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Inspiration to Realization: Easily Create Your Own Culture Handbook

A culture book does not have to resemble that dusty order folder of 250 pages that is collecting dust in a forgotten cupboard somewhere. On the contrary, it should be a lively document that summarizes the essence of your business in a concise form. A culture book is the mirror of your values, norms, and everything sparkling that makes you unique.


It is not a dry list of rules, but a clear illustration of what you stand for and how you want to work together. Think less of a manual and more of a manifesto for motivation and inspiration, for newcomers and seasoned team members alike.



Below I give you an example and some topics you could include. Feel free to copy this in whole or in part and if you have any additions or suggestions of your own, please add them to the comments at the bottom of the page. This way you can also inspire people outside your company.


How do you start with a culture book?

As with so many things in life, everything becomes easier when you know what you believe about it. In other words, what is your vision about your internal culture? While many companies cover office walls with their external mission and vision, they would do well to be very clear about what kind of culture they want internally and why this is important.


A vision of the internal culture is actually a clear picture of what you want the interactions and daily life within your company to look like. It describes the ideal environment in which employees feel involved, valued, and motivated. This vision sets the standards for behavior, communication, and collaboration that everyone in the company strives for.


It is about creating a setting in which the values ​​and principles do not only exist only on paper, but where they are experienced and expressed on a daily basis by everyone. This helps to develop a strong, positive culture that contributes to both the happiness of employees and the success of the company. It strives for a working environment in which everyone can develop, where people are open to change, and where there is room for creativity and innovation.


Example of a vision of the internal culture

You want to avoid falling into generalities. Another pitfall is that a vision becomes a compromise of opinions. Jan wants us to treat each other respectfully, Annet also wants us to be accurate and Gerrit wants us to be honest. Then the following sentence arises:


“We are meticulous and honest in a respectful manner.”


That is of course far from unique or inspiring. They are 'weak' statements. What you could also say is:


“Our working environment is all about adventure and discovery. We are a 'playground' where innovation comes first and conventions are challenged. We believe that a good joke can be just as valuable as a clever business plan and that the best ideas arise where the lines between work and pleasure are blurred.”


That makes me curious! You too?

 

So start your culture booklet with a nice introduction, the vision of your company and the vision of your corporate culture, and the most important work is done.


Determine the topics you want to discuss further

As in the example above of Jan, Annet, and Gerrit, you can ask team members what they find important and tell them something about those topics from your perspective. Consider topics such as manners, integrity, communication, finances, hiring policy, dismissal, and dealing with customers.


You can say something briefly and concisely about all these topics without immediately turning it into a whole manual. Below I will give an example of how you could say that per topic.


Examples for the content of a culture book

Remember that the examples below are only illustrative and this should match the vision you have about the internal culture and the type of employees.


Respect

Respect is the word most used when it comes to norms and values, but what exactly do you mean by it? To create mutual respect, you should want everyone to be themselves. You could say that in the following way:


“Boring products are boring. Boring people are also boring. That's why we only work with extraordinary people who are serious with a twist. Only in this way can we continue to deliver what makes people happy.”



To reinforce this you could add:


“MAKE YOURSELF HEAR & SEEN. THINK! Think often, reflect, and then say what you think. Feel! Have strong feelings and let them be heard and seen. Be in the spotlight.”


Manners

Suppose you want an informal culture where friendliness prevails. Then you could say the following:


“In our company, we promote an informal atmosphere where everyone calls each other by their first names. It promotes a sense of equality and accessibility, making employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns with management.”


But just as powerful is:


“With us, you say 'hi' to everyone, from the intern to the CEO. Why? Because 'Hello Sir' is so 1990 and we believe you don't need a three-piece suit to earn respect.”


Or you say:

      

“We work with real people, even at the head office. Everyone here goes by their first name, which we use as often and as warmly as possible. Why? Because it makes everyone feel recognized and appreciated.”



Communication

You can write books about how you want people to communicate with each other. But stick to the essence. For example, you don't want e-mail treats sent daily throughout the company. You could say this as follows:


“We aim for direct communication and prefer face-to-face conversations. We prefer to use emails for quick updates or thank you letters. This approach ensures that communication remains efficient and personal.”


Another way to say the same thing is:


“Face-to-face conversations are preferred because let's face it, emojis can't express everything. E-mails are great for thank-you notes, and who knows, maybe also for passing on the legendary office gossip."


Or you say:


“If we want to ask or tell something, we look someone up in person. The best alternative is to call someone. Apps and emails are ideal for reporting or a thank you. Oh, and uh, emojis? We only do those ourselves, face-to-face.



Integrity

It is clear that you do not want people stealing or lying. However, it can be good for a company to give your vision on this. You could do that as follows:


“One lie and you're a liar!”



By saying nothing further about this, it is immediately clear that you have a zero-tolerance policy. Easy.


Financial policy

Financial policy includes matters such as margins and declarations and you can also pay extensive attention to these. By bringing this to the essence and keeping it simple, you sometimes say more with fewer words. For example, you could say:


“We strive every day to earn more than we spend.”



And about declarations you could say:


“We understand that everyone sometimes has to incur costs for the company, whether it concerns a customer dinner or a train ticket to a conference. Our policy is simple: if you spend it with the company in mind, we'll get you reimbursed quickly and without hassle.”


Or if you want to keep it even lighter you can say:


“Did you make expenses for work? Throw those receipts into our digital system like they were confetti! But keep in mind that your purchases are as logical as coffee on Monday morning.”


Hiring policy

You have now realized that things that sometimes seem complex can also be very simple explained. This is also the case with the hiring policy. You could say something like this:


“Our hiring policy is simple. We ask three questions: Can this person do the job? Does this person really want to work here? Will this person be committed to his duties? A "no" to any of these questions means a no."


Another form of saying the same thing is:


“Our interviews are like speed dating. Three important questions. Can the person do it, does the person want to do it and will the person do the work? If the answer to any of them is 'no', then we say: "Next!" We want a match in love and in work and the match must be perfect.”



Reward

One of the most discussed issues in the workplace is the level of compensation. You never actually do a good job as a leader of a company. What you could say about that is the following:


“We reward not only what you do, but also how you do it. If we have missed something exceptional, please come and tell us so that we know and can take it into account for your next paycheck."



Leaving the Company

The way you fire someone is an essential part of your internal culture. In addition, a dignified dismissal can have an enormous positive impact on the image of your company. Therefore you could say the following:


“We do not see departure or dismissal as an end, but as a referral to a place where the employee will be more happy. This policy helps us maintain a positive atmosphere, even in difficult times.”


Another way to say this is:


When it's time to say goodbye, we do it with a hug (figuratively speaking) rather than a handshake. We want you to go and shine somewhere else, where you will be even happier.



Customers

Customers can sometimes be demanding or ask difficult questions. Yet you want employees to handle this in a service-oriented manner and with respect. You could say it like this:


“Our customers are like the coffee in the morning: indispensable. Without them, we would all still be working from home in our pajamas. Therefore we put them on a throne – sometimes literally.”


If you want to emphasize how important your customers are to you, you can also say:


“Customers are not dependent on us. We depend on them. They are not an interruption to our work. They are its purpose. We are not doing them a favor by serving them. They are doing us a favor by giving us that opportunity.”



Other subjects

You can add a whole range of topics such as holidays, working hours and workplace, recognition and appreciation, etc. The trick is to stick to the essence. You can explain the rest in the folder that lies on top of a forgotten cupboard somewhere.


Layout and design of a culture manual

Finally: 1 image often says more than 1000 words. Therefore, do not skimp on the layout of your culture book. It should be a pleasure to receive and inspiring to read.


Professional assistance in creating a culture booklet

The process of creating a culture booklet can sometimes be quite intensive, especially if you want to involve various people from your company. In such a case, it is advisable to seek external help.


I have had the privilege of supporting several entrepreneurs in projects like these, and the outcome is always both surprising and inspiring. Usually, no more than two to three short sessions are needed to arrive at the first draft, and if desired, we can also take care of the layout.

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