The Soul Publishing, an online video content creator known for its life hack material, is ruthless about meetings. Employees should make sure they have tried every possible way to solve their problem before convening a meeting. Only once they are absolutely sure that they are in a dead end can they request a meeting, 24 hours in advance. Then they have to publish the agenda, limiting both the number of guests (brainstorming is considered a waste of time) and the length (maximum 30 minutes). After the meeting has taken place, the notes will be published in the cloud, accessible to anyone who wants to watch.
The soul’s remote-first workforce learns about these meeting protocols on its online wiki, Confluence, which is a corporate handbook on policies and a guide to its work practices.
On the subject of internal communication, Confluence warns: “It is completely forbidden to use e-mail for internal communication within the company. Completely. Completely. There are no exceptions. ” Instead, employees are advised to use Slack, the workplace chat program.
Although the textbook is not publicly available, the company shares sections with prospective candidates to give them a feel for its culture. Arthur Mamedov, The Soul Publishing’s chief operating officer, says: “Not every person will be fit to work in that area.” The meeting protocol can be especially difficult for new recruits from traditional corporate backgrounds. “It’s a brainstorm in the first few months, the more senior they are, the bigger the mindset.”
In a white-collar world that is increasingly likely to include a component of homework – or may be completely remote – an increasing number of employers are building virtual company textbooks to document their work style and culture. The scope is wider than traditional textbooks which set out benefits and compliance issues.
Jennifer Smith, co-founder and CEO of Scribe, which manufactures productivity software, says two new trends are making company textbooks important. “The first is remote work. You used to be able to lean over the proverbial hockey and learn through osmosis. When people are remote, it is much more challenging. It becomes more of a burden on your best people and more difficult for new people who may not want to ask or know who to ask. ” The Great Resignation also emphasizes its importance. “Collective knowledge leaves the company.”
Such an approach also suits corporate leaders, such as Reed Hastings at Netflix and Ray Dalio at Bridgewater Associates, who “follow a proselytizing approach to their way of working,” says Nick Lovegrove, a professor of practice at Georgetown University’s McDonough. School of Business. Meanwhile, social media platforms like Glassdoor, an employee review website, have made cultures more transparent to outsiders.
The launch of a hybrid office culture at The Very Group, which operates Very.co.uk, the retailer, has accelerated flexible working. To help employees adjust, The Very Good Work Handbook has been produced, which sets out protocols on the new ways of working. “In a hybrid world, it’s essential to have accessible digital information to set standards and share how we get things done,” said Sarah Willett, the group’s chief executive. She hopes it will serve as an induction for new beginners and a way to attract talent.
The company releases one chapter at a time to enable employees to process the information and acclimatize to the new work practices. It has so far released guides to hybrid work, on how to use the company’s workplaces and how to hold a meeting. Next is a chapter on collaboration. “Our people absorb information in different ways, so each chapter contains content to read or listen to, supported by short, accessible digital learning modules,” says Willett. There is also an accompanying podcast.
The Very Group envisages that the content will grow and change as work practices calm down and give its employees feedback.
Willett says: “Monitoring and measuring the playbook’s effectiveness will be crucial. By tracking recording and impact, along with data from our recordings, we’ll know if the playbook is achieving its goals – removing things that slow us down, drive productivity and, most importantly, make it easier for our people to do their job. . ”
GitLab, Microsoft’s open source software code repository, launched its textbook in 2013, making it accessible to the public. Under feedback, for example, it is explained: “Giving feedback is challenging, but it is important to deliver it effectively. When giving feedback, always make it about the work itself; focus on the business impact and not the person. ” According to Wendy Nice Barnes, the chief human resources officer, the transparency means that the company is better equipped to recruit people “who care about us values”, Encourages quick feedback from people outside the company, and makes it easier to work with them. It enables the world to repeat processes and make suggestions for improvement, and makes it easier to share our processes with external stakeholders. ”
She points out that transparency “must be responsible [requiring] deliberate context. Information shared with minimal or no context may be misunderstood or misrepresented. Transparency for the sake of transparency can have unintended consequences such as inefficiency, more meetings on a project than necessary, or doubling of work. ”
The GitLab Handbook ensures that processes and values are easily shared across time zones and geographic areas with the remote workforce. “It creates efficiency in shared understanding. It also creates a more welcoming environment for applicants and new employees. ”
The company believes it can create a more equal workforce so that everyone can have access to the same information. The textbook is the key to its culture along with work practices, values and camaraderie, created and maintained by informal communication.
It requires “everything that was implicit to be made explicit,” says Nice Barnes, which requires effort. “There is a very real fear that the commitment to a textbook, and the establishment of a culture of documentation, is too great a task to really carry out. The purpose should not be to complete the textbook before its existence has ever been announced to the company [but rather] iteration. Put the right infrastructure in place and start documenting process after process, one at a time. ”
In the long run, it is effective, she argues. “An organization that does not make collaborative efforts in structured documentation has no choice but to watch its team members forever request and retrieve the same pieces of data, creating an inefficient loop of interruptions. [and] meetings.”
Raphael Crawford-Marks, founder and CEO of Bonusly, an employee engagement platform, says they had to change the way they “On-Handbook”As the company grew. “In the creation phase, when we were a little over 20 people, we had an all-day opportunity and got a facilitator. Now we are more than 100 people and we can not get everyone in the room to do it. ” Instead, they invite feedback and then create a poll with a list of suggested changes to share and review.
While a focus on transparency can help ensure accountability across an organization, not everyone likes this approach. Textbooks may offer many benefits, but according to Lovegrove at Georgetown University, “there is the issue of whether employees like the idea of a formula [for their work practices]. Or would they rather be trusted? ”