11 Amazing Employee Handbook Examples (and Free Template)
Many companies struggle with developing a handbook that accurately represents them. So if you’re stuck in a rut, gain inspiration from these 11 amazing employee handbook examples.
The employee handbook (and the newer, cooler “culture code”) is a great tool for employees, new and existing, to learn the company’s mission, values, and norms. And whether you already have one or are building one from scratch, looking at some employee handbook examples can help ensure nothing is missed.
According to SHRM, making employee handbook updates are something that should be tackled annually.
For 2022, the top updates recommended to employers included:
- COVID-19 vaccination policies
- Remote-work rules
- Evolving leave policies
- Wage and hour changes
As SHRM explains, employee handbook development and updating should be proactive, not reactive. At a time when the workforce has been shifting in new and unexpected ways due to a global pandemic, staying on top of your employee handbooks means you can be ahead of the curve.
The employee handbook lays out expectations about everything from the dress code to employee benefits to conduct policy. As a result, every employee handbook is unique to the company it represents.
Still, many companies struggle with developing an effective employee handbook. But, with growing importance placed on company culture, an ineffective handbook can be detrimental to the overall work environment. That’s why it’s worth investing the time in checking out some employee handbook examples from top companies when you’re working on development.
What Are the Contents of an Employee Handbook?
Writing a great employee handbook requires a thorough understanding of the company and its culture. But no matter the organization, all amazing employee handbooks share a few similar qualities.
- A strong employee handbook introduction so everyone reading it has a clear idea of how to use and it what they’ll find inside.
- Informative, containing everything from a step-by-step guide to surviving your first day, to common policies and procedures that apply to staff for years to come. In fact, we made a list of 53 Things to Include in Your Employee Handbook.
- Easy (and enjoyable) to read. Swap out the jargon and run-on sentences with clear wording.
- Designed to accurately represent the company as you want to have the best employee handbook possible. Keep in mind that you don’t always need random pop-culture references or comics on every page if that’s not aligned with your company. (But you can definitely keep it fun and light if that’s what appeals to your audience.)
Below are 12 amazing culture code or employee handbook examples to inspire you.
(A star denotes a particularly great feature and something you may want to consider for your employee handbook contents!)
What kind of list would this be if we didn’t give Valve the honorary top spot? Valve’s Employee Handbook was leaked, and since then it’s received praise from blogs, online magazines and social media personas.
So, what is it about Valve’s handbook that entices people to actively seek it out? Why did this 56-page document go viral? What makes it a great employee handbook example?
Well, for one, there are plenty of hilarious illustrations throughout the book to keep readers amused, a stark contrast from what is often only page after page of legalese. Also, the handbook truly embodies their “Flatland” structure for which Valve is so famous: it’s easygoing, humorous and truly an enjoyable read.
★ Fun to read
★ Amusing illustrations
Netflix’s Employee Handbook comes in a unique format: a 129-slide presentation that leads the viewer through the seven aspects of Netflix’s culture.
Netflix’s company culture differs from Valve’s and for this reason, their document trades colors for shades and playful humor for blunt statements.
To keep the document light, they’ve limited each slide to a couple of sentences, pictures, and/or bullet points. The text is direct and straightforward with tons of examples so that the reader knows exactly what being a Netflix employee is all about.
★ Very informative
★ Easy to understand
As far as employee handbook examples go, this one from Trello was a clever move. Trello created their employee manual using their own product, a web-based project management app that uses cards to organize tasks and to-dos. Trello’s Employee Manual not only welcomes employees to the company in a creative way but also familiarizes new staff with the product they provide at the same time.
Each list on the Trello board represents what would be a different section in the handbook, such as benefits, vacation, travel and miscellaneous items. Then, under each list, are all the policies and procedures relating to that topic. The board is mostly public except for a few links that redirect the employee to a private board containing the specifics on sick leave policy, vacation policy and sexual harassment policy.
Several cards include funny photos of staff and animals, and they stick to light, easy reading by using mostly short bullet points.
★ Creative approach
★ Easy to read
Looking for more creative employee handbook examples?
Zappos develops a new employee handbook annually, but one of their greatest editions was the year of the comic book. Their goal was to create a document people would not only read but enjoy reading.
The comic book theme carries through from the superhero on the cover to the ads on each page that explain the different company departments. Then, to spice up the policies and procedures section, they turned it into a short story about a grandmother who explains the policy to her grandson.
Zappos is famous for taking cultural fit so seriously that they actually bribe new employees to leave (by not taking the money and staying, the employee is really committing). This prioritization of cultural fit is evident throughout the employee handbook with photos of staff, quotes and real testimonials.
★ Creative theme
★ Fun to read
Pronto Marketing’s handbook webpage is an employee handbook done right. The company managed to create a document that’s easy-to-read and attractive to the eye without skipping over any of the important details.
Their modern-looking table of contents on the left side shows you exactly what you’re in for, and it’s perfect. A quick introduction to the company, a timeline of the first day, what to expect in terms of paperwork and HR programs, plus information about company policy.
Yes, that looks like what all the other handbooks include but that’s just an overview. Pronto Marketing’s handbook is comprehensive – they’ve even included a table about group health insurance.
★ Tastefully designed
Disqus’ Employee Handbook is split in two: one-half official legalese document and one-half culture book. By separating the employee handbook into two parts, the company can check all the formal legal boxes in the first section and communicate Disqus’ culture and values in a fun way in the second section.
Disqus' Culture Book is available online as a 25-page PDF. The document covers lighter topics using things like images, memes, colors and graphs. For example, the Disqus at a Glance page uses a map to show office locations as well as an easy-to-read graph to illustrate employee growth over time.
In addition to the fun layout, the text is written in a light and conversational way making it relatable and much easier to read.
★ Very detailed
★ Unique approach
Hubspot’s famous culture code slideshow is, as they call it, “part manifesto and part employee handbook”.
Hubspot’s 128-slide document is filled with images and colors that keep the reader engaged. The beautiful design also helps to explain necessary “boring” topics (such as intellectual property policies and open-door policies) in such a way that you don’t even realize you’re reading the policy.
Another theme we’ve seen in the above employee handbook examples is this conversational approach to writing. The goofy and playful culture of the company and staff shines when they say that not only do they commit to their mission and metrics, but they commit maniacally.
The slideshow has accumulated hundreds of comments (and thousands of likes) praising it as insightful, inspiring and relatable.
★ Unique approach
★ Easy to read
As far as employee handbook examples go EF Education First’s Employee Manual is offering something a little different. It’s a wonderfully colorful and animated booklet designed like a children’s book. The goal, says the former CEO was to make something that wasn’t “beating them [employees] over the head with a piece of corporate speak, but was something readable, digestible, and entertaining”.
The CEO and other senior leaders realized that EF is a playful place to work, and so they wanted the document to highlight the company values, expectations and goals for the future in a lively and light-hearted way.
The document itself isn’t available online but the few pages available online showcase the colorful document, complete with short, conversational text and charming illustrations on the side.
★ Creative theme
★ Easy to read
The Sterling Culture Code focuses on welcoming new employees and making their first few days, weeks and months with the company as easy as possible. Created on airmason.com, the handbook is a modern-looking website using tons of color and tons of space, making the wordy document much easier to read.
The book formally starts off with a message from the CEO who explains that “this employee handbook contains the key policies, goals, benefits, and expectations of Sterling, and other information you will need”. The document also communicates how modern and fresh Sterling is by using iMessage chats to answer FAQs, and is definitely one of the better simple employee handbook examples out there.
★ Creative layout
★ Fun to read
The Motley Fool’s “Fool Rules” is a 45-slide online interactive handbook complete with videos, photos of staff, maps of office locations and even a glossary at the end with company jargon.
Motley Fool opted to keep the writing concise, using mostly short sentences and bullet points but with links for further reading sprinkled throughout the slides. The handbook touches on most of the important sections: company purpose and values, policies, the business model, employee benefits and culture.
The handbook finishes by checking one of the most important legal boxes: a quick note stating that the rules are not a part of an employment contract and are subject to change without notice.
★ Fun to read
The Dollar General Employee Handbook holds a spot on this list for being the most thorough and comprehensive handbook. They’ve checked all the boxes from bereavement leave to minimum working age to 401(k) plans.
What’s especially great about Dollar General’s company handbook is that it’s available online and there’s a really handy search feature on the top. Employees who are looking for something specific can find it instantly.
The most important part of a good employee handbook is that it accurately represents the company to which it belongs. Sometimes, this means fewer jokes, fewer puns and fewer memes.
Dollar General’s handbook is comprehensive and a pristine example of a safe, secure and well-done employee handbook.
★ Very informative
Even the best handbooks can’t totally eliminate workplace issues.
Learn how to conduct effective Human Resources investigations with case management software in our free eBook.
As you can see from these employee handbook examples, creating a handbook can be done in a way that best suits your organization and employee culture. By arming your employees with the right information, you can help minimize or avoid workplace issues.
To get started on creating your own employee handbook, download our free employee handbook template. The template has 50+ sections including examples that can be edited, deleted, added to or replaced. Instructions for using the template and links to guidelines to help you write an employee handbook are also included in the document.
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