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How to Create an Operations Manual for Your Business

Human errors are inevitable, and they can be detrimental to your business.

Skip a step in the product development process, and you will end up with a defective product. Go wrong with the recruitment process, and you might lose talented candidates. Don’t follow the sales guidelines, and you will see potential customers switching to your competitor. 

Such grave mistakes can cost you dearly!

So, how do you prevent them from happening in the first place? 

A comprehensive operations manual is your answer!

This manual acts as a one-stop platform explaining the workflows and processes of various departments in detailed steps. Employees can gain quick assistance every time they are working on a task, performing a process, or are stuck in an emergency. 

While this reduces the unnecessary back and forth, the chances of mistakes also dwindle down, leading to a super-efficient workforce. 

This blog sheds light on all the details of an operations manual, right from what it is and why it is important to how to create one for your business. 

Let’s go!

What Is an Operations Manual? 

An operations manual is a comprehensive document comprising instructions on how to carry out standard business processes. It explains the ‘What, Why, and How’ of specific procedures and helps employees get things done with maximum efficiency. 

There can be different operations manuals for different departments. Marketing can have its own manual that defines processes related to social media marketing, content marketing, campaign monitoring, and much more. The sales team can have a separate manual explaining the protocols and processes to capture and convert leads. 

Why Is an Operations Manual Important for Your Business? 

The importance of an operations manual cannot be stressed enough. 

As a company scales, employee strength increases, and processes change. In an ever-evolving work environment, hand-holding employees to perform their jobs in a certain way is not practically possible. That’s why creating an operations manual is so essential. 

You can’t be everywhere to guide employees, but your operations manual can be. It walks employees through every step necessary to conduct a process or perform a task with zero errors. They can work independently without to and fro and do full justice to the job they have been assigned.  

What else? 

A well-structured process manual helps clear the confusion around what’s the best way to do something. Since all employees have access to the same standardized processes, there is more clarity, and mistakes are reduced to a minimum.  

Top 5 Benefits of an Operations Manual 

Let’s explore the 5 leading benefits you can reap by creating an operations manual: 

1. Increase Process Efficiency

As all your business processes are clearly explained in the manual, the chances of errors reduce significantly. By following the detailed steps, employees can steer clear of confusion and put their best foot forward at work. They will know the best route to get the job done, leading to higher efficiency and stellar outcomes. 

Read More: How to Create Process Documentation

2. Standardize Workflows and Processes Across Departments

Employees tend to assume things and end up making mistakes when there is no proper documentation of steps to follow while working on tasks. Creating an operations manual eliminates misunderstanding by standardizing all critical business procedures. All teams will be on the same page, and confusion will be nowhere in the picture. 

3. Aids Employee Training 

New employees have a tough time getting familiar with your organization’s working style, culture, and processes. An online operations manual can take half of the training workload off your shoulders by equipping new hires with constant assistance. The manual helps them thoroughly understand the processes you follow, so they can get up to speed in as little time as possible. 

Read More: Turn Employee Training Effortless With Training Documentation

4. Helps You Scale Successfully

As your company grows and processes change, the operations manual also develops with you. It securely stores all your business processes and other internal data to streamline overall company operations. You can also continuously update and improve the manual as your processes improve to maintain its relevance for employees. 

5. Increases Accountability

By stating the steps to execute processes, emergency response procedures, company hierarchies, and other essential information in the manual, you make employees fully accountable for their actions. They are crystal clear about what needs to be done and how, which prevents blame games, misunderstandings, and chaos in the workplace. 

What to Include in an Operations Manual? 

An ideal operations manual includes complete information about the business processes followed across departments. Below are the standard sections that must be included in an operations manual: 

1. Work Policies

Don’t confuse work policies with employee policies that are related to leaves, appraisals, promotions, etc. Business policies are your company’s standard work processes that are followed as a rule to achieve specific goals. For instance, not accepting payment through PayPal is a business policy, and employees are required to complete 7 hours of work time everyday employee policy. 

2. Business Processes

This forms a significant portion of your user manual. Your business can have scores of processes for multiple departments. You can use a flow chart to explain them clearly. This will break down complicated procedures into simple, easy-to-understand steps.

3. Hierarchy, Roles, and Responsibilities

Outline the organizational hierarchy from top to bottom. Explain who reports to whom and who is responsible for what. You can use flowcharts for the same.

ORG Chart for an Operation Manual

4. Emergency Response Process

An emergency doesn’t send an invitation before coming. It comes uninvited, and if your employees aren’t prepared, things can quickly spiral out of control. A company operations manual should include detailed step-by-step instructions regarding what to do in case of an emergency. 

For instance, in case of a technical glitch in your software, you might end up losing confidential information. In such situations, you don’t want your employees to think – “Does anyone remember the process to recover the lost data?” They can simply refer to your operations manual, find the emergency response procedure, and sort out the problem right away. 

Here’s an example of an emergency response procedure: 

5. Contact Information 

Next, your operations manual should contain the contact information of all corporate personnel. Getting in touch with the right people gets a lot easier when there is a well-documented list of all contacts. 

How to Create an Operations Manual in 6 Easy Steps 

Creating an operations manual is no big task if you are familiar with the steps to follow during the process. Let’s look at 6 easy steps to get you started on the right foot: 

1. Define Your Goals 

Do your homework right before beginning the process of creating an operations manual. This means before you start to work on the content, the objectives and goals you want to accomplish should be as clear as day. 

Ask yourself why you wish to create a manual encompassing well-defined processes. 

Is it to reduce the process errors frequently made by employees? 

Do you want a quick and easy solution for employee onboarding

Or is it to help your business scale with minimum hassles? 

Remember that an operations manual is capable of meeting all these objectives. Still, being clear about your ultimate goal sets the right path for the rest of the process. It helps you decide the content you should focus on and the amount of information to include to achieve positive outcomes. 

2. Give Your Manual a Logical Structure & Layout 

Before taking the plunge into content creation, determine the structure of the manual and keep it consistent across all articles. 

A logical structure with process-related information divided into broad topics and presented systematically in well-defined categories is all you need to make your manual easy to navigate. 

The starting point should be a homepage that instantly gives employees a peek into what they can expect as they dig deeper into the manual. 

The article structure should be simple and clear. Short paragraphs, bullet points, and a lot of internal linking make for beautifully structured articles that are easy to follow and understand. You can also add a Related Articles section at the bottom of each page and a thank you page at the end of the manual to make the structure even more appealing. 

Here’s an example of MobileCashier’s manual created using ProProfs Knowledge Base. The manual comes with a home page, a table of contents, and articles structured neatly.

MobileCashier’s manual created using ProProfs Knowledge Base. The manual comes with a home page, a table of contents, and articles structured

3. Add Flow Charts, Diagrams, & Process Maps 

Business processes are best explained with a combination of text and images. While written text helps you explain a process in detail, images aid in giving demonstrations of how a process should be executed. 

While crafting content for your business manual, ensure every article is accompanied by a relevant flow chart, diagram, or process map. This will help you visualize the business processes, so they are easy for employees to understand. 

Along with images, you can also work on the manual’s look and feel by using appropriate colors, themes, and designs that blend well with your brand. You can add your company’s logo and name and customize every inch of your manual to give it the desired appearance. 

Here’s a quick video on how you can customize your manual using operations manual software. 

4. Seek Contribution From Multiple Teams 

The purpose of your operations manual is to serve as a one-stop platform for employees to find process information from across departments – sales, marketing, HR, and others.

Creating such a comprehensive platform is a laborious task that requires the collective effort of multiple teams. 

To speed up the process and ensure that the manual contains the most accurate information, it’s good to have key employees from different departments on board. They know the processes in and out and therefore are better positioned to create valuable content that is of real help to employees. 

While bringing teams together, you can assign them specific roles and responsibilities for seamless collaboration. For example, while some employees can be contributors, others can take charge of the administrative or editing work, depending on their skills and experience. 

Here’s a quick video that shows how you can help employees work in collaboration to create your operations manual. 

5. Run a Rigorous Review Process 

As an internal documentation built for daily use, the operations manual must be reliable and free of flaws.  

While building the operations manual, remember that each article must pass through a strict review process, where multiple experts vet the content to find and fix errors before publishing it. 

A workflow review process is essential to maintain transparency regarding the status of each article and ensure that each content piece has zero errors at the time of publishing. A well-reviewed manual is essential to gain employees’ confidence and make them use the information without hesitation. 

Modern operations manual tools come with a built-in workflow review feature that allows you to set a status for each article and ask for reviews or suggestions from other teams.

6. Monitor & Improve Your Manual’s Performance 

While planning, writing, and publishing form a major chunk of the process, there is a lot that needs to be done after your manual goes live.

Once your operations manual is out there helping employees work efficiently, you need to keep a close eye on how it is performing. 

Are employees able to solve problems faster with your manual? 

Are they getting the right search results matching the keywords or questions they type? 

Are there any broken links that hamper the overall employee experience? 

Like these, there are several metrics that must be monitored to gauge the effectiveness of your operations manual. When you know your top and worst-performing articles, failed and successful searches, you can easily bridge knowledge gaps by making relevant modifications and additions to the content. 

Here’s another video that will guide you on how to assess the performance of your manual. 

All Set to Create Your Operations Manual? 

Employees need a helping hand when they get stuck at work or are confused about a process. 

An operations manual is that helping hand that guides employees on the right path and wards off any obstacles that might hinder their efficiency at work. 

Whether you are a small business planning to scale or a large corporation struggling to manage the company operations, creating an operations manual is imperative to keep the business running smoothly. 

To build the manual, start by setting the right goals. Create the operations manual outline, add content related to your business processes and bring all your teams together to contribute their know-how. Remember that it’s vital to review the manual before it goes live and once it does, keep replenishing it with the latest information. 

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and SocialPilot. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.