The Training Manual is Not the Same as the Employee Handbook

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I’ve noticed some confusion regarding the differences between employee training manuals and employee handbooks. No matter the type or size of your company it is paramount to have both.

The purpose of a training manual is to organize how you are going to train your employees throughout their employment. Having a training manual helps create a standardized plan that is going to take your employees to success. A training manual guarantees that employees do not miss important instructions. Step by step your employees will reach their goals quicker.

An employee handbook outlines policies, freeing yourself and your employees from liability. Describe in detail employee expectations, scheduling, substance abuse, calling out etc. Educate your employees on general and sexual harassment. When writing a handbook, consider what company behavior you want to make up your company culture. Focus on keeping that atmosphere through the guidelines that are set.

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According to Dale Carnegie, companies whose employees are well engaged outperform their competitors by over 200%. Employee engagement is not possible without employee training; it follows that having a good employee training manual in place can help boost your company’s ability to engage its employees. 

Creating quality training manuals for various positions in a company is an important part of the organization's talent management plan. When training manuals are available for key positions in a company, it is possible to ensure continuity of operations when new employees are hired, and it sure does stop the questions on “How do I do…”

Taking time to write out an employee training manual may seem like a laborious task. However, a formal training manual ensures consistency in the presentation of the training program. Another major advantage is that all the training information on skills, processes, and other information necessary to perform the tasks is together in one place. Training manuals should support the training objectives.

Tips on starting a manual:

  • The best way to start a training manual is to place yourself in the training process.
  • Have a recording device and dictate at the moment an employee pulls into the parking lot. (Where are they to park? Which door do they enter? Where is the time clock? Do they need to put the heat on?
  • Assign other team members to create a portion of the training manual. For example, you may have someone that has mastered the company software programs.
  • Maximize employee engagement:  Your manual will benefit if you include:
    • Be Clear & Concise– avoid information overload
  • The combination of text and visual aids – use images, illustrations, tables, diagrams etc.
    • Logical structure – headings, page numbers, section summaries and tab dividers etc.
    • Write in the active sense: Active sentences tend to be shorter and less confusing. Passive sentences tend to be longer and more confusing.
    • Well formatted – visually pleasing, color-coded, good use of white space and generous margins to accommodate note taking.
    • Regular intervals – Q&A sections, worksheets, learning checklists, and quizzes.

Training manual content should be based on objectives so it is possible to tell when trainees have mastered the material.

  • Tremendous benefits to a well-formatted training manual.
    • Saves time- When new employees have reference material available, they know where to go when they have questions.
    • Scalable- A documented operations manual can also make your business more scalable.
    • Reducing Liability- courts will review your manual to assess liability.
    • Added market value to the company- in the event you sell your company, the successor will utilize the manuals for a smooth transition.

One of my pet peeves is when an employee asks the same question twice. The training manual eliminates, well almost eliminates the “How do I…” questions.

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