50 Open Source Employee Handbooks

open source employee handbook

Why handbooks?

Back in 2020, once the initial panic about COVID subsided and software companies suddenly doubled down on shipping new things & enhanced features, the tech world started to fully embrace remote work. 

It had to of course. 

Many of us made sea changes and tree changes (guilty 🙋🏼‍♂️) and the workforce then became truly dispersed. This made hiring teams not only rethink interviewing and assessing candidates remotely but also how to go about onboarding those excited new hires. 

Self-paced induction days started to become the norm and as organisations tried to make this more efficient, the employee handbook was re-born.

Gaming studio and developer, Valve, was one of the early proponents of the handbook. The first edition was back in 2012 and In their own words, “This book isn’t about fringe benefits or how to set up your workstation or where to find source code. Valve works in ways that might seem counterintuitive at first. This handbook is about the choices you’re going to be making and how to think about them. Mainly, it’s about how not to freak out now that you’re here.” It’s not hard to picture a new employee of Valve reading this and feeling a sense of relief.

So necessity forced companies to look at how they inducted remote employees and communicated not only the Why of their company but also the What and the How. Handbooks are now being used to describe not only missions, values, org charts, and policies but also expectations. 

Method of delivery.

In the list below (some would say a definitive list, but you know wtvr) you’ll find a wide range of approaches to how this information is delivered. Some keep it super simple and easy to navigate by using a Notion page, others like Trello have used their own product, which makes absolute sense.

Other companies have sprinkled a whole bunch of their particular personality into their dedicated native pages. Like the Aussie entertainment & culture marketing agency Bolster, it’s specific to their culture and way of working, with plenty of memes. Who doesn’t love a meme?

Why open source*?

As the tech market continued to prove challenging for many companies, they were forced to rethink their approach to not only hiring but also the way they marketed to new employees. In fact, for many, it was the first time they had ever had to do this. 

Again, necessity is the mother of invention and can force us to make bold decisions. 

Recruitment teams in technology companies across the world have long recognised the need for quality content to communicate the benefits of their company to potential employees.

This is recruiter enablement in its purest form. Providing insight into the most important elements of life at a company & attempting to pre-answer as many questions as possible for a target audience. 

The Why, What and How.

Companies without large marketing budgets can just as easily compete with those that do by providing this kind of information and therefore insight into the culture, work and ideology around building software products. 

For example, how do code reviews happen, is every engineer expected to do their own unit testing, who writes the user stories? And so on. 

For companies that are also highly or fully remote, a lot of asynchronous work happens. Handbooks are a great way to communicate how to handle certain scenarios, how to communicate issues and what to do in a crisis.

Should you do one and where do you start?

Some companies will find this kind of thing an Aha! Moment. Others will shudder and get clammy palms.

If you’re a business that competes for talent against well-known, larger companies then it’s a great way to even the playing field (P.S. If you don’t know who your competitors are let us know and we’ll look into it for you).

The best place to start this is of course to get leadership buy-in.

  • Use some of the examples here that you think could be close to your business ethos etc as templates. 
  • Build an initial idea of what could be added, and then think about forming a working group to flesh out a prototype. 
  • Communicate to the wider business what you’re doing and why then ask them for their feedback.
  • Start to add the details, think about things such as;
    1. The purpose of the handbook and how to use it
    2. The company story so far, milestone events etc
    3. Your company’s purpose, values & vision for the future.
    4. Who your customers are.
    5. More product and/or service details.
    6. What makes you different to your competitors?
    7. Codes of Conduct, HR documentation, policies about WFH, and anti-discrimination etc
    8. Leave policy including parental leave, COVID-related sick leave etc.
    9. Pay bands, company benefits & ESOP’s etc.
    10. Expectations around how you work remotely
    11. Your hiring process, expectations and how decisions get made.
    12. A company directory or org chart
  • Use human language, the language you use when you’re actually working. Minus the profanity. Or not?
  • Once it’s fit for purpose, push it live.
  • Add links to it in your job advertisements.
  • Make sure it’s easy to find on your careers page.
  • Add links to it in relevant social posts about open jobs or life in your company.

In an age where big tech is in the news for large-scale layoffs there is opportunity for others. 

By making this information publicly available, it’s possible to lift the lid on life in the squad, tribe, department and company and in turn appeal to the kind of people that may fit in your company. So as a talent attraction tool it’s a great weapon in your armoury.

*Just to be clear – not all of these examples are truly open source. Some are private ones that have been posted online somewhere (like the Tesla and Facebook ones). They’re just really good examples of how some of this stuff has been done. Or not…..

  1. Posthog 
  2. Valve  
  3. Meltano
  4. Accurx 
  5. Human made
  6. Basecamp 
  7. Truss 
  8. Whereby
  9. Gitlab  
  10. Oyster 
  11. WeGift 
  12. Gumroad 
  13. Learnerbly 
  14. Sourcegraph 
  15. Juro 
  16. Clipboard health 
  17. Bolster 
  18. Bonusly
  19. CG Cookie
  20. Civic Actions
  21. Clef
  22. Clippings
  23. Deeson 
  24. DevMynd
  25. DXW
  26. Facebook 
  27. HolidayExtras
  28. hospitable
  29. HubSpot
  30. Loomio Cooperative
  31. Made Tech
  32. Mondora
  33. MUI
  34. Netflix
  35. Niteo
  36. Nylas
  37. Pinpoint
  38. source{d}
  39. sourcegraph
  40. sophilabs
  41. Strapi
  42. Trello 
  43. Tesla
  44. thoughtbot
  45. TTS
  46. Bolt
  47. Glitch
  48. Hanno
  49. Mobile Jazz
  50. ConvertKit
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