When employees work, mistakes happen. Even with top-level training, you can’t eliminate those primary causes of human error like inattention and forgetfulness.
Instead, you have to put well-rounded systems in place to help employees make better decisions and fewer mistakes — starting with clear work instructions that ensure a better, faster and safer job performance.
But it’s not enough to have work instructions. You need to write them effectively. So the problem becomes creating work instructions that are both standardized and flexible. It can be a laborious and challenging affair if you don’t know what you’re doing.
To set you up for success, run through some of the best work instructions examples and use cases to understand what elements make them work.
A quick refresher on work instructions
Before jumping into work instructions use cases and examples, let’s refresh our memory on what work instructions are and how they improve operational efficiency.
Work instructions are clear, in-depth steps documented to help employees carry out a specific job-related activity. Aside from the sequence of steps to follow, they also highlight the tools and materials needed for the task and how to use them. This:
- Reduces human error.
- Improves performance quality.
Work instructions can help enhance your operations and workflows, but only when written and presented correctly. Otherwise, you'll be dealing with injuries, delays, errors or quality issues.
Here’s a quick rundown of what goes into creating effective work instructions:
- Choose a work instruction task and tool.
- Write a clear title and introduction.
- Clarify the purpose — the why — of the work instruction.
- Break the task into smaller steps.
- Enhance the visual appeal.
- Rewrite and format to improve readability.
- Collect and implement employee feedback.
Read our detailed guide on how to write work instructions to understand the nitty-gritty.
6 work instructions examples for different use cases
Work instructions are versatile. They support pretty much any business activity you can think of.
Below, we’ve listed six amazing work instructions examples, each belonging to a different business function, to give you an idea of how to use these documents across the various departments of your company.
Work instruction use case 1: Sales and marketing
Considering there are a bajillion tasks under this business function, you should carefully select the tasks that would benefit most from detailed rundowns and directly impact your revenue.
One aspect where employees will surely appreciate extra help is with different sales and marketing software tools.
You can create visual work instructions, guiding them through each step of the task — just like this work instruction example from Scribe.
This guide breaks down the different steps employees must take to view leads in Salesforce, a popular sales prospecting tool.
Each step is super brief and scannable to ensure employees don’t waste any more time trying to interpret the meaning behind a phrase. Adding high-quality screenshots with cursor aids gives more direction to ensure there’s no confusion.
You can also create a similar step-by-step process document using Scribe in less than a minute.
Download the Scribe extension and turn it on. The tool will automatically generate a customizable visual step-by-step guide, complete with the text and screenshots.
Add the final finishing touches (you can edit, annotate and much more) and share the Scribe with anyone, anywhere. Send it directly to your team members, export it in any desired format like PDFs or Confluence, or embed it in your knowledge base. And as your processes evolve, you can edit a Scribe at the click of a button.
Work instruction use case 2: Safety instructions
Although not an example, this is an excellent work instruction template you can use to provide employees with step-by-step safety work instructions.
Not only does it outline the key safety protocols to adhere to (for example, closing procedures, hazards, and emergency plans), but it also has an extra section that draws the user's attention to important precautions.
You can use this prototype to create your own document to guide certain employees on how to safely execute a task. And while this template doesn’t use any graphics, you can add images and pictograms — which is something we also recommend — to enhance your work instructions’ visual appeal.
Work instruction use case 3: Computer and IT Security
Designing and implementing work instructions for computer and IT security is slightly more technical, so most organizations tend to neglect it.
But with the growing threat of cyberattacks in mind, it’s vital to educate team members on IT security controls, now more than ever.
Since this is a technical business function, create detailed work instructions so employees know exactly how to secure the company’s IT infrastructure.
Here’s a video work instruction that outlines the five steps for developing and implementing IT security controls and procedures.
Despite the complexity of the task, the slides don’t intimidate the user. With its colorful backgrounds, illustrations and concise text, this deck does a great job at demonstrating the steps that safeguard the network.
Pro tip boxes in each slide stand out, drawing the user’s attention to security best practices they should remember when executing the steps.
Work instruction use case 4: ISO 9001 quality standard compliance
ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized standard that specifies the steps for creating, implementing and maintaining a quality management system for a company.
Organizations typically use this compliance standard to deliver quality products and services that meet customer expectations and regulatory requirements.
If you also want to create work instructions to help your employees comply with the ISO 9001 certification and other quality management standards, here’s a very elaborate example for inspiration:
While this work instruction infographic looks a bit busy at first glance, it has all the necessary steps to clearly outline the ISO 9001 requirements.
The arrows guide users to the next step, so the sequence is easy to follow.
Work instruction use case 5: Human resources
Human resources (HR) are undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive business functions. They’re in charge of various activities — from onboarding to inboarding to conflict resolution.
Considering companies invest significant time and resources in strategic talent acquisition, it makes sense to write down instructions your HR leaders can follow to attract, acquire and retain talented employees.
This work instruction example provides detailed steps that recruiters and HR managers can take to identify, access and recruit the best talent for your company. (Yes, work instructions can also be for the management and not just employees!)
The overall infographic design is neat and professional, thanks to the muted color scheme and lots of white space. It uses actionable text that starts with a verb and excludes any unnecessary information.
In short, it’s crisp and to the point.
Something else to note here is the infographic’s consistent design.
It uses curved rectangles with circles and follows the same muted color scheme. Subtle icons in the center of the circle add to the visual appeal.
You don’t need to stick to traditional how-to instructions. When drafting HR work instructions, you can experiment with other forms of job aids — like reference tables, checklists and flowcharts. Just be sure you provide enough detail for the user to perform the job at hand easily.
Work instruction use case 6: Disaster recovery
Writing work instructions for disaster recovery can be the difference between a regular Tuesday and going out of business. This includes sudden situations like loss of data, instability, lost revenue and even natural disasters.
A disaster recovery plan works to ensure your company‘s survival. Along with this, your work instructions should help employees resume work as quickly as possible after the incident.
Here’s a work instructions example for disaster recovery.
Since disaster recovery is a sensitive subject, its intro is reassuring and positive. It also explains the benefits of a backup plan, informing on why this task matters.
The chronological steps have detailed yet concise descriptions to follow. While the overall infographic layout is subtle, contrasting icons on the right-hand side keep the document from getting boring.
This work instruction also follows a consistent design, from the square number tags to copy and icon alignment to spacing. It also uses all caps headers and a smaller font to make it easier for users to distinguish between sections.
Knowing the elements of successful work instruction examples
If you analyze the samples above, you’ll find they share five characteristics that ensure employees can carry out instructions effectively without any errors.
These five core characteristics are:
- Clarity. Nothing is open to misinterpretation. Each work instruction example has clear, precise and comprehensive directions to help employees perform the task. After reading the instructions, they can get started immediately and get it right the first time.
- Consistency. The work instruction examples use the same layout, methodology and terminology throughout the document. This kind of consistency makes it less likely for employees to be distracted, reducing the probability of errors.
- Brevity. Less. words. The best work instructions explain even the most complex topics succinctly. Take note of how every work instruction we discussed gives you enough information in just a few words, even when the task is technical or elaborate.
- Accuracy. Your work instruction needs to match the employee’s work reality. You must be fully aware of each required step to complete the task. Otherwise, you won’t be able to write accurate, helpful and credible instructions. Reach out to seasoned employees who consistently perform the job to learn the ins and outs.
- Visual. An old study found human beings process visual information 60,000 times faster than simple text. Opt for visual media that uses colorful infographics, images and photos over multipage, text-heavy manuscripts whenever possible.
Don’t forget to give employees easy access to your work instructions. Regardless of whether they are on- or off-site, make sure that everyone in your team can use the document when needed. You might want to build a knowledge base so that all of your work instructions live in one place.
Standardization is another major key to success. Your team won’t see any benefits unless you can consistently develop and update your work instructions.
Take advantage of process documentation tools that quickly and easily create instructions that check every box.
Streamline process documentation with Scribe
Work instructions help fill training gaps and combat against one common enemy: human error. Prepare your employees with detailed steps to perform job-related tasks the right way.
This isn’t a one-and-done process. Want to ensure your employees continue using them in the long run? The document must be properly written, easy to understand, and current.
With Scribe, you can create user-friendly and visual step-by-step guides — at the touch of a button. Get started with the tool today to accelerate and streamline all your process documentation.