Workplace culture is often undervalued and underappreciated. As we actively participate in the shifting work environments and what that means for our organizational culture we are diving deep into building psychological safety, foundations of transparency for our team, and cultural inclusion. One system we use to ensure those building blocks are in place is our Employee User Manual. In the spirit of leading enterprises to sustain change, we have put together a set of instructions for proper usage of the Employee User Manual to guide you and your team towards a workplace culture shift.   

Clifton Top 5 Strengths

Teams that use their strengths historically perform better than those that don’t. Encouraging employees to explore and communicate their strengths is something we recommend to all companies. As a base introduction to how we work, how we think, and how we communicate with one another is a way to build a strong foundation of respect and relationships.

There are many examples of strength-finding programs; we use the Clifton Strength finder because we have found immense value in coupling our team with the role that best suits their strengths. This assessment gives us a common language to better describe and communicate how we work, how best to communicate with each other, and how to build a robust effective team. Other options include:

Whichever strength finder your leadership team decides on, this phase of exploring how team members work subconscious level, is important to organizational trust, transparency, and productivity.

Personal Info

Opening the employee user manual with foundation-building questions will prepare your team for more complex questions at the end. Personal information is a simple step to take to align your teams’ preferences and create a culture that is aware of microaggressions and unconscious bias. It is important here to ask not only the right questions but to use verbiage that is consistent across the board.

Psychological Safety Check


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Use this worksheet to explore the level of Psychological Safety present in your team. Psychological Safety allows teams to innovate, be creative, and increase team effectiveness.

The same question for each employee may seem unnecessary, or obvious to one, but it may be critical to another’s psychological safety. A critical shift, when inquiring about pronouns: rather than using ‘preferred pronoun’ we invite you to use ‘personal pronoun.’ This phrasing lets the individual know that the team respects pronouns as part of your identity, rather than implying that identity is a preference. ‘Preferred’ can create discomfort around being truly embraced for who you are and have always been.


We all value our time, and understanding the importance of a healthy work-home life balance as well as encouraging it will create trust and transparency throughout your team. How you approach scheduling preferences may vary greatly depending on the status of the team. Are you in office, remote or hybrid? One question that spans each work type is Critical and Non-Critical communication. Not all contact is urgent, so it is important to set the intention of your response time and how you prefer to be contacted in critical vs non-critical moments. Creating these purposeful intentions promotes team alignment, respect, and transparency.

Core working hours will shift from work types. In-office may have set office hours, while remote teams may be dispersed across multiple time zones or even continents. Schedule preferences for a fully remote team are100% vital to the success of the work-home balance, which is in turn vital to the productivity of the team. Setting core work hours on an individual basis promotes accountability and awareness of each other’s time. This cultivates healthy boundaries which grows happy employees. 


Now we move into questions that can be challenging to answer: questions about how we work together, how we respond to specific engagements, and how we want to be recognized. Because of the pandemic, we have been given the opportunity to question these things. Our awareness of mental health on an individual level as well as on a team level is now omnipresent. Working around conflict and critique creates an opportunity to build a safe space in which we can have conversations such as such as; ‘This is what I expect’ and ‘This is how I want to be rewarded.’ When we decide to ask questions like this, we build company intention around the idea that this is what we as a culture do for each other.

We can then build on new cultural health norms, this space will be a space where you are expected to use positive feedback. ‘See something good, say something nice.’ If we set intentions such as this before we even step into a meeting or conversation we open up our team organizational culture to new levels of communication, empathy, and shared success. Simple questions about preferred feedback cultivate understanding and change the way we interact on a day-to-day basis, and these are points in the user manual that we can touchback on before one on ones or group meetings to remind ourselves of the space we are entering, and what the most productive responses will be.  

Philosophy and Values

As humans not only do we seek understanding, we seek to be understood.

‘See Me, Know Me, this is who I am.’

Empathy Map


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Utilizing observations or interviews, map out thinking, hearing, seeing, saying, and doing to identify the specific pain your user is feeling. This will help you identify specific things the user hopes could be accomplished.

If we bring our ethics into everything we do and take the time to discover how our individual values align we will invite positive cultural change, as well as positive cultural challenges. Our individual values are not limited to perfect alignment with one another, in fact through the discovery process we may find new values to shift towards or old values that are no longer in alignment. Supporting a diverse group of thinkers will unleash the team inviting new ideas and perspectives. It is important to recognize individual growth paths. Understanding where someone’s career is going will guide leaders to answers from the team like how to help them at work. A keynote here is that this user guide can be constantly evolving. It encourages us to evaluate how our vision is evolving, as an enterprise as well as a team.

It may be difficult to answer questions like, ‘Common misunderstandings people have with me’ but what we have found is that opening up the conversation to challenging questions like this sets the precedent for a transparent organization. We want our team to feel comfortable sharing information like this so we can all grow and expand our outlook. This is also a moment of individual reflection, which is critical to personal growth.      

This is how we did it, now go make your own! 

Download the Employee User Manual Today

We have achieved a level of employee health and cohesion that we are very excited about and we know following this user guide will elevate your team’s organizational health as well. A few things to remember for purposeful use of this Employee User Manual:

  • Review your specific profile as well as your fellow team members before a deep interaction in order to check yourself and how you and they communicate.
  • Remember, the questions in the Employee User Guide will not be identical, but following these guidelines will encourage success.
  • Begin with warm-up questions, for example, the Personal Questions Section. This will bring your team into a space where they are prepared to address their preferences on a deeper, more impactful level.
  • Personal Questions should be short and data-centric, start with the basics.  
  • Get your team thinking about ‘How I work’ considering the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how they show up.
  • Set community norms. Is this a space where no negativity can touch the workplace? Are we in a space where we feel safe saying ‘This is not a good day?’
  • Build a system of how we do this as a team.
  • The big guns come out at the end. The final questions are the meat of how we understand each other. These are the questions we would begin to figure out through in-person encounters, for virtual teams this is vital. For in-person teams, these questions make room for learning without having to first test the waters. 

Workplace culture goes beyond the tasks we accomplish. If we want to create a space that is inclusive, empathetic, and progressive we must first value our people. The people-first mentality offers enterprises the opportunity to evolve with the changing tide of the future of work.

For a deeper dive into the future of work, check out our Work Now 2022 edition:

Work Now 2022


Get Our Work Now 2022

The world of work as we know it is at a tipping point. As a natural result of changes long-in-the-making and then expedited during the pandemic, the state of work now and work in the future is forever different.