Needs assessment is the first step in creating training manuals. Determine how many people need training, decide what information they need to learn, decide to what extent the instruction may recur in the future and figure out what types of existing training resources could be used to create the desired manuals.
Begin Creating Training Manuals
Doing your own needs assessment is important, even if you plan to hire a third party to create the manual for you. The third party will likely begin by assessing your needs, so you can save time and money by doing your own assessment first.
Figure out how many people require training now, whether additional staff may need training in the future, and how often that might recur. Plan whether the manual will replace or supplement existing on the job training programs. Ask managers what knowledge needs to be learned, then assess what prospective trainees already know and the pace they're able to learn new things.
Consider writing up two sets of survey questions to achieve these goals. One set would ask managers what specific knowledge they want to pass on to employees, their availability to act as sources for the creation of a manual and where you might be able to find other source material. The second set of survey questions could quiz employees on what they know and want to learn. Responses ought to give you some sense of respondents' appetite to learn and pace for absorbing new material.Next, determine your budget and desired timeframe. Setting limits on cost and duration of the project ahead of time will keep things from spiraling out of control. Naturally, a smaller budget means you'll be doing more of the work yourself. Even if you have the means to outsource part or all of the work, projects have a way of growing in cost and scope when limits aren't set in advance.
Whether you're going to create the training manual yourself or work with a third party, the next step is gathering the previously identified information. This could include interviewing managers who possess the knowledge and supplementing that with outside sources. Make use of free data sources, like the Internet and your nearest public library.Next comes the writing part, beginning with an outline. The first part of the outline ought to list learning goals and objectives of the manual. Use that list to guide the creation of the rest of the outline. Break down information into as many different steps as possible so that the data becomes more accessible. Save the outline to use as a basis for writing the table of contents and the index.
If your outline is sufficiently detailed, then writing the body of the training manual should seem like you are answering questions posed by each of the items listed in the outline.
Write the manual in the declarative voice using the simplest yet most concrete and specific language possible. To get the right pacing and meter for the writing, consider speaking aloud as you write. Use active verbs and motivational, engaging language. Include illustrations wherever possible. Create quizzes at regular intervals and especially at the end of the manual, to help trainees master the subject.
Show a completed draft of the manual to managers and prospective trainees for input on how to improve the text. If the budget permits, hire a business editor or proofreader to help make the writing even more professional.
For help with formatting the written material into something that looks like a training manual, you may be able to find a set of templates to buy and customize to fit your needs. Complete training content doesn't come free.
If your training topic concerns office productivity software, management or sales tactics, Velsoft may have a solution for you. The company sells over 150 different courses on CD and DVD that can be customized with company-specific information and corporate logos. The buyer can choose which chapters to include and in what order; modify the accompanying exercises and activities; add their own chapters, examples and case studies, and then print out the exact number of student workbooks needed at any time.
Consider Electronic Manuals
If you've got a large number of people to train, consider buying or producing the training material electronically. Known as e-learning, these packages can save money on printing costs and let trainees pursue the coursework independently. Omnipress can render your training material into an online format. The company also produces training software and printed manuals numbering up to 5,000 copies at a time. These options require you to bring completely written material to Omnipress, as the company doesn't provide any writing or editing services.While e-learning packages may cost more than paper-based manuals, the electronic ones offer trainers more flexibility for training additional employees in the future, because you don't have to worry about printing out a specific number of copies. On the other hand, printed manuals are more portable for trainees, who can more readily take notes on paper.
Training for Trainers
The art of creating training manuals is complex enough to fill a whole how-to book. The following books contain information on how to produce training manuals:
- Creating Training Courses (When You're Not a Trainer), by Donald V. McCain
- The Training Design Manual: The Complete Practical Guide to Creating Effective and Successful Training Programs, by Tony Bray
- Training for Dummies, by Elaine Biech