As a way of introducing the tasks and skills involved in creating technical communication products, MastersinCommunications.com interviewed professionals in the field regarding a project they helped complete. The project and their advice is included in the following case study. Every communication product and project should include some combination of the following steps.
Identify Goals, Audience, and Scope
A quickly growing non-profit organization realized they had a need for consistent training for new employees as they began bringing on more staff members. The communication manager was given the task for this project. Her responsibilities included both internal communication with staff members as well as external communication with stakeholders. She was told her goal was for new employees to get to know other staff members, the organization’s departments, and its official policies and procedures. The training would be offered to each new employee on their first day of work.
Strategy, Planning, and Research
First, the communication manager met with the administration of the non-profit to gather information on what they imagined the final products would look like, what information they wanted to include and exclude in this training, and when the training would be offered. Then she sat down with the HR director to get specific details on what information could be offered in the training, and what should be given directly by either their supervisor or HR. Finally, she met with staff members who had been hired in the past six months to find out what would have been helpful for them to know on their first day.
After these meetings, she sent a written proposal to the administration for their review and set up a meeting for discussion and approval. Her plan was as follows:
- Each new employee would meet with their direct supervisor for 30 minutes when they arrived on their first day for a casual conversation, with coffee or tea and muffins, about the job responsibilities and the project they would be involved in.
- The employee would then be taken to a small training room to watch an interactive e-learning training program that would continue to be available to them afterwards. The training included:
- An overview of all the departments in the organization
- The staff members in each department, their photos, and their job titles
- Information about the company culture (e.g. who makes coffee, the best nearby places for breakfast and lunch, who locks up at the end of the day)
- Information about specific policies. In this section, the employee would refer to printed materials supplied.
- After that training was completed, the new employee would be taken to meet with the HR staff to answer questions and sign any necessary documents
After discussion and approval, including any budgetary needs, the communication manager moved to the next phase of the project.
Using the information gathered from her previous meetings, she began to outline the script for the interactive training and sketch out any illustrations or graphic information that would add to comprehension. Realizing that most people feel overwhelmed on their first day, she designed the training in small, simple sections. Then she took the training, as developed so far, into a meeting with the recent hires for their feedback. After adjusting the training, she began to put the information into an e-learning software tool (Articulate Storyline 2). Finally, she created the printed documentation that would be included in the final section of the training.
Test, Review, Revise
Once the training had been completed, the communication manager put the software up on the organization’s intranet and emailed the staff with a request to test and review it. She gave them five business days to complete the testing with one reminder two days before the deadline. After receiving the feedback, she prioritized the information and met with administration to review their comments. Once the editing was finalized, the training was ready for new employees.
Production and Evaluation of Product Effectiveness
The final version of the training was available on the intranet for any of the staff to access. The printed documents were copied and placed in a welcome folder with a welcome gift certificate to a local, nearby coffee shop. Each new employee was then given a brief survey on whether the training was helpful and what information would have been helpful to include. The communication manager reviewed these documents every six months and, after administration approval, updated the training.
Retention and Disposition (Revise, Archive, Destroy)
As new employees came on and current employees left, the section regarding staff photos and job titles was updated immediately. The training was scheduled to be reviewed by the communication manager and administration (including HR director) every 18 months.
Employee retention is a significant issue for many companies. An easy and informative integration for new employees has been shown to be one effective tool. Facilitating employee training through e-learning programs can be an enjoyable experience, and can integrate the basic skills of every technical communicator with knowledge from the L&D field (learning and development).
Additional Technical Communication Case Studies:
In order to help riders navigate the logistical issues involved in an international mountain bike race, as well as the course itself, a technical writer and a usability tester research and develop a detailed guide to the event.
In this case study, a technical writer is tasked with building an online tool to help employees use a new software system. This project involved interviewing staff members, designing the tool’s interface, and writing step-by-step instructions.