You have a unique ability. It’s taken years (maybe decades) of trial and error, failure, and hands-on-experience to build the repertoire of knowledge that makes you be able to do your job or run your company.
So, how could you possible pass that knowledge on to someone else?
I’ve built my consulting practice, and now my software business on helping companies organize chaos and get things done, so that their companies live on beyond the people the build them. Here are some simple steps to documenting what you do, so that you too can move on to what’s bigger and better, and focus on your unique ability.
- Know your role(s)
If you’re a small company, chances are you wear a lot of hats. As you prepare to grow your company, it’s important that you realize exactly which hats you’re wearing, and which responsibilities they each entail, so that one day you can pass those roles off without an overlap.
I like to build current and future organization charts using Lucid Chart, a free online tool. Create one chart for where your company is today, and create one chart for all the possible roles that you see yourself and your coworkers filling, or needing in the future to support your growth. This is a great starting point for documentation, since you can check positions off one at a time as you document them and see the progress that you’re making.
- List your responsibilities
For each position on the org chart, there are dozens of responsibilities, tasks, and resources that need to be documented. Using Evernote or MindMeister, you can create free lists or mind maps that give you a sense of everything that each role encompasses at your company. Not sure where to start? Try Timelog for keeping a log of your daily activities right inside your browser.
A year before I sold my last company, I built a long list of all of my responsibilities so that I could systematically transfer them to other employees in the company. Think about the things you do daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually; that helped me create a comprehensive list.
- Create a training outline
Once you’ve identified all of the tasks and resources and created a list for each position in the company, highlight any that appear on multiple lists. Items that show up across multiple positions should be your first priority to document, since they are likely core systems that help your company operate.
Chances are, new hires and senior employees alike could benefit from topics like “how to view my pay stubs online”. The simple, low common denominators are a great place to begin your documentation efforts, since they’ll cover 80% of your company’s knowledge base in 20% of the effort.
- Decide how to communicate each topic
Maybe the only way you’ve trained people before is face-to-face, with hands on experience. Nothing replaces actually doing the task at hand, but the goal of documentation is to give your employees and coworkers a “getting started guide”, just like the instructions that come with a bed from Ikea or a new television.
With documented training, you can deliver most of the knowledge to get an employee up to speed without any hands-on attention, and this is absolutely necessary if your business is going to scale or sell. Then, you can focus the rest of your time on the high-level activities, shadowing, or orientations that fill in the gaps.
Documentation has many flavors – here are a few that may be appropriate for you:
- Photos – Actual photos to represent something in your business.
- Live Action Videos – Grab your iPhone and record an employee doing the activity you wish to document, without requiring the audience to be in person.
- Screen Recordings – Using tools like Recordit, you can record your desktop and show every click around a software platform, website, or digital process.
- Screenshots – Skitch, a free program by Evernote, allows you to create snapshots of your screen and embellish them with arrows, outlines, and text. Perfect for point out small details.
- Text – For everything else, a good old explanation will do the trick.
- Create a centralized training location
As you begin to build your training library, you want to make sure that it lives in one place. If you’re just getting started, Google Docs are a great way to build collaborative documents and keep them in one folder. If files are on your machine, create a Dropbox folder and share them with the team so that everyone has access.
My company, Trainual, offers a simple way to build organized curriculums and courses online, and restrict permissions for each topic so that its easy to assign content by role. And, companies with hundreds of employees can utilize sophisticated Learning Management Systems for a more enterprise-grade approach.
- Deliver, Track, and Keep Current
Unlike the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the past, how you do something today might not be how you do something tomorrow. So, avoid printing your training materials, unless you’re delivering them to temporary staff or customers that will reference them once and throw them away.
As you build you training, be sure to update often. In a growing company, new people develop new processes all the time, and you want to be sure to capture those best practices and update the rest of your organization to maximize efficiencies. One of my consulting clients hosts a monthly catered lunch at their office and invites employees to share new ideas and knowledge that they’ve built. This encourages a culture of progress, and you can’t beat that!
However you document what you do, believe me, it’s one of the best investments of time you can make.