Running a business or organization can be one of the most difficult things you do in your life. There are so many moving parts to keep track of, not to mention that your employees might not work to your level of expectations. Many organizations codify policies and procedures in an employee handbook with specific examples of acceptable behavior.
That’s not even considering external factors that might come into play that you have no plan for, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
So many businesses were forced to scramble and come up with new ways of doing things during the pandemic. Even the most polished and established companies saw change sweep through their organizations.
However, as mentioned, this wasn’t something they were able to plan for or come up with contingency plans for. But because external, unknown forces can always come into play, it’s best to make sure that you do have specific ideas of how to handle everything else in your sphere.
You will make detailed company policies to show your employees what you expect of them and how they have to conduct themselves as an extension of your business. In this way, you can make sure that your expectations are clearly defined for your team.
But what if they forget? Memory can be fallible, and you may have said one thing that got misinterpreted by a specific employee.
That’s why you have to make employee handbooks.
Employee handbooks are a must so long as you’re not running a single-worker small business. If you have anyone working for you, you’re going to expect things from them. You’re going to want things done in a certain way, in a certain timeframe, and for a certain reason.
To make sure that your employees—however many or few you have—are on the same page as you, you should create employee handbooks for them.
Employee handbooks can go by different names. They’ve been called employee field guides, staff manuals, and other things.
Despite their different names, they all serve the same purpose! Employee handbooks are printed or digital handbooks that anyone who works at a company will receive. They’re typically given out on the first day of work—or even before, depending on the situation—and it’s expected that the employee will read them.
These handbooks are meant to go over, in varying detail, what is expected of employees at a specific organization. They’re meant to cover everything the new hire needs to know on their first day.
But they don’t just become obsolete after day one, no. They’re meant to be referenced and used throughout an employee’s entire time at the company, although they’re meant to help a new hire fit seamlessly into an already-established system.
While there are many hard elements to running a business, you might be surprised to find that creating an employee handbook is one of the harder things you’ll have to do!
Because of the surprising difficulty of the task, there are loads of documents and templates online that are there to help you. At the end of the day, try not to get overwhelmed. The goal is that, when the work is complete, you have a guide that is specific to your organization and that meets your needs and details the expectations you have of your employees.
When it comes to employee handbooks, some things are pretty common to include. Again, all handbooks will be different, but there will be overlaps when you have similar expectations and processes as another company.
When it comes to employee handbooks, most of them include, at least:
- Information on company culture, values, and a mission statement
- Human resource and legal information as well as rights and obligations related to employment
- Realistic expectations regarding what you—as the boss—expect of them and also what the employees can expect from you
- Company policies about vacation time, sick days, non-discrimination, etc.
Outside of the basics, though, many other things can crop up. That’s why it’s best to turn to other places that publicize their employee handbooks. For once, using them as templates and adapting them to your specific needs is the best thing you can do.
As with all companies, there are some things they lack in their handbook. Despite this, they are still a very good example.
Nordstrom does a great job of being simple, direct, and to the point.
What you can pull from this is that it’s a good idea to start with one simple rule that details what you want. You can always add in more detail and addendums later. Just make sure you have a clear picture of what you want and then go from there.
Another one that is simple and to the point. They have a mission and in their employee handbook, they execute it.
Netflix delineates their culture and values into easily consumable words, and also makes it so that their expectations are actionable.
Their slideshow document uses blunt, concise statements but doesn’t make it too dense to read and understand what they’re saying. They limit each slide to a couple of sentences, pictures, and/or bullet points.
By doing it this way, they expend little effort to make sure that the new hire knows exactly what is expected and required of being a Netflix employee.
You’ve likely heard of Trello, but what you may not know is that their handbook is very adaptable. If you’re looking for a good one to check out and use as a template, it’s Trello.
They use their platform to house and give out their handbook, which allows new hires to learn the ropes while also learning the program. It’s an ingenious way of killing two birds with one stone.
Each list on the Trello board represents what would be a different section in the handbook, such as benefits, vacation, travel, and miscellaneous items. Then, under each list, are all the policies and procedures relating to that topic.
It makes it super easy to read and is also very informative for the new hires.
Sterling Gold Mining Corporation
It’s good to get different tones in there when you’re trying to figure out the best way to write your handbook. Not all of them have to be dry as dust and hard to swallow or parse.
The simpler and more readable your handbook is, the easier it’ll be for your employees to understand it.
When it comes to Sterling Gold’s handbook, theirs is an online, one-page scrolling site that delivers clever, creative, and communicative information to new hires and employees alike.
This is likely one of the most famous handbooks on this list if anyone is keeping track. It may seem weird for a handbook to be famous, but part of its fame is that it wasn’t meant to be made public.
A few years ago, it went viral not only because it’s extremely well-written, but also because it was leaked! Valve’s handbook makes sure to touch on everything from company philosophy to walking new hires through their first day of work.
Valve’s handbook has received praise from blogs, online magazines, and social media personas. People actively seek it out for fun.
The other reason Valve’s handbook is so popular is because it’s enjoyable and almost like you’re reading something for your pleasure. Their handbook is filled with hilarious illustrations in line with the company’s humor!
This allows you to get a sense of a company while you’re also learning the rules, and you’re able to enjoy doing so, too. Laughter and humor are two of the fastest ways to get rid of first-day nerves.
This handbook makes the list because it manages to achieve so much through a traditional PowerPoint format. It’s shared on SlideShare, which allows them to practice the transparency that they, as a company, preach.
They make sure their document is filled with images and colors that keep the reader engaged, even through the most boring topics and dense wording.
They do it so masterfully that sometimes, as you’re reading, you’ll forget that you’re reading legal policy! Despite sometimes slipping into legalese, Hubspot’s handbook is overall very conversational and playful.
The slideshow is not as popular as Valves, but it has certainly gained its own set of followers and fans. It’s a great inspiration when it comes to handbooks, especially if you want to be known as a fun and engaging company.
Oddly enough, Zappos makes a new handbook for their employees every year. Whereas that might seem like a bad business model—as the employees have to relearn new things year after year—it works for this company.
Since they reinvent their handbook every year, they’ve gone through a few different iterations and ideas. One of their most famous ones was the year that they turned their handbook into a comic book. As with others on this list, they wanted to make the information fun to read, so that their employees would remember it.
Having said all of this, no matter what you do, you need to make sure that your handbook is indicative of what sort of company you would like to be. It needs to be easy to digest and helpful, as well.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to making a handbook, but so long as you can put your spin on it, you’ll end up with a memorable piece of documentation that is both informative and able to perform its function well.