How to Create Better Work Instructions
Chances are, your existing work instructions are text-heavy, paragraph driven documents that are notoriously tough to get through. It’s time to rethink that.
The average American adult reads at a ninth grade level, write instructions in plain language and use bullet points, so your workforce can comprehend quickly and easily.
Always lead with the most important information. Cut out the narratives and anecdotal information to get straight to the meat of your documentation.
Teach, Don’t Describe
Think of your audience like a classroom full of students.
Don’t just demonstrate how a process is supposed to work.
Use instructions that teach the reader as they progress through each step.
Break complex procedures down into easily followed steps.
If you have too much content for one step, it’s a sign you need to break it up even further. Phrase things like you’re teaching the process to someone who’s never seen it before.
Work instructions can become an integral part of how employees upskill within your organization. Take advantage of your controlled procedures by making them the foundation of your education and training programs.
Start sentences with a verb. This gives procedures an active voice and frames instructions as a command, rather than a suggestion.
Make Accessibility a Priority
Access to documentation is the biggest obstacle to an employee’s success. When information is difficult to find, they are discouraged from following established standards and create risk by trying to figure things out on their own.
Work instructions should be simple to find and easy to access in any environment. Those that are tethered to large paper binders, or hidden in complex content management systems, restrict the flow of information.
Make your work instructions as accessible as possible by delivering them in a digital format.
Digital documentation tools are easily searchable and can average QR codes to instantly access specific documents.
This provides real time savings and ensures that workers on the job have access to accurate information from anywhere.
A different approach is to convert your work instructions into interactive (HTLM5) files with hyperlinks, video, music and animated effects. These files can be accessed via mobile devises as tablets and smartphones.
Standardize the Format
Whichever format you use to present your work instructions, keep it consistent. It’s not uncommon for authors to use different styles to present information within a company, but it can be prevented.
Stick to an agreed-upon format and follow it. This allows employees to spend less time deciphering the document and more time learning how to do the work.
A standardized format also creates a clear baseline for employees to suggest process improvements.
Choose a format that supports bullets or numbers to break up the text.
This makes it easier for employees to comprehend.
With these added visuals, the new employee was able to perform the entire changeover in just 90 minutes, without supervision — a massive cost and time savings.
These work instructions become critical in having new hires perform a process correctly and instantly reduced downtime costs.
Demonstrate with Visuals
People are visual learners. Supplement written work instructions with visuals to communicate faster and with more accuracy.
Whenever possible, use visuals that demonstrate the action clearly. Images can also be useful in the form of diagrams or schematics.
Videos also help you quickly demonstrate movements that can’t be captured in an image. This also helps mimic and scale one-on-one training environments.
Simplify the Language
The average American reads at a ninth grade level. Write work instructions that are simple and can be easily understood by a wide audience.
Traditional work instructions get bogged down with technical industry jargon and run-on sentences, it’s time to focus on trimming the fat.
The average person spends just seconds scanning the words on a page, absorbing only about 20% of the text. The more concise you are, the more information employees will retain and apply to their work later. This also has the added benefit of internationalization. When sentences are simple and clear, they become much easier to translate and share across languages.
Front-load or highlight useful details. This ensures that the most essential information is communicated.
Employees frequently have to adapt their workflows to solve day-to-day problems, causing work instructions to quickly become outdated and neglected.
To get more out of your work instructions, make sure all documented procedures reflect the current best practices. Employees need to trust that information is accurate and current. Perform routine audits and ask operators if they’re still following the documented procedures.
By creating work instructions from the floor, it be comes easier to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement in the process.
Our platform enables better employee performance by improving how you create, control, and communicate procedures.
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