A training manual doesn't have to be a dull textbook with no illustrations that takes a long time to read.
Technology has advanced so much in the past few years. And with additional software and support, modern training manuals can be interesting, interactive... and actually readable by the people who need them most.
According to Brandon Hall Group research, companies with a good onboarding process increase new recruit retention by 82 percent and productivity by more than 70 percent.
Employees are much more likely to retain what they read if designed to be consumable, effective and most importantly, interesting.
With the right tools in place, anyone can build an engaging online manual.
First, let’s dive into what a training manual is.
What is a training manual?
A training manual is a series of instructions designed to improve the quality of a job, process or operation. In-person, remote, on-demand and just-in-time training manuals are popular. Here are some examples of when and why you'd use them.
- Onboarding new employees
- implementing new systems and applications
- Documentation of a new procedure or technique
- Sharing processes and best practices
- Customer education and training
- Information about how to use a product.
Organizations produce training manuals to boost productivity and guarantee that everyone gets the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in their jobs.
These manuals support individual professional development and directly impact the company's bottom line. They have the potential to improve employee effectiveness, competency, production and profit.
The most effective training manuals are easy-to-follow educational guides. They dive into various topics by showcasing materials, steps and rules. A well-written training manual is a trusted resource for employees, supervisors, customers and clients alike.
The benefits of a training manual
A training manual is one of the strongest educational materials in your arsenal. Here are a few reasons why you need one.
1. Inform employees of training programs
Address all training-related questions at once. Provide a list of all available courses, educational materials and FAQs. It goes without saying that the more details you provide, the better off you'll be.
Make it clear which courses are required and which are elective. For example, compliance and job-specific training are usually must-haves, while soft skills are typically optional. Depending on the size of your company, you might want to categorize training documentation and courses by department. That way employees can focus on the information that matters most to them. The training manual can outline this information to ensure employees are prepared and in the know at all times.
2. Create and maintain transparency in the conduct of training
A training manual sets the standard for how things are done. It's a roadmap built by several teams to support ongoing training.
With a well-defined training program, everyone knows what they can do and how much training they're entitled to.
Introducing a new training program shouldn't be left to word-of-mouth referrals from a coworker in another division. In order to create trust and honesty with your employees, be open and transparent in all parts of the business.
3. Reinforce a lifelong learning environment
If your company already has a training handbook, then you know that training is an integral part of your work environment. If you take the time to structure it well, you can support any member of your team.
Start your employee onboarding process by informing your new team members about the importance of learning and growth at your company. Employees who strongly agree they have a clear strategy for their professional growth are 3.5 times more likely to say their onboarding process was excellent.
Include a training manual in your company's employee handbook to remind your staff that learning and growth are always accessible. Your employee training manual will be the glue that holds training together if it's easy to access in an up-to-date knowledge base.
4. Streamline onboarding
When a new employee joins the company, the HR department is swamped with paperwork and, more importantly, planning activities for orientation and onboarding. You've probably heard that the honeymoon phase for new recruits generally ends quickly. When it comes to onboarding new employees, you'd best do it correctly.
New workers, HR and management all benefit from a reliable source of truth. A training manual helps new recruits adapt to their roles, and supports them with ongoing on-the-job practice.
5. Lessen the employee workload
If everyone has access to your best practices, they're empowered to do the job well. This reduces the number of repeat questions that pull your Subject Matter Experts away from their jobs and declutter HR's inbox. Let current employees focus on developing strategies and supporting ongoing growth.
6. Make fewer costly mistakes
The potential cost of noncompliance is HUGE. No employee wants to be caught in the cross-fires of a colossal mistake. Prepare them with the rules and procedures that can prevent major mishaps. A detailed training manual is the first step to maintaining proper processes.
What a good training manual looks like and what steps to take
A training manual isn't nearly as difficult to put together as you might think. However, like with any procedure, there are several steps. To make things simpler for you, we've put them all together with details about each. Building your own training manual can be as simple as following this step-by-step tutorial.
Step 1: Define your audience
Know who you're righting for. It's the first — and most crucial — step in the process. It's important to envision how and when readers will access your training materials.
It's a good idea to ask and answer questions like:
- Who am I talking to?
- Why are they reading this training manual?
- What's the extent of their knowledge?
- What type of business do they work in?
- Would they benefit from longer or shorter content?
- Is it preferable for them to read or watch?
- Is there anything you need to be mindful of in terms of cultural or linguistic context?
Answering these questions helps you determine how much material you should provide. Knowing your audience's skill level, context and preferences can help you create content that meets their needs.
Step 2: Plan your content
A user-friendly training manual is a must-have for every organization. A new user will feel at ease finding the information they need, while a returning user will be able to locate certain material and subjects with ease.
Strategically prepare your content by laying out your training materials and structuring them in a sensible manner.
The topics in your training handbook can be organized and classified according to a variety of themes. You might categorize them by:
- Topics ranging from elementary to advanced.
- Things to do.
- Product features.
- Frequency of use.
- Popularity with the target demographic.
When creating small one-off training content, you can outline this quickly. But if you're writing a full guide, it may take some time.
If your manual has a large number of subjects, group them together and use headers and sub-sections to organize the content. Create a table of contents for the final handbook using this format.
Step 3. Define the manual format
Now that you've identified the kind of training manuals your company needs, it's time to choose how you'll provide them to your staff. Here are some of the most popular options.
- Guidebooks and pamphlets in printed form.
- Manuals in Word or PDF format.
- Knowledge base articles.
- Online training.
- A series of instructional videos.
- Quick interactive modules.
A format should be chosen based on the type of topic you intend to write about. For example, if you want to teach how to utilize a piece of software, then you should use a tool that showcases the technology and outlines each step.
Step 4. Create the content
Once you've completed your research and development, it's time to put it all together. For the most part, a simple text editor and a printer are all you need. And for some companies, all of this information might live completely online in a living virtual database.
However, there are likely still costs. For example, the time it takes for your SME's to document what they know, and then ensure that it's something your employees can understand and refer to.
On the other hand, interactive modules, courses and videos demand additional effort and charge. This is why you need to really understand who your audience is and what your goal is for them. Everything about your content should work to help them achieve that goal.
More often than not, your materials are guided by strategy and supported by people and tools. Sometimes there's a cost, but if you have a well-defined goal, then you can count on maximum ROI. When you invest in developing an engaging handbook, you can then use it to instruct hundreds or even thousands of workers.
Step 5. Deliver, track progress & collect feedback
Share your training manual with all relevant audiences. And remember, the job isn't done yet!
Start collecting feedback as early as possible. This might be in the form of a survey or support channel. Based on responses, you can investigate potential issues and room for expansion.
A learning management system is one of the most effective approaches in this situation. It lets you store your manuals and resources in a centralized location. You can also use the tool to delegate the information to your staff members and monitor how they are using it.
Step 6: Review & update content
After you have considered these insights on how to make your manual even better, you may want to consider updating it in one of three ways: adding more useful content, refining the design or even putting the manual into a different format.
Make sure to thoroughly audit your training manual to maintain its usefulness and continued relevance. Systems, products and features are always improving — your resources have to evolve with them.
We know updates can be time-consuming (and frankly, exhausting.) Take advantage of digital automation by investing in tools that remove the need for manual labor. Either way, be careful to maintain the source files for all of your work so that you can simply go back and make any necessary changes.
Scribe top tip: Tools like Scribe make it easier than ever to create and update process documents. Scribe is a step-by-step guide generator that instantly documents your workflow, complete with text and screenshots. You can easily embed or share a Scribe. And once it's time to update, simply click "Edit." This will automatically make the change wherever your guide lives.
Create a training manual faster with Scribe "Pages"
Effective training manuals are more than a bunch of text, and you need the necessary tools to get the job done. Fifty-eight percent of businesses say their onboarding program is centered on processes and paperwork. This is why interactive training manuals are so important to provide an engaging onboarding experience to new employees.
Scribe's newest feature Pages makes this easier than ever.
Scribe is a browser extension or desktop app that turns any process into a step-by-step guide. Pages allows you to collect and organize your Scribes in a process document, along with descriptions, images, videos and more!
Create an extensive training manual in half the time. Pages helps you explain complicated procedures such as:
- Onboarding a new employee or client.
- Adopting new technology.
- Supporting individual teammates.
.... and more!
Here’s how create a new Page on Scribe
Important details to note:
- You can add texts in Scribe Pages by typing a forward slash and inserting the required text whether that be for a training manual or for any other company documents.
- You can also add media, like pictures and video. Currently, Pages supports Youtube, Loom and Gong videos.
- When you’re ready to add Scribes. Click "Add a Scribe" to access your team Scribes. You can change the size of the embedded material to small, medium or large.
You can share your Scribe Page with other members of your team and add an option to let others edit or just view the document.
You’re on your way to creating an interactive training manual that will keep employees engage and invested.
How to create a training manual FAQs
Got questions? We've compiled a list of FAQs and answers specific to training manuals.
Are handbooks and manuals the same?
The two terms "handbook" and "manual" are typically used interchangeably. However, manuals tend to focus more on direction and instructions, while handbooks focus more on regulations and policies.
What's the purpose of a training manual?
From a business function standpoint, a user manual gives explicit instructions on how to use a product. This sort of manual should be written in simple and straightforward business English, using terminology that is not technical, and it should address the most important aspects of the product, such as its features or functions.
How do I create a training manual in Word?
Create a training handbook in Word by following these simple steps.
- Select New from the File menu in Microsoft Word.
- Make a selection by double-clicking on the Books folder. Double-click on the Other Books folder.
- Simply double-click on the Professional Manual Template.
You can also change the user manual template in Microsoft Word to your liking.
All of these features may be found in Microsoft Word's built-in templates. It also offers tips on how to write a user manual that your customers will like.
A training manual for employees is a useful tool for outlining your best practices and most important instructions. It also gives employees with a tangible idea of your training options and plays an important part in establishing ongoing education and professional development.
Sign up for Scribe (for free!) today to create your first training manual for your company!