Most Employee Handbooks Are Terrible, So This Company Made a Leather-Bound Journal Inspired by ‘Lord of the Rings’

Article from Tim Winner on

Let’s face it: Most employee handbooks are terrible. They don’t answer the real questions new employees have when they begin. They also do a terrible job of communicating an organization’s culture — the most important influencer of employee engagement.

In the absence of a useful written guide, most companies rely today on storytelling to keep their traditions alive. Storytelling, however, offers no totems, no cultural preserves. Think, for example, of J.W. Marriott’s book The Spirit to Serve or 3M’s legendary Post-It origin story. Both pass down the company’s culture and narratives to the newest generation of employees and provide a shortcut to understanding the company’s values, behaviors and norms.

Related: 10 Examples of Companies With Fantastic Company Cultures 

When I joined the team at tech solutions firm Metal Toad four years ago, like many businesses it had collected an eclectic set of traditions. Questions immediately popped up like, “Why do the restrooms have party lights?” and “What the heck does WFH mean?” As I discovered that the company was rich with norms and even had its own dialect, it gave me an idea: What if we combined this knowledge into one place, in a richer, more useful artifact that people would actually read?

The result was “Toad Lore,” a small, leather-bound journal that captured all the cultural quirks that make us Toads. It has become more important than merely a guide for new employees; it’s an enduring cultural artifact that ensures that the uniqueness of our firm will survive.

In today’s chaotic, ever-changing business environment, it is critically important to find new and creative ways to communicate your culture — this can be a handbook, a totem or an artifact. Here are the necessary steps to create yours.

  • Manage with philosophies, not policies
  • Find a large and passionate group to support the idea
  • Make it creative and be bold
  • Don’t overthink it
  • Consider adding a quote from a recently onboarded employee
  • The rollout is important

Read an explanation of these steps in the original article.

Your culture matters. The way you communicate your culture matters even more. Take this advice and apply it to your own company, and I promise that you will see a return on investment in terms of employee satisfaction and your company’s impact on the world.

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