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Breaking Down Almanac’s Company Employee Handbook Strategy

How Almanac uses Almanac to set up and maintain an employee handbook. And why it is essential for the success of our business.

By Andrew Logemann

Aug 8, 2022

An employee handbook is an essential tool for any type of company.

Why? Handbooks get your entire organization on the same page. They help new employees get up to speed quickly. And they foster a healthy culture by engaging everyone in the company’s goals, virtues, and strategy.

A great company handbook is a North Star that everyone can use to stay on course.

But it can only serve this purpose if it is up-to-date.

Many organizations never get around to creating an employee handbook at all. And those that put in the effort to create a great handbook quickly discover that it is not a one-time investment. You need to maintain your employee handbook for it to retain its value.

At Almanac, we feel this pain. We recently completed an audit of our 2+ year-old employee handbook. We learned a lot about what works for us internally. And we created a brand-new process for maintaining our handbook so it always stays relevant and up-to-date.

This guide will show you how we set up our handbook, share our process for maintaining it, and explain why our handbook has become essential for the success of our business.

How to Get Started

The prospect of creating an employee handbook can be daunting. You might be wondering:

  • What details do you include?
  • What belongs in the company handbook vs. a team handbook?
  • Where should you fill the team in on your current strategy?

These and a million other questions about employee handbooks can be overwhelming. Don’t worry. If you’re starting a handbook from scratch, we’ve got you covered.

💡 Read More: How to Create a Company Employee Handbook

How to Structure Your Employee Handbook

Whether you have an existing employee handbook, or just getting started, one of the first questions people ask is: How do I organize this?

Three Principles for Organizing Your Information

We use three principles for organizing our company information:

  1. Regularity of use: We put the documents the team uses daily/weekly — like the agendas for our all-hands meeting — right at the top. We put our policies — documents that need to be accessible, but not referenced every week — lower down the index.
  2. Importance: We have a section that includes the key things everyone should know about us internally and externally. These company OS docs share who we are as a company.
  3. Public vs. private access: We group public documents together so external users can learn about Almanac without having to jump between different sections of our handbook.
Almanac's employee handbook
Source: The Almanac Handbook.

When deciding on these principles, we found it helpful to clarify the intended audiences of our employee handbook. We defined who this information is for, and what their main objectives are for consuming this information. These insights informed our thinking about our handbook’s structure.

Our Employee Handbook Sections

Based on these principles, we organized our handbook into eight sections.

  • Weekly Standup: Contains agendas and notes from our weekly all-hands meetings.
  • Company OS: Features documents that articulate our vision, virtues, compensation philosophy, and norms for working together.
  • Team: Includes our org chart, a user guide for our CEO, and information on how we make decisions as a company.
  • Strategy & Positioning: Communicates our product positioning, and strategy documents for the current year and quarter.
  • Culture: Illustrates the ways we bring our whole selves to work, from company traditions to quarterly co-working weeks held around the world.
  • Professional Development: Promotes internal opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Team Handbooks: Provides links to handbooks maintained by teams from engineering, to product development, to design, to marketing.
  • Policies: Discloses all of our employee policies, including benefits, PTO, parental leave, and more.
Almanac's employee handbook sections
Source: The Almanac Handbook

📗 Most of Almanac’s employee handbook is public. We hope it provides some inspiration as you consider your organization’s needs. Take a look here: The Almanac Handbook.

How to Maintain Your Employee Handbook

You have now set up and organized your employee handbook. Congratulations!

To keep your employee handbook from falling out of date as your company grows, you need a process for maintaining it. As we designed our process, we discovered that a small list of key questions informed our decision-making procedure. We needed to define what a good update looked like, how much of our handbook to share publicly, and who should own the process internally.

Your answers to the following questions will shape your process for maintaining your company’s handbook over time.

Which documents should be public vs. private?

In the spirit of transparency, we want to make as much of our employee handbook public as possible.

Documents in our company handbook that we share publicly include: Our company OS docs, culture docs, security FAQ, weekly standup agenda template, and any document that can provide value to external users and demonstrate how Almanac operates, without disclosing sensitive information.

Documents in our company handbook that we only share internally include: Our weekly standup agendas, strategy docs, information on our metrics and growth, internal feedback, team handbooks, and any document with sensitive employee or company information.

What is our process for ongoing updates?

We review our company handbook monthly. The internal owner of the handbook does a “once over” of the company handbook to determine if any updates are needed, and requests feedback or approval from other stakeholders as needed.

How often should updates to the employee handbook happen?

It depends on the type of document. We update our team docs like our org chart monthly. Our strategy and positioning documents, collaboration norms, and employee review documents receive quarterly updates. And our company OS, culture documents, and policy documents receive updates every 6-12 months.

Who or what triggers the updates?

We have a series of triggers in place to prompt us to update our employee handbook. Our ongoing triggers include updating the handbook when:

  • New hires join the company.
  • We receive new internal feedback via our monthly pulse check.
  • We revise our company strategy or positioning.

What does a “good” update look like?

All updates should involve a full read through of the document. The document may need only minor changes in some cases. In others, it may need a full rewrite to align the content with our current messaging, practices, etc.

At a minimum, you should check the following when updating an employee handbook document:

  • Is all of the information accurate and current?
  • Are the links active and pointing to the right place?
  • Is the document shared with the right access to the right people?
  • Is the document included on the relevant section of the handbook index?
  • Do the headings and table of contents structure make sense?
  • If product screenshots are included, are they current?
  • Does the document look nice? We use cover images, color, and callouts wherever possible to make the document visually appealing and easy to read.

If you are doing a comprehensive update to your company handbook, create a project plan to break down the series of changes needed over your allotted time period. We found it helpful to tackle updates by section, that way related content was reviewed at the same time and we ensured that relevant documents referenced one another.

⚡️ Get started quickly with our free template: Guidelines for Maintaining a Company Handbook

Why Your Handbook Is Essential for Success

A company handbook organizes your decisions.

When you set it up properly and maintain it effectively, it becomes the go-to resource for most of the questions that people in your organization have.

A company handbook is essential to the success of your business because:

  • Handbooks encourage ownership. They allow you to crowdsource your company’s knowledge, keeping your documents up-to-date and relevant. Anyone can suggest improvements, so everyone feels a sense of ownership.
  • Handbooks build velocity. They eliminate friction and free your team up to create, collaborate, and keep moving toward your most important goals.
  • Handbooks inspire a culture of learning. They let your team listen to your customers, and to each other, and share and keep what they discover.
  • Handbooks focus your team on results. They make sure everyone knows where you’re headed, and how you plan to get there.
  • Handbooks foster relationships. A team’s strength depends on the strength of its relationships. Handbooks establish communication norms, and encourage openness and intentionality.

Your needs change as your company grows. Your handbook should grow with you.

You can start building a handbook today — for free — with Almanac:

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