While it may seem that legalese dominates most employee handbooks, there's also the opportunity to have them reflect your company culture. You can incorporate a robust welcome from the president, company vision, mission and values, and more.
- In 2009, Netflix publicly released a presentation entitled Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility that described their movement away from a company culture based on command and control toward one centered on freedom and responsibility. The presentation went viral and as of March 2018, has been viewed over 17 million times. Because the presentation also discusses company policies, it's often referred to as Netflix's employee handbook.
It has been very influential. With many companies copying their unlimited vacation policy and their simple quote "act in Netflix's best interest" expense policy. Influenced by examples like Netflix, The Valve Handbook for New Employees and the Zappos culture book are just a few of the many companies that are creating culture-first employee handbooks that highlight the company culture in addition to policies found in a traditional employee handbook.
Let's talk about some ideas around these cultural policies and statements. On the cover of its employee handbook, Valve states the handbook is a quote "fearless adventure "in knowing what to do when no one's there "telling you what to do." I love that. That's what I call creating a powerful message right upfront one of which provides a compelling example of your culture. You don't have to skirt around what your culture is. You can and should specifically define it.
For example, Zappos says they have 10 cultural values including deliver wow through service, build open and honest relationships, embrace and drive change, create fun and a little weirdness and be passionate and determined. Now, to me, that sounds like a great place to work. In addition to directly identifying your culture, you can also impact employees by communicating the vision, mission and values of the company.
For example, in Auglaize County Educational Service Center Employee Handbook, it says its vision is quote "a professional customer-driven educational organization "striving to make a positive difference "in our global society. "This is to be accomplished by serving the needs "of lifelong learners with a focus on individual diversity "and by acting as mentors and role models "for other members of the educational community "driving the heart and spirit "as well as the mind of education." It followed that by stating its mission is to quote "provide visionary leadership "that will support, enhance and aid "in coordinating positive efforts "of the Auglaize County educational community." Are your vision and mission statements in your handbook? I believe they should be.
In general, I like keeping those statements as simple as possible so that employees will remember them. I remember during a workshop where the CEO had his back to his company's mission statement on the wall behind him which was six statements too long. When I asked him to share the company vision with me, he couldn't remember most of it. It reminded me of something out of a Dilbert cartoon. So my advice, keep it simple. Those ugly black and white handbooks of yesterday written all in legalese tell of a very formalistic, no fun and low culture workplace.
Here in today's dismal engagement scores, companies are well advised to shake up their traditional thinking and realize their employee handbook is a cultural document too.
- Recognize the company who had a major impact on the new wave of culture-first employee handbooks.
- Describe the characteristics of “at-will employment.”
- Identify the effect of the Faragher rule.
- Recall how many employees a company must have in order fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Determine a plan of action for a presentation when more than 10% of the employees speak a particular foreign language.