How to Create a Training Manual: Tips for Maximizing Impact

Follow our easy steps to help with create a training manual that makes following processes and using tools and technologies as simple and straightforward as possible for your users.

Written by: Josh Brown

Published: April 23 2022

The training manual is a classic piece of instructional literature. You’ve likely thumbed through dozens, if not hundreds, of training manuals in your life, mostly ones that were packaged with consumer products.

In our modern, digital world, the concept of a training manual is more important than ever, not just for consumer products but also to accompany corporate tools, technologies and processes. Not all training manuals are created equal, though. Some are much more effective and user-empowering than others. 

If your business needs to guide internal or external audiences, you’ll want to create training manuals that are comprehensive, easy to use, simple to navigate, and findable at the moment when users need them most.

No matter the nature of your business, here’s a look at how to create a training manual that makes following processes and using tools and technologies as simple and straightforward as possible.

What is the Purpose of a Training Manual?

Why does your business need training manuals? There are two primary reasons:

  1. To demonstrate how someone should use a product.
  2. To demonstrate how someone should follow a process.

It’s that simple. Training manuals are either how-to guides for using tools and technologies, or they are step-by-step guides to how to complete a task. Organizations typically create manuals for a range of specific purposes, including:

  • Onboarding: When team members are new to their roles, there are all sorts of tools they will need to use and processes they will need to follow. A training document can serve as a reference guide when new team members need help using tools or following processes. 
  • New software or systems: Even your most experienced team members will need support when you introduce new software or systems. Comprehensive software documentation can serve as effective training material to help support users on new systems or software updates.
  • New workflows: Just like training manuals are helpful when introducing new software and systems, they can also be helpful when implementing new workflows.
  • Updated SOPs: All organizations use standard operating procedures (or SOPs) to drive day-to-day operations. These SOPs may change to increase efficiency or reduce costs. An accompanying training booklet, training binder, or training manual can be essential to the change management process.
  • Training and education for customers: In many cases, customers can benefit from supplementary content to maximize their relationship with a business. Providing a training manual can be a useful method for providing customers with the training they need.
  • Product training: Just like televisions and other appliances have always come with user manuals, software and other digital products also demand training manuals for users to reference as needed.

Creating a training manual isn’t just a box to check when any of the situations listed above arises. Training manuals can provide tangible benefits to your business when created thoughtfully and shared with the right audiences.

Benefits of Creating a Training Manual

When you follow the right training manual creation process, you do your business and its bottom line a favor. Here’s a look at the specific training manual benefits you enjoy when you put the time, effort, and energy required into training content.

1. Increase Productivity

Employees spend almost 20% of their time looking for information to do their jobs effectively. That’s like spending an entire workday, once a week, wasting precious time searching for information that should be readily available.

An effective training manual can help reduce this percentage. When you create easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate training manuals, your employees are more productive. There’s less time spent searching and more time spent doing.

2. Streamline the Customer Experience

The vast majority of customers (96%) believe that customer experience is what drives loyalty to brands. If your customers are spending too much time figuring out how to use your product or how to follow your recommended process, the customer experience falls apart and loyalty wanes.

Training manuals can solve this problem when created with intent. Use training manuals to clearly describe how products should be used and clearly outline any relevant processes.

3. Reduce Support Costs

The average support ticket costs $15.56 to resolve in North America. That may not sound like much, but products with thousands of users can exponentially multiply that cost when support tickets increase.

There’s a simple way to help limit the number of support tickets your business processes. When you create training documentation that comprehensively provides guidance and answers frequently asked questions, many customers find the information they need before submitting support tickets.

The cost of creating an effective training material pales in comparison to the cost of handling increased support tickets.

4. Align Your Organization

Modern organizations thrive when they’re aligned on strategy and processes. In fact, strategically aligned companies churn 36% fewer customers and close 38% more sales. Effective training manuals are a way to align your people around common strategies, processes and approaches.

5. Create a Culture of Learning

Learning and constant improvement should be important parts of your corporate culture. When you create and share effective training manuals, you reinforce the emphasis on education and help create a culture of learning.

How to Create a Training Manual: 6 Steps to Keep in Mind

Having the right process is important for anyone wondering how to create an effective training manual. The process doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be comprehensive if you want a training manual that truly helps your target audience. 

Here are 6 steps you can take to create your next training manual.

1. Define Your Audience

Who is this training manual for? Just like any content, an instructor’s guide needs to be highly targeted to a well-defined audience. 

For example, if you’re creating an introductory manual for users of a product, create and present information in a way that will be most helpful for them. If you’re creating a training manual for account executives on your sales team, do the same thing — create and present the information in a way that will help them work efficiently and effectively.

2. Outline Your Content

Before you start creating, build a training outline that you will use to flesh out the manual. While your training manual might include any number of sections specific to your process or product, consider adding the following:

  • Introduction: Introduce the content and set expectations as part of your introduction. Why does this training manual exist? Who is it for? If you’re creating a training manual for new employees, consider adding your corporate vision and mission statements, and convey why training is an important part of the onboarding process.
  • Table of contents: Training manuals are for reference. Adding a table of contents makes it easier for your target audience to find the specific information they need at the exact moment they need it.
  • Objectives: After reading this training manual, the target audience should be able to use a specific product or follow a certain process. Include this information as part of an objectives section. Objectives give your target audience something to work toward as they consume your content.
  • Instructions: Describe how to use your product step by step, or walk the target audience through a process step by step. This is the core of your training manual.
  • Summaries: Instructions are meant to be comprehensive. Add summaries alongside your more thorough instructions. Some members of your target audience will find these summaries helpful as refreshers later on.
  • FAQs: Spend time brainstorming all conceivable questions that may emerge as someone uses your product or follows your process. Answer as many of these questions as possible in your FAQs section. 
  • Lessons learned: One goal of any training manual should be this: Help the target audience avoid first-time mistakes. You can document first-time mistakes (and how to avoid them) as part of your lessons-learned section. 
  • Contacts: No matter how comprehensive your training manual is, and no matter how thorough your FAQs are, questions will still emerge. Give your target audience clear channels for asking these questions.

3. Determine Presentation Form

In what form will the training manual be made available? Traditionally, training manuals have been printed on paper and distributed to anyone who needed them. Things are different in the 21st century.

Training manuals exist as video series, as online courses, as knowledge bases, etc. Your training manual may need to exist in more than one form. No matter how it needs to exist, determine the medium before you start developing and designing content.

4. Develop and Design Content

There are certain best practices that will apply to any medium you use for a training manual. 

For example, you should always make training content as clear and minimal as possible. Every word needs to earn its way onto the page or screen. 

Also, double-check to ensure your content supports the training you have designed. It’s easy for things to get lost in translation or miss the mark for the target audience during the content development and design process.

Finally, introduce objectives clearly, no matter the medium used. Clearly shared objectives provide the why behind your training: Why is this product or process important? Why does this training matter? Why do I have to consume this content? Objectives help get buy-in from your target audience.

Aside from the universal training manual best practices, there are also best practices for any specific medium.

When writing a training manual, use short paragraphs and sections with subheadings. Doing so will help readers skim to find information that’s relevant to them. Make use of visuals and bolding to drive home key points.

For video training manuals, create storyboards to make your video as concise as possible. Write scripts ahead of time to ensure that all points are addressed.

For course-style training manuals, use post-section quizzes to ensure your audience members are understanding key information. Quizzes can also help boost retention.

5. Track Usage and Update as Needed

You need analytics tied to your training manuals. Analytics let you know how many people are accessing your manuals and how they are using them.

And don’t stop at analytics. Once you have data to analyze, use your analysis to make updates to your training manuals. Because few training manuals are printed on paper today, there’s an opportunity to constantly update and optimize them. View your training manuals as dynamic pieces of content that can be altered at any time for maximum impact.

6. Create Feedback Channels

This is mentioned as the last step, but it’s something you need to do throughout the manual creation process: Get feedback from key stakeholders. 

You never want to create a training manual in a vacuum. If you’re creating a manual for an internal team, talk to managers and frontline workers who will be using the manual. Conduct regular check-ins that allow these stakeholders to review outlines and first drafts. Use their feedback to make updates.

The same holds true of training manuals for external audiences. Test your content on existing users or customers, and then use your learnings to optimize your manual.

Whether training manuals are created for internal or external audiences, offer clear feedback channels. Again, training manuals are dynamic in the modern age, and feedback channels allow you to update them regularly to maximize performance.

Don’t Forget Design Considerations

While training manuals are utilitarian in nature, design still matters. Make using your training manual as enjoyable as possible by including:

  • Branding: Mark training manuals as your own by including corporate branding. Including your branding also connects the target audience back to your corporate vision and mission.
  • Colors: There’s a psychology to color. Use this to your advantage by including engaging colors in your training manuals. Most companies have primary, secondary and even tertiary brand colors. Go deep into your color palette to make training manuals as visually pleasing and engaging as possible.
  • Hierarchy: Guide the audience’s eyes by using appropriate headings and subheadings. Again, proper hierarchy can help your target audience use training manuals as references, quickly finding the information they need at any moment.
  • Graphics/Illustrations: Reinforce key ideas and concepts by using graphics and illustrations. Academic settings include different types of learners. The same is true in corporate settings. Effective graphics and illustrations can help engage your visual learners.

You may have in-house design resources you can use when creating training manuals. If not, maximize the effectiveness of your manuals by contracting with outside resources.

Bonus: Make it Findable

Training manuals don’t help if audience members can’t find them. You need to have a promotion campaign associated with the launch of your training manuals. 

Make training manuals findable on your intranet for internal audiences and on your support site for external audiences. Encourage audience members to bookmark a manual’s location. Follow up via email or other channels to remind the target audience of the manual’s existence — especially after significant updates.

This is why it’s so important to track the usage of your training manual, as noted above. By tracking usage, you’ll know whether or not your manual is findable enough.

Using a Knowledge Base for Your Training Manuals 

Wondering how to write a training manual? Creating effective training manuals can be a lengthy process that’s well worth it in the end — as demonstrated by the benefits above. If you need to move fast, you can accelerate the launch of your training manual by using high-quality knowledge base software.

At Helpjuice, we provide easy-to-use, powerful knowledge base software that empowers you to launch helpful, findable training manuals. We help our users scale their support teams and enhance collaboration across their organizations.

Start a free 14-trial to explore what Helpjuice can do for your training manuals and teams.

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