Could Your Employee Handbook Use A Little Sprucing Up?

Jeana Quigley

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Digital tablet on stack of books --- Image by © Tetra Images/Tetra Images/CorbisI love books! The smell of them, the art on the covers, especially the way I feel when I finally get a minute to myself and settle down with a good book. But do you know what books don’t make me happy? Those thick, dusty, cumbersome employee handbooks that your new hires don’t really want to crack open.

Why not? Well, your people are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the idea of that employee handbook. In fact, one study shows that Millennials (who are becoming an important part of your workforce) don’t want to read the employee handbook and almost 50% didn’t read most of the last one they got.

I don’t want to throw out the employee handbook, however. Remember, I love books. But I also believe in making things timely and usable. In fact, you don’t even have to call it an employee handbook (the title itself can be a turnoff)! With that in mind, here are some ways you can take your old employee handbook from archaic to exciting and fresh:

  1. Make it conversational. No one wants to read a stuffy textbook. Make the language fresh and conversational. Pretend you’re having a conversation with a new hire and put down the words the way you’d speak. If you’re not sure if you’re coming across in an informal way, read it aloud to yourself and see if it feels how you’d speak.
  1. Tell stories. Did you know that the best way to help get a point across is to tell a story? People remember stories because it all comes down to being human (something we in “human” resources know is important). We are drawn to actual events and narratives. Hearing stories can actually stimulate the whole brain, rather than just a couple parts that are stimulated when reading facts.
  1. Focus on brand. I believe one of the best ways to get employees to be great brand advocates is to start them right away. You can focus on what the brand stands for and means. Give them brand values that they can aspire to live. Give stories about where your brand came from and why it’s so important they live the brand. Then inspire them to become the brand themselves. This is the fun stuff (but SO important) so make sure to make this a huge part of the handbook.
  1. Give people information they want. I think of books as “windows to the soul.” Well, yours doesn’t have to be that far off. Can’t your employee handbook be more of a window into the soul of your company? Give them a sneak peak about what makes working at your company so amazing! Then give them information that will actually help them navigate the first couple weeks. Provide helpful information about how your people dress (pictures from a normal day around the office aren’t a bad idea) or include information about the company break room (a map or more pics). Employees really want to know what it’s like to work for your company and usually won’t wade through the drudgery if there’s no payout.
  1. Make it bold, beautiful, and infused with your brand. Have a designer give your employee handbook a big dose of character. Use your brand colors and bold design that will make new hires want to open it (and existing employees re-read it). Use big bold pictures of your real employees having fun and being together – not stock photos of cheesy, much-too-perfect people pretending to be working. Artistry can be the difference between a handbook that employees want to crack open and one they won’t touch.
  1. Take it online. Now I prefer a good hard-cover book in my lap as opposed to reading on an e-reader; however, many people do not. That’s why you should consider taking your employee handbook online. This way, you can even make it an interactive experience when you include fun elements like videos and quizzes (not the kind that you get a grade for, though). Even better, when you make it an online employee handbook, you can give new hires access to it before they start their first day of work.

Give your employees a reason to be excited about coming to your company. Make your employee handbook something you’re proud to share!

Learn more about how to improve your organization by watching Great Workplaces: Trust, Engagement, Simplification, and Millennials.

Jeana Quigley is the brand journalist for BambooHR, the No. 1 online HR software for small and medium-sized businesses that have outgrown using spreadsheets to manage their employee information. Check out theBambooHR blog.