How to Create Effective Training Manuals in 2021
Customer and employee education is essential for retention and productivity, yet most organizations get it wrong. For example, studies show that companies think learning is a top priority, yet only 25% of employees believe their training improves their performance. Likewise, customer education is key to product adoption, but it is often neglected
You can increase success within your product by learning how to create training manuals that work. Empower your employees or end-users with goal-oriented, comprehensive, and easily accessible user documentation with training manuals – and this guide can help you get started.
What Is a Training Manual?
A training manual is a detailed document that describes how to use a product or execute a process. While typically in booklet or PDF form, a training manual could also include multimedia and interactive formats. Organizations with solid training plans have multiple training manuals for different stages of the learning process to avoid information overload.
Internal Training Manuals for Employees
An internal training manual coaches your employees on company processes and best practices. For example, our internal training manuals share company information, strategies for customer management, and how-to guides on any product features.
When creating internal training manuals, make sure to enlist the help of subject matter experts and your training team. These tools should alleviate their training time down the road, so investing upfront time is advisable.
External Training Manuals for Customers
External training manuals are a great way to educate customers because they proactively address common challenges and guide them to make the most out of your offering. With Whatfix for example, you can use self-help and flow features to give new customers a product tour, teach them best practices, and provide continued assistance.
What Are Training Manual Use Cases?
Training manuals are beneficial in many situations, from customers to employees and from onboarding through retention.
Employee training manuals communicate important company information and how to make the most out of their onboarding experience.
Common new hire training manuals include:
- Overview of the employee onboarding process
- Company policies
- Org structure and who to contact for specific needs
- Critical company processes and tools
- Role-specific instructions
Training manuals are a great way to support your customers and increase adoption rates.
Common external training manuals include:
- Product or service overview
- List of features and where to find them
- Best practices for using your offering
Self-Service Customer Support
Reduce help requests to your customer service department and to internal employees by creating training manuals for everyday challenges with customer self-service resources.
Common support manuals include:
- Frequently asked questions
- Troubleshooting techniques
- Instructions on who to contact with further questions
New Software Rollouts
Benefits of Training Manuals
Employees who feel prepared to do their jobs and customers who feel supported while using your product will be more productive and save you money.
Here are a few of the most impactful benefits of implementing training manuals:
1. Increased Employee Output
Underprepared employees will take longer to complete tasks because they must stop in the middle of work to teach themselves, ask questions, or fix mistakes. Having clear and accessible training materials will equip employees with the resources they need before and during their jobs. Be sure to link to all of your team’s documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) in your training manuals to get your employees up to speed fastest.
2. Streamlined Customer & End-User Adoption
Customer training is time-consuming, costs money, and only achieves mediocre results. Creating clear and straightforward training guides for your product can help customers get up and running and reduce learning barriers.
3. Reduced Support Costs
Training manuals provide step-by-step instructions on essential tasks or procedures, reducing the number of support tickets your customer support at IT departments receives for assistance. The aforementioned Forrester report shows a 6.1% decrease in support costs when companies make an effort to educate their customers.
How to Create Training Manuals in 5 Easy Steps
Instead of throwing together current documentation or a quick how-to guide, take a step back and be thoughtful about the content you need.
1. Establish Your Goal and Audience
Setting objectives will help create a clear training manual with all the information users need to know—nothing more and nothing less. Too much information can leave a user feeling overwhelmed, but not enough will cause slower product adoption.
Factors that should guide you as you create content for the manual:
- The problem this training manual will solve
- Who will benefit from the training?
- The user’s knowledge level
- What should the reader walk away knowing?
2. Create a Plan and Delegate Tasks
Planning a training manual with your goals in mind is key to its success and usage.
Identify the problem this manual needs to solve and ask why it’s an issue. If customers are not using a valuable feature, you can survey them or talk to customer success for feedback. You may find that this feature is time-consuming to set up, so you need to address time-saving tips in the manual. Dive deep into the bullet points above to identify topics that need to be covered.
It will also be helpful to talk to those in your organization who are currently working with your audience. If you’re working on an internal training manual, it may be a manager or members of the training team. If it’s an external training manual, then the customer success team. Ask them what to include in your manual to save time and create a more knowledgeable team member or customer.
Once you have a content plan, identify subject matter experts in your organization to help create content on the topic. Whether you interview them for a portion of the manual or have them create a how-to section, delegating the work and getting other perspectives will make a more effective training guide.
3. Develop Training Content
With your training manual planned and a team to help out, it’s time to start creating. The type of training manual you’re creating will determine what type of software tool you’ll need to use.
- For technical training manuals, use technical writing software.
- For training manuals targeting software developers (such as API manuals and documentation), use a software documentation tool.
- For an internal employee handbook or training manual, use a knowledge base software.
- Consider leveraging a digital adoption platform for creating digital, in-app training manuals. This decreases time-to-value for your customers and creates a more effective onboarding process for new hires.
Include interactive content that makes it easier for users to learn, such as:
- Infographics or diagrams
- Screenshots for context
- In-app guidance
Make sure this information appears logically and there are no learning gaps by creating a table of contents for your manual. This overview helps you to step back and see where you need to add or move information. It will also allow users to find the content they need faster.
4. Publish and Distribute Your Training Manual
By designating a central place for training tools, you can ensure your training manuals are utilized and easily accessible. This central spot could be a Google Drive, a Dropbox folder, or a knowledge base. Share this resource with new employees and customers during onboarding.
Additionally, it’s beneficial to update users when new training content is added to your central knowledge place. Whatfix, for example, has change management features perfect for updating users about new or modified resources.
5. Monitor Effectiveness and Make Adjustments
Many applications with training manual capabilities have easy-to-use analytics tools. These data points are a great way to understand how users engage with your training program. For example, with Whatfix’s analytics tools, organizations can see engagements, content completion rate, and weak points in the content.
Another way to evaluate the effectiveness of your training manual is by asking for user feedback. Use post-training survey questions to identify learning barriers and pay attention to areas for improvement.
When thinking about how to create training manuals, many organizations rely on digital adoption platforms (DAP) or learning management systems (LMS) to store and optimize their training manuals. In fact, 70% of organizations will use digital adoption solutions to enhance the user experience by 2025. Consider investing in software with training manual templates, in-application guidance, and real-time support to streamline your training activities.
With Whatfix, create in-app guidance, flows, product tours, self-help FAQs, and more. Learn more about Whatfix now!