Be persnickety about documentation

Training managers often forget the legal ramifications of documentation. Find out why accurate, updated information protects your enterprise.

OSHA citations have nothing to do with training, you think; OSHA only deals with unsafe equipment or practices. Think again. OSHA cited an energy company for safety violation infractions due to faulty documentation. Lawyers are on the bandwagon as well, with IT documentation suits hitting the court docket right and left. As a training manager, have you stopped to think about the legal aspects of the documentation your trainers develop? You should.

Training and documentation
In many cases, both in-house and contracted trainers are asked to document procedures to accompany the training material(s) developed. As a recent TechRepublic article points out, many technical writers and trainers aren’t even aware that some of the documentation they write can be held up to legal standards.

I was a trainer for a company that required me to review and update written documentation. Anytime there was a new system release, a change in staffing structure, or procedural changes, it was part of my job to make sure the changes were down in writing. Not only does this make good business sense, it helps protect the company from liability.

For instance, if one of your trainers conducted classes on a proprietary piece of software and distributed outdated instructions with steps out of order, your company could be held responsible for any resulting errors. Even typos are held under scrutiny.
  • Accuracy
  • No omission of any steps in the process
  • Logical progression
  • Language the user will be able to comprehend
  • Written so the user "gets it" the first time around
  • Verify everything—grammar, spelling, step-by-step process
(Adapted from The Art of Technical Documentation 2nd Edition by Katherine Haramundanis, Digital Press, Boston, 1998.)
Developing the training material is equally as important as making sure the information and documentation that accompanies it is technically sound. In a previous job, our eight-person training team consisted of five people totally dedicated to documentation and development, two full-time trainers, and one who trained, developed, and documented. So what’s the point? Accurate documentation is just as important as making sure the new training software you developed works without hiccups.

Read “Careful documentation critical in avoiding liability ” to help you and your staff avoid any problems with the documentation you create for your enterprise or customers.
What percentage of your trainers’ time is allocated to documentation? Please post your comments at the bottom of this page. If you have any suggestions for future topics, please send us a note .

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