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July 17, 2006

Marketing and Employee Handbook Examples

Istock_corn125

Last week I made a speech in Des Moines, Iowa for my friends at Channel Bio Corporation. This company sells four brands of corn and soybean seeds: Crow’s, Midwest Seed Genetics, Wilson Seeds, and NC+. Rather interesting stuff...lots of technology to what the company does.

In preparation for the speech, the company sent me a brochure called “Channel Answers” and its employee handbook called “ChannelDeal.” I’ve uploaded them here because you will probably find them useful for your organization’s efforts in the same areas.

Channel Answers.pdf

ChannelDeal.pdf

The inside story is that the CEO of Channel Bio, Aline Funk, wrote “ChannelDeal” and co-authored “Channel Answers” with a fellow named Chuck Kuster. It definitely helps when the CEO is this involved in corporate marketing and human resources!


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Comments

I'm the co-author, editor, project manager for the Channel Answers publication. Thanks for posting it, Guy. Some interesting points were made.

The first edition of Answers was written on the heels of several acquisitions. Employees and dealers were grasping for words when asked, "What makes you any different?" We needed an honest, consistent story.

It really, honestly WAS a joint effort between the CEO and me. It's a rare event for a writer to get considerable "face time" with a CEO for such work.

Not only did it result in good concepts, Aline's (CEO) hands-on involvement demonstrated this communication effort WAS a priority.

So here's my advice: if you're considering such a piece, start with the CEO. Assign it to your best writer. Take chances. If it isn't a high enough priority for active leadership involvement and support, no amount of clever words and glossy pictures will save the effort.

I work for the Channel Bio Corp and happened to come across this blog. All of the comments are great and it makes me feel proud to work for this organization. The one true thing that makes guy's comments ring true is attitude. Ms. Funk (our CEO) has an exciting visionary attitude that keeps everyone in the company excited. We can read the manual, and visualize her excitement....and that combination is what makes it work.

Clever handbooks are great...but clever handbooks combined with positive and proactive CEO's are even better. That is the recipe that makes channel and our handbook work.

Empolyee handbooks are often dull, and often not updated (this one appears to have been written 5 years ago, and I'm sure there are new rules/policies in the company, or some of the old ones may be "forgotten"). Adding some humor and keeping it short does help in the reading.

Digitizing it and adding video, the CEO reading the mission statement, etc would make it even better.

Thanks for posting the examples. Even though the Google handbook tries to take the same approach, it gets mired down in long-windedness. (GUY: You should post a copy of the readily available Google handbook on this blog...as a resource)
Channel got it right - short enough to easily read in one sitting.

Sure, in some cases, this kinda thing might be lip service, but I've worked at companies where the handbook is either (a) authoritarian or (b) condescending. In those cases, the handbook spoke volumes about the way management perceived their roles in the organization (dictators / czars / deciders). At the very least, this type of handbook offers hope and serves to reinfoce a company culture.

Thanks Guy. I agree with Garry: whatever you think of their overall policies, at least they tried to make the book fun. Few companies spell out their mission and values, let alone make them accessible. If you do them right, mission and values are not just navel-gazing, but are a critical touchstone for all of your employees in their decision-making.

No maternity leave? Doesn't sound like a very family friendly company. Looks pretty backwards to me.

Nice stuff. I would love working for them, even if they do transgenic corn ;-)
_Marc

Fantastic documents. They obviously have one helluva internal (or outsourced) marcom group.

The one thing I have learned over the years is that messaging and positioning never works unless its executed internally as well as externally.

Nicely done.

Yes, good point Guy. I am certainly not an authority on this company's policy or literature. I did observe a similarity in what I saw in IBM literature though. That similarity is the often presence of an attempt to glibbly supply emphasis or support an overachieving statement by way of disclaiming the actual attempt. For example, in this piece of literature, well written though it is, I noted the use of disclaiming "lip service" just prior to uttering what appeared to be just that. My comments are outside of your scope, however, and you're correct that this is well written and aptly focused and could be very effective.

Every CEO should be involved in the writing of a companies contacts with its employees. The sense of humor is always welcome.

Working at IBM for too many years taught me that this type of true "lip service" does not entice or embolden employees. Clever though it may be, it is not alone what will drive change or passion. Only the people who deliver, or more importantly, further the message will decide the outcome. Pretty pictures though. Getty Images must have made a killing.

Skeptic,

How would you know this is lip service unless you worked at the company?

Guy

This looks very cool. It is the best employee handbook I've seen by far. They are normally awfully dry to say the least.

While a bit OT for this post, to get a little different perspective on Corn and Soybeans, give Michael Pollan's book, The Ominvore's Dilemma, a read.

abestis

That is the best employee handbook I have ever seen. I would work there! Of course I am an old hayseed from Wisconsin so I have a thing for corn...:-)

Thanks for sharing this Guy. I created a folder called HR just to keep it in.

Fascinating and fun, the employee handbook had me laughing out loud (for all the right reasons).

It appears to be ideally suited to the company and credit to the authors for avoiding the corporate blandness that's usually found in HR publications.

If it wasn't for the lack of vacation time (12 days, the American way..), then it's a company I'd gladly work for!

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