How An Employee Manual Can Improve Your Culture


“I have an optional one for everyone,” I said to the team at our latest all hands meeting, “There have been some requests for an employee culture manual.

“And, I don’t know about you, but I hate employee manuals. No one ever uses them. It seems like a tool that HR cooks up because you’re supposed to have a culture manual.

“So I have a different idea. I’d like anyone that wants to share their thoughts, whatever they might be, about what it’s like to work here. We’ll publish your thoughts, verbatim, in the manual.

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“If you want to publish your comments anonymously, that’s okay. If you want to not to participate, that’s okay too. It’s totally up to you.

“Tina will be sending out an email, and you can send your responses to her. Are there any questions?”

Of course the first question came from Greg, our most senior engineer. “I can say anything I want?” Greg asked.

“Yes, anything you want,” I responded.

“Even if it’s critical of you?” he said with a smile on his face.

“Absolutely,” I responded. “That’s the only way we’ll keep improving.”

“Okay,” he said, seemingly satisfied.


Your employee manual is not going to improve your company culture.


One week later, Greg sent us his candid thoughts on our company culture. True to his word, Greg shared what he thought was good and what he thought was bad about our company. It was exactly what I was hoping everyone would do.

About 80 percent of our team shared their thoughts. Some wanted their thoughts shared anonymously, and, of course, we honored their requests.

We published the teams thoughts in a book that we gave to everyone. We went through this exercise every year.

Did I think this changed our culture? Not for a second. But I do think it was good for the team to see, and there was useful feedback we received on how we could improve.


Your company culture starts with you and your values.


The reality is there is no manual or guide that’s going to help improve your culture.

Do you really think an employee manual is going to fix your broken culture?

Give me a break! If you don’t walk the walk and talk the talk every day, every week, how can you expect any of your team to do the same?


Then the people you hire influence your company culture, positively or negatively.


The people you hire, not an employee manual, are going to determine your company culture. It’s laughable for you to think that employees are going to look at a manual for how they should behave.

Instead, focus on the type of people you want in your company. For me, it comes down to four things:


A. Integrity.


Need we go any further? Why would you ever hire someone if they don’t have integrity? Actually, I think we do need to go a little further.

Everyone – everyone – is occasionally faced with the dilemma that arises when you’re interviewing a clearly talented individual who seems a bit ethically iffy. Don’t hire them. Ever. No amount of ability makes up for a lack of integrity.


B. Smart.


We want people that are very smart. Who doesn’t, right? Well, it’s surprising how often I see people who only hire those who clearly aren’t as smart as they are.

Don’t be intimidated by those who might have something you don’t. Be grateful you can add them to your team.


C. Passion.


I don’t care how much intelligence and integrity an employee has. They will not work out if they are not passionate about what they do. They also won’t work out if they’re not passionate about what you do.

When I interview, I always look for people who are committed enough to my cause to have done their research and found out as much as possible about my company.


D. Company fit.


People frequently overlook the importance of cultural fit. Desiring cultural fit does not mean that we want people that are clones of each other.

Diversity is vital, but diverse employees better mesh well with each other. Throw a bunch of diverse ingredients that don’t go together into a pot, and you have a horrible meal. Throw the right stuff into that pot, and you’ve got gourmet cuisine. Aim for a five-star group of employees.

  • Great teammates do great work, day in and day out for the long haul, and…
  • Great teammates always have integrity, and…
  • Great teammates always work smart, and…
  • Great teammates always have passion, and…
  • Great teammates always fit in the company culture.

Everyone should experience once in their career what it is like to work with a great team. You will never accept working in any other environment once you do.


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