Structure and Style: Eight Tips for Better Training Material
27 May, 2020
Did you know? The first few days in a new job have a lasting impact on engagement, satisfaction and productivity. In order to get a new employee’s best work, your training materials must be effective, immersive, and flawless. Even a few typos will raise the eyebrows of your most competent employees, set a poor example for your middlemen and women, and undermine your credibility as a company.
This article shows how to make sure your training materials are the best they can be so that new employees at your organization get the best start possible.
Build Better Background Knowledge: Teach Not Only How, But When and Why
Videos, shadowing sessions, instructional calls, and other training techniques can keep your training rigorous and fresh. However, you should also set employees up for success by writing step-by-step instructions to augment each training session. This “how to” guide is an easy and essential component to any training manual.
A common scenario that illustrates this is refunds; learning how to process a refund without instruction on when to process that refund is a disaster waiting to happen. So make sure to include a healthy balance of wisdom and operation in a “how to” guide in order to round out your training manual.
What to Do When They “Get It”: Build Assessments with Extension Activities
What do you do when an employee proves they’ve really got it? For truly effective training programs, it’s not enough to simply confirm employees can perform the basics of the job. Some employees shine so brightly in their first few weeks that it’s essential to challenge them to keep them engaged and invigorated.
To take truly engaged employees to the next level, you should consider extension activities. That way you keep their interest and their energy burning as fiercely as it did from day one!
Plan Assessments with a Growth Mindset
Not every employee will start strong. So what do you do when you realize a new employee hasn’t picked up what was intended? While some company’s answer to this is quick and brutal (“You’re fired!”), you can miss out on some of the best people that way (and it’s expensive too). To make sure you don’t lose slow-starting race winners, consider a “growth” mindset—that is, look for opportunities to reteach valuable skills in different ways. Consider including different teaching and re-teaching techniques to address a variety of learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, to name a few) to help close the knowledge gap faster for your new hires.
Hone Your Company’s Tone
Language is an essential mark of your brand. You want to make sure every one of your employees uses the strongest terminology to help distinguish your company from your competitors.
Companies spend time and effort determining the best language to use—and it’s important new employees get it right from day one. Should they say “customers” or “users”, “merchants” or “sellers”, “students” or “scholars”? Sloppy training materials result in sloppy trainees, so narrow your terminology to help trainees use the right language, right away.
The Minutia Matters: Demystify Abbreviations
Consider this acronym-filled sentence: “Welcome to Harmony, where we provide ADC services. You'll be on the QA&A committee: 5-stars is our goal.”
If the above abbreviations leave you scratching your head, good news! You’re not alone—this is a common experience among new hires. Fortunately, it has a simple and swift fix.
Remember: New hires don’t speak your language (yet!). Insiders to your business can walk the walk and talk the talk, but your new employees don’t have the necessary vocabulary to fluently speak the language of your business.
Make sure to define abbreviations the first time they appear so that new hires aren’t guessing at terms like “ADC” (Adult Day Care) and QA&A (Quality Assessment and Assurance). And hey, try re-reading that sentence above; it should make more sense now that we defined them for you!
Check for Antiquated Terminology
You can show your new hires that your company stays up-to-date with the words you choose. If, for example, your training manuals reference “MySpace”, “Napster”, or “Netscape Navigator”, they are definitely in need of more modern terminology!
Language evolves in other ways too.
It’s no secret that words can take on negative, racist, or sexist connotations over time. However, even language that a newly-initiated employee may not understand to be harmful must be kept up-to-date. For example, rather than mentioning a “handicapped parking spot”, it’s important to change that to “accessible parking spot”. That way, you encourage a culture of inclusion from day one.
Don’t Forget to Check Names, Titles and Brands
Mistakes made early on can create bad habits that follow employees for years. For instance, if you’re writing about brand names, your training materials must have the correct capitalizations—or your employees might just take your lead and Capitalize the Exciting Words that simply Sound Important—rather than the ones that actually are!
All it takes is one company brand inconsistently capitalized in a training document to set a new recruit up to get it wrong for years. Make sure to check the document carefully to make sure important industry terms are capitalized appropriately, that brand names are spelled correctly and consistently, and that the case in your titles reflects your house style.
After finishing the daunting task of rounding up all the necessary information to compile an effective training guide, often from multiple departments and/or content experts, the final step—editing that work—can feel exhausting.
Make Your Training Materials Flawless, Faster
It is time-consuming to review training material section by section, and check it for consistency, word choice, and excellence. Automating any steps you can will save you time, and help get your new hires started on the right foot, faster.
- Make sure every acronym has a definition (and even create a Table of Acronyms for you).
- Check names, titles and brands.
- Look for offensive terms you don’t want to include in training manuals.
- Check for out-of-date terminology.
- Choose preferred and consistent terminology.
- Find typos that spelling and grammar checkers will miss.
- And much more!
Cut your editing time down from hours to minutes! Once you’ve compiled and revised all your training materials, simply run PerfectIt, and it will help you streamline your training manual and unify your company voice.
Try PerfectIt for Free
Whether you’re revising old training materials or putting together new ones, there’s no better way to see the dramatic time saving that automation can offer you than running PerfectIt. There’s a free trial, so you can instantly save valuable time to focus on the content that really matters. Simply run PerfectIt once and you’ll have confidence that your training material is polished, professional, and ready for new hires. Get the free trial for PC or Mac here.