While we hope good employees stay at companies, move up as promoted and train their replacements to perfection, the reality of it is even if they give two weeks’ notice, that’s an incredibly short time to find a suitable replacement and spend any quality time training them. Or even worse are the employees who do not give any notice, leaving a vacant position and a company scrambling to cover the position until it can be re-filled. Or maybe it’s just that an employee is on vacation and another is covering while they’re out.
One way to ensure a smoother recovery is to cross-train employees so multiple people are trained to perform work functions. The good thing about this is that it allows for multiple people to be trained to fill in where needed, however if any of those people leave, you lose your backup.
Another method is to document all company processes. This serves multiple purposes:
- It provides documentation of all the functions of the company so when positions are filled with new employees or if one leaves unexpectedly
- It allows managers to evaluate the workload of employees to ensure workloads are evenly distributed according to ability
- It gives the opportunity to evaluate current processes and make adjustments to increase efficiency
- It ensures that employees are doing what is listed on their job description
While documenting processes should be a vital function, keep in mind that employees may fear that by documenting their job functions, their employment is no longer secure. During initial implementation, it should be acknowledged immediately that the purpose of this is not to downsize, rather to create a more efficient workflow and have a company manual of how all job functions are performed. The employees are the experts of their positions, thus the most qualified to document what exactly it is that they do.
Employees may also suggest that they do not have enough time to document their processes. This is not an acceptable excuse. Allow employees time during their work day to work on this project. Additionally, if they document processes while doing them, it’s much easier to remember each step involved.
Documentation also serves as insurance for the employer since there is guarantee that employees will stay with the company. So while employees may feel a bit insecure about documentation, employers share the same worry about employees leaving. So this process is for the better of everyone and the company as a whole.
Implementation of a Documentation Plan
One you have briefed employees on the importance of documentation, it’s time to start rolling out implementation!
- Stress the importance of documentation and reassure it’s for the benefit of both the company and employees
- Set a schedule for the project with deadlines for completion
- Have all employees document their processes using the same format to maintain consistency and send an initial draft to a team member for review
- Once the initial draft has been reviewed, have employees update as needed and submit a revised draft
- Compile copies of all the procedures to be held in one place with copies available to the appropriate employees
- Update as necessary
Each process should include the following:
- Title describing the process name
- Purpose of why the procedure is performed and important
- Frequency describing how often the procedure should be performed (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, as necessary, etc;)
- Department(s) responsible
- Forms – any forms that are required and their location within the company (this could be supplemented with any software, machine or product requirements)
- Instructions detailing each and every step to complete the process
- Troubleshooting guide in the event any issues arise and how to resolve them
- Date of last revision
Download my free process documentation template here: Microsoft Word or PDF
When employees are documenting their processes, they should keep the following in mind:
- Explain the process from the very start; it helps to write each step while it is being performed
- Write as if someone who has never done this before will be doing this procedure – the more detail the better; assume they don’t know anything about the process
- Detail each step of the process with specific details
- Add annotated screenshots where necessary
- Include links if someone must log in to a website as well as the person/department who has login credentials or where this information can be accessed
- If something needs approval, note the person, position responsible for approving
- Include how the person will know the process is complete
- Test the instructions by having someone from another department follow the instructions and update the process to answer any questions they may have or anything that was missing
- Review the procedure periodically to make sure it is up-to-date and still accurate with any changes that may have occurred & update the date in the footer to reflect the most recent revision
- Keep a copy of the procedure in a place where employees can access it and send out revisions to those involved each time the procedure is updated
This process can only remain effective when implemented correctly and maintained. To fully succeed, all employees must do their part and must be held responsible for completing their portion completely and accurately. This is not something that can be done once and left; as processes change, procedures need to be updated to reflect the changes.
Once this project is done, your company will have a user manual for completing the tasks for each department and position in the company.
Also see: 5 Steps to Incorporate Lean Manufacturing Into Your Business
Fantastic! I wish we had this at my company, it would make taking
vacation time much less stressful!
Nice article! Very well written and easy to follow and implement. Smart!
Thank you! I started that idea when I was training employees because they all started doing the same job as initial training, then moved on to whatever they had been hired to do. I started documenting procedures as a reference, then found it was really helpful, especially for things I don’t did periodically so I wouldn’t forget. Part of my next job at a new company was to implement process documentation company-wide. I still swear by it because it’s a great way to make processes more efficient and it’s just smart to have a user manual for your company processes.