What images come to mind when you hear the phrase “training manual”? Chances are you imagine a little printed book or a booklet. Of course, this format still exists, but such manuals tend to be text-heavy, and reading them is often a dull experience that takes a lot of time. It would be hard to find an employee who enjoys studying this manual.
Fortunately, there are now many other options. Technology has changed the way we make training manuals and how they look. Modern digital manuals may be visually attractive, brief but effective, and engaging for employees. Instead of coercing your staff to read a boring fire safety operational booklet, for example, you can create an interactive online manual your employees will be happy to engage with.
In this article, we’ve put together some key points you need to consider and steps you can follow to create a training manual that employees will love.
What Is a Training Manual?
A training manual is a set of instructions used to improve the quality of a task, process, or job. Its ultimate goal is to provide employees all the tools and information they need to excel at their jobs.
There are two types of training manual:
These are manuals that new hires get the day they enter a company. They provide the rules and regulations every employee needs to follow at work, along with general information about the company: its mission, values, and culture. The main purpose of a handbook is to set clear expectations for the staff, while also stating legal obligations and employee rights. Another important aspect of such a manual is introducing newbies to the corporate culture and how they can fit in.
For example, Disqus’ handbook is divided into two parts: the first half is an official, “legalese” document, and the second is a culture book.
These training manuals provide specific position-related information. They enable employees to carry out their duties effectively and help them if they get stuck somewhere along the way. Thus, a training manual for a lab assistant will be completely different from one for a customer support engineer.
There may also be task-related or project-related manuals, like a guide to writing memos or a manual about using Google Analytics.
Why Are Training Manuals Important?
Training manuals are valuable resources for your company that will never be obsolete. Your employees will use manuals from year to year, and these are the benefits you can expect:
- Faster onboarding of new hires. By understanding where to go and having all the necessary instructions, new employees quickly acquire knowledge, skills, and behaviors and become effective members of the company.
- Better employee efficiency. Training manuals help employees grow and improve in their jobs. They ensure that employees don’t miss crucial instructions. Step by step, people achieve their goals quicker.
- Higher employee retention. When employees face issues at work, feel embarrassed to ask for help and have no job aids to engage with, they get frustrated and disengaged. By having the information they need, employees can find solutions and work out issues on their own, boosting their satisfaction.
- Less employee workload. Providing employees all the necessary guidance means keeping managers and HR specialists from having to answer the same questions over and over again. They can use this time for more important tasks, like developing business strategies or recruiting new talents.
- Fewer costly mistakes. Noncompliance with rules may cost you a fortune. If an invoice isn’t sent correctly, for instance, your company won’t receive needed funds. You can minimize this risk by having all your procedures documented in a training manual.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Training Manual
Creating a training manual is not as tricky as it may seem at first sight. But as with any process, it has multiple steps. We’ve brought the steps together to make the process easier for you. Just follow this guide, and you’ll get it right.
Step 1. Understand your task
In the first step, you need to conduct a training audit. Look for tasks and processes in your workplace that could be streamlined, consider whether you can improve them by documenting the procedures, and identify the kind of training manual that will help in each case. For example:
Step 2. Define the manual format
Now that you know the kind of training manuals you need to create to address your business’s needs, it’s time to decide which format you will use to present your manual to employees. Here are a few common options:
- Printed guide books or booklets
- PDF or Word manuals
- Online courses
- Video tutorials
- Brief interactive modules
When choosing a format, you need to consider the kind of topic you want to cover. For example, if you want to demonstrate how to use software, then you’d better opt for a screencast. If you’re going to instruct your new employees on company rules and procedures, then you may want to create a PDF handbook, like Disqus did, or make an online course.
Step 3. Create the content
Printed booklets are quite easy to create. In fact, you only need a text editor and a printer. But this simplicity has a price: reading such materials is boring and not very effective for knowledge retention.
On the other hand, interactive modules, courses and videos require certain investments of labor. In addition, you need specific software to create such content. But you can be sure that this approach will pay off: after all, when you invest in creating an interesting manual once, you can then use it to train hundreds of employees.
To avoid buying numerous expensive solutions and switching between the tools, you can select an all-arounder, like iSpring Suite Max. It is a complete authoring toolkit that will let you create manuals and other learning materials in the format of online courses, with quizzes, videos, role-plays, and interactions. It works as a PowerPoint add-in, so if you already know how to use PowerPoint, then working with iSpring Suite Max will be very easy.
Let’s look at examples of the manuals you can create with iSpring:
This kind of manual consists of slides with text, pictures, and “Next” buttons. You can build it from scratch the same way you create PPT slides — or, if you have an existing PowerPoint presentation with instructions, convert it to an online manual with just a few clicks. iSpring keeps all the PowerPoint animations, timings, and triggers intact.
Here’s a slide from a cyber security manual, created with iSpring Suite Max:
To make sure your employees understood the information covered in your manual, you can enhance your course with a quiz. With iSpring Suite Max, you can build engaging graded assessments with fourteen question types, including multiple choice, fill in the blank, drag and drop, matching, and sequencing.
Some processes, like repairing a laptop or fixing a printer, may be difficult to explain using text and pictures alone. By viewing videos with clear narration, subtitles, and highlights of key points, however, it becomes possible even for new employees to perform their tasks.
Of course, you can record such a video with your camera, but to make it look professional and enhance it with images and captions, you will need separate video-editing software. If you have iSpring Suite Max, you can record and edit a webcam video with a single tool.
If you want to teach employees how to properly use some digital tools, such as CRM or email service, then the best solution is to record a screencast. With iSpring, you can capture your screen alone, together with a webcam or audio. You can even highlight a cursor and add click sounds to draw attention to your actions on the screen. Add a visual hint for each step, so your employees can easily repeat your actions:
Brief interactive modules
If you want to provide your employees a quick guide on, say, how to conduct a SWOT analysis, visualize your brand values, or present an online office tour, then you can use interactions. iSpring Suite Max comes with fourteen interaction types. You just need to choose a suitable template and fill it with your text and images.
This is a slide from a quick manual that introduces your office and future workplace to your new hire:
Step 4. Deliver a manual to your employees and track their progress
You’ve put a manual in your hands. Perhaps you’ve created an interactive masterpiece, or maybe you didn’t have the time or money to do so and have had to use PDF instructions. Whatever your content, you need to deliver it to all employees and make sure they study it.
The best solution here is a learning management system (LMS). An LMS will let you house all of your manuals and other learning materials under one roof, as well as assign the content to your employees and keep track of how they’re viewing it.
If you don’t have an LMS, opt for an intuitive platform such as iSpring Learn to start an online training experience right away.
With iSpring LMS, you can:
- Create a unified knowledge base to store all the training manuals and other instructional content
- Segment audiences to offer your employees personalized learning paths
- Automate training management tasks, like sending invites and reminders and managing deadlines
- Create detailed reports to evaluate the success of your employee training
- Deliver on-the-go training with the iSpring Learn native mobile app
- Customize the system with your corporate branding for a seamless user experience
- Engage your employees with gamification tools, like badges and leaderboards
Step 5. Collect feedback and keep your content updated
Once your employees have studied the training manual, it’s time to collect feedback. This will let you find out how useful the manual is for your employees and how it can be improved.
Ask your students questions about their learning experience. For example, you can email them a survey created in Google Forms or iSpring Suite Max. The best thing about using iSpring is that you can create Likert scale questions that let you see all the semitones between “poor” and “excellent” and “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree.”
After you consider these insights on how to make your manual even better, you may want to update it: add more valuable information, refine the design or even put the manual into another format. It might also need to be updated if some processes in your company have changed, or you have released new products and features, or the government decided to amend the law.
Be sure to collect all the source files for your manuals so you can easily come back to them and make updates.
5 Elements of a Training Manual Template
If you’re a large enterprise with hundreds or even thousands of employees, you might need a significant number of training manuals for different job roles.
Of course, creating each manual from scratch is time-consuming. The best way to reduce the development time is to make a training manual template once. You’ll take care of the basic elements, like shape, texture and color, and then have more time and space to focus on the content. This will also help ensure that all your learning materials have a consistent look and feel that aligns with your organization.
If you’re going to create training manuals as online courses, making a template may be extremely easy. Some authoring tools come with ready-made templates, so you can use them as they are or tweak them a little to best represent your brand.
For example, iSpring Suite Max provides access to more than 450 templates. Let’s check them out and see the basic elements a training manual template should include:
1. Welcome screen
The welcome screen is where you can add your manual’s title and description. They must concisely introduce the topic of the particular manual and explain to a potential learner how they will benefit from studying it.
Here you can outline the knowledge and skills your employees will acquire after completing the training. Properly formulated objectives ensure that learners know what to expect and feel more prepared for the workload.
3. Main menu
This slide contains the table of contents. It allows your learners to move around to different modules of your manual.
4. Manual content
Module content is the heart of your training. Various layouts can be repurposed for different types of content. Here are a few examples:
|Image slides||Company products||Video|
|Statistics||Process||Problem and solution|
This slide summarizes the results a learner has achieved. Here you can outline the skills and knowledge they have acquired, congratulate employees on their successful completion of training, or direct them to the next step of their training program.
We’ve put together a list of FAQs about a training manual, and we’ll update this blog with any new questions you ask in the comment section.
Are handbooks and manuals the same?
Handbooks and manuals are basically the same. However, there’s a slight difference: handbooks are more focused on rules, regulations, and policies, while manuals provide guidelines and instructions.
What is the purpose of a user manual?
A user manual provides clear explanations of how people should use a product from a business function viewpoint. This kind of manual should be written in plain language, with nontechnical terminology, and it needs to cover the key features or functions of the product.
How to make a training manual interactive?
With authoring tools like iSpring Suite Max, you can turn boring instructions into engaging interactive content. Here are just a few ways to add interactivity to your manual:
- Use branching scenarios to let employees choose their own path within a manual, providing an individual learning experience for each learner.
- Incorporate quizzes. Enrich your manual with interactive quizzes, like drag-and-drop and hotspot activities.
- Add interactions. Include the abovementioned brief interactive modules in your training manual.
Companies that invest in corporate training have 218% higher income per employee than organizations without formalized training. This is not surprising, as they get a return on such investment through better employee productivity and efficiency.
If you are going to create effective training manuals that are more than just boring text, you need the right tools. Get the iSpring Suite Max free trial and start making engaging learning materials right away!