How to get employees to read and agree to your employee handbook with SharePoint

One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is not the creation and maintenance of the employee handbook, but how to ensure employees read and acknowledge / agree to it. Traditionally this has been achieved by creating a glossy brochure and requesting employees return a separate advice slip confirming they have read the document which is then stored for future reference. However more and more organizations are turning to electronic solutions to provide a more efficient and cost effective approach.

This post will discuss exactly how this can be done electronically using Microsoft SharePoint and an inexpensive tool developed by Collaboris called DocRead for SharePoint.

Should we use paper?

In previous years and still to some extent today, the Employee Handbook is printed out and put onto the employees desk on the day they arrive. When they have read it “employees are usually required to sign a form stating they have read and understand the information, and accept the terms of the employee handbook. Failure to do so within a timely manner may result in termination” - Wikipedia.

If the Employee Handbook is sent out in paper format it’s going to suffer from the following drawbacks :

  • Expensive printing costs
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Out of date as soon as it’s changed
  • Easier to get into the wrong hands outside of the company

In addition, once the acknowledgment slip is signed it needs to be stored and filed safely for later use (should the need arise). Paper isn’t really the best way to communicate your corporate policies and procedures.

Use SharePoint to store the Employee Handbook

A large proportion of companies now have SharePoint or are moving to it. SharePoint generated Microsoft over $2 billion in revenue last year and if it were considered a company in its own right, it would now be in the top 10 of the biggest companies in the world.  SharePoint can solve many problems for a company, but the majority of people would say that it’s a “document management” system if asked. SharePoint has replaced the traditional company file share with a web based approach. We can now search, classify, tag, secure, version, collaborate and view our documents in a way which was never possible on the traditional file share.There are many features and benefits that SharePoint offers when used as document management solution for storing your company documents. These are discussed fully in this post. This post discusses policies and procedures, but the points are exactly the same for Employee Handbook, or in fact any type of document.

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How to assign the Employee Handbook to an employee

Once the Handbook is authored and uploaded to a SharePoint document library the next challenge is distributing it to employees. There are a few solutions to this problem, as follows.

  • Print it out and give it the employee (see drawbacks above)
  • Send a link in an e-mail to the employee
  • Use DocRead for SharePoint

Send a link in an e-mail

This may appear to be the quickest and easiest way to go, however there are a few challenges, such as :

How do you know the employee read the document by the deadline you set? You can use ‘read receipts’ but that only indicates the employee has read the email and not associated attachments.

  • What happens if the Employee Handbook changes significantly? – This would result in all employees need to re-read and re-accept the terms and conditions.
  • How do you get the employee to acknowledge the document and accept the terms and conditions ? Where do you store the digital acknowledgment ?
  • How can you find out which employees have read which versions of the handbook and when ? Which ones need to read the latest ?
  • How do know what the employees thought of the handbook? How do you capture feedback ?
  • Employees receive hundreds of e-mails every week, how can you ensure yours doesn’t get lost?

Use DocRead for SharePoint

Collaboris developed DocRead for SharePoint to solve exactly the problems listed above. DocRead is a SharePoint add-on that can be used to distribute any document in any format (Word, Excel, PDF, web page, etc), to any group of employees and track that they have read it. The person who publishes the handbook must also specify the number of days a user has to read the policy. Through a series of background jobs DocRead creates each person in the group a 'reading task' and sets them a deadline to acknowledge and agree to the policy. Emails are sent and web parts can be placed on any web page to ensure that there are no excuses! Obviously, there are situations where employees don't read documents and these are sometimes the things that are of most interest to organizations. This is simply solved by using the DocRead Compliance Cockpit which allow administrators to quickly identify employees with overdue tasks.

Diagram Overview

The following steps explain how DocRead can be used to efficiently manage the distribution of your employee handbook:

  1. Latest version of the employee handbook is saved in a SharePoint document library
  2. The target user group is identified for the document e.g. “All Staff”.
  3. All members of the “All Staff” group receive an email informing them of their reading requirement and are given a set number of days to complete the task
  4. The users follow a link in the email (or from a web part added to your company intranet site) to open the handbook.
  5. The user then self certifies that they have read and understood the handbook and receive a certificate confirming this.
  6. A HR administrator can track the progress of the handbook and identify employees who have yet to complete the task by using DocRead reports.

DocRead also ensures that as new employees arrive and are added to the “All Staff” SharePoint user group the Employee Handbook reading task will automatically be sent to them without you having to do a thing!

The same process can be used for many different types of important company documents and DocRead’s ‘SmartMove’ technology will ensure that the correct groups of employees will always be assigned the relevant reading tasks.


The ultimate buyer's guide to policy management software

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