Is Your Employee Manual Missing Something?

If you want brand ambassadors, not just employees, consider making some additions.
illustration by Tony Healey
Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, specializing in brand and marketing strategy. She is also the co-founder of espNOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency.


The employee manual is often seen as one of those things a business is required to have. This collection of policies and procedures is believed to be a critical document for setting clear expectations: what to wear (or not), how to behave (or not), and how to earn and use time off. Although the purpose of this document is to create a sense of stability and avoid failure, it is often missing an exploration of one of the most critical pieces of content that will help your employees grow your business — how to be, not only a great employee but a great brand ambassador.

Employees must be invested in your brand if you want to improve your company culture and increase productivity. You must create and maintain a culture that is inextricably tied to your brand so that how the brand is perceived on the outside matches the experience on the inside.

Understanding your core values and your brand purpose is the first step. This understanding will guide the overall development of an innovative employee manual. Then, you must understand the meaning of the employee manual. If indeed, it is only to contain the behavior of employees, you can stop reading now. This month’s column will be of no interest to you. If, however, the purpose of the manual is to build a strong foundation that inspires your employees to create brand experiences your guests will want time and time again, then you want this document to be so much more than the usual.


Rethink your mission statement language.
Many manuals include a company mission statement, but it can often appear reduced down to an elevator speech. Rather than relying on a typical corporate mission statement — which is usually focused on the company’s goals — describe your mission as a brand purpose statement and the purpose or role the brand plays in the life of the guest. This type of statement helps to set and maintain a singular focus for employees. A simple yet clear brand statement can engage even the most skeptical or apathetic employees by making their work meaningful.


Focus on the language you use and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Employee manuals are traditionally one of the first documents given to new hires, which means the brand voice and values should be introduced here, especially if they have not been through the recruitment process. Additionally, because so many employee manuals can often feel the same, the language you use can be an opportunity to create a distinct impression in the mind of employees.

There are some great examples of company employee manuals that are reflections of the brand.

Nordstrom’s one-page “one simple rule” employee manual is a great example as it puts the focus on the employee’s role in creating and growing the brand. It’s a single card. One side reads “Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them, so our employee handbook is very simple. We have only one rule…” The other side? “Our One Rule. Use good judgment in all situations. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager or Human Resources any questions at any time.”

Tech company Trello uses its platform to deliver its manual to employees. Even the first entry is a nod to their brand: “Dust off the age-old employee manual for today’s modern workforce.” Hubspot’s employee manual also warrants a mention because it manages to communicate a great deal through a simple PowerPoint and posting it to SlideShare further cements their commitment to transparency — a key brand value.

Most of the readers of this column will have spent little more than reading time with an employee manual but designing one that is not only useful but purposeful is ultimately worthwhile. So, I encourage all of you to take a look at your current manual and evaluate how it is assisting employees in creating the brand experiences that are necessary to grow your business. A human resources/marketing partnership is key to building and empowering brand ambassadors.

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