Employee onboarding

How to create an interesting employee handbook?

Anita Wojtaś-Jakubowska
How to create an interesting employee handbook?

New hires usually have a lot of questions. They are looking for information about what the work itself is like, but also about the company rules. Workplace policies, procedures, company values, working conditions - all these issues must be presented to new hires in the most accessible way as possible. That is why it is often said that an employee handbook is the most important document in an organization.

What is employee handbook and when is it given?

The decision was made! We are moving to another city. We have completed the formalities regarding the new apartment and the moving date has been set. However, before we pack our bags and set off on a journey, we look for as much information as possible about the new city. We check where to eat well, what is worth visiting in the area and how to best get around the new destination. In a word: we try to prepare for the new reality and then quickly settle in it.

It's similar with moving to a new job. When deciding to "move" to a new company, we also want to know as much as possible about the new employer. Is there a dress code , what does the company policy look like, and what does the employee benefits package include? These are just examples, and the full range of questions is much larger and impossible to comprehend during the recruitment process. One thing is certain: for a new hire, information is at a premium.

This one book that a new employee needs

So how can you make it easier for new employees to adapt to a new workplace culture? A great employee handbook comes to the rescue , that is a manual containing all the most important information about the company's culture and employment policies. It is a kind of employee manual to the organization that supports the onboarding process and may provide employees with useful "starting" tips.

To make the first days of work as comfortable as possible for a new team member, let's provide him or her with a comprehensive employee handbook at the preboarding stage , e.g. paired with a welcome pack. Such a gesture makes employees feel comfortable and helps build a new employee's sense of belonging from the very beginning

Preboarding is usually the time when the employee provides appropriate legal requirements and the employment contract with him/her has not been signed yet. So let's make sure that the employee handbooks do not contain confidential information. There will be time for this. Just like the detailed scope of responsibilities. This is excellent time to introduce new hires to the company core values or development opportunities in the company.

A bit of culture, namely employee handbooks and onboarding 4c's

Introduction to the company culture is one of the main tasks of the onboarding process according to the famous methodology called the 4C model. It is worth starting to familiarize new hires with C for Culture at the preboarding stage , including : providing them with an employee handbook. This is especially important in the remote or hybrid work model, when the employee handbook is one of the first signposts regarding the company mission statement, vision, business policies and philosophy.

Many organizations share their company history in the employee handbook and list the values that guide them every day. However, this is only a piece of the cake that makes up the overall company's culture. A large part of it also consists of informal aspects and non contractual rules of company life. A new employee is also hungry for such information and you also need to find space for it by creating a welcome book.

Handbook for the employee: against the grain of convention

When looking for inspiration on how to introduce a new person to the company culture, we can reach for the Tesla manual that was leaked online. Its title itself ("The Anti-Handbook Handbook ") indicates an unconventional approach, consistent with the actions of Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla. The language of the handbook itself is devoid of an official tone and there are no detailed descriptions of HR policies and procedures. Employees are referred to the internal website where they will find all the necessary information, including scope.

What is strongly emphasized is the philosophy of work in the organization and the resulting expectations towards employees. The handbook states clearly and directly that each new team member should do their best to strive for the best possible results of their work. Employees are encouraged to share and discuss ideas with anyone competent in a given area, regardless of their role in the organization. You can even discuss your idea with Elon Musk without any formal consent , as long as it helps the company achieve business success.

What information should an employee handbook contain?

The handbook should contain information about the company's values, key policies and philosophy and answer more practical questions, e.g. how to move around the office or how health and safety policies work. To this you should add a pinch of less formal information, e.g. about company rituals (if any) or videoconferencing habits.

Taking into account the multitude of needs and topics to learn about, creating a recipe for the perfect welcome book may seem like a real challenge. Fortunately, there are ways to tame this thicket of information and extract the most important content and tips from it. One of them is the design thinking process.

TIP: Before you start creating an employee handbook , gather a diverse group of people representing different areas in your organization. Brainstorm together and try to map all the areas and information that are important from the perspective of new employees.

Handbook checklist

When developing an employee handbook, it is also worth using the possibilities offered by the checklist. Create a list of topics you want to include in the textbook. Thanks to this, you will know what information is essential for employee onboarding in your company and who to contact to obtain it.

An example checklist might look like this:

  • welcome letter from the CEO
  • history, mission and vision of the company
  • organization structure
  • work culture
  • corporate " who-is-who "
  • employee benefits information and non-wage benefits
  • development opportunities
  • useful procedures and contacts (e.g. contact with the IT department, how to report leave, participation in training)
  • tips on operating company property
  • informal customs and practical information from behind the scenes of the company kitchen (do we bring snacks on birthdays, when do we turn on the camera during company video calls and when do we not)

Handbook for employees: what to avoid?

Forbes described as many as 15 mistakes made when creating a handbook. We will focus on 3 main ones.

Defend yourself (and the new employee) against information overload

A textbook that is too extensive does not encourage reading, and even if someone reads it in its entirety, the chance of doing it effectively is small. By confronting a new employee with too much information, we may unintentionally increase their stress related to the job change. This is not the greeting we want. There's something else.

According to a report by Coveo , 41% of information provided to employees is unrelated to their role.

Moreover, they spend an average of 2.5 hours a day searching for the content they need to do their job. For 1,000 employees, this results in 655,000 lost working hours per year for the company. Given these figures, let's focus on information that says something about the new hire's future tasks. It will, of course, require slight personalization of such materials.

How to create an interesting handbook for an employee? A good company handbook is not overloaded with information - GIF | Gamfi Blog

Choose communication skills

As for the language - let's avoid complicated words and too specialized language. The employee handbook is not a list of documents written in a formal style. Let's make sure that its content is not too hermetic and difficult to understand. If we need to refer to areas related to labor law or compliance , let's try to describe all policies and procedures in an accessible way, explaining more complicated concepts.

Avoid boredom

New hires onboarding is supposed to be an interesting experience, so every spark of creativity when creating the employee handbook will be valuable. An uninteresting Power Point presentation or a standard PDF document sent by e-mail will lose when compared to an inspiring, multimedia presentation or an interesting video. We will refer to specific examples in a moment. However, it is worth emphasizing now that the unconventional form must also be organized. Interesting graphics will not replace a clear and readable content structure.

The first version is just the beginning

However, remember that the process of creating a welcome book in a company does not end with the publication of its first version. Let's make sure that the employee handbook is updated and supports current onboarding processes. Let's collect feedback from both sides and benefit from the experience of newly employed people. They are the ones who are best able to assess the usefulness of our employee handbooks with their fresh eyes. In such a situation, a pulse - check test will be perfect.

As far from cliché as possible, or how to create a welcome book that will attract a new hire

As we have already mentioned, an interesting, creative form (as long as it does not overshadow the content, of course) can have a huge impact on the level of absorption of knowledge contained in the employee handbooks. It helps engage emotions and thus remember information better.

Mechanisms and forms that are worth using when creating a handbook for an employee


The basic task of the handbook in the onboarding process is to provide new hires with knowledge about the company. To achieve this goal, you need to gain and keep the recipient's attention. A good textbook reads like an engaging book or comic book. Sometimes even literally. Game producer Valve created employee handbook in the form of a richly illustrated book. It describes in detail the company policies, structure and employment basics. Even if a new employee is not interested in the text itself, he or she will definitely be interested in the well-designed illustrations. At least, that's something.

How to create an interesting handbook for an employee? Valve bets on storytelling | Gamfi Blog

Disney went even further. Their handbook , created in 1943, has the form of a comic book and provides key information about the company in a light, funny way

How to create an interesting handbook for an employee? Valve bets on storytelling | Gamfi Blog

Company product

The company can also use its own tools and services to create the engaging employee handbook. An example is Trello , which embedded the entire content of the employee handbook in its own work organization system. Individual threads are grouped into thematic blocks regarding, among others: employee benefits or the first day at work. Of course, not every company will be able to combine employee handbooks with its own services, but start-ups that offer digital services may have tools to introduce a new employee to the company and at the same time educate him/her about their products.

How to create an interesting handbook for an employee? Trello uses its own tool for this | Gamfi Blog

Video (movies, animations)

GuideSpark, a company specializing in internal communication tools, has prepared short dynamic videos in a style known from YouTube as part of its employee handbook. In this way, it provides information regarding, among others : medical benefits and other topics important from the perspective of a new employee.

GuideSpark publications emphasize education and dissemination of HR information, usually provided in traditional, printed documents. Films work especially well among millennials - said Patricia Wyrod , business consultant and founder of Think Create Group based in San Francisco.

Onboarding - a new presentation

A presentation can also be a good form for employee handbooks. Netflix provides employees with slides that describe in detail the most important aspects of the company culture and expectations towards employees. The presentation has over 100 slides, but thanks to its simple and accessible form, it can be viewed very quickly. Each of the company's rules is reduced to one specific sentence.

In turn, HubSpot opted for a more extensive form and presents even less exciting content in an entertaining way, engaging the recipient's attention.

How to create an engaging handbook for an employee? HubSpot bet on an elaborate, engaging presentation | Gamfi Blog

Web page

A solution that keeps up with the times is to create an employee handbook in the form of a website or landing page or other interactive publication. Its advantage is convenience and accessibility from any device and from any place. The online version of the staff handbook is available to, among others: Sterling employees. In this case, the text is brilliantly supplemented with graphics, photos and short summaries.

Short and to the point

There are also employee handbook examples that go beyond the standard framework. The American chain Nordstrom chose a very economical but suggestive model. This organization's "employee handbook" consists of... two slides and is limited to one message: "Use caution in every situation." - This is the only rule that we pass on to each of our new employees - commented the company spokeswoman. – We want them to feel obligated to take care of the customer, and this is one of the ways we do it.

Of course, Nordstrom has its own policies and procedures, but new hires learn this from other legal documents. 

How to create an interesting handbook for an employee? The American company Nordstrom has chosen a very economical in means, but evocative in message | Gamfi Blog

A matter of transparency

Is the company welcome book worth sharing with the general public?

An effective employee handbook is one that will interest not only a new employee, but also... potential candidates. Let's think about welcome book also as an employer tool branding , a non-standard business card of the employer, which will say more about him/her than the "About us" tab on the website. This could be a potential secret weapon for organizations with high levels of employee turnover.

It is also about the issue of employer transparency and open communication with candidates and new employees. Of course, we are not talking about an extensive manual in PDF form, which is a compact text and contains sensitive data. However, an interesting video, animation or multimedia presentation can be excellent tools for building a positive employee experience and candidate experience at the same time. Is it worth making the best employee handbooks available to a wider audience? Yes, but only if we feel that it brings added value to the employer's activities branding.

If you want to give your new employees employee handbooks that will really surprise them (positively, of course), we will be happy to help you with this. In our application it is more than a textbook. It is a pleasant, gamified experience incorporated into the entire onboarding process.

Replace your own employee handbook with a useful application that streamlines the entire employee onboarding.

Test the Gamfi application for free!

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