My osmosis failure

We learnt plenty about osmosis during “O” level biology; trouble was that by the time it came to the exams, I’d forgotten it all.

Perhaps I thought the process of osmosis would bail me out – just sleep with the textbook under the pillow, and my brain would be magically instilled with everything I needed to know.

Fanciful and bizarre, maybe, but I’ve noticed a similar approach being adopted by plenty of employers, with one recent story springing to mind.

A client got in touch about an employee being off sick.

They’d not followed the absence reporting procedure, so there was a chance they could be dismissed, which was the employer’s preferred outcome.

I just needed to check one tiny little thing – that the handbook containing the absence reporting procedure HAD been given out to all staff.

The answer wasn’t reassuring:

“Well yes, it’s attached to the wall in the kitchen for them to read!”

In case you’re wondering, the proper answer to my original question is “no” – the employee can easily claim they never had a chance to read the handbook, as they were always too busy at work and weren’t given dedicated time to do so.

Which means – in this case – no dismissal, but it highlights a wider point about handbooks: they’re only useful if you use them properly.

Your handbook should be the roadmap that helps employees understand how things work in your organisation.

Containing all the ins and outs of your policies, procedures, and what you’re all about, it should be easy to read and know what’s expected of you.

And when everyone’s on the same page, life’s smoother all round.

Plus, handing it out shows you’re all about keeping things transparent and open, while leaving it as office décor is helping no one.

What should I do now?

You should have your handbook as a pdf, if not, ask your HR company for it.

This should be sent to all employees’ private email addresses. If they don’t have email, it can be sent as a WhatsApp attachment to individuals or groups (e.g. the food and beverage group).

Make sure you send it to ALL staff – this will ensure they all have it “at home”, and have no excuse for not following the sickness absence procedure.

Don’t expect them to know the policies by osmosis, and do not keep the handbook restricted “for eyes only”. MI6 benefits from keeping secrets, but when it comes to handbooks, your business won’t…

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