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How to Create an Employee Handbook: Examples + Free Templates

Eliza Talvola


How to Create an Employee Handbook - Examples & Free Templates

Feeling overwhelmed by the idea of creating an employee handbook? You've come to the right place! In this blog, we'll walk you through every step of the process, from understanding the essentials to ensuring that your content is engaging and memorable.

Employee handbooks for small businesses are crucial, especially for remote and hybrid companies needing to establish workplace norms and culture. But in today’s digital age, no one is digging through a 50+ page document to find the answer to their question. Instead, consider condensing the most important elements of your handbook into engaging and helpful videos!

When consuming information through video, viewers retain 95% of the message, compared to only 10% when reading text. With a simple video editor you can bring your employee handbook to life, offering engaging visual explanations of your company policies and procedures.


Whether you're starting from square one or revamping an existing handbook, we’ve made it easy for you to get started. Use our free Google doc employee handbook template to see how you can incorporate video into your handbook. In it, you’ll find content guidelines as well as placeholder photos and text that you can easily customize or swap for your own. In each section, you’ll also find a video thumbnail and button that directs you to our FREE workplace video templates.

All you have to do is add your story and brand to make a handbook in hours, not days. Let this blog be your guide as we break down all the components of a modern handbook!

Here's what you can expect:

Why your business needs an employee handbook

Employee handbooks serve as the cornerstone of a well-structured and united workplace environment. They provide clarity, consistency, and compliance not just during the onboarding process, but throughout an employee's career. From formal policies and procedures to expectations, this document has all the answers to your employees’ questions and protects you from legal risks.

By investing in an employee handbook, your business not only demonstrates its commitment to equity and transparency, but also lays the groundwork for sustained growth and a thriving company culture.

Despite the importance of this document, a 2020 survey revealed that 66% of HR reps said getting employees to read their handbook is either "somewhat" or "very" challenging and 57% said they struggle to train their managers to enforce the handbook.

The easiest way to get your employees to consume and digest this information is by making it engaging. In the sections below, we’ll provide you with some ideas and video templates so you can do exactly that.

Bring your employee handbook to life with video

The employee handbook, typically part of onboarding, is frequently overlooked by new hires. Despite this, the information in your handbook is vital for both the employee and employer! Expecting employees to read extensive pages of information during their first days just isn't realistic.

With video, you can bring these topics to life and make viewers feel more invested in your organization’s culture and success. Video can boost information retention by up to 85% compared to text alone. So rather than handing over another slideshow or lengthy document, give them a video!

You can easily use video to enhance the content in your handbook and provide another style of learning to your team. And it doesn’t have to be any harder than making a doc!

Below, we’ll dive into the essential parts of a solid employee handbook and share ideas for how you can make them more engaging and memorable video. In each section you'll find all the tools and templates you can use to make this work quick, easy, and professional. Use the handbook example linked below and use this blog to guide you from start to finish.


Best practices for creating an employee handbook

Of course, your employee handbook will need to be updated and revised frequently. As rules and regulations change, roles shift, and new software and processes are added, you’ll need your handbook to reflect these changes. For this reason, we recommend creating an employee handbook using a tool that’s easy to work with and adjust, like Google docs.

Here are some other best practices to keep in mind when creating your handbook:

  • Add videos, photos, and graphs to illustrate complicated concepts and re-engage your employees
  • Use screen recordings to show and tell how to use certain tools and complete online processes
  • Maintain a positive and helpful tone throughout your writing
  • Add webcam recordings from your HR team to establish a personalized connection with employees
  • Use real-life examples to illustrate ideas
  • Collect feedback to identify points of improvement
  • Use module-based learning to boost information retention and completion rates
  • Make sure your team knows how and where to find your handbook online

Employee handbook essentials

Each company's employee handbook varies based on workplace policies and benefits in place or planned.

Not sure about what to include? Here are the essentials, with recommended topics and accompanying recap videos for each section.

Welcome to the company

First things first, it’s time to welcome new hires to your company and set the scene of your workplace! You can begin by sharing a custom welcome letter or video from your CEO or leadership team to give them a warm welcome. This sets the tone for the rest of your handbook, so put some time and care into making your new hires feel seen, valued, and excited to start.

Company overview

Now it’s time to share the ins and outs of your company. Here is where you’ll explain exactly what you do and why you do it.

This part of the handbook is essential for creating a consistent base-level understanding of your company and alignment with your goals. When everyone is aligned and confident in your company's offerings, they'll all be able to work towards the same goal.

Here are some of the topics you can cover in this section:

  • Mission, vision, and values: Briefly describe your company's purpose, goals, and guiding principles. No need to dig in too deep here - we gave it its own (optional) section below.
  • History and milestones: Share your company's journey, major milestones, and achievements to give a well-rounded look at the company and foster a sense of pride.
  • Company culture: Highlight your work environment and all the things that make your company culture unique. Feature your org structure, workplace events, traditions, and of course, the people who make your culture so valuable.

This video template is a great starting place to kick off your new employee handbook. If you want to spend extra time digging into your company’s principles and values, you can give it its own section and video like the one below.

Our mission and vision

Think of the company overview as your “what” and your mission as your “why.”

Sharing your mission and vision in a powerful and memorable way will resonate with your employees. As they progress throughout their careers, they can always turn back to this mission and be empowered to take their next step.

This video template brings the company vision and mission to life with photos, text, and music. Add your own mission and vision statements alongside photos of your team and products to make it truly resonate.

Benefits and employment basics

Next, take the time to dive into your employees’ most frequently asked questions.

Because this information is so highly-sought after, put it front and center with a FAQ video! Topics like company benefits, perks, compensation, and everyday policies should go in this section, towards the top of your handbook. For more specific tasks like applying for PTO or submitting expenses, use video and screen recordings to walk them through the process step by step.

Here are some of the topics you can cover in this section:

  • Compensation and benefits: Clearly outline pay schedules, deductions, and details of available benefit programs (health insurance, referrals, retirement, etc.).
  • Working hours and schedules: Define standard work hours, overtime policies, and flexible work arrangements (if offered). Include information on timekeeping expectations and instructions for submitting pay stubs.
  • Attendance: Provide guidelines regarding attendance, including procedures for arriving late and departing early. Inform employees of the appropriate point of contact for time off due to unforeseen situations.
  • Leave policies: Detail paid time off (vacation, sick leave, personal days), parental leave, and holiday policies. Explain how to request and approve leave and how to notify other employees.

Workplace policies and procedures

Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Here, you can outline specific workplace policies and procedures that are put in place to keep your employees safe and informed.

The contents of your handbook may vary, but here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Technology use: Establish clear guidelines for using company devices, internet access, social media, and communication tools in the workplace. You can also include guidelines for securely setting up online accounts.
  • Confidentiality and security: Emphasize the importance of protecting company information and data, outlining any specific security measures in place.
  • Safety procedures: This section covers guidelines and protocols to ensure the well-being of employees in the workplace, including procedures for handling emergencies, maintaining a safe work environment, and utilizing equipment. It may also outline reporting procedures for accidents or hazards.
  • Dress code: If relevant, outline expectations for professional attire and grooming, considering both in-office and remote work options.
  • Breaks and meals: Clearly state expectations for the duration and frequency of breaks and meal times. Additionally, provide information about company break room facilities and any other public resources.
  • Drug use and smoking: Address the company's stance on drug use and establish guidelines for employees who smoke. Specify designated smoking areas and the permitted times for smoking breaks during shifts.

Performance management and professional development

This essential section outlines the company's processes for evaluating employee performance. It should include criteria for assessment, performance review schedules, and potential consequences for underperformance.

This content helps ensure that all your employees are evaluated with fair and equitable criteria. With this guideline, they’ll also get a clear idea of what their goals and expectations are. You can use video here to highlight additional training programs, mentorship initiatives, and career advancement paths available to employees.

Because this content can tend to get a bit dense, include a video to break it up and provide them with key takeaways.

  • Performance reviews: Describe the frequency and structure of performance reviews, including evaluation criteria, platforms, feedback, and goal-setting processes.
  • Career development: Explain the opportunities available for professional growth, training, and advancement within the company. Highlight any mentorship and training programs offered.
  • Recognition and rewards: Lastly, explain how employees will be recognized for achievements, milestones, and contributions. Take the time to highlight reward programs and incentives to encourage advancement.

Your employee handbook must contain specific legal statements supporting the rights of both parties in the workplace. This segment mitigates risks and liability for the company, fosters equitable treatment, and establishes transparent guidelines for employee conduct. You should also review the specific mandates in your local jurisdiction to verify that your handbook addresses all requisite subjects.

This section will be much more text-heavy than the others but it is just as important. If desired, you can leverage video for important takeaways or instructions on how to complete any relevant paperwork.

Here is some of the general information you must include in your handbook for US employees:

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Clearly outline federal and state laws regarding leave for childbirth, caring for a family member, or personal illness.
  • Worker's compensation: Many states mandate that companies outline policies regarding employee injuries sustained on the job. If you have employees in multiple states, ensure that they have access to their state-level policies.
  • Non-discrimination and equal employment: Employers are required by the U.S. Department of Labor to affirm their adherence to guidelines for hiring and ensuring equal treatment in the workplace.
  • Disabilities: Address how you accommodate individuals with disabilities in the workplace and during the hiring process.

Additional resources guide

Last but not least, end your handbook with a master resources guide. This section can include “leftover” pieces and extended details on training programs, employee assistance programs (EAPs), grievance procedures, and more. Other helpful content might include team profiles, organizational structure, HR contact information, and more.

By consolidating essential resources in one accessible location, your employees will become very familiar with your handbook and its contents. This section should also address where your employees can learn more or ask for support, such as your HR team’s email and contact information.

Create videos for your employee handbook with Animoto

We know how daunting it can be to create a master guidebook for an entire company. We hope that these guidelines, tips, and this template will help you to easily create an airtight handbook!

Videos and additional illustrations can go a long way in explaining your procedures and making sure that they’re remembered. So, we’re happy to share our professional (and free) video templates that will make it easy! Just choose any video template or start from scratch. Then, apply your brand colors, font, and logo, and tailor the message to your team.

You’ve got this! Happy video making!