Why Is it Important for an Employee Handbook to Include a Letter From the Chief?

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An employee is more likely to read a handbook knowing that it contains a message from the chief.
An employee is more likely to read a handbook knowing that it contains a message from the chief. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

New employees arriving at work are often greeted with stacks of paperwork to complete, including insurance documents, benefits forms and tax paperwork. One of the most important documents that new employees receive is an employee handbook, which is often preceded with a letter from the chief. The handbook shouldn’t be treated lightly, which is why including a letter from the company president, CEO or owner establishes legitimacy.

Handbook Purpose

Distributing employee handbooks to new hires plays the crucial role of establishing legal grounds for requiring or forbidding certain behaviors in the workplace. Formalizing expectations, job descriptions, processes, disciplinary procedures and other organizational information ensures that employees can’t later claim ignorance of policies if contesting terminations or demotions. Additionally, describing company rules in a handbook ensures uniformity among employees. When employees are trained by different managers but not given a handbook, it’s possible that they’ll be taught slight variations of policies depending on manager perspective or professional preferences.

Letter Contents

Including a letter from the chief in an employee handbook isn’t a new idea. In fact, most letters rely on a fairly standard format that covers basics including a welcoming salutation, outline of the company’s establishment and growth, and statement of company objectives. Employee handbook preface letters can also include information about the chief’s employee relations philosophy, vision and mission. Some letters address legal issues directly, including an employment at-will statement, a statement against harassment and an equal opportunity employer statement.

Welcome

One reason it’s important to include a letter from the chief in an employee handbook is to proffer a formal welcome to the company. In very large companies, it’s possible that new hires have been screened, interviewed and processed by dozens of lower-level employees without acknowledgment from the head honcho. A welcoming letter formally acknowledges the on-boarding employee, welcoming him to the team. This adds to the chief’s authority so that new employees don’t get the impression that the company is run by lower-level managers.

Solemnity

Another reason employee handbooks should include a letter from the chief is to establish the gravity of the document. Handbooks prefaced with a letter from the company president attest to the high level of attention and standards involved with company policies. Employees are more likely to take handbooks seriously (and read them) knowing that the company’s top decision maker penned the initial letter.

Company Culture

The chief can also set the tone for company culture in the employee handbook letter. Businesses that highly value formality establish and perpetuate that tone with a conservatively worded letter accentuating the chief’s authority. Companies that value a friendly, team-oriented environment benefit from a handbook letter that uses less formal language, establishing a more casual work culture.

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