I recently received an email from a friend in Boston who had a dispute about holiday pay with an employee who thought President’s Day was a great day to go to Nantucket, rather than the kitchen of the restaurant he was working. A fine thought. Except, if he had read the restaurants employee manual he would have realized that President’s day was not a recognized holiday at this particular eating establishment. The problem, however, was this particular eating establishment didn’t have an employee manual.And, that is a big problem. Especially in the world of the quick-lawsuit-filing lawyer, arbitrators, and the “you said, he said” testimony that so many court decisions are based on. Strange as it may seem, the small breakfast bar with only two employees, presumably husband and wife, should have an employee manual.
Now don’t think that a manual is a difficult tome to develop. It isn’t. It doesn’t need to be a voluminous work of literary ingenuity. It can be written, simply, in restauranteze so that everyone from the CEO to the dishwasher understands the content. Clearly, the book should define the simple policies of the company and the restaurant. It should deal with topics that are pertinent in the world we live and work. Defining and covering holiday pay, regular pay, pay day, sick days, dress standards, profanity, tardiness, sick and late call-in procedures, tips, shift length, dining room section distribution, menu knowledge, meal policy, drink policy, hygiene, insubordination, termination policy and procedures, warnings, frequent friend visitations, cell phones, personal phone calls, personal days, vacation request procedure, perks, arbitration, dispute settlements, paid outs from the register, petty cash, sexual harassment, drug testing, drug tolerance policy, and professional expectations. These are, unfortunately, only a few of the topics that you will need to define.
An easy way to get the manual started, if you do not have one, is to get a three ring binder and fill it with paper and dividers. Take the ten topics that you face most frequently and write a two-sentence paragraph stating the policy with that situation. Write simply and clearly as though you were telling a new hire about the policy. Categorize your answers in your dividers and you are on your way. Once you have the majority of the policies set, copy the pages, put a cover on it, and you have the beginning of an employee manual.
Make sure every employee gets a copy, and make sure that they sign a one-sentence sheet of paper acknowledging receipt of the information. Put the signed paper in their personnel file, that folder you have in your office with all their pertinent, payroll information and their application that you keep forever.
As new situations arrive, develop a procedure to deal with them and write it up. Put the new procedure in the employee manual and place a copy of that new bit of information in the payroll envelopes of all the employees. This is a great way to make sure that the staff gets the message you are serious about your employees reading and adhering to the terms defined in the employee manual.
If you think this is a big brother, corporate out look, don’t be fooled by the need for organizational guidelines that set the tone of your company for those who work for you. Look at the employee manual as a playbook for your team. It informs them of what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you. It clears the air in a lot of situations that at some point may seem a bit touchy. If used correctly, it can be a tremendous way to diplomatically smooth situations that could have led everyone down a bumpy road.
The employee manual shouldn’t be confused with a training manual. However, it is almost more important.
The employee manual is the bible of all successful, well-run restaurants. It should be used religiously.