The policies every employee manual starts with are the legal ones like EEOC and harassment, and the ones about when and how people get paid. These are relatively easy because they are hard and fast, making them easy to write. What often gets missed are the policies covering corporate culture that allow employers to specify how they want people to act at work; these are harder to write well, but they can make a big difference in the feel of the workplace.
A policy on company culture covers the intangibles that make your business a good place to work – or not. It can require positive interaction with others (staff, customers, suppliers), teamwork, respect, and consideration for others. It spells out the way you expect employees to treat each other and the business. Just make sure that the items you list are observable behaviors, not characteristics; you don’t care is someone is a cranky person as long as they don’t inflict it on others at work.
Your values or ethics statement, if you have one, is a good place to start for items to include. For instance, Lockheed Martin’s Ethics Statement is
Do What’s Right
We are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct in all that we do. We believe that honesty and integrity engender trust, which is the cornerstone of our business. We abide by the laws of the United States and other countries in which we do business, we strive to be good citizens and we take responsibility for our actions.
A culture policy based on this might include ethical conduct, honesty, and integrity. These qualities are theoretically assumed among employees, but spelling them out is still a good idea. Think through what is most important to your company rather than listing every virtue you can think of; employees can’t prioritize them, it is harder to manage, and it doesn’t reflect well on the company.
There are two advantages to spelling out how you expect employees to behave: you tell them what is important, and you have a tool for discipline if that becomes necessary. Writing and applying a well-thought-out policy that accurately reflects what you want your company culture to be can help you achieve it.