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The results of an informal reader survey we conducted several years ago showed that less than 40% of the single-store operations with sales below $3 Million had a personnel Policy Manual and only 43% of the total respondents, which included multi-store companies with sales up to $10, had Policy Manuals.

Retailers that operate without written Policy Manuals operate under a handicap. When questions or problems arise concerning the store's policies, the store owner/manager must handle them on an individual basis. What happens is that the owner is thinking about how to increase sales, or what advertising to use and an employee walks up and asks for time off or some other question.  Unless the situation has been covered in a policy manual beforehand, the likelihood of giving consistent answers from one employee to another is small. The problems with this approach are that it takes too much of management's time, can lead to inconsistency in dealing with company policy, and upsets the employees who feel that everyone is not being treated equally.

The majority of employees want to do a good job. They respond well to an environment in which company policies are well defined and equitably and consistently enforced.There is much information concerning the company that employees need to know and management is obligated to tell them.  The best method for disseminating this information is by providing it to the employees in the form of a written Policy Manual.

A written store policy manual is also an important management tool.  It details for your employees what you expect of them. Personnel problems are avoided because ideas of conduct, job performance and general store policy are spelled out in writing. The excuse "You didn't tell me" can not be used when employee problems arise.

A Policy Manual is needed for companies of all sizes. If you have more than one employee, you should have a manual. The manual should be expanded to cover any new situations that arise. A growing company especially needs a continuously updated policy manual to keep its employees fully informed of all the changes occurring in company philosophy as well as policy.

In writing the Policy Manual, keep in mind that it will be used by supervisors to resolve any disputes or initiate disciplinary action, and should, therefore, be written in such a way that it supports them in this endeavor.

A Policy Manual should answer some of the most important questions employees ask. For example, prohibitions against drinking and drug use on the job, performance review, holidays, vacations, benefits, leave of absence, work hours, personal hygiene grooming as well as dress codes and other critical policies that often affect morale. However, don't put anything down as policy if you are not going to enforce it as this just confuses employees and creates dissension. Also, a Policy Manual may be considered legally binding so it  is best to consult with your lawyer regarding local, state and federal statutes before you issue the Policy Manual to employees.

The company Policy Manual is usually divided into sections covering the following areas:

Introduction to the Company: The introduction gives a brief history of the store along with its mission statement and goal and welcomes the new employee.

Employment Policies: This section includes a statement about Equal Employment Opportunity, training, evaluation period, performance reviews, termination, resignation, dismissal, layoffs and the open door policy.

About Your Job: This section includes things such as pay rate, job classifications, personnel records, pay periods, commissions, reimbursement of expenses and education.

Responsibilities: The responsibilities section includes the code of conduct, misconduct, confidentiality, attendance, time keeping, cooperation, appearance, use of computers and telephones, security, safety, smoking and substance abuse, moonlighting, unacceptable conduct, disciplinary action and sexual harassment.

Benefits: The employee benefits section covers such items as holidays, vacations, sick leave, jury duty, employee discounts, insurance and pension plans.

Miscellaneous: This section details what the evaluation will be based on, shows the printed forms used in the evaluation process and gives information on when evaluations are made, also in this section are forms for use by personnel, such as an Expense Voucher, Suggestion Form and Absence Form.

The Policy Manual is a good vehicle for your company to use to indoctrinate new employees and to keep all employees informed of any changes in company policy and philosophy. It should tell employees all they NEED to know as well as what the company WANTS them to know. To be used effectively, the company's Policy Manual must be continuously updated, must be enforced at all times and must ALWAYS be supported by top management (you, the owner).

While you may agree that your store needs a policy manual, you may not have time to develop one. After all, you are buying, selling, managing the store, determining advertising, and all the other things a store owner does every day.  We can help. We have developed a policy manual that will fit most retail specialty stores. All that needs to be done is to customize it to your particular store. We are offering this at a special introductory rate of just $150 until July 15. On July 15 the price goes up to the regular price of $300.  One of the things all retail store owners are short of is time and it does take time to prepare a store policy manual. Let us help you.

To have your store’s policy manual prepared for you, just send us your payment of $150 with a short note stating you would like us to prepare your company’s policy manual and we will send you a questionnaire to answer with all the details we need to get started. As soon as we have it completed we will mail you a draft so you can review it and make any changes you would like. Once that is done, the final manual will be mailed to you so you can have it printed and bound for your employees.

Do not put this off. It is a very worthwhile project and will benefit both you and your store’s employees.