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The Employee Handbook essentials EVERY business needs

The NUMBER 1 Playbook every business needs is 🥁🥁🥁 👉 The employee handbook 👈 Before you sit back in your chair with a sigh of deflation, let’s tell you why this little document will change the trajectory of your business.
The Employee Handbook of Whale

Table of Contents

“The NUMBER 1 Playbook every scale-up needs” is 🥁🥁🥁

👉The employee handbook 👈

Before you sit back in your chair with a sigh of deflation, let’s tell you why this little document could be the difference between scaling and closing (and we don’t mean closing as in Always Be Closing sales).

In its State of the Global Workplace report, Gallup concludes that “20% of employees are engaged at work. 

The bottom line on why you need an employee handbook

Companies with more highly engaged employees show better performance. 

Engaged employees, according to the Gallup study;   

    • Increase productivity by 17%
    • Increase customer ratings by 10%
    • Increase sales by 20%
    • Increase profitability by 21% 
    • Reduce absenteeism by 41%

Whereas Forbes suggests that a disengaged employee costs the company about 34% of their salary😮

Okay, got it.

But how to engage employees from the get-go?

You’ve probably guessed that engaging employees from the get-go means having a great onboarding experience but what does that mean? Chocolates and a hoodie on the first day?

Not necessarily but here’s an easy onboarding checklist to help you on your way. You’ll notice that the employee handbook a number 1 on our list!

BUT 60% of employees don’t read the employee handbook when joining. 

Why? Because generally, they’re boring.

Previously, we shared 4 examples that we absolutely LOVE, but today we thought we’d share our very own example from Whale 🐳

If you’re a Whale customer, you’ll be able to find the template on Whale! Otherwise, simply download the presentation template below.

Elements of a great employee handbook

Before we share the must-haves of a great employee handbook, here are some of the mistakes that companies often make;

❌ Copy-and-pasting the old handbook

❌ Getting stuck in the detail

❌ Using too much technical jargon

Remember you won’t be able to tell your new team member absolutely everything in the employee handbook. That’s what an onboarding process is for and why it often spans 90 days or more.

The purpose of the employee handbook is to translate the essence of the company, brand, and culture and to get new team members excited about being part of it all!

Brands like Netflix and Hubspot are famous for their employee handbooks! One might even go as far to say as it’s their online and publicly visible handbooks that attract the world’s best talent!

Typically these handbooks include elements such as;

  • Purpose statement
  • Values
  • Mission
  • The Story
  • Way of doing business (Yes, we even have our Spotify Playlist in ours!)

Employee handbook elements

The entire structure of your employee handbook is going to be determined by the size and culture of your company. We deemed it not necessary to have all of the elements below because we have a small team but also because we believe we shouldn’t have to talk about things like disciplinary procedures. We have a pretty straight culture and always address issues in meetings. So instead, we chose to talk about meeting schedules and objectives in our handbook. 

You may or may not choose to have ALL these elements in your employee handbook;

Introduction:

  • Welcome message
  • Company mission, vision, and values
  • About the company

Employment Policies:

  • Equal employment opportunity
  • Diversity policies
  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Hours of work

Code of Conduct:

  • Dress code and appearance
  • Personal conduct and professionalism
  • Use of company property and resources
  • Social media and internet usage
  • Confidentiality and data privacy

Compensation and Benefits:

  • Payroll schedule and procedures
  • Overtime policy
  • Vacation, sick leave, and other time-off policies
  • Health insurance and other benefits
  • Retirement plans

Performance and Conduct:

  • Performance expectations and evaluations
  • Promotion and advancement policies
  • Disciplinary process and procedures

Safety and Security:

  • Workplace safety guidelines
  • Emergency procedures


Security measures (e.g., access control, data protection)
Communication:

  • Reporting lines and organizational structure
  • Communication channels (e.g., email, meetings)

Employee feedback and suggestion process

Training and Development:

  • Orientation and onboarding process
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Continuing education support
  • Professional growth and career development

Legal and Regulatory Compliance:

  • Employment laws and regulations
  • Family and medical leave
  • Worker’s compensation
    FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) policy (if applicable)
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) policy (if applicable)

Employee handbook essential no 1: Purpose statement

Purpose is your UBER strategy! It’s your why! It can be linked to “The story” of the company, but it might not be. 

Purpose however should direct every single activity in the business, from what gets done (or not), to how to run meetings to how to build product, and more!

Your purpose is why your customers buy from you, why team members are attracted to you and why you get out of bed in the morning.

Employee handbook essential no 2: Values 🏆

You can check out how we live these values here.

In the ‘olden’ days, values used to be stuck up on a wall in big lofty offices but we don’t live in the olden days now, and if you’re going to win the game of entrepreneurship, you’re going to have to walk your talk!

Values should live in the hearts of your team, not on office doors!

If purpose is about why we do what we do, Values are how we achieve that purpose. 

In our case that means;

  • Act with Integrity
  • Deliver a Frictionless Experience
  • Be Humbly Ambitious

Employee handbook essential no 3: Mission 🎯

None of us are here to hold hands and sing kumbaya. We’re all on some kind of mission! 

The more you clarify the objectives and name the mission of the company from the beginning, the easier it’ll be to have everyone moving in the same direction.

TOP TIP – Be specific!

Employee handbook essential no 4: The Story 📚

There’s a reason that each business starts, and typically it starts because of one of two reasons; a dream or a problem, or both!

In a way, a business is a modern-day fairytale that always starts with “once upon a time.” In our case, it goes a little something like this;

Of course, this wasn’t the, “and they all lived happily ever after” storybook ending, far from it.

It was just the beginning.

But this was our raizon d’etre / reason for being! Without this beginning, we wouldn’t be here talking to you!

Your business has a story. 


You may not think it’s important, but it’s probably the reason that new employees want to work for you. Share the story and get everyone excited about continuing the legacy.

Employee handbook essential no 5: Way of doing things, i.e. culture matters 👏

If purpose is about why a company does what it does and values are how they achieve that purpose, then the way of doing things is a practical guide to living the values. In essence, all of these create a company culture. 

94% of entrepreneurs and 88% of job seekers say that a healthy culture at work is vital for success. (TeamStage)

Culture matters! 

Here are a couple of items we chose to list in our employee handbook.

Email

We don’t do internal email We do L10 meetings. We do Slack. We even do memes on Slack – feel free to use as many as you like but we don’t do internal email. 

This is to streamline communications and make working at Whale 🐳 a pleasure, not a pain in the (you know).

If you have an email policy, including it in the employee handbook in a fun could reduce ‘drag’ or reading the document.

Don’t forget to consider HOW you write emails if your business does it a specific way, for example, when talking to customers.

Leave and paid time off

Have you ever read a leave policy that made you fearful you might be arrested on account of wrongdoing? Try to make your leave policy really easy and simple to understand. 

We really like this example by Hubspot from their handbook “The Culture Code

Incidentally, we use a similar approach at Whale 🐳. Our team is free to take as much leave as they like. 

Why? 

Because we believe in supporting individuals in work-life balance, and we hire smart people. We know they’ll hit their objectives, and the more we empower our team members to be accountable, the better for everyone. 

Micro-managing is so 1990.❌

Meetings

Blah, blah, blah…

Not many people think about how to run meetings, but meetings and the way your team communicates will dictate the outcome and success of your business.

Here’s a sneak peek of our meeting schedule included in our employee handbook.

PS – Want to find out how to supercharge your meetings? 

Check out this interview with Isaiah Nolte from Traction Tools

Learning

How will you approach learning within your team? Is learning a part of your culture? Are there specific phrases or terminology that teams need to learn?

If learning is a BIG part of your culture, you’ll want to include an element within the employee handbook on how you approach it. 

Metrics

Metrics may or may not be a crucial talking point in your business. If it is, you may want to consider mentioning it in the handbook.

At Whale, we love metrics. Every team member in their role decides on the metrics that contribute to company success and to the mission at hand. 

This is agreed upon within the first 30 days.

Celebrating Success

In a great little piece titled “The Gap versus The Gain” our CEO, Gary, outlined why celebrating success is so important for our team and how it relates back to our values.

 

Simply put. We celebrate success, no matter how small. And we celebrate each other’s success. This keeps us humbly ambitious.

While celebrating success may not be a useful addition to your business, think about what other items you may wish to include as a unique feature in your handbook.

Other topics you may want to include in your handbook

  • Links to all your internally utilized platforms like Whale
  • Public holidays
  • Ways you connect e.g. we use Slack for messaging etc.

Creating an employee handbook that EVERYONE wants to read

Include rich media ✅

“I loved when I logged into LinkedIn and saw a long-winded post without graphics.” Said no one ever!

We love social media because it’s engaging! Use the principles in creating your playbook.

 

Go wild with video, GIFs, emojis 😀 and images! (Yes, you’ll find these all on Whale 🐳)

Switch your mindset from rules to entertainment

People watch Netflix because it’s fun, interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable. 🎉

So then why make an employee handbook that looks like a book from the legal bar exam?

Make your playbook, this one and others, great to read by writing for enjoyment and not for the legal team.

Does this sound great, but you’re wondering how to apply it in your business? Download our Google Slides Employee handbook template below.

It’s the NUMBER 1 Playbook every scale-up needs!

Employee Handbook Template

Employee Hanbook template

Creating an employee handbook is hard right? Wrong! This template is designed to make it easy!

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