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Employee handbook examples you should steal (we won't tell)
Illustration by Maya Ramadhina

7 min read

Employee handbook examples you should steal (we won't tell)

Learn how to create (or steal) an effective employee handbook that engages and informs your staff.

Writing an effective employee handbook is the cornerstone of efficient and effective management. It’s the foundation of compliant workplace practices, the rules and regulations that all employees must follow to keep the business running smoothly. 

You know how important it is to create a handbook—but do you know how to write one that engages employees and keeps them informed? 

Research tells us that two-thirds of HR professionals struggle to get their employees to read their manuals, making the need for a compelling handbook more vital than ever.

Never fear. With so many successful employee handbook examples already out in the world, you can quickly turn those concepts into custom text that fits your business. 

This article will provide examples of employee handbook best practices that you should “steal” to ensure your guide is comprehensive, compliant, and well-read. 

We’ll explore how to craft a practical employee handbook that will set your organization up for continued success and how to get employees to actually read it.

What to include in an employee handbook to ensure smooth sailing

There are certain sections of an employee handbook you must include if you want to foster a thriving and modern work culture. Without these elements, you may leave your staff feeling unsupported, leaving you vulnerable to costly discrepancies and low morale. 

So, to ensure you’ve covered the basics, here are essential elements your worker manual should have: 

  • A clear mission statement: This sets the tone and values of your company. It’s essential to set the standards of expected behaviour and make sure that employees understand what’s expected of them. 
  • Fair employment policies: This section outlines your company’s stance on the rights and responsibilities of working with your business. 
  • Flexible working arrangements: Depending on the size and nature of your business, a flexible working policy can ensure that you’re recruiting top talent and that your employees are taking advantage of all available benefits. 
  • A code of conduct: A comprehensive code of conduct is a must-have to minimize disciplinary issues. This helps staff understand your behavioral expectations and keeps everyone on the same page. 
  • Benefits: Clearly define what perks, rewards, and bonuses you offer your employees. 
  • Vacation policies: Provide staff with clarity over what type of time off is available and the workplace procedures when requesting time away from work. 
  • Probationary periods: Make sure you outline the requirements for employees during their probationary period and how they will be monitored.
  • Termination and resignation terms: Whether planned or unexpected, there should be an understanding of how staff can terminate or resign. 
  • Acknowledgement of receiving and reading the booklet: Having staff read and acknowledge their understanding of it protects both employer and employee. 
  • Examples of disciplinary action: Letting employees know what could merit disciplinary action prevents any incidents or misunderstandings. 
  • Rights of employees: Ensuring staff know their rights of appeal and understand the complaint procedure is also essential.

By including all of these elements in your employee handbook, you can be sure that your staff are fully informed, happy, and motivated to give their best performance for your company.

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Employee handbook examples to get you in the mood to create

Let’s take a look at some stand-out examples of well-written, innovative, and engaging worker manuals found on many companies intranets:

1. Netflix

Want to write a handbook that doesn't just get lost between the pages? Netflix's Employee Culture Guide is the epitome of modern HR practices. With easy-to-read, relatable language, it infuses real-world application with innovative company culture. 

What makes it stand out? Engaging employees with clear guidance without being too heavy-handed. Want to create something like this? Get inspired by Netflix's example and see what makes it so effective.

2. Hubspot

Want to leverage your company culture to create something truly remarkable? HubSpot's Culture Code goes beyond the basics by providing the blueprint and inspiration to unlock your team's true potential. 

Embedding transparency, autonomy, and a customer-first ethos, the document proves why HubSpot is a leader in creating a dynamic and engaging workplace. Take your business into the future—start by looking at this example today. 

3. Facebook (Meta)

Are you eager to revolutionize your team's onboarding process? Ben Barry created Facebook's Little Red Handbook to do exactly that. Not only did it provide the necessary information, but its bold graphics and vibrant colors unforgettably captured Facebook's ethos. 

This handbook's minimalist yet powerful messages make it an initiation into a culture of innovation and excellence. So why stick with the regular, drab process? Take this opportunity to make a lasting impression on your team and invest in an employee handbook that presents a refreshing atmosphere from the start.

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4. Valve

Are you curious about what it would be like to work in a voteless, collaborative environment? Access Valve's Employee Handbook to explore a revolutionary idea of how business could—and perhaps should—be done. 

Their comprehensive guide is an orientation and a passionate reminder of why every employee's voice matters and why creativity should reign supreme. It dismantles traditional corporate structure by removing the managerial 'pyramid' and replacing it with 'Flatland,' where colleagues act as co-pilots empowered to make decisions and drive change. 

This handbook is astonishingly bold and inspiring, paving the way for a future of work that is fearless, uncompromising, and ultimately fulfilling. Try it and learn why this document has garnered so much attention.

5. Zappos

Maybe you tucked your employee handbook away in a forgotten drawer, never to be read. But what if it didn't have to be that way? Enter Zappos, with a remarkable employee handbook crafted in comic book style and featuring superheroes and villains. 

Written by its employees for its employees, it is anything but mundane. Interweaving policies and procedures into a narrative of a grandmother and her grandson, the handbook makes seemingly dull material relatable and entertaining. 

Personal stories, staff photos, and quotes feature alongside the vibrant Mad Magazine-style layout, showcasing Zappo's commitment to cultural fit. With its playful spirit and emphasis on values, the handbook proves effective literature doesn’t have to be boring. 

Tips for creating an effective employee handbook

Creating an effective employee handbook takes effort and strategy. Break it down into actionable steps:

  1. Ask yourself, “How can I communicate my company’s values and expectations clearly and concisely?”
  2. Start by brainstorming the policies and values crucial to your business and creating simple, compelling language to describe them.
  3. Involve employees and department heads in the process, ask for their insights and experiences, and leverage their input to ensure the content resonates.
  4. Make sure to write in an easily digestible manner, using analogies and vivid language where appropriate. When creating policies, keep them brief and to the point. 

A practical employee handbook should be a reference document, and easily finding and quickly reading any policy is critical. Include enough detail to be clear, but no more than is necessary. 

Develop a system for maintaining and updating your handbook as needed—whether it be an annual review of the language and contents or more frequent improvements and changes. 

Establishing a regular review process and involving employees in providing feedback will ensure your handbook reflects the latest developments and the current needs and values of the organization.

You can never spend too much time on your employee handbook

Crafting an effective employee handbook is vital to building a strong organizational culture and effective communication. By creating an engaging, comprehensive, and compliant manual, your organization will foster a happy and productive team. 

Empower your employees to become involved in the process and create a living document that evolves with your organization; don't just write it—make it the reliable resource your team can rely on. 

So, why not start today and take your employee handbook to the next level?


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Gabe Scorgie

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