Who’s the most qualified person to write your training manual? Your most experienced employee? Most senior manager? They certainly know “how we do it” at your company.
But there’s actually an even BETTER choice. Are you sitting down? It’s not your most seasoned employee. It’s your most recent hire. Yes. They are the best person to write or update your training documentation. Try the exercise below to see the results.
“Documentation” is at the intersection of “how we have done it in the past” and “how you should do it”. No question that your long-term staff have many rich, valuable skills. They’ve seen risk, they know painfully well about exceptions and edge cases, they’ve had good intentions backfire, and they know how the simplest of actions become complex. But they’re also poorly equipped to scrap their way of thinking. Momentum is a powerful force.
Every time you train a new person, you have a choice: teach them the way you’ve always done it, or let them bring something new, a fresh perspective. The person doing the training doesn’t want their life complicated, so they show how they do it. And the new person typically won’t want to make waves or seem disruptive, so they don’t question the training.
Out of this is born the classic “we’ve always done it this way” mindset which enables newer, disruptive businesses to cause such devastation. It’s ironic that the damage they cause seems to happen “overnight” (look at Uber or Netflix) compared with the headstart that the incumbent market leaders had to adapt.
Does this mean your newest employee should create or update the documentation for their job even though they don’t know it? YES!
They’ll only put in the absolutely critical stuff, they won’t include steps that people don’t even remember WHY they’re doing, and they’ll hopefully ask questions like “why is that necessary?”
They’re already doing this. They’re taking notes during training. Their notes are the true documentation, not what has been passed down from previous generations of people who didn’t question the status quo. Exercise: Have your most recent hire document a process in their job. It will likely be:
shorter than previous documentation
“wrong” in that it doesn’t quite match the way they were trained
simpler – only addressing the big picture
Now before you jump in and start correcting them, ask yourself why it’s so different. Are they bad listeners? More often it’s because of a number of reasons:
your process isn’t intuitive enough
it requires too much memorization of exceptions and rules
redundant steps are forgotten or deemed excessive (e.g. double-checking information)
Here’s the big benefit of this exercise: you instantly learn what stuck and what didn’t. If a part of the job is truly unintuitive, it’s not the job of the new hire to learn all that weirdness, it’s your job to make it simpler! You’ll see process from a fresh perspective, and you get clarity on what is TRULY memorable or critical in the eye of the person doing the job. You can now decide if the new version is “right” – new hires don’t intend to miss details in training, but there’s a reason that not 100% of your documentation gets retained.
When new hires learn from day one that they are helping author the future of the company and not just doing what their predecessors did, they’ll truly be more valuable and energetic about their role.