Expanding the Handbook

Purpose and Objectives

Sakkara Properties, a development and rental management company, has grown over the last several years. Continued growth is expected to take place in both the properties managed as well as the tenants served from Island Park to Idaho Falls.

To enlarge the company’s area of influence in the development and rental management market in Idaho, management recognizes the need to be efficient and effective. To improve in these two areas there need to be clear expectations of management and its employees.

The current organizational handbook has been expanded “on the fly” since the company started but has never been completely reworked and it no longer meets the needs of the organization. Through this project, the written policies and procedures, as well as all position information, have been edited. Missing sections have been written. Current staff has assisted in the development of their individual position documents. The final draft form is currently in the hands of the owner of the company for review.

The objective of this project was to finalize a document which encapsulates the company culture, policies, procedures, individual position details, markets served, and more. This document has a revamped mission statement, organizational breakdown, goals (long and short term), standard yearly calendar, applications for employment, interviewing questionnaires, employee review documentations, and employee counseling forms.

This new employee handbook outlines clearer expectations between management and employees. It also offers a framework to build clearer expectations between the organization and their customers. With procedures and policies outlined, employees are and can feel empowered to make decisions within the framework of their position as well as represent the company with renewed confidence. The result will be long term, better product and service delivery to the customers.

New Employee Handbook

Below you will see how far it has come, although there is still much to do once my supervisor and co-workers go over this draft. There will be more editing and finalizing.

Welcome/Basic and Tasks and Organization

Additional documents

Challenges Met Along the Way

As the new handbook has taken shape over the last several weeks, various challenges have been encountered. Obstacles to this task have included things as simple as too many source documents with a few versions of each, to the original document not including all the sections a complete handbook should have. Just three challenges are addressed here.

First, as the various sections of the Handbook have been edited and written, a need for more detail or another section or sections has become known. This has gotten in the way of working straight through each section or document. As the need for more sections or documents grew, the entire project became a bit overwhelming. 

Second, one obstacle to overcome is achieving the balance of positive tone in the document while still being realistic with the language itself. For example, there is a need for a section regarding employee counseling, but what new employee wants to hear about their possible dismissal?

Third, the last challenge to be discussed here is the temptation to include too much detail. The first draft, not submitted to the owner, was significantly longer than the one in her hands at this time. It is difficult to remember to focus just on the “bones and muscles” of the organization, the structure, policies, and procedures. We need to allow the employees to add, through their positions, what has been referred to as the flesh of the organization; all the little things that make the company different from others serving the same markets.

The Process

The first step in this process was to gather all the documentation for the entire organization regarding policies, procedures, and positions. This included past versions of the current handbook as well as current information which should be included in the final product (for example, job descriptions).

The next step involved reading through all gathered information and determining what is missing/required and then put it all in a logical order. Other organizational handbooks have been reviewed to see if there were important sections missing and to get ideas of things we may want to include in this new employee handbook. Current staff members contributed what they felt would be important to them in this resource. It is, after all, for them.

The next few weeks were spent writing, editing, and rewriting sections to be included in the final draft. This included taking pieces to current staff members for their review. It is best for those in the positions to edit and/or suggest, as necessary.

After one final edit, the document was submitted to the company owner for review. She still has the document and has given limited feedback at this time. The original timeline included having it finalized by the July staff meeting. Time constraints and the owner’s schedule (even though she has had it two weeks now) have made that impossible. 

Experiences, Insights, and Takeaways

Gathering documents, reading, researching, and writing this new handbook has presented a few opportunities otherwise not available. Recognizing how seriously incomplete the current handbook is was the first notable. 

As this project has taken shape, and as things often do, everything has not worked out as planned. When this project was started, the organization anticipated managing another large student housing complex by now. While it is still a possibility, it has not yet happened in the last ten weeks. With the basic organizational structure in place, it is evident that even with a notable change in plans, the organization kept moving forward, with little disruption. If the organization mission were not already in place, the company very easily could have veered off course, disappointed, and frustrated.

The importance of an outline and a timeline when working on a document such as this has been reinforced. These two tools are invaluable to this process of editing and writing. When it was tempting to get off track by another idea or new section, the outline would give the structure needed to put the added item where it belonged. When the outline and timeline were utilized, it was easier to stay on track. The timeline has the added benefit of giving incentive and motivation to keep working even when the desire was not apparent.

Concise is good. Brief, direct, and to the point information in this document is vital to it being read and understood by both management and employees.

On a personal note, the last takeaway from this endeavor is that I do good work. This may sound prideful, so I hesitate to even write it but one of my key takeaways is that I do good work. As someone who has struggled with confidence in the workplace, to have co-workers, peers, and my supervisor look at this draft makes me nervous. So far, all the feedback I have received is that I have done an excellent job on this draft. That is not to say they have not made changes, or suggestions for improvement, which I wholeheartedly welcome. With their feedback, they have also given me the confidence to keep going, see this through to completion and not shy away from similarly large future tasks.