“Not another Word document!” Make your instructions more engaging by choosing a format that best suits the purpose, the place and the people.
When creating instructions, many business owners choose the default format of typing them out and storing them in a folder or on the computer. The result is business process documents that are often underused or unengaging.
When choosing the medium or format for your instructions you should think about what best suits your task, the work environment and your end users.
What may work for one situation may not necessarily suit the other.
Task: A service technician may benefit from mobile instructions that can be accessed on their tablet or laptop; a packer in a warehouse may benefit from instructions up on a wall where the process occurs so they can check it quickly without having to stop their work.
Environment: If you work in a dirty environment, whether it’s grease and oil or a food-prep area, it’s important the instructions can be cleaned or that they are available in some way that protects the instructions from the work environment.
End users: You’ve probably heard about the four different learning styles: visual, auditory, tactile, kinaesthetic (aka the VARK model, used in neuro-linguistic programming). If the users are mainly visual then you have a multitude of choices; however, if there are two main learning styles it may be worthwhile having a visual instruction like a flowchart and an audio instruction that can be used (or whatever best suits your users).
Want more articles like this? Check out the processes section.
Here are some suggestions, but really you are only limited by your imagination.
Flowcharts: Don’t just think old-school arrows and text boxes. Use photographs of the actual task being performed and include an explanation of each step, or use images or graphics to represent a step.
PowerPoint presentation: A step-by-step description that can be used electronically or stuck to the wall.
Infographic: Yes, they take some time to develop but everyone loves an infographic and they can be put to a very practical use as instructions.
Video: Record the task being performed in a number of shorter videos that can be queued up and played one after the other. Put it on YouTube so that it can easily be accessed in the field.
Jing-enhanced instructions: If you have a series of screen shots or a visual presentation use Jing to record an audio explanation of the written content. There are some things that are very hard to explain in the written form and Jing is a great way to complement your existing instructions.
Audio recording: Not everyone engages with the written word. For those who prefer to listen, auditory recordings are a great alternative. This may not work for everyone though.
Laminated cards: These are great for “dirty” environments such as manufacturing, mechanical servicing and laboratories where the instructions need to be referred to while the task is underway. It means the cards can be accessed without being ruined and can be wiped down or de-contaminated if required.
Written business process documents still have their place and are a valuable business tool. But don’t hesitate to explore other formatting options when producing your instructions. Great instructions will ensure your business processes are consistent, your trainees will become independent much more quickly and should key staff be unavailable that the business can continue without major disruption.
Have you used an unusual format to create your business process instructions?