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Job training manuals are a useful resource for new employees or those making an internal job move. An effective manual can teach them the skills they need to do their jobs, making it easier for them to hit the ground running. You can use manuals as stand-alone training or as part of a broader induction program. In either case, the results you'll get will only be as good as the content of the manual itself and the way you present it.
Gather Job Information
You can't write an effective job training manual until you understand how the job works. Ask employees who do, or who have done, the job to talk you through the daily process. Talk to supervisors or managers to get their take on the job's primary duties and objectives. Find out how someone in the job interacts with other people and departments. This information helps build context into the manual, enabling new employees to understand how the tasks they do fit into the company's processes and procedures.
Analyze and Plan Content
Map out a plan that organizes information into a logical order. It may help to break the job into tasks and to treat each task separately. Ideally, you should aim for a "start-to-finish" approach, starting with simple information before moving onto the more complicated. For example, if you're explaining how the trainee must use a software system, start with introductory information such as login details and basic system navigation. You can then explain how to use the system to complete more advanced tasks. Don't leave out basic information just because everyone in the company knows it already. New employees may not know it until they are told.
Choose Design Features
Trainees may struggle to read a manual that is crammed full of text from margin to margin. Leaving plenty of white space on the page makes reading easier. Also, a consistent design helps the reader navigate the manual more efficiently and also gives the manual a more professional look, so use the same fonts, colors and heading sizes throughout. Mixing presentation methods, such as lists and visualization tools, is fine, but be sure to use the same style for each method. Consider inserting a table of contents as a navigation aid unless your manual is very short.
Write the Manual
Large blocks of text can be hard to read so try to break up your writing into smaller paragraphs. You can make reading text more interesting by using different sentence lengths and structures and the active rather than the passive voice. If you need to recap or emphasize a point, use bullets or a text box. Your tone should be conversational but professional and your writing style needs to be clear and simple. If you make things too complicated or use too much jargon, trainees may not understand the points you make.
Use Visualization Tools and Lists
Visuals or lists are useful tools when you are writing your job training manual. For example, if you're explaining how to use a software system, it's easier for the trainee to follow a step-by-step numbered list than to extract instructions from a dense paragraph of text. Images, diagrams and charts add visualization to processes such as workflows, timelines and hierarchies, making them easier to understand.
Evaluate the Manual
Have people read through the manual before you make it public. Show it to someone who does the job the manual focuses on and have her review it. This can help you catch important errors or omissions. Also, ask someone who has no direct experience with the job review the manual. If she can understand and follow the training, you'll know you're on the right track.
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.