Creating A Training Manual for Your Small Business
Creating a training manual may feel like a daunting task, filled with instructions and details that takes weeks to capture and document. However, if ensuring consistency and a deep understanding of your small business is important to you, then a training manual is a must! A well-created training manual is a valuable asset that may take some effort to compile but will likely save you time and resources in the long run.
What is a training manual and why is it important to have one?
Why should your small business have a training manual? For one, your employees are not you and cannot read your mind (no matter how much more efficient that would be). You created your business and have navigated through this experience from the jump, gaining the skills and knowledge you need for your specific company and the products and/or services you provide. However, for employees who are just joining the team, even if they may have experience in the industry, are still brand-new to your business. They need to “learn the ropes” to help ensure they can perform at a level that you are at. That is where a training manual can come in to help provide this knowledge and improve overall quality.
Maintaining consistency is another main reason why small businesses should have a training manual. Everyone will have their unique style of working. However, by following a set of instructions on how to complete a certain task or job, there is a higher likelihood of consistency in how it is carried out. Knowing that a task is being completed according to written instructions can provide reassurance for small business owners and allow them to spend less time monitoring their employees, and more time on other things to grow their business.
Select the medium of the training manual
One of the first steps when creating a training manual for your small business should be selecting the medium in which you want to display your training manual. Training manuals are traditionally printed, as they can be easily accessed on the spot when completing a task. Plus, you also won’t have to run into any technology glitches that could arise if your manual is online. However, combining a mixture of both physical and digital elements can be helpful. For instance, including URLs or QR codes to online videos or supplemental digital materials can be a useful way to meet the various ways your employees can comprehend the details within the manual.
At The UPS Store, we provide printing services that include several options small business owners can choose from, including the colour (full-colour or black-and-white) and the binding method used, such as using a comb or coil bind, a three-ring binder, and options to divide the manual with tabs.
Start strong with an introduction and objectives
Although you likely have supplemental material to go along with your training manual, providing a brief introduction to your small business (including when and why you created your business, your values, company culture, etc.), can be a great way to make it feel more personal. After all, you want your employees to feel passionate about your small business and feel motivated to learn how to perform a certain task or job correctly – a long, boring manual won’t necessarily cut it. Therefore, adding as much style and brand storytelling as possible is recommended.
The introduction of your training manual should also include what it is you are providing instructions for. The content in your training manual is not an area to be ambiguous; clearly state the task that needs to be performed and add any notes that can support your employees’ understanding (i.e., when and why this task is completed). The manual should also include any onboarding information needed for new employees to get up to speed.
Including learning objectives can help provide this clarity. What will your employee take away from this training manual? Supplying this information at the beginning can allow those following the manual to establish what it is they need to understand, allowing them to set out with these objectives in mind as they read through the manual.
Organize your content effectively
A training manual is supposed to provide clarity, so if it only leaves those reading it even more confused, that means it is not being structured in a way that makes the most sense for your small business. For instance, if there are tasks that your employees complete daily, push that to the front and in its own section. That way, it can be easily accessed.
Creating an outline of how you want your training manual structured before you start adding content, and finding areas where you can group certain tasks together, can be of great assistance as you begin writing out your content. By organizing your content first, you can then approach each section with a clear understanding of what it is you need to include.
As you begin adding content, be sure to also structure it through headings and subheadings where applicable. Your training manual should flow easily from section to section, but that flow should also exist within each section as well. In other words, each section should have its own structure so that steps can be easily followed.
By organizing your content, you can also create a table of contents at the beginning of your training manual. This can provide your employees with a way to quickly jump to a certain task, and it can also provide a snapshot of what is in the manual to those reading it for the first time.
Write in plain language and include summaries
Content should be written in a style that is clear and allows the reader to understand it quickly and easily. It doesn’t include difficult vocabulary or certain terms that only a highly experienced subject matter expert, for example, would understand. As you create your training manual, skip the difficult terms if it won’t help the task at hand and focus on providing instruction as straightforward as you can. Also, consider adding a glossary of common industry terms and acronyms if employees are likely to encounter them on the job.
Including summaries or examples at the end of each section can also be a great way to clarify the information or instructions you provided. This can be a chance for you to write in a more personal tone, and you can include important notes that apply to your business within these summaries to make it more applicable.
Maintain your branding
This is a piece of content that provides details about your business, so it should align with your branding. As you are designing your training manual, include your logo, brand colours, any design elements that you commonly use, etc.
Your training manual is likely something that will be accessed on an ongoing basis, so following your branding can help ensure that it remains applicable to your business long-term.
Make it visually appealing
Although the instructions you include in your training manual are the most important aspect, designing it in a way that makes it appealing to look at can be a great help to your employees. Add bright colours that align with your brand, illustrations, photos, bolded text when needed, bullet points to make it easily scannable, infographics to display certain information rather than long paragraphs, etc.
This is your training manual, so make it personalized to your business! You do not necessarily follow a strict method of creating one. Make yours as appealing as possible, and display the material in a way that best suits your small business and all it has to offer.
The UPS Store can help with your training manual
If you are looking for assistance with your printing needs for your small business, we’ve got you covered. Our printing services cover flyers and brochures to manuals and presentations. Be sure to visit a location near you to get started, or check out our online print portal.