How to Write An Employee Handbook that Staff Want to Read

It’s hard to write an Employee Handbook if you feel no one will read it, right?

The last time I wrote an Employee Handbook – or Employee Manual as some prefer to call it – we asked ourselves how could we make this more interesting, more compelling, and more rewarding for the readers. Here’s some of the ideas we implemented.


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Learn more about this Employee Manual template, including screenshots and sample pages

How to Make Employee Handbooks More Interesting

First off, while there are some good Employee Handbook templates out there, use these are a starting point. Use the structure, format and layout to speed up the writing process. Then step back and think about the readers.

“How can I make this employee handbook more interesting for them?’

  • Gather samples – Google for Employee Handbooks and download the best samples you can find. Share these with your team. Keep the sample list to 10. Find some in your industry but also include others that take a different slant, for example, a sports firm.
  • Identify what works – Capture which parts of the Employee Handbooks your team find most interesting. Is it the color, font, or layout? Save them to a shared folder or use Evernote to track what you like. It’s usually the tone, feel, or vib you get from the document that makes the biggest impact. ‘How can we write like that?’
  • Create a shortlist – Use two or three as a baseline for what you want to achieve. Most of these will have certain qualities in common.

For example?

What makes the most difference is when you add a personal touch. Not in a tacky way but one that feels authentic.

How to Write Employee Handbooks

The mistake most business writers make is to write a pseudo-legal document and pass it off as a Employee Handbook. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Imagine you’re writing an Employee Handbook for the first time. And you wanted others to enjoy reading it. And… you wanted to enjoy writing it too!

What would you do?

  • Share values not rules – Values are positive. Rules are (perceived as) negative. Open the document with an outline of what the company holds dear. What values (not buzzwords) were the driving force behind the company when it was formed? Use these values as themes around which you write the document.
  • Include Stories – You can call these anecdotes if you want but it’s something others can relate to. Share a story about WHY you have these values – it should involve a customer/employee interaction. By doing this, you can introduce the Employee Handbook’s principles more elegantly. Instead of forcing the reader to ‘understand’, you’re pointing a finger in the right direction. It’s a more subtle approach.
  • Employee Input – Isn’t it strange the most Employee Handbooks have little input from those who work at the company? Here’s a nice touch. Approach employees personally and ask them to share something that makes them enjoy working at the company. It doesn’t have to be ‘epic’, just something that others can relate to.

Employee Handbook – Make it Personal

Employee Handbooks are read more frequently when you give readers a way to see how the company works ‘under the hood’.

Getting staff to share their best moments with you puts a very different perspective on the document. Suddenly, it becomes a living document. You can see why others have joined – and stayed – with the firm.

And remember to include pictures 🙂

What else would you add? What’s the best Employee Handbook you ever read?