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Writing an Employee Handbook

by Amber Roberts, Extension Educator, Agricultural Business Management 

Picture of light green Farm Employee Handbook surrounding by commodities and livestock with a table of contents list.

As your farm grows from a sole proprietorship to hiring employees, it's time to start thinking about writing down your farm's policies and procedures. This is where an employee handbook comes in. 

Employee handbooks are good for the farm, employers, and employees. They can communicate the farm's culture by sharing the farm's history, vision, and mission statement. Handbooks can detail the training, development, and feedback processes highlighting the farm's commitment to the improvement of their employees and creating greater employee buy-in. They provide fairness and transparency on all policies and can allow for greater collaboration and discussion between employees and employers on farm policies. 

Writing an Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks provide important information about the business's vision and culture, expectations of employees, employer obligations, and employee rights. An employee handbook should be clear and concise. Write in a straightforward manner and use simple language. When possible use positive words and statements. Avoid talking about the "don'ts" and instead detail what employees should be doing. Explain the purpose behind each rule and why they are necessary for your operation. 

If you use an employee handbook template, personalize the examples to meet the needs and employee expectations for your operation. As the employee handbook is a one-sided communication method,the goal of the handbook should be to directly address your employees in simple and understandable way.  

There are a variety of different sections that you could chose to include in your employee handbooks. These sections could include a welcome from the owners, history of the farm, onboarding process, career development opportunities, or employee compensation including bonuses, bonus incentives and time off. Each section of the employee handbook should make sense for your farm and your employee's needs. 

Writing an exployee handbook takes time. Time invested in the writing process now will result in less time later interpreting the policies. For an employee handbook to remain useful, it needs to be reviewed regularly and updated as necessary. To learn more about creating a farm employee handbook, listen to the entire employee handbook. 

Episode 13 Transcript

Episode Content:
01:25 - Employee Handbook Basics
03:16 - Migitating Risk with Handbooks
04:25 - What to Include in the Handbook
06:11 - Policies vs Procedures
08:04 - Handbook Sections
09:50 - Whose your Handbook Audience?
13:18 - Job Descriptions

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