Your company employee handbook allows you to navigate not only your company policies but also your brand and your company’s vision.

While the idea of an employee manual often conjures up a jumble of jargon and rules, writing one gives you a chance to express how your small business thinks about company culture, how you treat your team, and how you celebrate success or endure hardships together. It’s a place to communicate the company’s mission and the values that keep you on the path of true north.


We’ve put together an employee handbook template and assembled some of our best employee handbook examples from companies whose handbooks and culture guides truly bring their voice and vision to life. Some of the examples below are more like company manifestos than employee handbooks—and yes, you can mesh the two.

In addition, keep in mind that although a handbook covers aspects of the employment relationship, it’s not an employment contract, and it should contain disclaimers to note that. It also has specific requirements it needs to fulfill to communicate employment policies or workplace policies that should also be written with applicable federal employment laws or state laws in mind, such as those relating to the Family and Medical Leave Act, aka FMLA. In general, components of a handbook should include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Onboarding process for new hires
  • Code of conduct
  • Work environment
  • Compensation and performance reviews or evaluations
  • Employee benefits, including health insurance
  • Your company story
  • Work hours
  • Remote-work conduct policy
  • Workplace safety and other working conditions
  • Paid time off (PTO), including vacation time and other leave policies, such as sick leave, family leave, parental leave, jury duty, and bereavement leave
  • Mission statement and values
  • Use of company property, including equipment
  • Salary and eligibility for bonuses
  • Lunch and break periods
  • Substance abuse
  • Email and internet usage
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Disciplinary action
  • Social media
  • Data privacy
  • Travel and reimbursement for work-related expenses
  • Termination and offboarding
  • Anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity, anti-harassment, bullying
  • LGBTQ rights

Now, back to reviewing those examples of creative handbooks:

1. Education First

Several years ago Education First (EF) made a charming employee handbook filled with illustrations that hearken to children’s books, and they carry a humble tone throughout. Following a section on their company’s core values, EF writes:

“We are not: hierarchical. Team spirit is important at EF. Office politics are not. Keeping our organization lean helps us move faster and respond quickly to market changes. We don’t believe in lots of layers, rigid reporting structures, or excessive decision-making chains.”

Learn more about that EF handbook here.


2. Meta

There are a ton of great blurbs and inspirational language in the highly visual employee handbook Meta created when it was known as Facebook, all to do with how they aimed to differentiate and win in a big way. They made bold, evocative statements to put power behind their beliefs and to challenge more traditional wisdom, like “slow and steady wins the race.”

“Fast is better than slow. While slow is adding unnecessary embellishments, fast is out in the world. And that means fast can learn from experience while slow can only theorize. Those who ship quickly can improve quickly. So fast doesn’t just win the race. It gets a head start for the next one.”

Look deeper into that FB employee handbook here.


3. Austin Fraser

Austin Fraser’s employee handbook is highly visual with bold colors and blocks, combining a sense of playfulness with the more serious down-to-business facts they need to include in their handbook:

“To get over all the turkey, eggnog, and general overindulgence, Austin Fraser shuts down for three days over Christmas.”

Check out more sneak peeks of Austin Fraser’s handbook here.


4. Disney (1943 edition)

This handbook from 1943 may not be in circulation anymore, but using playful illustrations and easily digestible language in your handbook will never get old. We adore the undeniable charm and friendliness of Disney’s employee handbook for amusement park workers.

“When Uncle Sam joined us on the lot, he brought with him a new and necessary institution. We refer, of course, to the identification badge. You will note that your picture looks very much like someone else. This is entirely beside the point.  The point is (and we aren’t kidding) you can’t get through the time office, morning or night, without your badge. If you’ve lost it or left it at home, you’ll have to go to the Police Gate and get a temporary badge until yours is replaced.”

Check out more snippets from “The Ropes at Disney” here.


5. Valve Software

Valve’s employee handbook has been praised often over the years for similar reasons. With clever, cheeky comic strips strewn throughout the handbook, Valve keeps their employees’ attention and conveys the attitude they’d like others to take about their work. In this case, Valve wants its employees to tackle their work with both a sense of humor and a determination to get things done.

On the tactical side of things:

“We all need feedback about our performance—in order to improve, and in order to know we’re not failing. Once a year we all give each other feedback about our work. Outside of these formalized peer reviews, the expectation is that we’ll just pull feedback from those around us whenever we need to.”

On company perks and culture:

“Sometimes things around the office can seem a little too good to be true. If you find yourself walking down the hall one morning with a bowl of fresh fruit and Stumptown-roasted espresso, dropping off your laundry to be washed, and heading into one of the massage rooms, don’t freak out. All these things are here for you to actually use… If we ever institute caviar-catered lunches, though, then maybe something’s wrong. Definitely panic if there’s caviar.”

Read Valve’s full Handbook for New Employees here.  


6. Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s handbook does an excellent job of conveying company values along with promoting their ideal of a collaborative workspace. Their expectations for their employees are clearly laid out so all can move forward with the right intentions.

“We do stuff. We don’t talk about it, or have a meeting about it, or e-mail each other about it if we’re not going to do it. Brilliant thinking not executed is literally worthless. No amount of PowerPoint presentations can substitute for work not done. People who do things are the people who change the world. You are in the game here. There are no sidelines.”

Click through the rest of Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s employee handbook here.


7. 22squared

If your brand is less straight-laced and suited-up and more about making employees feel comfortable, happy, and empowered to be themselves at work, pull a page from 22squared’s handbook. It’s chock-full of familiar, smile-inducing language that’s sure to put any reader quickly at ease.

“So, you’re over the new employee blur and now it’s time to do stuff. But everything seems kind of clunky. It’s going to. Relax, nobody expects you to know everything all at once or, actually ever. Because everyone here is learning, all the time. That’s one of the things that makes this place so great. It’s never perfect because perfect isn’t perfect. Perfect means stopping. And stopping sucks. So, relax. You won’t be judged for trying too hard. And you’re good at what you do. That’s why they hired you. And they’re really picky. Did we mention that you need to relax?”

You can scroll through more of 22squared’s employee handbook here.


8. Trello

Taking advantage of their own platform to cleverly lay out the pieces of an employee handbook, Trello put together an employee guide with a tone that’s supportive and affable, easy to get through and makes employees feel confident about what they need to do and where they can go if they require more help.

“2FA and Password Managers: The Internet’s a scary place, and we keep most of our cool stuff there. We need to do everything we can to keep the baddies out. That way we can sleep better at night, without the teeth grinding and nail-biting and other anxious habits that might emerge….”

You can grab the template for yourself right here.


9. The Motley Fool

Don’t take yourself too seriously! Ever playful and silly, The Motley Fool compiled their handbook into “The Fool’s Rules” to best incorporate their favorite quirks and guiding principles. What’s more, they encourage employees to each choose or make up their own Motley Core Value by picking a word or phrase that best defines them. With this added level of interactivity, employees feel like they’re a part of something instead of having to slog through a lot of text that doesn’t invite them to participate.

“We take special pride in calling ourselves ‘Foolish’ – with a capital F. Harkening back to Shakespeare, it is our calling card to be irreverent, to instruct and amuse, and to speak the truth. So our Core Values can be summarized simply as ‘Be Foolish.’”

Be Foolish

  • Collaborative – Do great things together.
  • Innovative – Search for a better solution. Then top it.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own!

Read through the full Fool’s Rules over here.


Your turn

There are infinite ways to make your employee handbook unique to your company, infused with color and magic. You don’t even have to call it a handbook.

From the gourmet foods powerhouse that was dubbed the “coolest small company in America,” Zingerman’s also earned Inc. magazine’s praise for having the “world’s best employee manual” 20 years ago. The Zingerman’s Staff Guide has withstood the test of time with its mix of words, graphics, and games—including cut-out finger puppets of the two founding partners.

Another handbook created more than a decade ago that can still be a source for inspiration today was the Zappos manual that was developed by employees for employees as a comic book called Zap! It had everything: superheroes, fun “advertisements” for different company departments (including a pizza ad for human resources), and a policies and procedures section, titled “How to Play Nice,” featuring a grandma talking to her grandson.

Other creative handbooks we came across:

Explore what makes your brand and your team unique, and play with different formats, mediums, language, and color—there are no limits to your creativity. For the basic rules you have to follow when building an actual handbook, check out our handy and detailed free guide to creating an employee handbook.

Kira Klaas Kira Klaas is a brand marketer who enables customers to learn, share their stories, and be a part of the business community.
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