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The Culture Cake | Sidney Bruce


If your company culture was a cake, the Employee Handbook would be the recipe card. You can add and subtract ingredients to achieve the perfect flavor. A large organization and a small organization won’t have the same needs, even two companies of the same size won’t have the exact same policies. The flavor you choose is up to you, and will directly affect each and every employee, so it’s important to think through the ingredients.

There are a few essential ingredients that have to be used, like; flour, eggs, and milk. Without those, you really won’t have a cake at all. These essential ingredients in your employee handbook are policies like; At-Will Disclaimer, FMLA Policy, Harassment and Discrimination Policy. These essential policies aren’t unique to your organization but are necessary to keep an organization compliant on a Federal and State level.

Now that the essential ingredients are in the cake we can start adding the flavor. You can think of these as benefits personalized to your organization. Things like your mental health benefits, pay frequency, and tuition reimbursement. Just like when you’re baking, as you add, remove or review policies you will alter the flavor of your cake. As you’re creating your handbook, think of these questions per policy and how it supports your company culture.

  1. How does this policy align with my mission?

  2. What purpose does this policy serve?

  3. How do we live this policy in real life?

Let’s put this into practice with an Unlimited PTO Policy.

How does this policy align with the organization’s mission?

Is your mission to provide families with unforgettable experiences all around the globe? Then yes, of course! This policy provides employees with the opportunity to take an unlimited amount of time off to globe-trot.

What purpose does this policy serve?

Since this benefit isn’t one that is required by law, the policy should be adding an extra sweet flavor and sending the message that this is a family-first culture with a healthy work-life integration.


How do we live this policy in real life?

Here’s where our culture cake can expose a gap of what we want and what is actually happening; if employees aren’t utilizing any of their unlimited PTO, then we need to get creative with the recipe and try something new. We don’t want something that left a bad taste in people’s mouths like an accumulative PTO structure. Instead, try a new flavor like Unlimited PTO with a catch, each employee must take 5 consecutive PTO days per calendar year.


Every time you create a policy, think of what it will add and/or subtract from your company culture. Thinking of your culture as a cake, and using your employee handbook as the recipe card is going to become one of your most coveted tools. Good luck creating your unique flavor!

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