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10 Errors That Ruin Process Documents

Process documents are a necessary part of employee training. They help your entry-level employees learn how to get from A to B in your workflow system, and introduce them to your task and software basics.

For any type of complex procedure or management systems, process documents are a must. However, this doesn’t mean they’re always done well. Indeed, many modern process documents fail to train properly train employees.

Here are ten of the most common mistakes your docs should avoid.

1. Spending too much time on the big picture

Procedure and process documents are designed to give employees the necessary information to complete specific tasks. There may be a place for a brief introduction or explanation, but the process guides are not the place to discuss the mission statement, why the company exists, and how everything fits together.

These documents exist to provide explicit information on how to complete tasks. Long introductions and stories about the history of the firm will bore new employees and make it harder for them to pay attention later on. Process documents need to stay focused.

2. Spending too much time on details

On the other hand, focusing too much on details is also a potential problem. The steps should be easy to read through and understand. Going into detail on every single step, each time it’s used, can also grow confusing and boring.

Give your employees some credit: Show them details, but do not constantly rehash and repeat.

3. Neglecting to include a “common terms” list

Process documents may include a lot of industry-specific lingo and phrases that employees may not be familiar with, even if they’ve worked similar positions in the past. Process documents are a good place to include common terms and their definitions, so employees can reference them when appropriate.

Otherwise, confusion may result.

4. Using only text

Process documents should include at least a few graphics or screen shots to showcase the steps and offer further information. Long blocks and lines of text will make it more difficult for employees to absorb all the necessary information.

5. Leaving out numbers

What goals do employees need to meet? Skipping the numbers can be dangerous. If there are sales numbers, production units, or similar goals that the company expects people to meet on a regular basis, that should be carefully defined in the documents so everyone knows what to do.

6. Relying on vendor packages

Many vendors include their own process documents for their software. But relying totally on these vendor-supplied offerings is usually a mistake.

The documents may not be clear, they may use their own confusing terms, and they may include a lot of unnecessary information.

7. Using two different sets of information

This may sound strange, but many firms use two different types of documents, such as a general procedures manual and a more focused processes document. There’s no good reason to have both.

Whenever possible, they should be combined into a single document that concentrates on giving employees what they need.

8. Lacking up-to-date information

Process documents should always include the latest information, and should be updated if any requirement, interface, or data regulation changes.

9. Avoiding any online components

Online components are great because employees can use them at any time and quickly refer back to review some concepts. You may not want to focus entirely on an online format, but you should make PDFs and other online components readily available for quick review.

10. Choosing the wrong content creators

Many of the process document design problems can be solved by picking the right content creators. Many employers may know the tasks but have zero talent for creating training materials. Finding people who can communicate well in the documents is vital.


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