Tango Blog
Process Documentation: Tips, Tricks, and Templates from a People Ops Pro

Process Documentation: Tips, Tricks, and Templates from a People Ops Pro

A Tango-branded illustration of a process document.
Table of Contents
Friends don't let friends learn the hard way.
Create how-to guides, in seconds.
Try Tango for free

If you haven’t seen “process documentation” written in happy, shout-y capitals followed by an exclamation point—you haven’t met Jordyn Rarick yet.

Spend three minutes with her, and you’ll realize Jordyn has found what she loves, what she’s good at, what she can be paid for, and what the world needs. 

As the People Operations Coordinator at Marqeta—and as someone who has spent the better part of the last decade immersed in HR operations and executive administration—Jordyn knows her way around employee lifecycle and process building. 

This summer, we managed to convince Jordyn that hosting a process documentation strategy workshop for the Change Enablers Community would be fun. Way more fun than soaking up the sun with her soon-to-be-wife Breanna on a gorgeous afternoon in LA. Who got the better end of the deal? Tough to say, but one of us walked away with an engaging workshop and a wealth of practical tips too good not to share more broadly.

Want to experience [the joy that is] Jordyn at full wattage? Watch the video. ⬇️

Running low on time? Here's Jordyn’s playbook, complete with the resources referenced throughout the recording.

Setting the stage: Documentation then vs. now

Quick context to help you drop in: The Change Enablers Community is full of training, operations, and enablement professionals eager to connect with peers, learn from experts, and discover resources to guide their teams to success. 

If you’re still on the fence, we see you. Process documentation may have a bunch of benefits (more on those below), but what about the drawbacks?

Documentation to date

Historically, creating any kind of documentation has been: 

  • Tedious. 😴 Explaining how to do stuff in software—in excruciating detail—and using Snagit to take 50+ screenshots isn’t, you know, the most exciting work in the world.
  • Time-consuming. ⏳ Taking hours to document a single process feels like a wasted effort, because it’ll only be a matter of weeks before the process changes and it’ll be time to update your static PDF or re-record your video. 
  • Thankless. 😤 After all that [manual] effort, your documentation hardly ever gets used or appreciated like it should.

Consuming documentation (via traditional training) has also been equally frustrating, because it’s usually:

  • Hard to find. 🔍 Weeding through long videos, unrecorded meetings, winding chat threads, archived emails, outdated wikis, and disorganized knowledge bases wastes time (and forces your users to break flow).
  • Hard to trust. 🤔 Outdated knowledge is like having no knowledge at all.
  • Hard to apply. 🆘 Traditional training typically isn’t delivered in the context of a real-world task (which doesn’t make it very actionable).
  • Hard to retain. 🤷 Oh hey, firehose of boring information your users *might* need four months from now.
  • Hard to love. 🫣 ICYMI, here’s the truth about training guides.

A better way to capture knowledge (and drive process adoption)

Like many of our workshop participants, Jordyn found Change Enablers after finding and falling in love with Tango—a way to document any software process as you click through each step and spin up a stunning how-to guide. In minutes, not hours.

"Tango is a lifesaver for me. Full stop."

-Jordyn Rarick, People Operations Coordinator at Marqeta

The elevator pitch ends here, we promise! Now that we’ve (hopefully) fielded any objections to process documentation in the first place, let’s switch gears and talk about the bigger picture.

Process documentation as a blueprint for business success

Jordyn kicked off her workshop with a question: Why should we document processes at work? 

While she could have done a 30-minute presentation on the value of process documentation alone, she decided to zoom in on the advantages that have been most impactful during her lived experience at Marqeta. 

Six reasons why your company should prioritize process documentation.

1. Consistent baselines 

If your company has 20 different people completing a process in 20 different ways, what’s really hard to think about? Auditing, archiving, updating, or improving it.

"You can't build on something without a foundation."

-Jordyn Rarick, People Operations Coordinator at Marqeta

2. Higher accountability 

When knowledge lives exclusively in the heads of a few top performers, it’s easy for others to miss critical steps within a workflow, take shortcuts, and pass the buck for mistakes made. 

Without knowing who’s responsible for what, it’s nearly impossible to understand all the major players, wrap your head around end-to-end processes as they exist today, and figure out 1) what needs to be created, and 2) what can be optimized.

3. More scalability 

If you work in HR/People Operations, your ability to make an impact is directly tied to your ability to 1) drive efficient growth and 2) adapt to inevitable changes. 

Process documentation gives you a starting point for deploying solutions at scale—and increasing your company’s capacity for more strategic work. (Not to mention your own!)

4. A single source of truth for the most critical processes

Without [consolidated] process documentation, it’s easy for FAQs and expert insights to live all over the place. Over time, the information people need to do their jobs and companies need to thrive gets lost in people’s desktop folders, online drives, Slack threads, email chains, etc.

5. Less knowledge hoarding and more knowledge sharing

Institutional knowledge is invaluable, especially when it comes to the more nuanced tips and tricks subject matter experts (SMEs) tend to accumulate over time. 

Say your SMEs *aren’t* disciplined about capturing how key processes should be done, and at some point, they get new jobs. When they leave, all the things that only they know how to do will leave with them. 

Needless to say…it’s pretty tough to scale expertise without the people who have it.

ℹ️ Did you know?

According to a study by HR Daily Advisor, as much as 42% of any job is known only to the person with that particular job.

6. Increased flexibility

Jordyn couldn’t stress the importance of this one enough—especially for companies with remote or flex-first work policies.

If you document your processes, what becomes a lot less friction-filled? Collaborating with teammates in different geographies and time zones.

Process documentation is a big unlock for businesses—especially high-growth, work-from-anywhere companies that need to be nimble to be competitive.

A three-pronged approach to building a process documentation strategy

There’s clearly a host of reasons to double down on process documentation. And yet…recent Tango research suggests 71% of organizations have less than half of their processes documented.

At first—due to sheer volume—capturing even the most basic processes may feel overwhelming. To start strategically vs. somewhere, Jordyn recommends:

  • Identifying which processes are directly linked to business outcomes (and starting with those!)
  • Breaking your process documentation strategy down into three phases
Three phases to execute a new process documentation strategy, according to a people operations pro.

Here’s a customizable project tracker template to help you get organized as you move through each phase. 

  • In the Phase 1 section, you can fill in tasks involved with scoping your specific process document, like identifying your primary points of contact and rounding up all existing documentation and resources.
  • In the Phase 2 section, you might add some tasks to help you schedule SME interviews and a few feedback sessions on early iterations of your documentation.
  • In the Phase 3 section, you can keep track of all the moving parts associated with finalizing your process document and getting it out into the wild.

Here’s an example of a project tracker for a smaller process and a larger process.

Let’s dig into each phase in more detail. 👇🏼 

Phase 1: Researching and planning

Take it from Jordyn: If you knock Phase 1 out of the park, Phases 2 and 3 will be ~100% more likely to be successful.

One of the biggest skills in HR operations is the ability to zoom in and out. In this case, you need to get as close as you can to the details in order to step back, develop, and ship a fully documented process. 

Bonus: Learning as much as you can about the purpose of the process, who’s involved, what resources are available, etc. will increase your credibility with SMEs and stakeholders right off the bat. 💪🏿

A Tango-branded callout featuring a quote from Jordyn Rarick on the value of understanding your end users when creating process documentation.

Phase 2: Information gathering

Creating specialized documentation to enable people to execute complex tasks is challenging—especially when you aren’t an expert yourself. 

“It takes a village” is probably about right—and explains why Jordyn recommends building in a buffer to this phase. Of the three, it usually takes the longest.

Part I: Interviewing SMEs

Chances are high that you’ll need to work with an SME to draft your process documentation. 

If you're working with an SME for the first time, there’s also a good chance that they won’t have had much practice breaking down steps they know by heart into instructions that anyone can follow. Without having to tap them on the shoulder or ping them for additional context.

"Capture as much as you can from during your SME interviews—and then eliminate anything that your end users don't need to know.

It's much easier to trim a more comprehensive process document than it is to suss out which steps might be missing."

-Jordyn Rarick, People Operations Coordinator at Marqeta

Other tips for conducting successful SME interviews

  • Approach your SME as a highly collaborative partner
  • Lean into your expert’s preferred working style
  • Minimize the number of SMEs you consult
  • Give them a plug-and-play process outline to get the ball rolling
  • Remind them to act as if no one has the technical knowledge they do
  • Remember that the outcome of the process is just as important as the process itself
"The ideal scenario is your SME hands this template back to you, and you immediately uncover the 'why' behind a specific process—in addition to the what, where, when, and how."

-Jordyn Rarick, People Operations Coordinator at Marqeta

Want to make a copy of Jordyn’s SME process outline in five seconds flat? There’s a Tango for that:

Show new CSMs the ropes, in seconds

Part II: Drafting and testing your documentation

Fast forward to a much more refined version of the initial process outline your SME hopefully handed back to you.

Are there any steps you can simplify? Omit altogether? Clarify? Run through the process yourself and see if you’re successful. To vet your documentation even further, ask a few (equally non-expert) friends to do the same. 

One word to the wise? Don’t forget about all the reasons why people typically don’t like documentation

Now would be a great time to see where you can replace any walls of text with a Tango. 😁 

In case you’re new to Tango: you can eliminate much of the pain you may have previously associated with creating process documentation with the “capture” tool.

With Guidance, you can tackle the other half of the equation: making process documentation easier for your users to find, trust, follow, apply, appreciate, etc.

When your end users click on the “Guide Me” button for help completing a real-world task, you’ll be able to:

  • See who’s using your how-tos, how often, and where they’re getting stuck
  • Pinpoint usage and improvement opportunities
  • Take the guesswork out of your guides and see what’s working and what’s not
  • Improve your process documentation over time

Phase 3: Tying it all together

You’ve done your homework, interviewed the experts, and created and tested your template several times. What’s left, at this point? Two things.

Part I: Structuring your final process document 

You want to think about presentation and effectiveness even more carefully now. Ideally, your final format will be on-brand and easy to:

  • Share
  • Access
  • Follow
  • Edit/improve

Another good box to check? Whether your end users will experience your process document as a one-stop shop. Here’s an example in Google Docs, from Jordyn and her team.

Note: If you’re using Tango to create your documentation (💘), you can embed your how-to guides directly into popular tools like Coda, Confluence, Notion, Guru, SharePoint, and Zendesk. Any updates you make to your original documentation will be reflected everywhere else—so no more version control issues. 🙏🏼 

Part II: Adapting the inputs as needed

It goes without saying that processes change all the time.

The more diligent you are about revisiting and auditing your process documentation, the more effective (read: valuable) it will be. 

Jordyn recommends setting up a regular cadence to ensure your process documentation remains current, and when possible—updating any outdated instructions as soon as they go out of date. It’s a lot easier to swap in a new screenshot and tweak one step than it is to rebuild a completely moot process document from scratch!

Impact (individually and at large)

At some point (ideally early in your career!), making an impact at work goes beyond your individual achievements.

Doing meaningful work becomes less about what you’re able to put your name on (the most highly adopted process document in company history 🔥) and more about the shifts you’re able to help your organization make over time. 

Which is more valuable: delivering one stellar process document, or building a process documentation strategy others can emulate, driving a 98% success rate on critical business processes, and surveying your end users to find they’re 3x happier after six months? #BeLikeJordyn

P.S. Looking for more intel about process documentation? Check out our must-have guide for 2023—with even more templates. 🕺🏽

The bottom line


Keep in touch

We'll never show up
empty-handed (how rude!).

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
This is some text inside of a div block.