Five tips for producing best-practice training materials

The process of documenting procedures and best practices tends to be pushed aside in favor of higher priority (or less labor-intensive) projects. Here are some tips for creating training materials with a minimum of effort.

Whether you're responsible for training people to do new jobs, use computer software, respond to client calls, or do any number of other tasks, chances are that -- formalized or not -- there are certain best practices your department follows to ensure that the work is done as efficiently and as uniformly as possible. Unfortunately, those processes often go undocumented, making training an ad hoc, sometimes inconsistent, undertaking.

The good news is that you can lean on a few Office apps to implement a more organic process for generating training materials. Here are a few tips for pulling together your best practices into resources you can adapt, distribute, and modify as needed.

1: Create a best-practices notebook

The best practices you have developed probably didn't just pop into your head one day. You may have worked with a team -- perhaps over a long period of time -- to consider the best ways of accomplishing the process and to determine the shortest distance between two points. For example, consider a call for technical support in your IT department. The process could go something like this: The call is received and logged; a case number is assigned; a category is selected; the request is routed to one of the support techs charged with that category; the call goes into a queue; and the receiving tech responds to the call, files the tech report, and closes the case.

Whether the process is long or short, old or new, create a OneNote 2010 notebook to store the best practices you want to use as the basis for your training. Set the notebook up as a shared notebook so that all the folks on your team can add their own thoughts and suggestions as you're consolidating the content.

2: Build your training on approved processes

Once you've reached some kind of consensus on the best practices you want to use, you can build a presentation from the content in your OneNote notebook. PowerPoint 2010 enables you to open your OneNote notebook alongside the developing presentation. You'll get to choose which notebook -- and even which section within the notebook -- to open. You can then copy and paste the content, use the resources you've gathered, or simply use the notes as prompts to create the slides for the training (Figure A).

Figure A

You can open your OneNote notebook alongside the presentation so you can use the approved content to build your training resources.

3: Create handouts from the same material

After you bring your best practice content into the PowerPoint presentation, you can use that presentation to create handouts for your trainees. PowerPoint includes the Create Handouts in the Save & Send tab, which enables you to choose several formats for the final Word document (Figure B).

Figure B

You can save the presentation as handouts in Word.

4: Assemble a training manual

With the handouts from your presentation saved in Word format, you can add a cover page, a table of contents, an introduction, and any necessary content to set up the various procedures for the best practice you're documenting. If you are planning to include several scenarios in one manual, create sections to accommodate each practice. You can also create parts pages to separate sections so that trainees can find what they need easily. Once you finalize the document (remember to have others on your team review it), save it as a PDF to be emailed to trainees or included in a downloadable kit prior to the training.

5: Post it to your team site -- and share

When you've finalized your best practice content, post it where your team can access it easily. This might be a folder on a shared drive or a place in the cloud, such as a SharePoint Online library in Office 365. Invite feedback from your trainees so that you can easily update and revise the training as needed. Over time, you can build a library of best practice training materials so that your staff will always have access to the most effective procedures for their business tasks.

Additional reading

By Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 P...