New employees hankering for names and dates can peruse boilerplate corporate histories at their (yawn) leisure. But those static archives reveal little about what a business is really like or how it got that way.
At DreamHost, a $41 million Web-hosting and cloud services company, new hires learn about their employer’s culture through yearbooks. DreamHost publishes annual volumes that are physically and tonally identical to the high-school kind, right down to blank pages at the back for autographs. The books contain goofy profiles of its executive team; goofier portraits of its individual employees; candid photos from company events; the year’s Top 5 accomplishments for each department; and superlative nominations that are both serious (“Friendliest,” “Most DreamHost Spirit”) and less so (“Best Sneeze,” “Baldest”).
To produce copies for its entire staff of 90-plus employees, DreamHost works with a graphic designer and contracts production to a yearbook company. The cost for design, layout, and printing is roughly $7,000.
CEO Simon Anderson (@DreamHostSimon) says the books are morale- and team-builders and create institutional memory. The company passes them out to new employees, who often keep them at their desks as resources. They can put names to faces, see what everyone has been working on, and instantly acclimate to the culture — which includes understanding in-jokes before they’re all the way in.
Ed Wesley, director of organizational development and learning (who runs the project), says the books also reinforce DreamHost’s organizational democracy. “The pages show all teams, without giving focus to senior management,” Wesley (@thedreamtrainer) says. “The book communicates our commitment to having a fun workplace where employees are empowered to do what they do best.”
DreamHost’s yearbooks are a nontraditional tradition in a proudly iconoclastic company. How iconoclastic? Two years ago, when the founders decided to bring in a professional CEO, they let employees vote on the candidates, as Inc.’s Leigh Buchanan reports in “Reelect the Boss! Or Not.”