Write the Docs: HR Edition

It’s no secret that company culture is a huge factor in both attracting and retaining stellar employees. The secret is actually more about communicating your company culture - and that’s not as easy as it may sound. Each institution (yes, even start-ups are institutions) has its own ideas, methodologies, processes, and ideologies - even idiosyncrasies. This stuff grows from the people who start the company, and the tone they set and nurture as they add more people to the company is what sets the culture for years to come. Everything from the brand to the way people sit together is part of the company’s culture. So if all this stuff feels so normal and obvious to people inside the company, how can it be that these concepts are so hard to communicate?

In 2012, Facebook developed a “little red book” that in essence codified what the company thought about itself, growth, and its culture. The company worked with Ben Barry to design, build, and print these little books. Presumably, these books were shared with employees. Here’s how Facebook framed the challenge:

“As the company of Facebook grew, we faced a lot of challenges. One of them was explaining our company’s mission, history, and culture to new employees. Over the years, a lot of formative company discussions and debates had happened in Facebook Groups, over email, or in person. Those who had been present at the time had context, but for new employees that information was difficult to find, even if you knew what you were looking for. We wanted to try to package a lot of those stories and ideas in one place to give to all employees.”

This challenge is the one that the companies Edify works with face all the time - they’re midsize, post-revenue companies experiencing rapid growth and change. They aren’t the founding ten or even the middle thirty they were two or even five years ago, and managing growth while maintaining culture has become a complex ball of yarn. Facebook has tried to untangle this knot by focusing - at least with this book - on communicating how the intricacies of the company work to employees. Often, it’s not just new employees that need to hear these things - it’s employees of all levels and stripes. While the entire contents of the book can only be seen if you work at Facebook, the shot shared here give a good overview and indication of just how much thought went into this document.

Writing the documentation is a key (if not oft ignored) piece of the technology sector. Why shouldn’t writing the docs for the human resources side of tech be just as important? In our visual below, we share a few ways you can make a little red book” for your company (without breaking the bank and cutting down trees in the process!)

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Posted by Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher
Kristen Gallagher is an organizational strategies and learning designer. Specializing in onboarding systems, manager development, and knowledge management, Gallagher delivers programs that are designed to evolve and scale with rapid changes. She is the founder and CEO of Edify and has architected and delivered onboarding programs for companies bringing on just one person a quarter to 50+ people a quarter.

She brings over eight years of learning design, business development, and program operations and strategy to Edify. She guides growing tech companies to create amazing people systems, learning programs, and cultures that scale. Kristen speaks on human resources, human centered design, learning & development in technical environments, and integrated people operations across the country. Informed by her interests in technical product design, art history, contemporary Southeast Asian art, and museums, Kristen brings an iconoclastic approach to designing and implementing learning programs in tech environments.

She's spoken and taught at Learning Dev Camp, ATD Cascadia, ACTW, Refresh Portland, Product Tank, PHRMA, and dozens of other conferences. Effective, efficient programs, events, and strategies are what motivate her, and in every project, she engages teams to understand trade-off’s, make data-driven decisions, and design evolvable solutions.

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