The impression a new hire forms about your company is initially created during the hiring process. If someone decides to take you up on your offer of employment, the assumption is that you sold your company well. Good job. After you’ve convinced them to join you, it’s time to officially welcome them to the team and give them an opportunity to really get to know your company.
The employee handbook is a key part of that learning curve. It provides information on the company, the policies, the procedures, employee benefits and opportunities. Take a look at your employee handbook from the perspective of a new hire. What type of language is used? Is the focus on the employee or on the company? Is the list of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” statements longer than the list of employee benefits? Some employee handbooks are written that way because that is the company culture, which, from a glass-is-half-full perspective, means they are being honest about who they are. On the other hand, some employee handbooks are written in a traditional, rather autocratic style simply because nobody has looked at them in a while or thought about the hidden message the handbook sends.
In 2009, Zappos took their employee handbook and created a document that reflects who they are and what they stand for as a company. All the traditional information is still there, but presented in a comic book / MAD magazine format. And instead of assigning this task to HR, they pulled employees from different areas in the company to help write it. It is fun, it is colourful and it is true reflection of the company’s values. (More information here.)
I’m not a gamer which may explain why Valve Software’s new employee handbook, introduced in April of this year, flew under my radar. Valve’s company culture is absolutely not for everyone, but like it or not, the culture very clearly comes through in the handbook. One thing completely unique about their handbook is the section clearly outlining what they’re not good at. Take a look here.
Your employee handbook is an extension of your company; it should send a message consistent with your brand image and culture. If you haven’t reviewed it lately, I encourage you to pull it off the shelf, dust it off and read it. And if it does need updating, perhaps like the Zappos example, your team can help rewrite it with you.