Many organizations have training manuals. They’re used to help employees learn the organization’s policies and procedures. While most training manuals deals with serious issues, that doesn’t mean your manual has to be boring and stodgy. Training manual creation can be an enjoyable activity that calls on your creativity and imagination. Here’s how to create a training manual people will enjoy reading.
Reasons to Create a Training Manual
Training manuals are important for any business or organization. A training manual can help employees learn about your company, improve workflow, and reduce turnover.
Many companies lack formal training for their new employees. In some, workers get training on the job. In others, new employees face a “sink or swim” situation where they’re expected to pick up the knowledge they need without any training. These situations are frustrating for workers, who cite poor training second only to poor management as a reason they quit.
You may have a good training program for new employees, so why do you need a manual? A manual enhances training. It allows your new hires to absorb the information and shortens training time.
One of the biggest obstacles to efficiency at any company is a lack of cohesive policies. People at these companies frequently complain that “Everybody does it differently here” when talking about certain procedures. Some policies are unclear, and workers must make numerous calls and emails to get answers they should have at their fingertips. This translates to inefficient customer service, which can have damaging effects on any company.
Another name for a training manual is a standard operating procedure (SOP) training manual. The name indicates what this manual does. It sets out a standard set of procedures that employees must follow. A well-written SOP might include guidelines and rules for a variety of situations, including:
- When and how to escalate customer service complaints
- Login and computer information
- Emergency procedures
- Vacation and sick leave policies
- Dress code
- Benefits and insurance information
- How to respond to legal threats
- How to handle press requests
- What employees can post on social media
Mistakes can be costly in business. They can lead to lost customers, lost sales, and even legal trouble. Often, it’s the little things that trip employees up. For instance, does a particular document need someone’s signature before it can be sent out? What is the budget for the annual holiday party? Who is responsible for stocking paper at the printers? These seemingly small details can lead to major problems if your employees don’t know how things are supposed to run at your company. A manual minimizes mistakes.
Do your employees keep asking the same questions? That can eat into the time managers spend mentoring employees, building your business, and managing operations. If you find the same questions popping up, training manual creation is the answer. Tell your employees they’ll find what they need in the manual. Give your managers the chance to focus on productive work instead of daily details.
When you create a training manual, you create a source of knowledge for all your employees. When employees have questions, they usually go to their colleagues or managers. However, even seasoned employees may not know the right procedure for every situation. An SOP training manual is a consistent, reliable resource that every worker can count on to deliver the correct answers.
Steps to Training Manual Creation
Are you ready to create a training manual? Follow these tips to produce a manual that shows your company at its best.
Know Your Readers
When you design any training material, you must know whom you’re writing for. With a company training manual, you’re aiming at a wide audience of readers with diverse backgrounds. That calls for clear, direct language and a straightforward approach.
Gather the Information
A well-produced employee training manual involves input from others. Consider creating a team of people who will be responsible for gathering the information from your human resources department and each department head. You can also appoint someone to oversee the design and printing of the manual. In some small companies, all these jobs may fall on your shoulders. Don’t panic. By following a step-by-step plan, you can create a training manual that’s useful, relevant, and easy to read.
Outline and Organize
Before you begin writing and designing, start with an outline. You should have a clear idea of the information you want every employee to have about your company. It’s a good idea to organize your information into chapters. In a training manual, your sample chapters might be:
- Company Mission Statement
- Parking Policy
- Dress Code
- Health and Safety
- Employee Classifications
- Schedules and Work Hours
- Daily Breaks
- Attendance Policy
- Compensation and Bonuses
- Benefits and Insurance
- Leave Policies
- Performance Assessment
- Disciplinary Procedures
- Appropriate Use of Company Equipment
- Use of Company Logo and Colors
- Harassment and Discrimination
- Company Ethical Code
- Glossary of Terms
- Signature Page
Use a Template for Training Manual Creation
Formatting your training manual is a lot easier if you use a template. Customize it with your company logo, font choices, and colors. You can find free templates that will work for almost any company from these sources:
Open with a Company Profile
New hires are interested in a company’s history and goals. After the introductory page, your training manual should begin with a company profile. Describe your company’s history, when it was founded, and who started it. Include your mission statement and define your company’s values.
Add Visual Aids
Visual aids bring a training manual to life. Include pictures to make the text livelier. You could include photos of company events or graphics that illustrate key points. If your manual includes instructions on using equipment, include step-by-step screenshots and other pictures. Be sure each part of the machine is clearly labeled.
Include Sample Forms
Each section should include copies of relevant forms as samples that readers can view. Include all forms your company regularly uses, and include a sample that has been properly filled out. Add notes about where people can get the information they need to fill each form out.
Design to Enhance Understanding
Training manual creation means paying close attention to your design. Nobody wants to read densely packed pages of text in a small font. Follow these tips to create a design that contributes to readability.
- Choose a font no smaller than 10 points for the main text.
- Use titles, headings, and subheadings in a different font.
- Include numbered lists and bullets.
- Add photos, charts, and other illustrations.
- Design with plenty of white space on each page.
- Create an attractive cover page.
End with a Signature Page
At the end of the manual, add a signature page. The employee should sign this and turn it in to indicate they’ve read the manual and agree to follow the guidelines. You may also want to add a noncompete or nondisclosure agreement.
Get Feedback on Your First Draft
You’ve compiled your research and written your first draft of the training manual. Now, it’s important to get feedback from others in your company. Include your human resources department, accounting, sales, marketing, distribution, and other major departments.
Send these department heads your draft, and ask for anything you may have missed. Include a strict deadline after which you will cut off any further revisions. You don’t want to get a flood of changes and suggestions for weeks after writing your draft. Impose a reasonable time limit. Two weeks is probably enough for most companies.
Edit and Fine-Tune
Your second draft is an opportunity to include any relevant information you left out of the first draft. It’s also your chance to fine-tune your design and layout.
Proofread your second draft carefully. After spending all this time writing it, consider asking someone with fresh eyes to proofread it. Pick someone who’s a stickler for spelling and grammar, or hire a professional proofreader.
Get Your Manual Professionally Printed
Your SOP training manual is a reference and resource your company will rely on for years. With occasional updates, it is an evergreen publication you can use to help new hires and current employees. It’s one of your company’s most important publications.
Some companies use training manuals that are photocopied and stapled. That’s not a particularly professional look, and it’s not necessary. You can get your manual professionally printed and still stay on budget. Talk to your printing representative about ways to save money on printing costs.
Get Started on a New Training Manual
We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for training manual creation. When it’s time to print your manual, talk to the experts at Dazzle Printing.