks only via an electronic platform.
Questions employers should ask include:
- Will the electronic handbook allow the employer to meet effectively the objective of communicating company policies and procedures to all employees?
- Do all employees have access to the required delivery system?
- Have all employees been properly trained on the use of the electronic delivery system?
- How will field or satellite employees access the information?
- What accommodations will be needed for employees with mental or visual impairments that preclude them from accessing the information electronically?
- How will policy changes/additions be communicated to employees?
- What security measures will be needed?
Employers also need to consider whether they will require employees to sign an acknowledgement form stating that they may access the contents of the electronic handbook at any time and that they are fully aware of the fact that they are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the handbook's contents. And employers also should consider whether they will make acknowledgements be available electronically or only in hard copy (see the sample handbook receipt acknowledgment form).
Providing the handbook exclusively in electronic format may prevent or inhibit some employees from accessing essential company information, so it usually is wise to also have a few hard copies available.
Article Naomi Cossack is the manager of online content in SHRM's Information Center from http://www.shrm.org/kc/solutions/articles/archives/CMS_015386.asp#P-8_0