Documentation

How to Create Visual Work Instructions (+ Examples)

Let's be real: we believe what we see. In fact, many people are more likely to learn from visual examples than anything else. So how can we create visual work instructions the right way?

Introduction

The most important — and sometimes disregarded — aspect of your employees' training is their work instructions. Work instructions come in helpful when it comes to introducing new employees to your company's regulations or teaching them how to operate a forklift.

Despite the fact that most businesses claim to be providing work instructions, they really wind up with a mountain of paper notes. The subsequent result is that it takes a long time to develop or modify inconsistent work instructions that are never used.

Working with visual work instructions can be a huge time (and even life) saver in this situation. Work instructions that show rather than tell your employees are a vital part of any training program.

So what is a visual work instruction? It's more than just pictures.

What are visual work instructions?

To put it another way, visual work instructions are electronic documents that show employees step-by-by-step how to accomplish specific jobs.

Instead of relying solely on written instructions, they incorporate graphs and charts like photographs, movies and even 3D models to make the process easier for users. Mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other smart devices can also access these resources.

Many of the blunders on the job could be prevented if workers were given clear visual work instructions in their paperwork. Plus, they let workers study at their own pace and in their own language using interactive technologies.

And most importantly... it's the easiest way for most of us to learn.

What’s wrong with traditional documentation for workers?

Poorly-made instructions may cause a wide range of problems, including a decrease in production, a decrease in safety, and a decrease in staff morale.

Paper and PDF instructions fail to meet the needs of 90 percent of their users, according to a study. For a number of reasons, relying on them is not acceptable for onboarding new workers.

It's difficult to comprehend: It might be difficult to follow written instructions since they lack context and tend to be long blocks of text.

  • It's impersonal: Paper instructions are offering a "one-size-fits-all" structure, regardless of individual employees' native language, for example.
  • Difficult to update: These papers are difficult to update because of their nature. In the event that any changes are necessary, they must be reprinted or saved and re-distributed. 
  • One-way street: When it comes to directions, the one-way street mentality prevails. Typically, they're given to employees, and the feedback generally stops there until the next edition is out.
  • It's impossible to keep tabs on: Once workers are given paper or PDF instructions, they are effectively out in the open. In addition to privacy concerns, it is very hard to accurately monitor the efficiency and usage of these devices.
  • Costly: Instructional handbooks are time-consuming and need expensive resources like consultants or specialists, which adds up over time. The expense of producing paper instructions is obviously not insignificant.

It's worth noting that while paper and PDF instructions have fulfilled their role for a long time, digital and visual work instructions provide several advantages.

Winning examples of visual work instructions

Scribe

Scribe is a step-by-step guide generator that does your documenting for you. Turn any process into a visual step-by-step guide by simply clicking the extension or desktop app. Scribe follows along while you work to create a guide with text and annotated screenshots — instantly!

Here's a Scribe in action.

There's no limit to how many Scribes you can make. And with the newest feature Pages, you can easily organize them in longer visual process docs with text, media and more. Here's a Page that combines several Scribes to help an employee get started with Slack.

Tulip

On the Tulip platform, we can see that instructions are centered on very detailed visuals for extremely thorough work and that the instructions appear to follow a step-by-step procedure. This is an excellent example of visual education with a limited amount of text, as well as the option for the user to call for assistance at the bottom of the screen, as seen below.

Dozuki

In this example of visual instructions from Dozuki, we can see that the work at hand is depicted using photographs taken from various perspectives, with a written explanation for each step after each picture. Employees can provide information about their job in a multiple-choice box on this specific screen. They can also request that a supervisor evaluate the material.

visual work instruction

How to create effective visual work instructions

There are a lot of best practices and principles you can follow in order to produce visual instructions that function and remain with employees. These six steps will help you generate excellent visual instructions for your workforce:

Step 1: Know your audience.

In whose hands will the manual be put to use? You should spend some time thinking about the person who is going to be following your directions.

  • How familiar are they with the process at hand?
  • For them, what may be new?
  • What broad understanding of the work may you assume?

Always assume the least amount of prior knowledge for your material if your audience has a wide range of past knowledge. New employees, on the other hand, must be given the opportunity to learn from the ground up, even if more experienced workers can bypass some processes.

Workers are not a single entity and might range from novices to experts in their field. How best to convey information to them will depend on their role and the nature of their work, such as if they require a video or an in-depth explanation that includes schematics, for example.

Step 2: Examine your procedure in detail.

This step is critical to your instructions' success. You are undoubtedly an expert on the process if you are writing the instructions, but you must modify your perspective and put yourself in the workers' shoes: For an unskilled worker going through the procedure for the first time, a seemingly little step or action might be critical.

Make a video with your smartphone of an experienced worker going through the complete procedure from beginning to end. Then watch the video and take notes on each step.  

Step 3: The instruction sequences should be defined.

The 32-step work instruction isn't what you desire. It is important to break down the entire procedure into smaller steps. Make a list of all the steps you'll need to complete and arrange them in a way that makes sense in the real world.

As with any work, it's critical to make clear what we hope to accomplish. As a result, the individual who is following the directions will become more engaged and aware of where they are going.

Step 4: Include a brief list of things to remember.

Finally, it's time to put the instructional material together.

When it comes to visual instructions, the emphasis must be on... well, images. The use of graphics should be tailored to the work at hand: Images, tables, graphs, photos, videos, and animated gifs are just a few of the many formats that may be used. To ensure that your experience is as clear as possible, you have a wide range of options at your disposal.

Make a shortlist before you begin photographing in the warehouse. Your shooting will be more efficient as a result of this. What must be shown in an image for each step? And whether a video is preferable to a snapshot.

Step 5: Finish writing the instructions.

Make sure your written instructions are optimal for the workers by going over them again.

Consider the following pointers while drafting instructions:

  • Is the language easy to understand?
  • Do the sentences have a short length?
  • Did you use an active voice, as if you were speaking directly to the worker?
  • Did you start with the command and then provide an explanation?

An active tone of voice will captivate the reader by offering clear directions using action verbs and outlining how to complete the task.

Because the visuals are the focus of the instructions, it's important to make text components as minimal and succinct as possible. They should only serve to enhance the visuals and provide pertinent information.

Step 6: In your training tool, create and test sequences.

Everything comes together in this last stage.

1. In your training tool, create the sequences.

2. Before releasing the training to your employees, ask one or two individuals with varying levels of expertise to put it through its paces.

3. Before distributing the training to all employees, consider and integrate their input.

Finally, once your instructions are up and being used by employees, their digital nature will allow you to measure usage as well as collect feedback. As time goes on, the company will be able to enhance and improve the onboarding process for new recruits.

Best practices for writing visual work instructions

Work instructions are a solid tool in any training program. But they only work when you do them right! Some best practices include: 

  • It's all in the details: Instructions must be clear and concise, but also thorough enough so that a worker can follow them without hesitation or assistance. This can only be accomplished by offering the appropriate quantity of information, such as by presenting many perspectives or breaking down the explanation into additional steps.
  • Include stakeholders in the process: Knowing what to include in the instructions and how to effectively convey them requires consulting the appropriate parties in their development. Mentoring and hierarchy have always been important aspects of blue-collar jobs, and incorporating the proper individuals will not only guarantee that the relevant information is handed down to new employees but will also make adoption easier.
  • Uniformity: You should strive for consistency in your onboarding materials to guarantee a pleasant training experience and minimize misunderstanding. A standard knowledge base will eliminate friction and allow for a continuous learning curve across workers, from the format to the language, quality, and content.

Make powerful visual work instructions — fast!

When it comes to business-critical operations, teams rely on documentation. But the documenting processes can distract (and frustrate) teams — taking them away from the work they're paid to do.

Tools like Scribe enable teams to create gorgeous visual instructions, without ever having to take another screenshot. At the click of a button, you can turn any process into a guide that helps you:

  • Create training materials in seconds.
  • Answer quick questions to encourage and empower teammates.
  • Fill gaps in any formal training programs.
  • Create fully fledged SOPs.

... and most importantly, get your time back!

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Everyone on your team is an expert in something. With Scribe, everyone can know and share best practices. And as practices evolve, you can update Scribe just as easily as you make one.

Visual aids are such an important way to train teams. Get your coworkers involved in the process! What do they need to learn, or what can they share? Show them how invested you are in their success, so they can learn how to invest in themselves!