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How To Build an Effective Training Manual in 2023 [With Templates]

How To Build an Effective Training Manual in 2023 [With Templates]

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💡 What is a training manual?

A training manual is a set of instructions that helps people use a tool, run through a process, and/or complete a task effectively and efficiently.

Does the highlight of your day involve training your team to help them build skills or learn new technology? Then this one is for you. 

Whether you're onboarding a new team member or implementing a new tool, having a training manual is key to getting your team up to speed. 

Just like documenting processes, training manuals not only help people complete tasks, but they also have the power to improve team productivity, ensure compliance, increase individual employee satisfaction, and help deliver better results.

Want to create a training manual that your team actually uses? In this guide, we'll go over the six essential steps to create an engaging training manual and get you started on your own with a free template. 

Four reasons why you need to create a training manual.

1. Set a goal and audience

Before focusing on what will go into your training manual, consider the big picture and decide: 

  1. What you want to achieve with your manual 
  2. Who it will help 

First, have a clear objective in mind. Think about the process you're documenting and what you want to achieve. For example, maybe you want to create a training manual on how to pull an end of month report in a specific software. 

Second, who will be using your training manual? If your answer is "my team," go a layer or two deeper. Ask yourself: 

  • Who are the people involved and what are their roles?
  • What are their levels of expertise?
  • What context will they need?
  • How do they like to learn?
  • Where are they likely to get stuck?
  • What problem(s) are they looking to solve?
  • Are there other barriers can you remove? 

The answer to these questions can help you tailor the content of your training manual so it's most useful to your target audience. You'll know what to focus on, what language to use, how detailed to be, and the best way to deliver the final output. 

For example, if you're creating an onboarding training document, you might opt to use simple language, be specific with each task, and add images and charts for clarity.

2. Pick a format

Your next step is to pick a training manual format. 

There are a few you can choose from, including: 

  • PDF guides
  • Step-by-step how-to guides
  • Paper booklets
  • Online courses
  • Video tutorials
  • Knowledge base articles
  • Workbooks

Think about the content you need to deliver and how you can best explain it to your audience. Then consider which tools and resources your team has access to, and how you can help them take back time.

If you want to teach employees how to use a specific piece of software, for instance, we suggest creating a guide with screenshots or a video tutorial. Both of these formats include a visual element, which will make it much easier for users to grasp information.

💡 Tango Tip:

To appeal to team members with different learning styles, consider mixing and matching more than one preferred format. Some of the most effective training manuals contain step-by-step instructions, workbooks, AND video tutorials.

3. Decide what needs to be included

You’re almost there! Next you have to decide how to structure your training document. 

This is also the time to gather all the knowledge and resources you want to add to your training guide. To make that easier, let’s touch on some key elements of a training manual: 

  • Introduction: a snippet of what your training manual will cover 
  • Instructions: how people should use the training manual 
  • Content: the bulk of your manual, including tasks and processes 
  • Follow-up steps: any tasks or steps that need to be completed after 
  • Resources: any supplementary material or other helpful documents 

It may also be helpful to create an outline for your training manual so you know exactly what you'll need. 

Start compiling the information, including helpful guides, images, and videos. Involve your teammates in creating the training manual, too, so they can help you find ways to improve processes and remove unnecessary tasks. 

4. Create the content

Now for our favorite part (and maybe yours, too): creating content for your training manual! 

To help team members understand your training manual, organize your main topics strategically. You can organize the most important information in a few ways, including: 

  • By type of task: Group processes by type of task or by team roles.
  • By most important processes: Start with the most used or important processes, then move on to the less important ones. 
  • By the order tasks should be completed: Start with the task that needs to be completed first, then continue with the subsequent tasks in order.

Once you organize your manual in a way that's easy to follow, you can add images, screenshots, videos, and charts, plus a resources and FAQs section. This will help everyone follow the training manual even more effectively, and self-serve if/when they get stuck. 

The six steps on how to create a training manual.
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5. Share the manual

You followed all the steps and created a training manual that empowers your team and raises the documentation bar. What's next?

First, give yourself quiet credit. By creating a training manual for your team, you’re equipping them to:

  • Learn a new tool, skill, process, and/or best practice
  • Dodge avoidable mistakes that may compromise compliance
  • Become more autonomous and confident
  • Become more productive
  • Do their best work

As an added bonus, you’re leading by doing when it comes to facilitating continuous learning and championing a culture of documentation.

To make sure everyone can make the most of the newly available knowledge, add it to a shared folder or knowledge base and send a note to your team to let them know where to look. 

Once you’ve distributed the content and given your training manual its moment in the sun, it may feel like your job is done. But we’ve found it worthwhile (understatement!) to track adoption, usage, engagement, and effectiveness over time.  

If your team doesn't use your documentation—or worse, they do use it but performance doesn’t improve—that’s a good signal that some adjustments may be needed. Can you make your text more scannable? Simplify complex steps? Add more visuals? 

6. Ask for feedback

For a better idea of exactly what to improve, ask your teammates questions like: 

  • How would you rate the current training manual on a scale of one to five (where one = not very helpful and five = extremely helpful)? 
  • What could have been explained more clearly?
  • What information could safely be omitted in an updated version? 
  • How would you suggest we improve the content?

Feedback is hard. None of us want to hear that something we created is less than perfect—especially if we've put a lot of time and effort into making it. But crowdsourcing constructive feedback is an invaluable way to ensure your training manual is as useful as possible.

So, send an anonymous survey to your team or ask for input face-to-face. Then adjust your training manuals based on common themes and recommendations.

Note: when procedures change or a tool gets a new feature, make sure to update your training manuals to reflect those changes!

Tips for creating a training manual your team will use

At this point, you know how to create a training manual. Now we'll show you how to do one better. These tips will turn your average manual into an engaging guide that sets people up for success on the first try.

The do's and don'ts of creating a training manual.

Make your training manuals more valuable by: 

  • Annotating images: Annotate your visuals so your team knows exactly what to take away from each image and screenshot.
  • Keeping them accessible: Your training manuals will only benefit your team if they’re easy to find. Add a copy to your new hire onboarding, drop it into a shared Dropbox, Google Drive folder, or workspace, and/or email everyone a link. 
  • Making them interactive: Make your training guide engaging by adding quizzes, surveys, and discussion questions. 
  • Updating them regularly: Assess and update your manuals often—especially when processes change or opportunities to streamline arise.
  • Avoiding information overload: Boil information down to essential elements, then cut the rest. This will make your training manuals easier to read and the information they contain easier to remember.
  • Using a template: Leverage templates to create standardized training manuals in less time. 

Speaking of training manual templates, here's one you can download for free: 

The bottom line

There are many reasons you might want to create a training manual. Whether you want to increase productivity, accelerate institutional knowledge, or onboard a new employee with ease, you can do it all more efficiently with great documentation. 

Training manuals help make knowledge more accessible and learning on the job as simple as it should be. They also empower everyone to improve processes and contribute to operational excellence at a company level. 

The best part is that training manuals aren’t as big of a bear to make as they used to be. With tools like Tango, you only need a few seconds (and zero special skills!) to spin up beautiful and effective training manuals. 🤩 

The bottom line


What's the difference between employee handbooks and training manuals?

An employee handbook goes over company policies and employee expectations; it can also go over employee benefits and disciplinary measures. A training manual gives step-by-step instructions on how to complete a project or task.

How do you make training manuals interactive?

You can make training manuals interactive by adding quizzes, discussion questions, or surveys.

What is the purpose of a training manual?

The purpose of a training manual is to deliver instructions on how to perform a task or process. It can be used for multiple reasons—for example, when onboarding a new employee, when someone transitions to a different role, or when you introduce a new tool.

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