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How are Employee Manuals and Operations Manuals Different?

As Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but corporate manuals come in all shapes and sizes under all kinds of names: Employee Policy Manual, Company Procedures Manual, Employee Manual, Corporate Training Manual, Policy and Procedure Manual, Operations Manual, etc., etc., etc.
Does the name make a difference?
Yes! Although all manuals share a common goal of laying out consistent standards, streamlining systems, and standardizing operations within a company, their content, structure and purpose vary dramatically from type to type. The difference between “Employee” manuals and “Operations” manuals in particular is worth a closer examination.
  • Employee Manuals cover basic employment rules and policies, such as hours of work, vacation and holiday policies, non-discrimination policies, overtime policies and so on. Most organizations have some sort of general employee manual or handbook blessed by the corporate lawyers and handed out by HR during new employee orientation.
  • Operations Manuals are unique to each organization and cover the specific work systems and procedures of the organizations. Operations typically contain processes, procedures, work instructions and job aids that help employees understand how to complete tasks correctly and in a standard way.
Many organizations have basic employee handbooks, but a large number of organizations lack any kind of Operations Manuals and pay the price for this through inefficiencies, lowered productivity and higher costs. For more on why that is, see previous post Standardizing Operations Helps You Work Faster and Eliminate Waste.