Human Resources (HR)

Creating the Perfect Employee Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide

When first began building Piktochart, I came across some Culture Codes or modern handbooks that caught my attention. It was fascinating to see how certain innovative companies were redefining work and shaping a positive company culture.

It was particularly inspiring to me since my mission was to create an environment in which all employees enjoyed coming to work, free of the dread that often accompanies Monday mornings.

Today, I am proud to say that Piktochart has its own employee handbook – a comprehensive guide to our company ethos, expectations, and values, created with the aim of fostering an inclusive, supportive team atmosphere.

We’re always looking for new ways to learn and improve, and along with our handbook came a set of invaluable lessons that we’ve acquired throughout this process.

Our hope is that our employee handbook and learnings can serve as a useful blueprint for other companies who prioritize employee health and well-being and believe in creating a positive work culture.

You can check out our template gallery to access professionally designed templates by simply signing up for free.

Table of Contents

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook, also sometimes known as an employee manual or staff handbook, is a book given to employees by an employer. The handbook is usually a comprehensive guide that provides important information about the company, its culture, policies, and procedures.

A quick search on the Internet and you will see that for some companies, an employee handbook is a legal document, almost like a working contract that stipulates all the company rules. That in my opinion, is not the best way to engage an employee about the workplace. This is why it makes sense to make the employee handbook visual to facilitate comprehension.

A HR professional will have to balance this important company property balancing important legal information as well as an inspiring mission statement.

Employee handbook outlines: What to include in an employee handbook?

Typically, an employee handbook may include information such as:

1. Company’s mission and vision

A brief overview of the company’s history, its mission statement, and vision. Most tech companies use this section to showcase company philosophy, company values and company’s vision!

2. Employment policies

The terms and conditions of employment, such as:

  • working hours,
  • attendance and punctuality rules,
  • overtime policy,
  • paid vacation,
  • other paid time off e.g. parental leave or maternity leave,
  • sick leave policy according to medical leave act,
  • company holidays,
  • probationary period,
  • returning to work,
  • civic duties, e.g. jury duty
  • employee resignation and termination, including how long to provide notice.

3. Code of ethics and code of conduct (employee behavior)

This section details

  • acceptable behavior,
  • dress code,
  • Internet and email use,
  • anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policy,
  • conflict resolution,
  • non disclosure and confidentiality agreement,
  • disciplinary action or the repercussions of violating these guidelines.

4. Compensation and benefits

Compensation policies such as:

  • salary or wage information,
  • social security and health insurance,
  • retirement plans,
  • vacation and sick time,
  • company benefits.

Also, some companies include performance reviews, development tracking and promotions. There’s also employee recognition to consider.

5. Safety and security procedures

Information about safety policies, emergency procedures, and expectations for maintaining a safe and secure work environment.

6. Miscellaneous items

This may include items such as:

  • travel and reimbursement rules
  • supplies and equipments requests
  • procedure for complaints
  • department specific policies such as staff meetings

At the end of the handbook, it is good to include an acknowledgement that the new hires or employee has read the document.

It’s important to note that the contents of an employee handbook can vary widely depending on the company and its industry.

Employee handbook examples


The Netflix Culture Deck is one of the most famous examples of an effective, out-of-the-box employee handbook. It focuses on the company’s culture, promoting values like responsibility, freedom, and innovation.


Zappos has an innovative approach to their handbook, creating a cultural guide instead. It’s developed largely by the employees, which makes it an authentic representation of the culture of the company.


Valve’s Handbook for New Employees is a unique and fun document that reflects the gaming company’s culture of innovation and creativity. It’s designed more like a graphic novel than a traditional corporate document.

The Motley Fool

Known for its unique and vibrant culture, The Motley Fool Rules Culture Guide demonstrates how an employee handbook can communicate the company’s core values while also being engaging and enjoyable to read.

These companies show that an employee handbook can be much more than a dry, obligatory document – it can be a powerful tool for conveying a company’s values, culture, and mission, and for engaging and empowering its employees. As always, an effective employee handbook should comply with relevant laws and regulations and be reviewed regularly to keep it up to date.

Employee handbook do’s and dont’s

Here are some best practices for creating effective employee handbooks:

Clear and concise language

Use plain, understandable language that all employees can easily comprehend. Avoid using too much legal jargon or corporate-speak.

Address key policies and procedures

Ensure all important policies, procedures, and rules are included in the handbook. This can range from attendance requirements and dress codes, to more serious matters like anti-discrimination policies and safety protocols.

Reflect the company culture

Use the handbook as an opportunity to introduce your company’s mission, vision, and core values. This can help new employees understand the company culture and align themselves with it.

Keep it up-to-date

Laws and company policies change over time. Make it updated across all the digital or physical copies. Collect signatures or receipt of acknowledgment of having read the document.

Legal review

Have an attorney or legal expert review the handbook to ensure it doesn’t violate any laws or open the company up to potential liability.

Make it engaging

While the new employee handbook needs to cover serious subjects, it doesn’t need to be boring. Use a friendly and engaging tone, add visuals or infographics, and consider breaking up text into bullet points or short sections for readability.

Dont’s in employee handbooks


Be careful not to make promises in the handbook that your company can’t keep. This includes things like job security or specific benefits.

One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Avoid creating a generic handbook. It should reflect your company’s unique culture, values, and needs. Tailor the handbook to suit your company’s specific guidelines and organization.

Ignoring Feedback

It’s important to consider feedback from employees when creating and updating the handbook. They can provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t.

Not Communicating Changes

Whenever you update the handbook, make sure to communicate the changes to your employees. This could be through email updates, team meetings, or individual check-ins.

Not Providing Training

Just giving employees the handbook isn’t enough. Provide training to ensure they understand the policies and procedures outlined in the handbook.

A well-crafted employee handbook not only provides necessary information to employees but also serves as a tool to inform employees safeguard the company against possible disputes or misunderstandings. It is an opportunity to set expectations and build a positive company culture.

image showing employee handbook important points
Employee Handbook Dos and Donts

To visualize the handbook or keep it text-heavy?

Piktochart has some great examples here. You may be able to get this done in under a week and forever have a great handbook to go with.

The length of an employee handbook can vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization. Typically, an employee handbook ranges from 30 to 100 pages.

Factors influencing the length of an employee handbook include:

1. Company Size and Structure: Larger companies or those with complex structures tend to have longer handbooks due to the breadth of information that needs to be covered.

2. Industry Regulations: Companies in heavily regulated industries, such as healthcare or financial services, might have longer handbooks due to the need to cover specific compliance and regulatory topics.

3. Company Policies and Benefits: The range and complexity of company policies, benefits, and programs will influence the length of the handbook.

4. Cultural and Mission-Driven Information: Companies that place a high importance on culture, mission, and values may include additional information in the handbook to reinforce these elements.

5. Legal Requirements: Depending on federal laws and the jurisdiction(s) where the company operates, there may be legal requirements for what must be included in the handbook.

Remember, the aim of the employee handbook is not to be long, but rather to be comprehensive, clear, and useful. It’s important that the handbook effectively communicates key policies and procedures, reflects the company culture, and provides a valuable resource for employees. Regular reviews and updates of the employee handbook template are also important to ensure it stays current with changes in the company and legal requirements.

Piktochart offers free visually-appealing templates with themes ranging from employee engagement and wellness to pitch decks and reports. Get started with a free account.

Free employee handbook templates to get you started today

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