The employee handbook: It’s a document most companies have, but it’s not one employees are likely coming back to review time and time again. This is largely due to the fact that most employee handbooks are unhelpful and painfully boring. They include pages upon pages of non-specific, drag-and-dropped content about employee conduct and guidelines while leaving out the interesting information: a company’s unique values and attributes.

When done well, companies invested in their people know that the employee handbook can be a powerful tool to both teach new hires about the company culture and brand, and inspire them to begin their career on the right path. Here are the keys to getting it right.

What to Avoid

There’s a reason employees don’t read a company’s handbook: it’s either tedious or it doesn’t pertain to them (or so they think). Even if the content is truly relevant (information like when you’ll be getting paid is certainly worth reading, right?), it’s often lost in a sea of text. The important or interesting nuggets of information may blend in with the housekeeping items that make readers’ eyes gloss over.

To get your employees to actually look through your handbook, make it easy for them to read. Break up content so that one paragraph doesn’t stretch the entire length of page and highlight the information that is most relevant – while still including all the necessary Q&As – by using accent colors, graphs and images to support your text.

Introduce Employer Branding and Culture

Instead of limiting the company handbook to strictly logistical information, use it as an opportunity to show off your unique employer branding or company culture. By showcasing your core values in a way that paints a clear picture for new hires, employees are more likely to understand – and embrace – the cultural norms of your business.

In order to talk about the key elements of your culture, companies need to have clear core values laid out and a greater purpose already defined. These core values can also determine the overall tone of the handbook from both a visual and messaging standpoint. Stock imagery and stuffy corporate-speak don’t add much to your employer brand, so try to write in a way that embodies what your company stands for and use real images of employees.

Know the Reason for the Handbook

Just because nearly every company has an employee handbook does not mean the reason for having it has to be the same from company to company. The most common reason for having an employee handbook is to communicate expectations for employees and provide more information about things like pay periods, benefits, and more. Some less obvious reasons your handbook exists could be to help with recruiting efforts, onboard new hires to the culture, or even clear up confusion on certain topics for current employees.

The key is to narrow down the purpose of your handbook and identify what role it serves as a communication channel. Once you understand why it exists, then you can start prioritizing content – whether that be information about your culture, employee benefits, or overarching vision for the company – accordingly.

Research Good Examples from Other Companies

While you want an employee handbook to be uniquely yours, it can be beneficial to look at what works for others. Researching other employee handbooks can give you ideas for the templates, images and illustrations that work well to get ideas across.

Certainly, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to creating a handbook from scratch, but be inspired to think outside the box by looking at what others are doing to make their handbooks stand out.

Use What You Have

Not every piece of information in an employee handbook is reserved solely for that document. For example, company culture and core value information might already exist on a company’s website or in materials HR uses. Pull text from the website (likely the About page) and from other resources. Consider having more than one person provide any new content needed for the book. For example, a What It’s Like to Work Here page may have a few paragraphs from individuals in different departments of the company. That information could be repurposed into a blog post (depending on your editorial goals) or utilized as content on the Jobs page of the website. Repurposing content is a great way to get the most out of your marketing.

Employee handbooks may be a necessary resource for new hires, but they don’t have to be a boring read. By highlighting who a company is and what they stand for throughout the book and incorporating all the frequently asked questions employees may have, the employee handbook can help foster a company’s great culture and further promote brand stewardship among employees.

Mollie Kuramoto is the Marketing Manager at Element Three, a full-service marketing agency that works across digital and traditional channels to solve real business problems for clients striving for market leadership.

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