A training manual is an essential part of the modern trainer’s toolkit. It saves you from re-explaining processes or tools and lets your staff learn on their own schedule. Over the long term, it serves as a reference guide employees can turn to whenever they get lost. Rather than composing a series of ad hoc manuals, however, follow this training manual template to ensure yours is consistent and effective.
When you look at the best, most impactful manuals, you notice the same core elements are always present. Adhere to these five points, and you will have a guidebook that succinctly and successfully provides your team with the background and skills they need.
1. Welcome your reader
To make a training manual as accessible as possible, go into the writing process assuming your readers have no previous experience with the topic. Ease them into it with a brief introduction.
The intro should give context about what trainees will learn and explain why the skills they will gain are vital. This is especially important for manuals that cover information that seems disconnected from the trainee’s day-to-day experience. Explaining the significance of the content ignites the learner’s interest and motivates them to take the instruction seriously.
Connect the content of the manual back to your trainee’s role and the organization’s goals. Trainees will be more enthusiastic about learning your complex contact management system, for example, when they understand how that system will make their jobs easier or how it supports the company’s overarching objectives of communication and efficiency.
2. Clarify the learning objectives
Just as this training manual template makes it easier to create a guidebook, an outline of learning objectives makes it easier to learn. Before you get into the meat of your manual, map out a clear, concrete list of learning goals so trainees can see where they’re going and how they’ll get there.
Using easy-to-understand language, turn your learning objectives into a bullet-point list of topics and subtopics. Be specific yet concise. You want to preview what they’re going to learn, but too much content at this early stage can be overwhelming.
Even when your topic seems basic, providing this kind of outline is worth your time, both as a way of mentally preparing the learner and as a checklist for exam review later.
3. Teach the material
As you work to present the information in a way that’s easily understood, keep three main points in mind.
First, as with the learning objectives, you should break the content down into digestible chunks. As a rule, this makes learning easier, because small units of information aren’t as hard to wrap your head around. It’s especially important in a manual, however, because your learners may read in short bursts during training sessions or on breaks from work.
Second, include real-life examples, especially if your training manual teaches the reader to perform a specific task. This will link the instruction back to the everyday work of your employees and make it resonate with them on a tangible level. If you can incorporate visuals that demonstrate the instruction, even better.
Finally, focus on actionable tips and strategies trainees can use. Manuals should ideally help people develop new competencies quickly, and the best way to do that is by emphasizing information with practical value they can incorporate into their work.
Related reading: A Repeatable Guide to Creating Effective Learning Content
4. Administer assessments
Since you want to make sure your trainees have actually learned what’s in the manual — particularly if the content is part of your onboarding process — you should incorporate some form of assessment.
You could offer interim assessments to gauge knowledge after each section, a single summative assessment at the end of the manual, or both. The volume and difficulty of the content will influence your approach.
Whichever path you choose, include lots of practice questions and quizzes along the way so readers can prepare for examinations.
If you’re comfortable with self-assessments, offer an examination that includes access to the answer key. If your assessments will require formal submission, proctoring or additional materials, include relevant instructions.
Related reading: Use This Research-Based Employee Onboarding Plan to Boost Retention
5. Close out your employee training manual with a signpost for the future
The closing pages of the manual are a good place to offer a final review of the material trainees can use to study for their assessments, and it’s where you should put the instructions if you haven’t included them elsewhere.
The end of a training manual is also an opportunity for you as a trainer to leave a positive impression on your readers. Consider adding an afterword that provides meaningful last thoughts about the topic to help them see the knowledge they’ve just acquired in a different light.
You can also offer next steps for the trainee by previewing what’s to come in their overall training progression, sources for more information on what they’ve just learned or ways to practice and apply their new skills.
Format your training manual for today’s learner. . . and for tomorrow’s business growth
When you decide the format for delivering your training manual, think “digital native and cloud native.” Your team doesn’t want the version control headaches of installed word processing and coordinating drafts. The employees you’ll be training don’t want binders. And you don’t want your training content going stale because updating it is too many steps.
Cloud-based formats avoid all that. They give you better version control for your team, a better experience for your learners and the ability to update on the fly.
Early on, Google Drive products work well with small teams of 20 or fewer. You can use Sheets for tracking and staying organized. You can draft your written materials in Docs. And for the simplest manuals with straightforward information, Slides works well.
As your workforce expands to 200 and beyond, those early hacks with Sheets, Slides and Docs probably won’t keep up. Our customers tell us that’s the point when they start to be held back by “technical debt” in their training operations. They want to streamline their onboarding and training so they can improve their KPIs on workforce churn, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and sales efficiency.
The sales, customer service and operations units that experience these problems turn to a cloud-based employee training software like SchoolKeep for scaleable training delivery that also supports strategic goals. It lets them track employee engagement with training materials, offer it when and where it's needed and tie it all back to improved business results. Investing in anything without a way to measure it's effectiveness is a fast track to failure.
Follow this training manual template for short- and long-term value
Every training manual should be developed with two overarching goals: equipping employees to begin applying its content and serving as a reference tool when employees need a refresher.
Finding balance between concise and comprehensive is a challenge best met — like with all great training materials — by measuring the effectiveness of your manuals and tweaking their content as needed.
Applying the elements outlined in this training manual template — and piquing your readers’ interest at the manual’s conclusion — ensures learning will continue long after the first reading.