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The Employee Handbook: An Undervalued Staff Training Hero

10 minutes
Employee Handbook

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5 hands-on steps to turn a dusty folder into a consistent eLearning experience.

Imagine a game with no rules. Players are rushing around the playground yelling; one player is trying to kick a ball, another to bat it, someone has set up a net in the middle, and on top of everything, there are random numbers flashing on the scoreboard. It would hardly be a fun game to play. 

Rules and restrictions define what a game is, as well as its goal and how to win it. The same principle works for business. Just like a participant’s handbook, an employee handbook establishes the rules and boundaries for work in the company.

What Is an Employee Handbook? 

An employee handbook is a manual that employers often give their newly hired staff during the onboarding process. The purpose of the handbook is to manage expectations and help HR teams communicate what’s expected from employees and what is undesirable.  

What Do Most Employee Handbooks Include?

Employee handbooks serve as knowledge bases to provide employees with basic job-related information, both grand (the company’s mission, values, and culture) and mundane (working hours, the company’s policies, compensation, vacation time, perks, etc.). They also need to include compliance information to ensure a healthy environment with no discrimination, and mitigate legal risks. 

Altogether, this aims to give employees a clear idea of how to set themselves up for success in the workplace, remain compliant with norms, and stay in tune with the company culture. Though the idea of an employee handbook may sound like a very big step for you, we would like to show you how fun and inspiring employee handbooks can actually be.

For instance, in 2012, the world got the chance to peep inside Valve, an American game development company, thanks to its hilarious ‘Handbook for New Employees’ that leaked to the net.  

Valve’s handbook two-page spread

The specimen of a handbook that is worth reading from cover to cover.

In addition to setting the mindset that Valve’s newly hired team members should have, the handbook also happened to be an excellent PR tool, as it went viral. Valve’s employee handbook exemplifies carefully crafted, evergreen content for people that won’t lose its value. Want to create such a ‘bestseller’? Keep reading!

When Should a Company Create an Employee Handbook?

A common issue with employee handbooks is that they’re often regarded as a one-time tool. You hand it over with a welcome pack during the stage of onboarding and cross your fingers, hoping that a newbie will read it from cover to cover. And they are huge.

With one-time thick tomes, it would be foolish to assume that once employees will remember the contents of the handbook after they finish reading it. On the contrary, our memory needs ongoing reminders that the information is worth retaining. 

So, a company needs to create and revise an employee handbook in smaller volumes on a continuous basis, since it’s establishment. The more your company grows over time, the more new staff members it hires, and your corporate culture also matures and expands. That’s why an employee handbook should be a reference resource for all employees, rather than an old dusty book that’s merely a compendium of formalities.

Zappos Culture Enmployee HandBook

Zappos’s Culture Book is updated each year.

Want to Make an Evergreen Employee Handbook? Make It Digital! 

An employee handbook doesn’t have to be a book in the literal sense. Aside from being well-designed in your brand colors, it also has to be up to date. Unlike ‘books’ for which creating a new edition requires tons of effort (BTW, what should you do with the previous edition that has already been printed?), updating and editing an online handbook is easy and doesn’t cost a penny.

For example, Motley Fool, a financial advice company, made a website instead of a paper edition. It includes information about the company’s purpose, values, culture, benefits, and approaches to work.

Dress code at Motley Fool

The Fool Rules

Another example is Trello, a task management service. They created an extensive employee manual using their own service. Not only do their newly hired employees learn about the policies and benefits, but they also naturally learn how the company’s products work.

Trello employee manual

Trello employee manual

Other companies such as Netflix or Hubspot are easy about the tool for sharing their handbooks with the world, so they simply published them as slide decks. Simple and effective.

Hubspot Culture Code

Hubspot Culture Code

5 Hands-on Steps to a Stellar Digital Employee Handbook

By now, you may be thinking: “Alright, this is cool, but do I really need to design a special website for my handbook?” You can, but there’s an even better option that lets you have your cake and eat it, too – using eLearning. 

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to enhance and get the maximum from your employee handbook with online technologies.

Step 1: Choose the appropriate authoring tool to create an online employee handbook

An authoring tool is a software for building various types of digital training content. With an authoring tool, you can create interactive online courses out of your book’s contents or convert the book into e-format with a few clicks. 

Unlike developing websites, you don’t have to master any programming and design skills to build content with authoring tools. The key point here is to opt for the tool that will enable you to create online courses fully in-house without additional training. When considering different options, pay attention to these must-have features of a robust authoring tool:

  • Clear user-friendly interface
  • Compatibility with the software you already use in your company
  • Robust conversion into SCORM and HTML5 formats
  • Content adapts to any device and screen.

If you need help recognizing which option suits you best, feel free to read this comprehensive guide on authoring tools.

Step 2: Build a draft course from your materials and multimedia

The easiest way to make a digital employee handbook is using PowerPoint-based authoring software. iSpring Suite is an example of such software. iSpring Suite appears as a PowerPoint add-in, and you’ll be making a digital handbook with it the same way you prepare slides.

For a start, prepare a draft slide version of your handbook. Take existing materials and source files and arrange them into a slide-based course. Here are the elements you definitely need to include in the draft:

  • The welcome.A welcome and congratulations message on the new position from the chairperson or CEO.
  • History and overview (including materials on business values, organizational hierarchy, and corporate communications) 
  • Compliance training (training on fire safety, cybersecurity, antidiscrimination and diversity, sexual harassment, and workplace violence prevention).

Next, you need to take the best of the digital world and add multimedia to your slide-based handbook. Authoring tools come in handy for this as well. For example, with iSpring Suite, you can incorporate various multimedia content into your digital handbook, and even record and edit videos. 

A screenshot from an onboarding video course

Video communicates a message better than plain text.

Using the tool, you can record a welcome video from the CEO and add it to the introductory part of your digital handbook.

Pro tip: Your course doesn’t have to be long. You can split the handbook into a series of mini-courses and enroll all learners in any given thematic mini-course each month. These themes can support the most important aspects covered in the handbook or draw attention to the most frequent types of misconduct. Here are some ideas for topics:

  • January: Dress code
  • February: Privacy & Security 
  • March: Performance review
  • April: Fire safety
  • May: Burnout
  • June: Equality
  • July: Traveling, attending events, and expense policies
  • August: Sick leave, vacation, and time off
  • September: Social media policy
  • October: 5 key values of our company
  • November: Zombie apocalypse preparedness plan
  • December: Free perks we’d love you to use

Step 3: Create interactive scenarios

are made to convey company culture. Unlike a handbook that employees read passively (if they even glance at it), with scenario-based interaction, they participate in the process. So, the next step will be to make your handbook interactive with dialogue simulations.

With such scenario-based exercises, you show employees how to apply your corporate values in their daily work and let them practice communication skills with virtual colleagues or customers. Here is an example of an interactive role-play that you can make with iSpring Suite and add to your employee handbook:

A screenshot from a dialog simulation

This dialogue simulation aims to demonstrate what type of behavior is appropriate in the company to a newly hired employee.

Step 4: Add quizzes to your digital handbook

Now it’s time to handle your employees’ knowledge retention. Use quizzes to test their understanding of business values. As soon as you create a digital handbook with authoring software, you can choose from a variety of ready quiz templates it offers.  For example, you can easily make gorgeous hot spot questions or drag-and-drop mini games like this one:

A screenshot from a mini-course on fire safety

Trying to suppress a virtual fire is more engaging than answering theoretical questions.

Step 5: Ask for feedback with polls

Once you’re done with a digital employee handbook, it is important to collect feedback and suggestions from your employees. Use an online survey to learn audience opinions and boost employee engagement. This will make your digital handbook a truly meaningful experience.

To create surveys, you can use Google Forms or the same authoring tool. Then you can distribute the link to the poll via email or a corporate messenger, so anyone can leave their answers and see the collective results afterward.

By using an authoring tool, you’ll have a wider range of question options. For example, with iSpring Suite, you can create Likert scale questions like this one:

Likert scale questions

Varying your survey questions will help you take a more detailed view of your employees’ perceptions and interests.

Pro tip: If you’re looking for a convenient and robust way to collect quiz or survey results and record every detail, consider using an LMS. Running surveys with the iSpring Learn LMS can be an automated process, and clear reports from the system make it far handier and easier to interpret results. Once set up, training in iSpring Learn requires less attention and manual tweaking from you.

A Few More Words About Employee Handbook 

The employee handbook is a tool for establishing the rules and expectations in the corporate game. Making it digital, fun, and concise can drastically improve the new hire experience and overall employee commitment in your company. We hope you found these employee handbook examples inspiring, and that our step-by-step guide will take you closer to your own masterpiece.

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