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Consistency - The Key to a Successful Business Procedure Training Manual

24 Feb, 2003 By: J.J. Morrison imageSource

Consistency - The Key to a Successful Business Procedure Training Manual

Have you ever wondered why your employees often stop doing things the way
they were trained or start skipping necessary steps in a procedure? Have you
ever suddenly discovered a process in your business was just not working the way
it was when the procedure was implemented… only to find it is being done
completely differently from the way it was designed? Have your ever asked why
and heard the response, "We saw no reason to do that step, so we just
started leaving it out." Sure you have. Frustrating, isn't it? So, what
goes wrong?

Sticking to Consistency It is imperative to understand that if there is no
consistency, there is no company. Consistency in personnel training, consistency
in sales programs, consistency in accounting, consistency in service agreement
renewals, consistency in monthly reports, consistency in service procedures.
Consistency in everything. Consistency not only makes for a successful business,
it creates a pleasant working environment and thus a happy staff.

Consistency starts with detailed written procedure training manuals for every
position and activity in your business. You may have an office manager who knows
the "ins and outs" of every account and exactly where every paper clip
in your office is located. That is wonderful. But what happens if this person is
suddenly and unexpectedly lost from your business? Your business is suddenly and
unexpectedly floundering around trying to pick up the pieces. It may be months
or even longer before your office is back on track. Procedure training manuals
must be in written form and everyone in management must be familiar with these
manuals and know where they are located and how to use them.

Making the Most of Manuals Most companies do not have good procedure manuals,
if they have any at all. And most managers really don't understand the value.
Have you ever tried to train a new employee and found that you yourself were
guessing at the overall procedure and the details of how something is to be
done? Most of us have; we wing it. Vital steps are left out. This is frustrating
for the trainer, confusing and unfair to the trainee, and overall, very bad for
the company.

If you had a properly managed procedure training manual for every position in
your company, life would be grand. Every facet of your business would run
smoother, adding new staff would flow like clockwork, and the loss of a staff
member would not be so devastating. A good custom designed training manual
deserves a golden binder.

Let's run through an example. Probably the easiest job to train in your
company is that of a receptionist. If you have a training manual or have been
contemplating writing or buying one, pull out your material for the position of
receptionist. Or, if you do not have a training manual, make a list of what you
would train a receptionist to do. Now look at our suggested training list and
see what you left out. This will be fun and very enlightening.


1. The receptionist is to be provided with all of the pertinent company
information: Company name, address, telephone, fax, and email address; the full
name, position or department, telephone extension, e-mail address, pager or cell
phone number of each employee.

2. The receptionist is to be given clear information as to who is the immediate
supervisor of their position and the chain of command.

3. The receptionist is to be instructed on the acceptable dress code for day to
day operations and informed that more formal dress may be required for special
occasions, presentations, or demonstrations, etc. that may take place in the

4. The receptionist is to be informed of their expected work schedule,
attendance and tardiness policies and the appearance standard to which their
workspace is to be maintained.

5. The receptionist is to be informed about breaks, when lunches are to be taken
and how to secure coverage of the position before leaving the post.

6. Telecommunications training:

    a. How does the telephone system work? Hold, transfer,
transfer back when not answered. Pager, voice mail, speakerphone, headsets,
battery chargers, answering machines.

    b. How is the telephone to be answered? "Thank you for
calling ABC Company. This is (name). How may I help you?"

    c. How many times may the phone ring before it must be
answered? A maximum of three rings.

    d. What is the appropriate way to transfer a call? "One
moment and I will transfer your call."

    e. What is to be said if a call is transferred back?
"I'm sorry, Mr. Jones is away from his desk. May I transfer you to his
voice mail or take a message?"

    f. What is to be said if the person is not in the building?
"I'm sorry, Mr. Jones is not in (or Mr. Jones has stepped out of the
office). May I transfer you to his voice mail or take a message?"

    g. What is to be said if instructed to hold all calls?
"I'm sorry, Mr. Jones is in a closed door meeting. May I transfer you to
his voice mail or take a message?"

    h. What is to be said to an irate customer calling and
demanding to speak to the owner? "May I say what this is in regards
to?" If the problem relates to a specific department, transfer the call to
the appropriate manager, "I will transfer you to the manager in charge of
that department." If the customer insists on speaking with the owner, offer
to take a message or transfer them to voice mail.

    i. How is a personal emergency phone call to be handled?
Locate the person immediately, politely interrupting a meeting if necessary, and
relay the message.

    j. How are several calls to be handled at one time? Customize
this to your individual application.

7. Message Center training: How are messages to be taken and relayed?

    a. Written messages: What sort of format is to be used? If a
standard message book is to be used, where are additional books located? Where
are messages to be placed?

    b. Voice or electronic messages: Are messages to be placed on
voice mail or email as well as, or in lieu of written format?

    c. Pagers and cell phones: Are messages to be relayed to
pagers or cell phones? Will there be certain times when the receptionist will be
requested to forward messages to pagers and /or cell phones immediately?

8. Walk-in clientele

    a. How are walk-in customers to be greeted? "Good
morning/afternoon! Welcome to ABC Company. How may I help you?"

    b. Depending upon what the customer needs, who is to be
contacted and how? An intercom request for a sales person is fine, where as an
accounting issue warrants a phone call to the appropriate extension.

    c. The receptionist is not to leave their area to hunt down
the staff member needed to assist the walk-in customer.

9. What additional duties are required of the receptionist in your business?

    a. Distributing delivered mail.

    b. Folding mailings and stuffing envelopes.

    c. Typing or word processing.

    d. Data entry projects.

    e. Making copies.

    f. Filing. g. Accepting and signing for deliveries.

How did your training list stack up? You probably missed a lot of important
areas. And the process of creating a training manual becomes more challenging
with the complexity of the position in question. A bookkeeper has to follow many
more detailed procedures than a receptionist. Remember, every little detail
counts! Don't forget any specific training areas that may be unique to your
company. A "one size" training manual does not necessarily "fit
all". Customization is vital to the success of training manuals.

So, the first step in achieving consistency in your business is a set of
well-written procedure manuals. The best training manuals in the world won't be
successful, however, if the management is not working "smart".

Management Issues The job of managers is to get production done through use
of their staff. The managers should not be doing the work themselves. Your
managers should be spending their time training, overseeing and inspecting their
departments. After staff members have been trained in their positions, their
managers must consistently inspect the work. You and your managers must
understand the number one manager's rule: People never do what is Expected, they
only do what is Inspected.

What this means is that every manager should be using the written procedure
manual as a check off list to inspect every system in their department on a
consistent basis. When they do this, they will discover little changes or left
out steps before they become major problems.

Entropy is the law of the Universe. Energy always goes to a less organized
form. Anything that is not consistently maintained, decays. So if you want
consistency, not entropy, to be the law in your business, invest in written
procedure manuals. Train your entire staff with them and have the managers
constantly inspect the work. When good procedures are followed consistently,
good business and thus profit cannot but help to follow, consistently.

A final word about the selection of procedure manuals…I am sure somewhere
along the line you have purchased a computer program that didn't work quite
right on your particular operating system. Procedure manuals are no different.
You must select the procedure manual based upon the best system available for
your application in order to achieve the maximum productive results.

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