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12 Amazing Employee Handbook Examples

Many companies struggle with developing a handbook that accurately represents them. So if you’re stuck in a rut, gain inspiration from these 12 amazing employee handbook examples.

Posted by Katie Yahnke on May 1st, 2018

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.

The 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 a growing importance placed on company culture, an ineffective handbook can be detrimental to the overall work environment.

What Makes a Great Employee Handbook?

A great employee handbook starts with a great outline. If you don’t have that yet, download our template.

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.

  • 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 clearer, simpler wording.
  • Designed to accurately represent the company. You don’t always need random pop-culture references or comics on every page. Keep it fun and light if that’s what appeals to your audience.

Below are 12 amazing employee handbook or culture code examples to inspire you.

(A star denotes a particularly great feature)


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Valve

 

What kind of list would this be if we didn’t give Valve the honorary top spot? Valve’s Employee Handbook was leaked in 2012, 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?

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

 

Netflix’s 2009 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


Trello

 

In 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


Zappos

 

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 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

 

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.

★  Comprehensive
★  Tastefully designed


Disqus

 

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 is able to 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

 

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 color 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 policy.

Plus, another theme that we’ve seen in the above 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


EF Education First

 

EF Education First’s Employee Manual is a wonderfully colorful and animated booklet designed like a children’s book. The goal, says the 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


Sterling

 

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.

★  Creative layout
★  Fun to read


Zaarly

 

Zaarly’s Employee Handbook looks a lot like Sterling’s Culture Code: designed on a webpage with lots of color, not too much text and spaced out nicely so it’s not overwhelming at first glance.

Zaarly’s document is thorough and comprehensive like an old school employee handbook but also beautiful and humorous like a new school culture code. The document portrays the fun company culture with jokes, puns and lighthearted text.

Zaarly’s handbook is detailed and informative and includes all necessary sections (introduction, preface, office rules, organizational structure, values and departments). And, they manage to do this without sacrificing humor.

★  Creative layout
★  Very detailed


Motley Fool

 

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 an 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
★  Comprehensive


Dollar General

 

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.

★  Comprehensive
★  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.

Katie Yahnke
Katie Yahnke

Marketing Writer

Katie is a marketing writer at i-Sight. She writes on topics that range from fraud, corporate security and workplace investigations to corporate culture, ethics and compliance.

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