Human errors are inevitable, and they can be detrimental to your business.
Skip a step in the product development process, and you will have a defective product. Go wrong with the recruitment process, and you might lose talented candidates. Don’t follow the sales guidelines, and potential customers will switch to a competitor.
How do you prevent such grave mistakes from happening?
One of the most effective solutions is equipping your employees with the right knowledge that’s conveniently accessible. To achieve this, you’ll need a comprehensive operations manual.
Built using operations manual software, an operations manual is an encyclopedia explaining the workflows and processes of various departments in detail. It trains employees on how to perform their roles effectively, with minimum errors in the process.
Dive into this blog to learn everything about an operations manual, its benefits, and how you can create one for your employees.
What is an Operations Manual?
An online operations manual is a comprehensive document comprising instructions on how to carry out standard business processes. It guides employees regarding the ‘What, Why, and How’ of business processes and prepares them to put their best foot forward at work.
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 that explains the protocols and processes to capture leads and convert them into customers.
What Does an Operations Manual Include?
An ideal operations manual includes complete information about the various business processes followed across departments. Below are the standard sections that must be included in an operations manual:
1. Business Policies
Don’t confuse them with your firm’s 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 business goals. For instance, not accepting payment through PayPal is a business policy, and employees are required to complete 7 hours of work time every day is an 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 flowcharts 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.
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 go out of hand. Therefore, a business operations manual should include detailed step-by-step instructions regarding what to do in case of an emergency.
For instance, your software might experience a technical glitch, thanks to which you lose some confidential information. In such situations, you don’t want your employees to think – “Does anyone remember the process to recover the lost data?” You want them to refer to your operations manual, find the emergency response procedure, and sort out the problem.
Why is an Operations Manual Paramount for Your Business?
The importance of an operations manual cannot be stressed enough.
As a company scales, employee strength increases and processes expand. Managing multiple teams and processes single-handedly is out of the question, as it would lead to nothing but work inefficiency, complexities, and worst of all, poor quality work.
Hand-holding everyone 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 carry out a process with zero errors. This helps them work independently and efficiently, make minimal mistakes, and do full justice to the job they have been assigned.
What else? It clears the confusion around what’s the best way to do something. Since all employees have access to the same standardized processes, mistakes are reduced to a minimum.
Top Five Benefits of an Operations Manual
An operations manual is an asset to your business. It’s not merely a document but a treasure trove of valuable information that guides employees at every step.
Here are some of the substantial benefits of creating an operations manual.
1. Increases Process Efficiency
As all your business processes are clearly explained in the manual, the chances of errors reduce significantly. By following the steps mentioned in the operations manual, employees are better equipped to put their best foot forward, steer clear of confusion, and stay efficient.
Read More: How to Create Process Documentation
2. Standardize Workflows and Processes Across Departments
With a centralized document explaining all business processes, there is little to no scope of employees assuming things. It eliminates misunderstandings as all teams are on the same page as far as your business processes are concerned. Documenting the information prevents employees from creating their own versions of a process, leading to maximum efficiency.
3. Helps in Training New Employees
Providing training to new employees with an operations manual is a great way to induct them into your organization. The manual helps them thoroughly understand the processes you follow and get up to speed in as little time as possible. As all work processes are clearly explained, new hires can be efficient and work independently right from day one.
4. Helps You Scale Successfully
As your company grows and employee base expands, the operations manual 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 it as your processes change, ensuring that it stays relevant for your 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 of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, which prevents blame games, misunderstandings, and chaos at the workplace.
How to Create an Operations Manual
Thankfully, it’s not rocket science. You need to have a clear objective and follow the below-given steps to get your operations manual ready.
Step 1 – Define Your Goals
The first and foremost step is to do your homework right before beginning with the actual process. This means before you start to work on the content, be clear with the objectives and goals you want to accomplish in the end.
Ask yourself why exactly you wish to create an operations manual. 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 of 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 in order to accomplish the set goals.
Step 2 – Decide a Logical Structure For the Manual
Before taking the plunge into content creation, determine the structure of the manual and keep it consistent across all articles.
The manual should ideally have a logical structure, with information divided into broad topics and presented systematically across a bunch of categories and subcategories. The starting point should be a homepage that instantly gives readers a clue as to what they can expect as they dig deeper into the manual.
The structure of the articles 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. A related articles section and a thank you page at the end of the manual are good to make the structure even more appealing.
HighQ’s well-structured manual serves as an apt example here.
Step 3 – Start Creating Content
It’s finally time to kick-start the content creation process.
Writing an operations manual takes considerable time and effort as you can’t afford to miss a single step or a piece of information that employees might need.
The best way out here is to use an operations manual creator that has strong editing capabilities. That would turn this rather cumbersome process into something that’s easier to manage and execute.
So, start writing content from scratch with the online editor and style it as you want with the numerous formatting options available.
Suppose you’ve information scattered across word docs, PDF files, presentations, and excel sheets, worry not. That information won’t go to waste. You can directly import it to your manual using the import feature.
Before writing, ensure that you have a powerful operations manual content strategy in place to guide you on the best ways to build the best content. The strategy must list down a few rules that should be applied across articles, such as:
- Write action-oriented titles
- Keep the paragraphs short
- Avoid long blocks of text
- Use bullet points in articles
- Keep it simple yet detailed
This is an excellent way to keep the writing quality and structure consistent across the manual.
Step 4 – Seek Contribution From Multiple Teams
The purpose of your operations manual is to serve as a one-stop platform for finding processes related to different departments – sales, marketing, HR, and others.
But how can a single person be familiar with each and every process across all departments?
It’s not practically possible.
For the manual to have accurate process information, it’s good to have key employees from different departments on board. They know their processes in and out and so 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 to make collaboration seamless. For example, while some can be contributors, others can take up the administrative or editing work, depending on their skills and experience.
Step 5 – Manage the Review Process
As an internal document built for daily use, the operations manual must be reliable. That’s possible when it has accurate information sans any kind of flaws and inaccuracies.
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 and approval 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 important to gain employees’ confidence and make them use the information provided 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.
Step 6 – Measure & Improve the Manual’s Performance
Done with the planning, writing, and publishing part?
It’s not over yet. There is still a lot that needs to be done.
Creating an operations manual is a continuous process involving a series of improvements from time to time. It is not a static document. It has to keep changing to stay in sync with the evolving business processes and increasing employee expectations.
But is it really possible to improve something without measuring it?
The first step is to find out which areas are doing well and which need improvement. The insightful reports offered by modern operations manual tools are a huge help here.
They are AI-powered and give a holistic view of your:
✅ Top and worst-performing articles
✅ Failed and successful searches
✅ Total searches made
✅ Broken article links and a lot more
Use this data to evaluate how effective your online operations manual is in helping employees work smoothly, what your employees are searching for but not finding the answers to, and how reliable is the information your manual provides.
Once you have an idea of what’s working and what’s not working for your employees, it’s not that difficult to determine the changes you should make in the content.
This helps to keep the manual up to date and relevant for employees.
Operations Manual Templates
While creating an operations manual, you’ve two choices:
✅ Write everything from the ground-up
✅ Pick a template with a predefined format
What will you choose?
While the former is time-consuming and cumbersome, the latter is an easy-peasy way to get your manual ready in comparatively less time.
Operations manual templates are diligently designed to make content creation better and faster. They have a dedicated space for your logo and brand name, ready-made categories, and a set framework to help you get started right away. You can even adjust the color scheme, alignment, and other elements of the template to fit your branding.
All Set to Create Your Operations Manual?
Employees need a helping hand when they get stuck at work or are confused about a process.
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 business 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 refreshing it with the latest information.
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