A Culture Book is an engaging alternative to the traditional employee handbook. It guides employees on ‘the way things work around here’, without relying on pages and pages of policies.

My first job was in a high-street clothing retailer. I turned up on day one feeling enthusiastic and itching to get started. After being led to a pokey room at the back of the shop, I was sat down in front of a big book called the ‘Staff Handbook’ and told to read it. That was my first task, to sit and read a mountain of policies and then sign a form to say I had read them. What a welcome to my new job!

My experience isn’t unusual, but it does raise questions about the purpose of the employee handbook. Traditionally, the main aim seemed to be to avoid litigation, but I’d be surprised if it actually had this effect. Now, though, more and more employers are moving away from traditional handbooks in favour of Culture Books.

What is a Culture Book?

The aim of a Culture Book is to engage employees from the word ‘go’. Where an employee handbook would give a prescriptive explanation of what to do in any situation, a culture book acts as a guide on the Company’s ethos and how things are usually done. It signposts the Company’s approach without being prescriptive. Culture is communicated in the tone and content of the whole document, rather than being a defined set of values sitting in a particular page.

Top tips for creating your Company’s Culture Book

1. Language Matters

The tone we use has the power engage or alienate our teams and the connotations of a single word can alter our perceptions. For example, when you stop to think about it, using the word ‘probation’ puts your employees in the same box as criminals. It connotes inequality and mistrust from the outset. What’s more, it overlooks the fact that during this period a new employee is also deciding whether the company is right for them. Instead, you might wish to call it an ‘introductory period’ or ‘settling in’.

2. You don’t need to say it all

Policies have their place, but it’s not for them to be read in their entirety on an employee’s first day. Your culture book should explain where employees can find a maternity or paternity policy if they need it, but the whole document doesn’t need to be included in the handbook. Instead, think about what is going to get new employees excited and what they would really want to know.

3. Be careful not to accidentally exclude people

Different personalities and working styles will help your business to succeed, so be careful not to overlook or alienate a certain group by suggesting there is only one way of working. For example, you may have a social working culture on the whole, but it’s important to recognise that some people work best by having periods of time alone. Respecting individuality and being open to feedback should be a key part of every company culture.

Your handbook should be something your employees resonate with and are proud to show off. Don’t be afraid to publish it on your website or social media to celebrate the Company’s commitment to its brand values, both internally and externally.

If you’d like support with creating an employee culture book, reach out to Tassic.