Top Tips for Trainers #5 – Writing a Training Manual  

Published on: Fri 18 September 2015 by Admin

Consider the use of the Manual

A training manual may be prepared to form a vital component of a long or short term formal training project The first part of preparing a training manual is to consider how the manual is to be used and what you need from it. There are various uses including, as a:

  • Trainer’s manual – used for the trainer/s to run a development programme. If the same programme is being run by several trainers it is essential to have everything documented to ensure consistency in terms of how the programme is run and the materials used across all deliverers
  • Introduction to a subject prior to delegates attending a development programme
  • Outline to be followed by delegates during a training programme or demonstration session
  • Reference document, summarising the content of a training programme and handed out at the end of a programme
  • General reference document to be referred to as clarification of how a task or skill needs to be carried out
  • Formal document used as a means to keep all training information together in one place, particularly essential for process or procedures training that may need regular updating and amendment
  • Job aid to provide step-by-step instruction to be used as a practical illustration of how to complete a task


Use the synopses as the blue print for the manual preparation include the:

  • Introduction – including the overall aim of the manual

The introduction is important and should clearly state the overall aim of the training programme and who the programme is aimed at. Try to consider if a third person picked up this manual, ‘would they know exactly what it was intended for?’

  • Orientation

After the introduction include a section on what the manual contains, how it is structured and how to orientate around the manual.

  • Training objectives

Ensure that the key training objectives are documented, including expected results that will be achieved and ideally, by when. Keep these broadly described and prepare them with the end in mind e.g. By the end of this programme, attendees will be able to ….

  • Lesson plans

The main bulk of the manual will be step-by-step breakdown of the lesson plans for each of the key learning points. Ideally you will also include the timing of each ‘lesson’ and the resources required. If a practical on the job manual, then include the equipment or any materials that need to be used or referred to.

  • Language and style

Use straight forward language and avoid any use of abbreviations or local/organisational jargon. You may know what it means; however, would someone else perhaps new to the organisation?

  • Evaluation

Include how each key learning point will be evaluated. This might include assessments, practical work-based assignments, mystery shopping, quizzes, 360 degree questionnaires and/or on-the-job observation.

  • Consider the shelf life of the manual

Of course add the date and manual version within the footer and/or front page, (adding whatever other detail you need as a reference). However, try to avoid putting dates within the material itself, particularly anything being handed out to learners. For example, when writing role-plays, scenarios, board games etc. Material that is clearly over 2-3 years old can only too readily seem outdated.

Make a note to revisit the content regularly to check for other things that maybe out of date such as reference to technology, products, services, policies and procedures, as well as other organisational changes.

Proof reading the manual

There are three main steps to proof reading a manual:

  1. When the manual is finished go back through the content, completing a small section at a time and check your wording. This is not to seek out errors, but to ensure that you have used the right words or that the content is not overly verbose
  2. On another day, ideally when you are fresh at the start of the day, seek out errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation
  3. Only when you are happy with it and consider it error free, then ask a colleague to proof it all.
  4. Chances are this will not be a wasted effort.

Pilot the training session / programme

If you have time on your side, pilot the programme or session using the manual and supporting materials as it has been prepared. Ideally, with delegates, or learners who are willing to provide constructive feedback on the overall design, approach and content, plus, feedback on any typing errors or mistakes in supporting documents.

On the occasions when you do not want to disclose to learners that the session is new, then ask a colleague trainer or manager if they can sit in on the session and provide feedback.