Often the punchline of office jokes, employee handbooks have gotten a bad rep over time. But for frontline and deskless organizations, these handy little books can do a lot of heavy lifting. They share crucial information about brand vision and mission. They reinforce SOPs and core mandates. They can even boost employee engagement and create a sense of community. And in the quest for staff (hello, labor crisis!) they can even act as employer branding, enticing more applicants to your organization. As Inc puts it, “Your employee handbook is more than a necessary legal document. It’s the baseline for your brand culture. (And yes, you really do need one).”
And especially now that virtual handbooks can be seamlessly integrated into a digital communication platform, it’s never been easier to keep all company information corralled into one easy-to-access place.
Now the question is… will your staff read it? That’s where we need a little inspiration.
Here are 5 examples of amazing frontline employee handbooks 👇
1. Zingermans’ “keys to the organizational culture”
Don’t think of Zingerman’s Staff Guide as a manual. The Michigan-based food business group likes to think of it more as a resource for its 700+ employees.
“It grew out of our belief that everyone benefits when information is shared lavishly,” explains Maggie Bayless, founding partner of ZingTrain (Zingermans’ training and consultation offshoot). “We want everyone who joins our organization to have the keys to the organizational culture and the tools that will help them succeed.”
The 88-page guide includes everything from a timeline of the company dating back to 1902 and a 5-step plan to handling a customer complaint to to why a sandwich costs what it costs (that nugget of info gets referenced often.) The guide is part of a robust onboarding program offered to new staff, which includes classes and other orientation sessions that reiterate the information in other ways. “I think they appreciate that the Staff Guide is designed to be fun to read and not just pages and pages of text,” says Bayless. “Mostly though I think people appreciate that there is an overview of pretty much anything they can think of – and info on where to go for additional information if they need it or have questions.”
Oh, and there’s a wordsearch. You’re after our heart, Zingermans.
2. Nordstrom’s legendary one-liner
The luxury retailer’s handbook has become somewhat legendary for its brevity. It includes one single rule: use good judgement in all situations. In one sentence, Nordstrom is doing something that retailers are desperate to achieve: empowering their staff to drive amazing CX.
“That’s the one rule we hand out to each of our employees when they start with us,” explained a spokesperson in SHRM. “We want them to feel empowered to take care of the customer, and this is one of the ways we do that.”
3. Patagonia’s bite-sized book
The outdoor clothing retailer’s online employee handbook is broken into bite-sized nuggets of information that don’t overwhelm the employee. Here, the focus is moreso on core values versus compliance. There’s a playfulness woven through the handbook, with an earnest mission statement sitting alongside 10 fun facts about founder Yvon Chouinard.
4. JetBlue’s magazine-style handbook
The airline’s “Crewmember BlueBook” reads more like a magazine, with clear, simple values and guest experience “promises” up front, and more complex details on benefits, policies, and additional resources toward the back. The whole book is easy to read and engaging – sure to retain the attention of any employee.
5. Brinker International’s on-theme code of conduct
The hospitality brand behind Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy has a code of conduct handbook that is delightfully on-brand. Each page has a “Check Please!” section with additional resources and links, while “Something to Chew On” sidebars provide real-life situations and how to handle them in a Q&A format. The “Playing Restaurant” section, which outlines the rules and guiding principles for the company’s frontline staff, is focused on actionable tips and easy-to-follow guidelines. All in all, the employee handbook manages to pack a ton of information into a fun and easy-to-follow format.
What can we take away from these 5 stellar examples? Thinking outside the box and offering your frontline and deskless staff information in an easy-to-consume, engaging way can do wonders for info retention, engagement, and execution. Especially when you keep your handbook in a central hub, like a digital communication platform, your staff will always have a go-to place to find information, review the core mission, and much more.