Many years ago, I read the book “Get Weird! 101 innovative ways to make your company a great place to work”. It was one of my first realizations that there were other people “out there” who believed in innovative HR – unique and different ways of managing the workplace. One story shared in the book was about an Employee Handbook from a cable company called Anixter Bros Inc. Their “Blue Book” is available online. It was developed in 1968, and was written in such an authentic, open way that I loved it right away.
Just recently, I was reviewing samples of policies and handbooks and I was reminded of this old book. As I was reading through a new employee handbook, with it’s numbered policies and revision tracking and big words throughout for maximum sternness, I thought “what a disengaging way to start an employment relationship”. There must be a better way. And I remembered Anixter.
Read the whole Blue Book HERE (my favourite pages are 4, 9, 12, and 14), and compare these excerpts to your own Employee Handbook:
PROMOTIONS & TRANSFERSThree questions must be answered in this order:1. Does the person want to do it?2. Can they do it?3. Will they do it?Just one No… and it’s “No!”
How does this compare to the legalese and red tape surrounding your company’s promotions and transfers policy?
This company is your business home.
Live in it according to your lifestyle.
Just pretend that the company’s money you are spending is your own. (It’s your company.)
And write your expense account so it won’t embarrass you when it’s posted on the bulletin board.
More should come in each month than goes out.
How do these compare to your policies on expenses and finances?
Think! Think often, think hard and then say what you think.
Feel! Have strong feelings and then express them.
And don’t get mad when others do.
Do you have paragraphs policing an Open Door policy? This is simple, clear and empowering.
By the way, Anixter’s handbook’s pages on Job Descriptions and Organizational Charts? Blank. In my mind, that says even more than the simple words that empower employees throughout its pages. Here’s what they say about Hierarchy:
Hierarchy turns an organization into a pyramid.
Pyramids don’t move, they just slowly crumble.
Everyone should do what they do best.
Our company deserves to have the best talent working on its biggest problems – or best opportunities.So we will continually reshuffle our people (and their titles) to suit the needs of the company……without a hierarchy getting in the way
Imagine starting a new job and getting the Blue Book as your Handbook? How much more engaging would that be than what your organization does now? How can you insert your company’s personality and values into your orientation in a simple and authentic way?
I think it’s time to re-evaluate our employee handbooks. Are they simple and clear, or are they full of “CYA” legalese that employees likely don’t fully read and certainly don’t connect with?
It’s time to trust our employees when we hire them. Share the purpose of our organization and discuss their role in achieving it. Write in every-day language. Think about how your handbook demonstrates your core values – not just by stating them – by actually speaking language consistent with them, and by creating guidelines for working that are fully aligned to them. If a core value is trust, why dictate things like number of washroom breaks or time spent fraternizing? Right away, these types of policies create a feeling of policing and micro-managing.
So go ahead, burn your employee handbook and start fresh!