The employee handbook: most employees consider it to be a dry, just-the-facts document solely aimed at describing work procedures and benefits packages. And growing numbers are claiming not to read them at all.

Increasingly, companies are bucking the “TL;DR” trend by creating employee handbooks that reinforce the company’s culture and reflect its vision—in fun and creative ways. 

Take Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Zingerman’s. The mail-order food empire’s employee handbook includes playful graphics and even a word search game, and it still manages to communicate vital workplace facts.

While your company’s vibe might not fit an over-the-top style, here are a few tips for instilling your company’s culture into a much more relatable—and readable—employee handbook that your employees won’t overlook.

Use a conversational tone in your employee handbook

Let’s face it: Workplace rules can be boring to read, so consider describing them with funny anecdotes or practical examples. Engage your employees with hypothetical narratives that do a lot of showing, not just telling, about workplace rules. For instance, Software Engineer Susie can discuss IT policies in the context of a fictional data breach, while Administrator Joe can explain leave policies in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Make the information even easier to digest by filling the employee handbook with photos, graphics, infographics and illustrations.

Consider a multimedia approach for your employee handbook

The Motley Fool, a financial services company, turned its employee handbook into an interactive website, breaking down its policies and procedures into easily digestible bites. If developing an interactive employee handbook seems intimidating, start small by describing your vacation policy on video in an entertaining way. Write a script that covers all the nitty-gritty bases, then recruit willing employees to act it out, complete with beach balls, sunglasses and other vacation props. Post these videos to your company’s intranet.

Focus on what makes your company culture different

Make sure your employee handbook explains your core values and how those values permeate the workplace. If providing excellent customer service is your overarching mission, ask some long-time employees to describe why that mission is important to them—and how it has informed their career. Tell your company’s origin story, perhaps in a Q&A with the founder or CEO, and underscore significant accomplishments in a timeline format.

Get a fresh perspective for your employee handbook

Consider hiring a freelance writer or videographer to research your company from an outsider’s perspective. Oftentimes someone outside the company can see things you can’t—or can help you understand what’s truly unique about your company.

Don’t let the requirements get lost

There’s a lot of upside in making your employee handbook more fun, but don’t forget required legal notices that clearly explain leave, reasonable accommodation and federal workplace policies. Even with serious topics, you can still keep the tone in line with the rest of the handbook and make it easy to read.” says Michelle Thompson, XMI’s director of human resources.

“At the end of the day, an employee handbook is a legal document that can protect your organization in the event of a lawsuit,” she says. “Still, it’s a good idea to explain the reasoning behind your rules and regulations, which will motivate your employees to comply and make them feel their viewpoints are valued.”

Want to create an employee handbook that is equal parts legal document and company culture manifesto? XMI can help. Contact us here, call us at 615-248-9255 or email us directly at


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