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The A to Z Guide to Culture Books and Employee Manuals
Facebook, Netflix, Valve, and Zappos are famous for their culture manuals–documents which introduce team members (and potential employees) to their way of working. But every company, regardless of its size or stage, can benefit from a clear understanding of how their employees work together and the unique aspects of culture that set them apart. We've gathered over two dozen examples and called out helpful features.
The A to Z Guide to Culture Books and Employee Manuals
THE A-Z GUIDE TO
BOOKS AND EMPLOYEE MANUALS
Culture is your company's
only truly sustainable
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Culture Can’t Be
What We Mean By That
Culture is the sum total of your individual behaviors, values,
attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions.
Culture is the most effective and defensible tool to win with both
customers and employees.
As a result, companies are openly sharing "culture decks" or
employee handbooks to attract like-minded employees and
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While every deck is
different, most have:
1. A history of the company and its
plans for growth
2. A description of their products
and/or business model
3. A look into how the company
works, especially what sets it
4. A set of shared values and what
those values demand from
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This handbook has a clever premise: it was written by a
new employee, documenting their first 22 days at the
company, and functions as half-handbook, half-journal.
Instead of being a prescriptive manual, 360's Culture
Book serves as a yearbook, including fun pictures from
events of the past year and reflections of what the
company's values mean to individuals. The book also
serves as a great recruiting tool that supports their
designation as the second best workplace in Canada in
AP's Culture Deck is oriented towards recruiting new
team members, with a heavy emphasis on the benefits of
working with the company, such as a stimulating working
environment, flexible schedules, and continued learning
opportunities. In addition, they give clear examples of
how their values impact their daily activities, like using
values as hiring and promotion criteria.
Big Spaceship Manual
Big Spaceship's manual is upfront about its purpose: it
helps new employees understand how the team makes
decisions, not how to access an internal server. There's a
heavy emphasis on being a human at work, and they even
include a checklist of things newbies can do to integrate
into the team faster.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Employee Handbook is clear
about its expectations for employees: commit to creating
only the best advertising, and aid others when they need
help. They also address the company's weaknesses, like
meeting deadlines, and ask employees to help.
DoSomething's culture book is largely geared towards
interns and potential employees, demonstrating how they
can make a difference within the company. Several pages
are dedicated to employees answering questions like
"What's your favorite DS memory?" to "What tatoo would
Disqus Culture Deck
Disqus spends the first part of its Culture Book
explaining its history, the product, and the company's
business model. The rest is dedicated to the work itself:
how employees work, how to operate within the
workspace, and "life," including time off and work-life
Ok, we couldn't find the whole document, but here are
some images from the mysterious Facebook employee
handbook, detailing the company's purpose and
approach to work.
Everyone talks about mission, vision, and values, but
GiveForward's Culture Deck explains the connection
between the three, and what they look like in practice.
They also include a mantra—their "secret sauce"—and
include video examples so people can see it in action.
Handy Culture Deck
In addition to practical do's and don'ts, home service
booking platform Handy provides a discount code for its
services directly in its Culture Deck—a clear indication
that these decks are powerful marketing tools as well as
HubSpot Culture Code
As part of its commitment to transparency (and to recruit
great people)‚ HubSpot makes its cultural "operating
system" available to all. To better attract and screen
potential candidates, one section details the
characteristics of a "Hubspotty" individual.
Idea Couture’s Culture
As befits a strategic innovation shop, IC's culture is
always adapting, but their culture guide maps out their
values and what they expect their team to do (and what
not to do!).
Memoria Visual uses a narrative approach (specifically,
an analogy of a mission to Pluto) to explain its purpose
and ways of working.
In addition to an introduction to its company culture,
Mindvalley includes a "Code of Awesomeness" that
summarizes their 10 most important values.
The Motley Fool Rules
The Motley Fool's Interactive handbook incorporates
video (an increasing trend) and additional links so
employees can dig deeper into important topics.
NASA Safety Culture
NASA's handbook is more cut-and-dry as befits a
government organization, but still covers important
topics like the "Lessons Learned System" and "Engaged
Netflix Culture Deck
The Netflix Culture Deck was one of the first to be widely
shared, and now has well over 14 million views. Despite
its simple design, it's gone on to inspire many of the
other decks seen here.
Nordstrom's Handbook gets right to the point: there's
only one rule. This is page two of a two page "document."
Paessler Culture Deck
Paessler's Culture Deck is minimal, but it makes an effort
to explain how they have arrived at each value.
Possible Culture Code
Possible's Culture Code breaks down its 11 values and
gives people clear examples so they understand what
those values look like in practice.
Who says an employee handbook has to be a book?
Spotify's video (the first of two parts) breaks down their
engineering culture and has a handy graphic that can be
easily referred to.
Thoughbot's handbook is a "living document" that
employees can edit in GitHub. It's laid out in a clear,
step-by-step manner, from the Design Sprint to
Measuring, making it easy for anyone to understand the
entire process. We love seeing a company put their
culture deck not only online, but in a form that those
inside and outside the company can iterate upon.
Trello Employee Manual
Trello created a kanban board to capture its policies,
making it easier to find the specific policy or topic the
reader is interested in.
One of the most comprehensive handbooks available,
Valve's explains "the choices you're going to be making
and how to think about them." This can be as high-level
as their approach to serving clients, to the mundane, like
moving a desk.
Whiteboard Culture Book
Whiteboard's culture book infuses information about
their work practices with their own personal style. It also
includes resources like an office map and glossary of
commonly used words like "wireframs."
Zaarly puts a greater emphasis on internal
communication and structure, leaving values for last.
Zappos Culture Book
One of the most famous culture books; it includes
contributions from all its team members.
ZGM's handbook lays out expectations for how the new
employee will interact with the rest of the team and
responsibilities to clients.
Want to create your
own culture book?
Attend our Team
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The next step
Get in touch:
“Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world.
For, indeed, that's all who ever have.”
– Margaret Mead
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