The employee handbook — that turgid repository of performance review policies, dental plan contact numbers, and legal disclaimers — would seem to be the least likely source of inspiration imaginable for prospective employees and new hires. But when Valve Software realized that its ultra-flat corporate culture was befuddling new hires, it drafted its Handbook for New Employees, which not only clarified essential points but also became an overnight success, both as a blueprint for a team-based organizational structure and as a reminder that no form of communication has to be boring.
The handbook was put together over the course of a few months by a small team of veteran employees and graphic designers. Although Valve is a cutting-edge maker of video game software, the company published the handbook first as a print edition – and later made it available online as a downloadable PDF.
The print edition was conceived “as if it were a trail guide – something you could throw in your backpack and refer to when you need to,” says handbook co-creator Greg Coomer, Valve’s eighth employee.
"We are humbled by all the attention,” Coomer says. “We thought of this as an internal document that would entertain and inform our current and prospective employees. But if we can help more companies enjoy the kind of freedom we have here, that would be great.”