Why and how you should develop an employee handbook

Your internal staff guide is more than just dress codes and PTO policies. It should augment your culture by conveying the company’s history and mission. Here are six examples to borrow from.

Employee handbook examples

If you haven’t spent time developing an employee handbook yet, you’re not alone.

An employee handbook can be incredibly useful in building a positive workplace culture and employee loyalty, but they’re not easy to craft.

Most businesses don’t think about it until it’s a pressing need. Whether you’re attempting to address an office culture issue or interested in building one as a foundational element, crafting an employee handbook requires preparation and thoughtfulness.

To get started, it’s helpful to understand why an employee handbook is crucial to business success. Before starting your own from scratch, it’s useful to get tips by looking at examples.

What is an employee handbook?

It can go by different names, such as an employee field guide or staff manual. Whatever you call it, every employee should receive one, on or before their first day. (You might even include a copy in a welcome email sent to all new hires.)

It can also be a long-form document available as a handy reference guide.

What do most employee handbooks include?

Given that companies’ requirements, core values and goals can differ, each handbook should be unique and reflect those elements. Most include 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—both what the company expects to see from its employees and what employees can expect from the company
  • Company policies about vacation time, sick days, non-discrimination, etc.

When should a company create an employee handbook?

There is no law requiring one. “Though there are many laws requiring employers to notify employees of certain workplace rights, there are actually no federal or state laws specifically requiring an employer to have an employee handbook,” notes BLR.

Many companies create one because they can help mitigate workplace conflicts. If your small business is reaching a point where conflicts might crop up, develop a handbook.

Handbooks can help new employees feel at home. Learning about a company’s stories, mission and core values can increase engagement and loyalty. It’s a useful resource to check dress codes, PTO policies, parking recommendations, etc. to help them get acclimated immediately.

So, it’s beneficial to write one as soon as you have a mission statement, core values and other particulars you’d like to share.

What are some good employee handbook examples?

Once you know everything required for an employee handbook, it can still be hard to envision what it’s supposed to look like once it has come together.

That’s easier if you can work from examples. Here are six worth reviewing:

  1. The retail chain’s one simple rule approach nails the simplicity message. Start with one simple rule; you can always fill in the rest later.
  2. Valve’s handbook went viral, because it touches on everything from company philosophy to walking new hires through their first day of work.
  3. This guide achieves a lot through a PowerPoint format. By sharing it on SlideShare, communicators practice the transparency they preach.
  4. Netflix’s handbook delineates its culture and values and makes them actionable.
  5. This one is so expertly designed that it practically compels you to read it over and over again.
  6. This tech company uses its own platform to house its employee manual.

There are plenty of ways to approach your handbook. Whichever direction you go, keep it light, fresh, engaging and fun. Prioritize brevity and design, and make it interesting enough to draw your employees in.

A version of this post first appeared on the Zenefits blog.

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