Whether you’ve just been hired to your first company, or are now moving onto your third, one thing that will always be presented to you on the first day is the employee handbook. Though it has many names across organizations, the purpose of these 30 to 60-page references are all the same.
However, there is one major difference—effectivity. More often than not, employee handbooks carry the default company policies, procedures, benefits, disciplinary measures and so on, but not every employee handbook is able to effectively promote these words into action and to its intended audience. Because while you might have an aesthetically pleasing handbook, this won’t always translate to your employee’s performance.
So, with that, we’ve taken the liberty of reviewing several companies in Asia that are ranked as some of the best places to work at in recent years. After going through their respective employee handbooks, we’ve come to the conclusion of the best of the best. Not arranged in any particular order, here are the top 5 employee handbooks your company could learn from.
Cisco Systems is a global technology solutions company that aids businesses in overcoming their most pressing challenges. They offer solutions in networking, wireless mobility, analytics, software, security, and so on. Beyond the service however, what’s most impressive is their workplace culture. Crowned as the 2nd place at Best Workplaces in Asia 2019 for its Greater China, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Singapore divisions, there comes no surprise for the company’s recognition.
Since the use of their old employee handbook before the 2010s, they’ve already been putting serious emphasis on corporate social responsibility and people. No wonder they’ve carried this focus over to the present with an additional Code of Business Conduct handbook. As Cisco believes that all of their success is due to their employees, the handbooks relay empathy and a sense of family from the very first few pages.
What makes Cisco’s handbook stand out is their strong focus on diversity and inclusion. More than half of the pages show this. As such, 9 out of 10 employees say they look forward to coming to work, with 96% saying they are treated fairly regardless of race and 97% are treated fairly regardless of their sexual orientation. They make sure everyone understands from the get-go the importance of diversity and inclusion, even going as far as providing different networking groups.
While for the recent version, the use of the first person perspective is what makes it unique and effective. All chapters have the word “I” in the title, such as I Am Ethical, I Know the Code, I Respect Others, and I Avoid Conflicts of Interest. This encourages employees to think before saying or acting on anything. They’ve even included an Ask Yourself: Ethics Decision Tree, to ensure everyone’s doing the right thing not just work-wise but personality-wise as well.
With this, there’s no question why Cisco Systems’ handbook made it in our list. A company that ensures the happiness of everyone in an organized and safe environment is sure to foster a culture of motivation and care. There’s an exorbitant amount of 18k reviews on Glassdoor for their company, all of which averages at a 4 out of 5 star-rating for the company.
In its 6th consecutive year, DHL was crowned as the Top Employer for Asia Pacific by the Top Employers Institute, a global organization recognizing excellent employee conditions, for its territories in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. DHL, as the world’s leading logistics and freight services company, even had one of their subsidiaries, DHL Global Forwarding, garner the same position in 2020 for their companies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Now, while we weren’t able to locate DHL’s Asia Pacific employee handbook, we were successful in locating its Indian subsidiary, Blue Darter. According to multiple sources, DHL prides itself on being a “people business”. Focusing heavily on its “People First” philosophy. The APAC CEO, Ken Lee, said, “We treat our employees the way we would like them to treat our customers, by fostering a culture of authenticity, responsibility, dignity, performance and results.”
So it comes to no surprise that even with its subsidiary’s employee handbook, the people-first philosophy is identified at the start. This ensures new hires that the DHL environment fosters a happy, motivated and productive “people force,” as they like to call their employees. At the same time it continues to motivate long-time employees with different development programs and team building activities.
As such, the handbook stretches several pages that evidently show how these are met. Included in the handbook are discussions on reimbursements and gifts, employee health and well-being, training and development, awards and recognition, benefits, grievances and so on. Though we may not get to see publicly DHL’s main employee handbook, we are sure to get a glimpse into how they do it through this one.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Globally recognized for its multitude of travel and leisure accommodations, Hyatt Hotels boasts excellent service from each and everyone of its hotels. From the Grand Hyatt in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, alone, the luxury hotel has amassed a total of seven awards and more than 70 nominations from the World Travel Awards. The reason of course, being their great employees.
As a business that quite literally hinges its success upon its employees and the services they provide hotel guests, fostering exceptional employee performance is a must. And an effective employee handbook is what you need.
Though only 25-pages long, the general employee handbook of Hyatt Hotels, that reflects the company’s core business conduct and ethics, packs in a lot of information. Because of the corporation’s large scope, they have to ensure that they are always “doing what’s right” no matter who the employee is or where their hotel is located at. With this version of the handbook, the first and foremost thing Hyatt Hotels emphasizes is speaking up. Right off the bat, employees are encouraged to report anything they find wrong at the organization, through the many channels the handbook has listed. They even have an ethics hotline.
And cleverly following this of course, are discussions on mutual respect and proper treatment for one another. Whether you’re a supervisor or a frontdesk manager, the handbook reminds everyone to treat each other as how they themselves want to be treated. This is especially important in a business that goes through several hierarchies. There’s no surprise why the Grand Hyatt in Dubai alone ranks 5th at the Best 25 Workplaces in the UAE in 2018 and the overall corporation was recognized as one of the Best Multinational Workplaces in 2014.
And aside from the handbook’s focus on the employees, it also provides in-depth discussions on the company’s communication transparency, information privacy and protection, business dealings and others.
Even shorter than the Hyatt Hotels Corporation’s handbook, comes the Adobe Systems Incorporated’s employee handbook. With an amazing 16 globally-recognized HR awards to their name, this household tech company is unparalleled when it comes to their employee performance. For the India and Japan locations of Adobe’s companies, the two bag the 13th place as the Best Places to Work for in Asia 2019.
From the highest C-executives at Adobe down to even their interns, the 13-page handbook guides everyone. Though it may be one of the shortest handbooks out there, it’s clear-cut, well-organized and value-adding. In the handbook, Adobe gives top priority in noting the company’s four core values: being genuine, being exceptional, being innovative and being involved. Fittingly so, the handbook introduces the violations on the spot, as if saying, “we want you to understand this before anything else”.
In 2017, HRM Magazine even interviewed Adobe’s Southeast Asia Manager V.R. Srivastan to talk about the company’s great HR practice. According to Srivastan, merging customer and employee experience is what’s key to their success.
Adobe’s employee handbook that covers the company’s core values, workplace culture and safety, individual employee conduct, detailed business relationship discussion, and community overview, is simply a great example other companies can learn from. There’s no need to cram as much information and guidance as possible into an 80-page document. Perhaps all that’s needed is 15 or so pages, a few bullet points, but all with accessible messages.
Known as one of the world’s most inclusive workplaces, FedEx, especially its Asian divisions, are at the forefront of having an exemplary workforce. According to the Managing Director of FedEx Singapore, Audrey Cheong, FedEx practices a “fair, merit-based and non-discriminatory policy”. While for its China division, the company was recognized as one of the Top 100 Best HR Management Companies in China in 2012. And in 2017, its Japan division was named as Best Employer in Japan for the 4th time in a row.
While I could drone on about their many achievements since forever ago, let’s instead look at their handbook—an undeniable contributor to the company’s employee guidance and performance—shaping it to what it is today.
FedEx’s employee handbook is probably one of the most comprehensive guides we’ve seen. It discusses the basic workplace ethics, culture and behavior down to the most complex information and money laundering laws. And although the document covers a lot, it does so in a very clear and also very aesthetically pleasing manner. The style that particularly sets it apart from other handbooks is that it’s formatted in a Q&A style throughout. The handbook would pose a question, and of course would answer itself. Yet, it prompts the employees to answer the question before anything else.
And since the company places great emphasis on diversity and inclusivity, it starts itself off with a pretty lengthy opening on the importance of lawful and ethical behavior. Covering as well equal opportunities and anti-harassment policies. Because in such a diverse company like FedEx, the need for unity and understanding is a must to keep operations going, and so a handbook that can provide a quick and constant reminder for everyone is valuable.
More than just a handbook
We hope you’ve learned as much about employee handbooks as we did. Because while any and all organizations will create their guides differently, these guides still have one purpose. We’ve seen how the top performing companies in terms of engaging and enjoyable workplaces have demonstrated how innovative their handbooks are; innovative in a way that the handbooks aren’t didactic textbooks better stored away, but rather they contain insightful information that boosts employee engagement and behavior.
Edited by: Ervin Delas Peñas
Visual by: Trisha Tan