Everyone likes to think that they are indispensable, but the truth is they’re not. This was highlighted to me in a recent trip to the urgent doctor with a particularly bad back when I was informed that I should have two weeks off work to recuperate (and perhaps regain my ability to walk). “But I can’t!” I spluttered, “I’m the only one who works in my office!” to which my ‘sympathetic’ doctor coolly replied; “They will manage without you.” She must have read my look of disbelief because the next sentence out of her mouth was; “Well they would if you were dead, they’d just get on with it.”
At the time I thought it sounded a little harsh, but her words did actually make sense, but also got me thinking; “What if I did suddenly have to leave?” ok work would cope, as my doctor so rightly pointed out, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be pretty for anyone picking up the reins with no idea what the job entailed, no one to train them or no clue what was expected from them.
Fortunately for me, that thought was probably just a by-product of all the painkillers that were in my system as I have always had an operational manual – aka “The Office Manual” in my office. This green folder is the font of all knowledge when it comes to my role in the company.
I would love to take credit for its existence, but truth be known, it was already in place when I started. As I was originally a temp and therefore did not have any formal training, this manual held my hand, told me what to do and when, important things not to forget, showed me exactly how to work alien software programmes and basically was my trainer. That’s why I know it works. And works well. It was almost better than being trained by an actual person, it was clear, it was concise, it was step-by step and it was all written down for me to refer back to many, many times over the first year of my appointment.
As my role and responsibilities have changed over the years, so has the manual, ensuring up to date information was always available.
Every workplace could benefit from such an invaluable training tool. Granted, it takes considerable work to first pull all of the information together, but in the long run you will be saving yourself valuable time and money in training.
An Operational Manual frees up the time of others in the office as new recruits and temporary staff alike are able to refer to one source of information instead of relying on others for help. It aids the Kiwi mentality of pulling our socks up and getting on with things.
It means that if you are a sole charge in your office and suddenly have to be elsewhere and unable to work that you could essentially pull someone with the ability to read off the street and have them do your job for you.
It is also a useful tool for jobs that happen infrequently as a quick reminder as to how to tackle the task – for instance procedures that you may need to go through when your annual insurance renewal comes around.
A few tips for creating your own operational/training manual are as follows:
1) Try to include EVERYTHING that you would be expected to do in your current role. The easiest way to document this is write down everything you do from when you step into the office in the morning until when you leave at night. Then think about the recurring weekly tasks that you have to do, then monthly then annually.
I even went as far as to say how to log into the computer and where all the light switches for the office were. It may seem unnecessary, but put yourself in the shoes of someone walking in from the street.
2) Step by step – literally. Again, it may feel like you are teaching someone how to suck eggs, but in the worst case scenario you couldn’t guarantee that your replacement had in-depth knowledge of Microsoft Office or MYOB, so spell it out for them – be careful not to miss any processes out.
That is actually how I learned to use MYOB in the first instance or I’d probably still be attempting to print out my first balance sheet, 5 years on!
3) An easy to follow index/contents page. This is important, so the piece of information that someone is looking for is obvious straight away rather than having to trawl the whole folder.
Also make sure you title things clearly. If one section is about completing GST returns, call it “CompletingGST Returns”
4) Try to make your manual flow in an order that makes sense. You wouldn’t have information that you use everyday stuck somewhere at the back. Similarly you wouldn’t have how to complete a cashbook or creditors list before you had detailed how to make payments.
5) Make sure you are updating the manual with new information. I set aside one day a month to go through the office manual and update and insert where necessary. I also like to make sure that everything I have done is understood by others, so I get someone who has no knowledge of my role to look this over and try out a few sections.
6) Including a schedule is important. It’s one thing to know how to do something, but unless you are doing it at the correct time, it may all be for nothing. This is especially true when it comes to Government returns, no one likes penalty fees!
We all like to think that work would grind to a sudden halt in the event of our absence, therefore proving how indispensable we are, but with the use of an operational/Training manual life can go on without you! The beauty of this is that when you return, things should be running just as you left them – and you can still take the credit.