It's one thing to start a business; it's another to run it smoothly and scale it further.
If you’re wondering what separates one from the other, here’s the short answer: strategically documenting business operations.
On average, companies lose 21 percent of their total productivity daily because of poor documentation. Not documenting crucial information about workflows, roles and policies mean your employees will inevitably underperform — slowing down your growth prospects.
An operational manual template can turn the tables in your favor to ramp up efficiency, reduce errors and optimize the team’s functioning.
Below you’ll find our start-to-finish guide on creating your own operations manual and a readymade template to get rolling quickly.
5 reasons you need a solid operations manual template
An operational manual compiles all the crucial information about a company into a single document. It typically covers details like:
- Organizational chart.
- Employee functions.
- SOPs and workflows.
- And more.
This manual can help employees reduce errors, improve productivity, and speed up day-to-day processes. But that's not all. An operations manual can set your team up for long-term success by:
1. Training new employees without hiccups
New hire onboarding is a massive challenge for many companies. The onboarding process often takes up too much of your team's bandwidth to train the new hires and bring them up to speed with their responsibilities.
What if there was a faster, hassle-free way to train new employees? The good news: there is.
An operations manual would be an all-inclusive encyclopedia about the company for a new recruit. This exhaustive document will brief them about the specifics of their role while sharing other relevant details to help them ease into the team and put faces to their names.
2. Giving easy access to crucial knowledge
Employees spend 30 percent of their workday searching for the correct details to complete a task. This data indicates how painfully time-consuming it can be for employees to access information when needed, eventually hurting their productivity.
By centralizing all the knowledge related to the roles and workflows in your team, an operations manual can become an easy reference point to fall on.
This manual simplifies finding information, reduces the scope of error and brings more consistency to employee inputs.
3. Keeping every stakeholder accountable
Lack of accountability is one of the biggest reasons why things go south in any business. Accountability takes a hit when your team is chasing unrealistic goals, working without a clear roadmap, dealing with a resource crunch or operating without clarity of roles.
This is where an operational manual can change your approach for the better. With a well-defined operational plan, you can:
- Document the team’s goals.
- Chalk out an action plan.
- Map your resources and bandwidth.
- Define responsibilities clearly.
This manual can ramp up your stakeholders’ accountability and prevent any mistakes leading to failure.
4. Bringing more efficiency into workflows
Running your business like a well-oiled machine is almost impossible without documenting all the core processes. Your team is bound to lose direction and drop the ball—more frequently than you'd expect.
Instead, you can prepare your employees to create repeatable success with a detailed operations manual. This manual includes an overview of all essential details to streamline your team’s functioning and bring more efficiency into every process.
5. Increasing the scope of scaling processes
Scaling business operations is no mean feat. It requires thorough research, planning and testing. But your strategy would fall flat if you don’t have the proper documentation to bring it into action.
An operations manual empowers teams to build out their long-term plans on paper and create a library of resources to implement these plans. Think of it as your secret weapon to beat the bottlenecks in scaling your operations.
What should an operations manual template include?
While every business has its unique take on this manual, you'll need some initial prep to create a document as detailed as an operations manual. To simplify this prep, we've listed six essential elements to include in your operations manual outline:
- Organizational chart.
- Job descriptions.
- Business processes & policies.
- Job aids.
- Emergency procedures.
- Contact details.
1. Organizational chart
Include a graphic flowchart mapping your team's internal structure. This chart presents the hierarchy of roles and clarifies who reports to whom to streamline communication within all departments. Here's what an organizational chart looks like:
2. Job descriptions
Briefly describe all the roles within your organization. Highlight the primary tasks for each position and add a list of valuable resources. This helps every employee understand their role in the broader scheme of things and optimize their inputs.
3. Business processes & policies
The main segment of an operations manual template covers the company's processes and policies. Dedicate a detailed section to itemize the main SOPs and curate the policies. As a best practice, categorize these processes into departments for better usability.
Scribe top tip: Documenting business processes and policies is a cakewalk with Scribe. Scribe can convert any process into a step-by-step guide and reduce your documentation time by 15 times. Don’t believe us? Give it a try and see for yourself.
4. Job aids
Include meaningful job aids to make your operations manual a reliable resource for employees. Job aids can take many forms, like:
Including training job aids in an additional step to deliver more value through the operations guide.
5. Emergency procedures
A good operations manual should define what to do when things go wrong—the emergency plan of action. It should outline the steps to take in case of a specific crisis and the people designated for solving an emergency.
6. Contact details
An operations manual is incomplete without a complete record of every stakeholder’s contact information. It should include the contact details for all employees, vendors, clients and other business stakeholders.
How to create an operational manual in 7 easy steps
If you’re ready to roll and design an operational manual template, we’ve listed the only seven steps you need to get cracking.
- Decide the processes you want to document.
- Create a basic layout for your template.
- Define the key contributors to the document.
- Write, edit and refine your draft.
- Choose the platform to share the manual.
- Get feedback from the team and iterate.
- Roll out the finished version.
- Decide the processes you want to document
For starters, you need to brainstorm and finalize the processes you should document. This initial legwork will make the next steps easier and smoother.
Survey stakeholders at all levels to identify their main pain points. Use these points to narrow down the processes to include in your manual. This simple step will also help you decide the goals for creating such a document–to speed up the onboarding process or increase employee productivity.
2. Create a basic layout for your template
Now that you know what processes you want to document and why, draw an operations manual outline.
This layout will give you an overall idea of what the final output will look like. It allows you to finalize a logical flow and structure for the manual. Remember to include a list of specifics in each section, defining the topics and subtopics. That way, you can approach each section tactfully and not miss out on any detail.
More importantly, a layout enables end readers to find specific information quickly.
For example, this operations manual by the University of Iowa follows a proper outline listed in the table of contents. Anyone looking for details related to a specific section can directly jump to that part.
3. Define the key contributors to the document
Before you jump down to write your manual, finalize the people involved in the documentation process. It’s always a good idea to define a content creation process and identify who’ll do what in this process.
Ideally, creating an operations guide template will involve four roles:
- Those who research about different roles and workflows to collect raw information.
- Those who write down all the information systematically as per the guidelines.
- Those who review, verify and edit the information to approve the final draft.
- Those who maintain and update the manual to add or remove specific details.
These roles can differ as per your documentation framework. Remember to designate each role to the right people before you start the work instead of leaving it as an afterthought.
4. Choose the platform to share the manual
You have your operations guide outline. You have a team of people to prepare the document. You need the right platform to publish and share the manual.
Most teams don't pay much attention to how they'll share their operations manual. So, it inevitably ends up in a Google Doc—a non-intuitive platform with limited features to create and share a complete operations manual.
What you really need is a documentation tool that:
- Makes it a breeze for your team to collect, write and present all the information.
- Offers an easily readable and shareable way for stakeholders to access this information.
Thankfully, you don’t have to look far to find this magic tool.
Scribe is your documentation pal to create a detailed operations manual without forcing your team to break their backs making it. It's super fast (15x faster, exactly) for documenting anything into interactive guides. Once done, you can share your Scribes as links, export them in multiple formats or embed them anywhere!
The best part: you can create as many Scribes as you want and curate them in a single place with Pages. It’s the perfect recipe for a one-stop operations manual.
Here’s what a Scribe Page looks like:
5. Write, edit & refine your draft
Now it’s time to get to work and start writing your operations manual. Creating a set of clear guidelines is one of the most effective ways to maintain consistency and minimize rounds of revisions.
Here are a few things to remember when drafting and editing an operations manual sample:
- Write for clarity: When writing for a broad audience, clear is always better than clever. Avoid jargon or complicated vocabulary to convey everything clearly. Write shorter sentences. Remember to cover only one idea per sentence.
- Make it scannable: Since the manual will include so many different sections, it's natural for readers to feel overwhelmed with information and turn it down. Keep the design scannable and light to avoid this and ensure your manual serves its purpose.
- Present actionable information: An operations manual is designed to help employees excel at their jobs. Everything you include in the manual should enable them to take the right action or perform a task.
- Categorize information strategically: This is a no-brainer. But spend some extra time tying up loose ends to present every detail logically. Revisit your draft to check if any detail is out of flow or doesn't fit into the structure properly.
This operations manual by Accenture presents a great example to inspire your draft. Notice how the document categorizes all information properly, itemizes it into bullet points, highlights key details in bold and italics and includes a scannable design.
6. Get feedback from the team & iterate
Writing the operations manual is a job only half done. To ensure your manual is ready to deliver the value you want to present, ask your team to review it before the final launch.
A quick feedback round will show you some aspects you might have missed. Connect with a representative from every department to cross-check department-specific details. Collect and analyze their feedback to identify any crucial changes.
A best practice is having your legal advisors review the document to avoid any wrong implications of your business policies.
7. Roll out the finished version
With that, your operational manual is ready for launch! Give the final draft a final check and share it with the entire team. Be sure to adjust the permission settings for accessing and editing different parts of the document.
Creating an operations manual template using Scribe
Scribe is a hassle-free tool to do all the heavy lifting for your operational planning process.
Create your operations manual using this template in a few minutes.
Get the best out of your team with an operations manual
An operations manual prepares the groundwork for an organization's success in the long run. It's the single reference point for employees when they join the company or get stuck at any point. It also condenses your entire business model into a document to strategize big-picture goals.
Creating an operational manual template has many benefits: a well-informed workforce, more consistent and optimized workflows, greater efficiency and seamless employee training, to name a few.
Use this guide to create a fail-proof operational manual template and reap all these benefits for your business.