How to Assemble an HR Manual, Part 2: Writing and Publishing

In this second part of how to create or revise an HR Manual, I’ll briefly go into the writing process and then spend more time on creating the online version of the manual.

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One great way to make sure your HR writing doesn’t sound nearly as boring or rigid or procedural as most HR manuals is to use dictation software so you can speak it. Then you can always edit it (especially if you’re not the best extemporaneous speaker in the world).

Use your team to do initial reviews of new material or heavily edited old material and if need be have them circulate it among key people in their departments. Remember, you want acceptance and buy-in to this manual all along the way.

The most important think to keep in mind when writing or revising materials for your new HR manual is what I mention in the first article, which is the KISS principle – Keep it simple and short. You want this manual to convey everything your company’s employees need to know as simply and as straightforwardly as possible. Explain exactly what they get by being an employee (what they can expect of the company) and exactly what is expected of them on the part of the company.

Once you have your draft all set and approved as much as it can be, convert all your subsection word processing files into PDFs – this not only makes printing easier (they’ll print exactly how they look on the screen), but will come in handy for the online version.

Online Version

Feel free to handle the online version however makes the most sense for your organization, but what I find myself recommending more often than not is to use Evernote. Updating the manual is a very simple drag-n-drop of whatever subsection has been updated. Evernote works across all platforms and devices. Either the Premium or Business versions (but not the free version) will work well for this kind of project. In the language of Evernote, each section of your HR manual will be a notebook, and have one prefixed with 0 for your front-matter so it appears first, and any appendices with forms and so forth prefixed with whatever number comes after your manual’s last numbered section. Create one final Notebook called HR Manual and drag all the other notebooks (front-matter, sections, back-matter) into it, making it serve as what Evernote calls a Stack. In each notebook (section) within the stack, open a note for each subsection of your manual, and attach the corresponding PDF file to it. For ease of future editing, go ahead and attach the corresponding word processing document with it as well. In Evernote you can’t share a stack or have Evernote make a ToC for a stack, which is why we created a notebook and put all the section notebooks into it.

To make your HR manual accessible across all devices, go into your “stack” and create a new notebook and choose the “synchronized notebook” option for it. Then what you do is move all the PDF files from each notebook and put them in this new notebook. Using the Note Link feature, select all your notes in the right sequence and a button for generating the ToC will appear on the right side of the screen for you to click. With the list on the left side of the screen, choose “set to name” in order to have all the notes displayed in ascending order. Select all the notes displayed on the list, which will make a graphical representation of them appear on the right side of the screen. Below that, click on the “Create Table of Contents” button. A new note is created, which you should name Table of Contents and prefix it with the number 0.0 so it sits at the top of the list of displayed notes. Voila! You now have an online version of your HR manual with a clickable ToC you can share with everyone.

You now have an easily revisable HR manual that can be distributed and made available online for easy access. And the whole process turns out to be simpler than you first thought, right? That was my aim in writing this two-part series – to show you that creating a new HR manual doesn’t have to be the painful process everyone thinks it is.

January 29, 2016   Updated :November 16, 2016   HR, HR manual, human resources   

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