An employee handbook is meant to be an introduction to the company’s processes and culture that answers any question an employee might have about their new workplace. As such, it’s meant to be helpful, and yet, most employees never read it; in fact, many never even open it!

Why is that? Well, to put it simply, most company handbooks are poorly written. They’re dry and dull, often filled with legal jargon and technical terms that can be difficult for the average person to understand.

If you want to create a standard operating procedure (SOP) manual that your employees will actually pick up and read, you have to put in the effort to make it, well, interesting enough to read. We’re aware that this is easier said than done; after all, many company procedures and policies are boring, no matter how important they are for the business.

But there’s a way to make any handbook more interesting, and luckily, it’s not very complicated. As long as you remember that your SOP is not separate from your company culture but is, in fact, a part of it, you can create a handbook that is not only useful but actually fun to read for your employees.

employee manual
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Why Having an Engaging Employee Manual Matters

Before we can get to the steps of crafting an interesting, actually-readable employee handbook, it’s important to talk about its importance. As a legal document (but also more than that), an employee manual keeps all your company policies and procedures in one place so your employees can understand what is expected of them.

As such, it’s a document that all employees should read at least once; it’s meant to make the onboarding process easier and help foster a positive company culture. It also plays a crucial role in protecting your company from potential legal issues like wrongful claims.

But if it’s all about the legal jargon and dull policies, employees are not likely to read your handbook, no matter how useful it might be. An engaging, inspiring, and supportive handbook, on the other hand, can not only help new employees get acquainted with company rules, but also serve as a cultural cornerstone, helping them get to know the company’s personality and values.

But how do you go about this? How do you create an employee handbook that your team will actually read and find useful? According to a survey published by XpertHR, which included responses from 366 U.S. employers of various industries, 94% of organizations say that a handbook should start with the story of the organization (or workplace culture) in order to be read. While doing our homework for this article, we found that the companies with the most successful employee handbooks (so, manuals that are both informative and engaging) follow this rule, more or less. For example:

  • Facebook’s employee handbook is simple and beautifully designed, starting with the company’s story and emphasizing its commitment to inclusivity and its original values.
  • Etsy’s employee handbook, on the other hand, is a matter-of-fact document, but it, too, emphasizes the company’s commitment to its values, which are creativity, sustainability, and inclusivity.
  • Valve Corporation’s handbook starts with the company story and does a great job of reflecting the company’s culture and values.
  • HubSpot’s handbook, called Employee Culture Code, is, as its name suggests, all about the organization’s beliefs, values, and practices.

The moral of the story is, if you want an employee manual that your team will actually read, you have to make it interesting and supportive. Below, we give you practical tips for achieving this.


Crafting a Handbook Employees Will Actually Read

Now that we’ve covered the importance of having an engaging and supportive employee handbook, let’s break down the process of crafting one into manageable steps.

Be Clear and Concise

Clarity is key here. The last thing you want is for your employees to wade through jargon and convoluted sentences – that is guaranteed to not hold their attention.

Make sure you break down complex procedures and processes into simple, easy-to-follow steps. It’s best to use everyday language, and if you must use industry-specific terms, provide brief explanations. A clear, straightforward manual is one that won’t collect dust on the shelf.

Align It with Your Company Culture

It’s essential to align your SOP with your company’s culture. This means infusing your guidelines with the same tone and values that define your workplace. For example, if your company thrives on innovation and creativity, let your manual reflect that. If you’re all about inclusivity and diversity, emphasize these values in your manual as crucial for creating a positive work environment.

Keep it conversational, relatable, and, above all, true to your organizational ethos.

Define Everyone’s Roles Clearly

Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of every employee in your SOPs. This not only avoids confusion but empowers workers by outlining their contributions to the bigger picture. 

If everyone knows where they fit in, they’re more likely to embrace their role with confidence and purpose.

Humanize the Process

Behind every role, there is a complex human being; never forget that. Do your best to humanize the process by incorporating a touch of empathy into your manual. Consider implementing Industry 5.0 principles to make your processes not just efficient but also people-centric.

In Industry 5.0, the focus is on collaboration between humans and technologies, creating a harmonious and interconnected work environment.

Remember to acknowledge that change is inevitable and build flexibility into your manual. Clearly communicate that updates may occur, and provide a system for employees to easily access the latest version.

Illustrate with Examples

Effective learning and communication rely on concrete examples. So, when explaining a process or a policy, try to supplement your text with real-world examples. This not only clarifies your expectations but also provides context for why certain guidelines are in place.

Whether it’s a step-by-step breakdown or a scenario-based illustration, examples make your manual more accessible and actionable.

Use Visuals and Fun Colors

Finally, don’t forget to make the handbook visually appealing as well. Break the monotony with infographics, charts, and illustrations that breathe life into your guidelines. A splash of color makes your manual visually appealing and helps highlight key points, making information easier to digest. If your handbook is digital, consider including some interesting videos.

Keep in mind that a visually stimulating handbook isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a strategic choice to enhance comprehension and make your guidelines more memorable.

In Conclusion

Crafting an employee manual that is actually interesting to read and that resonates with your team requires a delicate blend of authenticity, simplicity, and empathy. Lengthy, complex books laden with technical terms are hard for the average employee to understand, so this kind of format should be avoided at all costs – if you wish to encourage your employees to read (and understand) your employee manual, that is.

Remember that this document is not just a set of rules outlined in a notebook; it’s the compass guiding your team through the intricate terrain of your organization toward success. Ultimately, it should reflect your company’s culture and values and, ideally, come in a short, simple, and fun format.