Use my training manual template to fast track the creation of training and reference manuals. In this post, I provide some guidelines on how to create a training manual for important processes in your work.
What is a Training Manual?
In simple words, a training manual is a document that embraces most information about a topic in the organization. It is used by team members, trainers, and staff as a reference for how things are done. A training manual could be created by anyone on your team to integrate knowledge across different parts of the organization about a relevant subject.
For example, training manuals can be related to company policies, such as: “A Guide on How We Hire People in the Organization”, “How We Manage at MyCompany Inc.”, “Vacation Guidelines”. Even more typically, it can also address technical issues, like: “Database Management – The Ultimate Guide to Avoid Common Errors by Developers”, “A Complete Code Review Manual for MyCompany Inc. Developers”.
Once created, they become living documents and should incorporate the latest information on a given subject. Using versioning, it is possible to know what version you have and where to obtain the latest one available.
How to create the Training Manual
I use a very straightforward process to create program and training manuals. Here, in general lines, is how I do it.
#1. Identify the Target Audience
The first step is to identify who will be consuming the document. Will it be read by end users? Team members? Managers? Auditors?
The audience will dictate the approach used to collect data and provide direction on the complexity of the manual.
#2. Create a Working Group
The next step is to connect the people who understand the topic and who could help build the manual. This includes personnel from all areas of the organization who can contribute with knowledge and expertise.
Usually, I create an email list connecting this group, so it’s easier to share information and ask questions. This list can be created either through MS-Outlook or through Google Groups.
#3. Ask Questions
Schedule a meeting with each person in the working group. Pick up a notepad and pen and go interview your working group. Learn as much as you can from them.
Ask questions like:
- Who struggles when dealing with this program?
- What people don’t usually know about this subject?
- Are there any pitfalls and surprises people face after starting to work on this topic?
- Is there anything you suggest that I ask other people in this working group?
#4. Create the First Draft
Using the Training Manual Template, organize the information you’ve collected into a single document. Consolidate everything you’ve learned in a single place.
Set the version for this draft as “V0.9”. This means that you are almost creating the first version of the document.
Circulate this draft among your working group peers and ask for feedback. Provide a deadline in your email.
“Could you please provide me some feedback on this document by May 7, 2018 8AM? Please let me know if you need more time.”
Do your follow up. Ask people individually if they prefer to give their feedback using other means, such as a phone call or voice mail. Make their life easier so they can contribute.
#5. Incorporate all Feedback
Collect all feedback and incorporate it in your document.
Note that you don’t need to include all feedback requested. Look at things from a broader perspective and make sure the document makes sense as a whole.
#6. Circulate Version 1.0
Save the document. Have a good night’s sleep and, the next day, give your document a final read. Make sure everything is aligned and clear.
If necessary, ask someone from the organization, who is not familiar with the subject, to read the manual. Clarify the use of any acronyms and jargon used outside of your team.
Make sure you have mentioned all contributors in the document. Also, be sure you reference all external documents and sources used in creating the document.
Add a section at the top of the document stating that the manual is a living document. Indicate where to find the latest version and provide a contact address for the author. Remember, all feedback is welcome.
Change the version from 0.9 to 1.0 and publish the first release some place on your intranet.
#7. Review and Manage Updates
Every time something is changed in your document, you should change the document version. I personally prefer using the following versioning strategy:
- Add .1 to indicate any small change in the document. This means version 1.1 has some additional information or changes over version 1.0, but the document is basically the same. Adding another .1, so the version number is now 1.2, indicates that other small changes have been made.
- Add 1 to indicate major changes to the document. This means version 2.0 is a major revamp of the document compared to version 1.1.
Don’t keep multiple versions in different places. Have a master copy on your computer and replicate that version on the main site. Dealing with parallel versions is waste of time. Consider yours to always be the latest version.
Why Bother Creating Reference Documents?
Creating training documents will help not only your team, but it will also improve the integration of all the teams in the organization involved in the topic you are approaching. Not to mention, you will quickly become the reference point for everything related to this theme and become a focal point for every a new initiative that touches this subject area.
By consolidating all the pieces of the puzzle in a single document can open up great opportunities for you and for your team. Keep in mind that creating Training and Reference Manuals is not for everyone, especially because you will be breaking many invisible barriers in your organization. However, it is definitely worth the effort if you consider the positive long-term impact in your career.
- Listen to SWP 031: How to Create a Training Manual