How to Make the Best Employee Handbooks
The purpose of an employee handbook is to explain your company’s vision, mission and policies. The appearance of the handbook, how often it is updated, how thorough it is, how it’s written, whether it is online and much more is up to you. However, keep in mind that the best employee handbooks are those that people actually enjoy reading — and many people aren’t. A 2014 study by GuideSpark indicates that 43 percent of Millennials don’t read their handbooks, and the figure for everyone else is a still dismal 30 percent. Here’s how to make a handbook that folks will read.
1. Call It Something Other Than a Handbook
The phrase “employee handbook” carries certain connotations. In the worst cases, “tedious,” “boring” and “drudgery” may come to mind. In better cases, the connotations might be along the lines of, “Eh, I guess it won’t be so bad.”
Make the best employee handbooks by not calling them handbooks (or employee manuals or what have you). Examples include “Join Us for an Adventure,” “How to Get Things Done at ABC Company” and “ABC Company Team Guide.” Not only does a name shift make them sound more appealing, but it is also likely to put you and other handbook creators in a more creative frame of mind. Another approach is to stick with “Employee Handbook” while adding a creative subhead.
2. Present Information in a Lighthearted and Engaging Manner
Zappos presents its handbook in comic book — yes, comic book — format. While you do not need to follow this exact approach for your business, it is important to break down what is often dense material into readable text.
- Use plenty of white space, which is friendly for readers’ eyes. Step-by-step guides are great.
- Avoid jargon!
- Tell stories, use lots of pictures and graphics and be generous with humor. For example, the handbook for Zingerman’s deli mixes text, anecdotes, graphics and games.
Be sure to check out Valve’s handbook right here. It combines an engaging subheader (“A fearless adventure…”) and a table of contents that sets the tone with approachable phrases, such as, “What if I screw up?”
3. Organize the Best Stuff Up Front
Most of your employees care more about how to take vacation leave and other job perks than they do about specific expectations the company has for them (such as appropriate computer and technology use). Build their trust by putting the information they want early on in the handbook. When they see that the handbook is enjoyable, relevant and clear to read, they’ll be hooked and more likely to read to the end.
Employee handbooks convey important information. Make them engaging and relevant, and you’ve gone a long way toward making your employees smile.