Most of us are familiar with the conventional business manual. It’s a large, unwieldy binder that’s handed to new employees to help them get acquainted with their new jobs. Some are so old that the pages are yellowing and the information is outdated, outlining technologies and processes that haven’t been used in years.

Some employees look through the manual in their first few weeks, many never touch it. It’s rare that anyone uses it beyond their orientation. The manual is a dead document and serves little or no purpose, despite the fact that the company likely spent a lot of time and energy making it at some point.

So do procedures manuals no longer have a place in the modern workplace? Are employee attention spans to short and is technology changing too quickly for a manual to be effective?

Absolutely not. Procedures manuals still have a place – it’s just the format that needs to change. The way manuals are created, used and updated has to evolve to keep up with evolving businesses and technologies. Manuals can still improve productivity and save money, as long as they exist in a more effective and accessible format.

An online procedures manual is just the answer. You’ll get all the benefits of a physical manual and many new ones that can only come with a digital document. Read on to learn how online procedures manuals can change the way a business operates for the better.

Why Most Employees (and Businesses) Don't Bother With a Physical Manual

Physical manuals are a problem for employees. They’re bulky and difficult to navigate.

Picture this situation: an employee has a question about a company policy. If they want to find an answer in the procedures manual, they’ll have to first locate it, unless they have their own copy. After tracking down the manual at some random location around the office, they’ll then have to investigate the table of contents and possibly the index to find potential answers.

If they’re lucky, they’ll find their answer on the first page they check. If not, they may have to read through several articles before finding what they need. They may have to read several pages of unnecessary information, wasting valuable time. In some cases, the answers they find may be outdated. Many companies don’t have their manuals updated frequently, because it’s costly to reprint.

Most employees don’t take this route when they have a question. Instead, they’ll send out an email or ask a colleague in person. Looking through the procedures manual is a last resort.

It becomes a feedback loop: employees never use the manual so the management doesn’t put the time, effort and money into updating the manuals. As the manuals get increasingly obsolete, employees use them less and less.

Enter a Solution
Many businesses have decided to do away with their procedures manuals altogether. They think that they’re choosing the most cost-effective option, but they’re actually missing out on the many benefits of having a manual, including saving money and increasing productivity.

An online manual can become a living, breathing part of a company. Employees can search for what they need to know and find it quickly instead of paging through a paper manual. An online manual can fulfill the true purpose of a procedures manual – to become a resource for everyone in the company.

Benefits of an Online Procedures Manual
One of the biggest benefits of an online manual is that it’s always accessible. There’s no need for your employees to rummage around the office to locate it. They can access it from their computers, tablets and smartphones. If your employees have internet access, they can consult the manual.

While you may only have a few copies of a paper manual, all employees can have access to an online manual. It can truly be an integral, useful part of your day-to-day work instead of something that sits on a shelf.

Online manuals are much easier to update. Since there’s nothing to be printed, you just go into the document and make changes where needed. You can update it as often as you like with very little fuss. You can make big changes, such as when your company adopts a new system or small changes, such as a different way to handle a difficult customer.

Whether your company has an existing manual or you need to create one from scratch, an online manual is easy to create and implement. You can get the entire team on board and let everyone have a say in what goes into the manual. Each member can detail every aspect of their role, because no one knows their job better than them.

A manual that’s a company-wide effort is more accurate and more likely to be useful, as it’s likely to have lots of actionable advice instead of someone else’s interpretation of a certain procedure or situation.

Making Working From Home Easier

Even as the pandemic is nearing its end, many companies are planning to utilize a work from home model more frequently. With employees working remotely, companies need an online procedures manual more than ever.

With your employees working from different locations, you need an easy way for them to access your business’s policies and procedures. An online manual lets you employees find what they need quickly without having to send emails and make phone calls. They can get an answer and get back to work.

Things can change rapidly when you’re working from home, so an online manual makes it easy to update your procedures quickly and from anywhere.

Parting Thoughts

The way we work is different, so why should manuals change to keep up with the times? An online manual is an ideal way to bring your business into the future while also allowing your team to stay consistent, productive and informed.