What rules does the company follow? What are its values? Why does it exist? – these are the kind of questions a culture book is trying to provide answers to. If the organization is dynamic, it will create a culture book every year; if the changes are more gradual, the culture book will be created once, and then (if necessity arises) upgraded after a few years.
Culture books are not made to put them on the shelf and forget about them. On the contrary, it is a useful internal communication tool. It is the company in a nutshell, a mixture of information about its culture, history, practices and procedures, or about the character of people working at the company. This makes a culture book a good onboarding tool (it is then sometimes called an employee handbook), because it can quickly get a new employee acquainted with the company’s organizational culture. It can also engage long-term employees if they get a chance e.g. to contribute to it.
For some companies, a culture book can become an external communication tool as well. They support employer branding, because they show – in a safe and controlled manner – that the company values good organizational culture. They are also a material that can be interesting to the media or potential candidates. Examples?
The coherent look of the publication, the website and the videos posted is surely to make a good impression on the candidate. The materials are also integrated with the company social media, so e.g. the team photo section directs you from the culture book to posts on Facebook, where potential candidates can find further employee description. The job offers are found at the end of the Career page, pointing to the fact that Harbingers first wants to encourage the candidates by presenting its organizational culture, and only then – to show them the job offers.
Culture books can also be a little mysterious and that’s what companies are also trying to use to their advantage. When such publications are easily accessible, they have little chance to make a splash. But when you need to do something to reach to them – that can be motivating.
I have recently been to Netguru website. They also make their culture book available (they have a special page for it), but they first ask for your basic data (name, email and specialization range and level; necessarily, the company asks mainly about software) and consent to send recruitment information. By showing interest in the culture book you can simultaneously give a signal that you are a potential candidate.
The consent is not obligatory to download the publication. But let’s try to recreate the goal Netguru had in mind: maybe we can pick out a gem?
Writing about a company’s external communication is always tricky. You never actually know if a given action is a bloomer, or a clever publicity stunt.
The above mentioned aura of mystery around culture books makes them documents that can “leak” to the public. The media would make sensational news (they’re revealing a secret, after all!) out of… the company’s best practices.
In 2012 The Verge website covered the book which Valve – game producer – was said to give to their new employees. The author of the article stated frankly that it was a leak, but he used it to write about interesting things about the company and its organizational culture – it’s worth adding they were all rather positive.
One of the comments was doubtful: “What if the leak was made on purpose to attract new employees?” PCG1 asked. “That was clearly on purpose,” replied someone signed up as tomica. Of course, neither of them could be sure, because that’s the beauty of leaks that show the company in a good light*. What about Valve? Well, today the company makes that very same culture book (the publication date is still 2012) available, but on a generally available website (in several languages, also in Polish).