How To Write an Effective Work Instruction Template: A Step-by-Step Guide
Last Updated on November 3, 2023 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
If you’re looking to create a detailed guideline that’ll help your employees execute their tasks effectively and accurately, then you need a work instruction template.
The reason is simple:
A work instruction template provides step-by-step instructions that you can hand over to anyone in your organization to guide them in carrying out their day-to-day tasks correctly, even when no one is there to monitor them.
While it’s a good practice to have a work instruction template in your company, creating one from scratch isn’t always easy.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to write a work instruction template for your organization.
Not only that, but I’ll also share with you some free work instruction templates that you can start using immediately, depending on your industry.
Work Instruction Template – Full Guide Index
Chapter 1: What is the Purpose of a Work Instruction Template?
In this section, I want to highlight why a work instruction template is important for your business, and the uses and purposes of one.
What is a Work Instruction Template?
A work instruction template—also known as a work guide, user manual, or job aid—is used by companies and organizations to show its employees or workers how a particular task is performed.
This can be likened to the step-by-step instruction you follow when you want to fix your car’s air conditioner (AC), which includes checking the AC compressor to confirm if it’s working, purchasing the correct type of refrigerant, refilling the refrigerant, and so on.
Why is a Work Instruction Template Important?
If you want to provide your employees with detailed and specific information on how to perform any task effectively and without any hassle, then you need a work instruction template.
A work instruction template is handy in providing both detailed and specific information to execute and perform any activity smoothly.
A lot of organizations don’t put a work instruction template on the front burner because they feel that a lot of processes and procedures used in the company can be understood by the employees after rigorous training or simply don’t have the time to do so.
Having a work instruction template for your company will be a game-changer for a few reasons:
Effective employee onboarding and training
A work instruction template will help you train your new employees better. This makes it easy for them to understand why specific tasks are performed and how they can do the same.
Build an internal knowledge base
When you have a work instruction template in place, it becomes easier to build your company’s knowledge base. That way, your employees will have more knowledge about how things work in the company.
Reduces human errors
If you don’t have a work instruction template in your company, there’s a likelihood that employees will make mistakes often. However, with one, everyone will know exactly what to do at each point of performing a task in the company.
Helps you save more time
If you want to save more time for your business in the long run, then you need a work instruction template. This is because it helps your employees become more productive and efficient in their daily tasks.
This chart by Gluu shows the return on investment (ROI) with work instructions.
What Are the Uses and Purposes of a Work Instruction Template?
With a work instruction template, you’ll find it much easier to break down complex procedures in your company into an easy format that employees can understand and implement through specific steps.
This is critical for companies and organizations where it’s important to maintain the standard operating procedure.
Not only that, but it’s also useful in other sectors such as manufacturing, security, engineering systems, human resources, and so on.
Here are some other uses and purposes of a work instruction template:
- Helps to train new employees and ensure that established employees are constantly updated about the company’s processes and procedures
- Reduces the risk of human errors when employees are working on a specific task
- Ensures that all employees in a department follow a specific procedure to execute their tasks
- Breaks any form of communication barrier among employees in the company
- Ensures that everyone in the company abides with the regulatory standards guiding it
- Outlines how employees can perform complex tasks in a simple step-by-step instruction
- Helps the company to implement a consistent method for all processes in each department
- Explains what each part of a process or task in the company entails, such as the responsibilities, tools, requirements, and so on
This video shows you why a work instruction template is important and what you stand to gain in your company by doing so.
Chapter 2: Free Work Instruction Templates
If you have a work instruction template that you use in your organization, then you’re setting it up for long-term success.
While this seems like common knowledge, it’s possible that you have not created one for your company because it feels like a herculean task.
As a business owner, you might also be busy working on other things that help your business grow and haven’t yet created a work instruction template for your employees.
To ease the pressure off you, we’ve collated free templates based on different industries, which you can easily download, tweak, and implement in your company.
In this chapter, we provide you with fifteen work instruction templates for different businesses and industries which your employees can use to become more efficient and accurate.
Project Work Instruction Template
This work instruction template comes in handy for anyone involved in industry-specific and general projects.
With this template, you show your employees the objectives, actions, and sequential tasks that must be carried out to execute the project successfully.
That way, you communicate better with them and complete the projects in record time.
Construction Work Instruction Template
If you’re in construction, you’ll understand that verbal communication to laborers isn’t always practical.
With this work instruction template, you’ll find it easier and useful when working with laborers in your construction firm.
That way, you can get more work done by your employees.
Storage Facility Work Instruction Template
This work instruction template is useful for anyone who operates a storage facility.
It shows you the steps your employees must follow when storing food items. This will prevent contamination and spoilage.
Safety Work Instruction Template
If you want to guide your employees in specific industries on how to perform a task in a safe environment in a step-by-step format, this safety work instruction template will help you greatly.
This template outlines the key safety protocols that must be adhered to in the workplace, such as hazards, closing procedures, and emergency plans.
Manufacturing Work Instruction Template
This work instruction template outlines the steps that employees should follow in a manufacturing company.
If you’re a project owner, this template shows the framework and instructions that your employees can use when carrying out a specific task.
It identifies the scope of work, step-by-step procedure, and processes to finish a certain task in a manufacturing firm.
Assembly Work Instruction Template
This template shows you the details of an assembly process and also documents it from start to finish.
With this work instruction template, you can complete the assembly work process within a short period.
It covers the changes in the work instructions, and also monitors if you’re working on multiple projects.
Engineering Work Instruction Template
This template is useful for anyone who’s working on any engineering project.
Using this template, you can provide a step-by-step process that your employees can follow when carrying out any engineering activity.
This helps you to communicate better with all your employees and manage any engineering projects that you may have seamlessly.
Visual Work Instruction Template
A visual work instruction template shows you exactly how to complete a certain task using images and illustrations instead of text.
If you have a detailed process that might need a lot of explanations, then this visual work instruction template will come in handy.
ISO 9001 Work Instruction Template
If you want a work instruction template that complies with the ISO 9001 Certification and other quality management standards, then this is exactly what you need.
With this template, you won’t be scared of not meeting the internationally recognized standards of quality management.
Pharmco Products Work Instruction Template
This work instruction template is great for pharmacy product companies.
It shows the step-by-step design instructions and guidelines that your employees can use to complete specific tasks accordingly.
Earth Science Enterprise Office Work Instruction Template
This template outlines the work instructions, policies, and procedures for Earth Science Enterprise.
Forest Certification Work Instruction Template
If you’re in forest management, then this work instruction template will help you greatly.
It outlines the exact process you can use to improve forest management practices.
This includes gathering information, reporting information to the forest management, and how you can review it.
Isolation Work Instruction Template
This template contains a form that must be completed in accordance with the requirements of the WHS Energy Tag and Lockout Procedure (PRO-00014).
The isolation instructions in this template must be reviewed by an authorized isolator before the isolation is performed.
Warehouse Work Instruction Template
This work instruction template shows the step-by-step procedure for warehouse and inventory management according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Laboratory Work Instruction Template
This laboratory work instruction template is specifically designed for avian influenza diagnosis.
It shows the step-by-step procedure and process that health officials can use to diagnose this disease.
While this template is mostly for avian influenza diagnosis, other laboratories can also use it for their own purposes.
Chapter 3: How to Write a Work Instruction Template: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you prefer to create a work instruction template for your employees from scratch, you might be wondering how you can go about it.
In this section, you’ll learn how to write a work instruction template, and the important things you should include in a work instruction template.
What Does a Good Work Instruction Template Look Like?
The essence of a work instruction template is to show your employees how to perform their tasks effectively. What this means is that it should be clear and not ambiguous.
If you end up confusing your employees with the work instruction template, then the goal of creating it is defeated.
Here are some important things you should have in mind before writing a work instruction template.
The first and most important condition that a work instruction template should meet is clarity.
This means that your writing should be clear, and anybody who reads the template should immediately understand what you mean.
So, when writing a work instruction template, you should avoid jargon, complex sentences, verbose words, unclear technical terms, and so on.
When writing a work instruction, simplicity should be the watchword. You can achieve this by using active voice and making sure that it’s written in such a way that every employee understands it.
The laboratory work instruction template is a good example of one that fulfills this condition. It clearly shows the purpose, materials, and procedures to take when diagnosing any form of avian influenza.
Your work instruction template cannot exist in isolation. What that means is that you must make it easily accessible for all your employees.
You can also use a tool such as SweetProcess to host your work instruction template, procedures, and processes.
As a business owner, you’re not just creating a work instruction template for yourself but for your current and future employees.
What this means is that your employees must participate actively in the process. Ask for their input, and let them explain exactly how they perform any specific task in the company.
The end goal is to ensure that your employees believe in the credibility and accuracy of the template.
An example of this condition in action is the Warehouse Work Instruction Template. Since it’s developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is known all over the world as a credible organization in this regard, your employees are most likely to believe in the accuracy of the template.
Having a consistent work instruction template is also important. Hence you should make sure that the font type, font size, images, layout, and so on are consistent throughout.
The storage facility work instruction template is a good example of consistency in action. There’s a consistent use of italics throughout the template.
These days, we consume more visual content compared to text. So ensuring that your work instruction template is visually appealing will help your employees understand it better.
According to Insivia, viewers retain 95% of the information they watch in a video, compared to 10% when they read it in text.
Some of the things you can include to make your work instruction template visually appealing include images, videos, screenshots, charts, and so on.
The visual work instruction template, which we provided in this article, is visually appealing. It shows all the safety steps that must be followed when climbing wooden poles in still images.
Familiarity with the Job
To get the best results with a work instruction template, you must make sure that it’s written by someone who understands how everything works.
This is because only the person who understands the ins and outs of your company’s operation can write the instruction.
If you have a large team with different sub-groups, you can assign the task to the most experienced person in each department.
How to Write a Work Instruction Template
When writing a work instruction template for your employees, here are ten specific steps you should follow to create one that’s clear, useful, and helpful.
Step 1: Write a Clear and Easy-to-Understand Title
The first step you should take when writing a work instruction template is to ensure that the title is clear and easy to understand.
This is because the title is the first thing anybody reading the template will see.
Since the work instruction template shows your employees how to accomplish a task, one of the headline formats you can use for this is the “How To” format.
For instance, “How To Fix an AC Compressor” is a good example.
Step 2: Write a Descriptive Introduction
The next thing you should do when writing a work instruction template is to include a descriptive introduction.
This will guide your employees and help them understand what the template is all about, and what they need to do with it.
This introduction will provide more context about the task, identify the employees responsible for it, and outline how the task should be completed in a step-by-step guide.
In the case of “How To Fix an AC Compressor,” a short introduction could be something like this:
“This work instruction template shows you how to fix an AC compressor in the company. Team members in the technical department should use this guide whenever there’s a need to fix an AC compressor in the company.”
Step 3: Describe the Purpose of the Task
There must be a reason why you’re creating a work instruction template for your employees.
This is where you should include it in your template. Doing this will help you identify the purpose that it serves in the first place.
One of the best ways to do this successfully is by answering the question “why.”
This helps you to understand what you’re doing better and includes more details for your employees in the next steps.
Some example questions you can ask in this case if you’re writing a work instruction template for fixing an AC compressor include:
- Why should you fix an AC compressor?
- Why is fixing an AC compressor important?
- What steps should you take to fix an AC compressor?
- Who should be responsible for fixing an AC compressor?
Step 4: Describe How To Do the Task
This is the most important step in a work instruction template.
If you don’t show your new employees how to complete a task, chances are they won’t know how to do it.
In this case, the first thing you should do is to mention all the materials needed to complete a task.
In the case of fixing an AC compressor, some of the materials needed to complete the task include:
- receiver drier
- orifice tube
- and so on
The next thing is to break down how to complete each task in an easy-to-follow direction that is clear and understandable.
If possible, you can use images, videos, and charts to explain this step better:
Step 5: Format for Easy Reading
When creating a work instruction template, always put yourself in the reader’s shoes.
This is why you should format your work instruction template so that it’s easy to read and understand.
Some of the things you can do to make this possible are:
- Use heading tags to make the title and subtitles stand out
- Make sure the instructions are sequential
- Bold each step so that it stands out
- Use color filters where necessary
- Include numbered and bulleted items
- Use images where possible
Step 6: Validate the Information
Once you’ve completed steps one through five above, the next thing to do is to validate the information you’ve included in the work instruction template so far.
To do this, you should reach out to key stakeholders in the company, especially experienced employees, who have a firm grasp of the workings of each department.
Also, you can consult subject matter experts to verify if all the steps in the instruction are current and accurate.
Step 7: Rewrite and Simplify
Chances are that the first draft of your template might not be perfect.
Hence, you shouldn’t just use the first draft as the final template.
A good practice is to leave the template for some days after creating it before you go ahead to edit it.
When doing so, make sure that you reread the document from scratch to ensure that everything makes sense.
If you notice any confusion whatsoever, then you should rewrite it to be readable.
Rewrite the work instruction so that a twelve-year-old can read and understand it.
Step 8: Add References
When necessary, you should add references at the end of your work instruction.
That way, you can provide your employees with more sources that they can visit for further reading.
To do this, you can either add an appendix or footnotes at the end of the template.
Step 9: Test It Out with a Colleague
Before sharing the work instruction template with your employees, it makes sense to test it out with a trusted colleague first.
All you need to do is to ask the colleague to use the work instruction you’ve created to perform a specific task.
That way, you can know if any parts of the template are confusing or should be clarified further by you.
The focus here is to see if the work instruction template actually works.
If there are any errors or additions, then you should add or change them in the final copy of the work instruction template.
Step 10: Save and Share
This is the final step to take when writing a work instruction template.
Since the template isn’t meant for your use alone, then you should save and share it with all your team members.
That way, anyone can easily access the template whenever they need it.
This video shows you how to write a work instruction that your employees will love:
A lot of people usually confuse these three terms—process, procedure, and work instruction—to mean the same thing.
In this section, I’ll highlight the similarities and differences between them.
The Relationship Between Processes, Procedures, and Work Instructions
According to the9000store, a process is a high-level, strategic method of control, with objectives, specifications, and broad resources needed, while the procedure adds more specifics such as responsibilities, specific tools, methods, and measurement.
On the other hand, work instructions are step-by-step guidelines to implement the process and procedure, which is focused on those who are doing the actual work.
A process states what needs to be done and why. For this to happen, it makes use of resources to transform inputs into outputs.
A procedure states how the process needs to be done. It contains elements that make this a reality.
A work instruction explains how to carry out the procedure. It’s basically a more detailed version of the procedure.
The Differences Between Processes, Procedures, and Work Instructions
To understand the differences between processes, procedures, and work instructions, you should think about it in layers.
The highest level of this layer is the process, followed by procedures and the work instructions.
The table below highlights the major differences between a process, procedure, and work instruction.
|Uses input to deliver the intended results
|Describes how a process or activity is performed
|Contains detailed instructions on how to carry out an activity
|Answers the questions “what we do”, “who does it”, “where it takes place” etc.
|Answers the questions “what we do”, “who does it”, “where it takes place” etc.
|Outlines the detailed directions to accomplish a specific task within a process
|It can be used in more than one role
|It can participate in more than one role
|Focuses only on one instruction at a time
|Covers all the activities required
|Explains how to carry out each activity but doesn’t provide more details about how it’s done
|Shows all the details of the steps to follow to complete an activity or task successfully
|It transverses different departments and units in a company
|It can be used across multiple departments or only 1 business unit
|It can be used for only 1 business unit
|Orchestration of the work
|Uses a mandatory method
|Follows a mandatory guidance
|Must have well-defined and measurable objectives, inputs, outputs, activities, and resources
|Provides a general description of how to meet a process requirement in a company but doesn’t include the specific details for execution
|Contains the step-by-step detail that cannot be put into a procedure because of its limited scope
Chapter 5: How To Display a Work Instruction Template
After creating your work instruction template, you may be confused about the best method to use when displaying it to your employees.
In this section, you’ll learn why you should create a visually appealing work instruction and how to create one for your business.
Why You Should Create a Visually Appealing Work instruction
Studies have shown that humans tend to retain knowledge more when they interact with visuals instead of blocks of text.
In fact, according to scientists, humans respond to visual data faster than any other type of data. In most cases, the human brain processes images around 60,000 times faster than written words.
This means that if you create a visually appealing work instruction, your employees will find it more engaging than when you just provide them with written words only.
While most business owners still prefer to create blocks of texts for their work instructions because it’s much easier, taking it a step further and ensuring that your work instruction template is visually appealing will make you stand out.
Wondering how to go about it?
How To Create a Visual Work Instruction
The difference between a visual work instruction and a basic work instruction template is the fact that the former makes it easy for your employees to understand the instructions in the document.
If you’re in a department that requires you to explain how to perform a task using graphics such as product development, engineering, and so on, then you should use visual work instruction.
When creating a visual work instruction template, here are some steps that you should follow:
- Document the steps in a written form
- Determine the kind of visuals you want to use
- Format the work instruction using the visuals
Here’s a breakdown of each step, one after the other.
1. Document the steps in a written form
As mentioned earlier, the major difference between a visual work instruction and the basic one is the visuals.
That said, when creating a visual work instruction, the first thing to do is to document the steps in a written form.
This is because you cannot create visuals in isolation. So having the written steps documented first will help you greatly with the visual components.
For instance, if you’re writing about how to onboard a new employee into your project management system, make sure you write down each consecutive step you take, such as: installing the software, how to sign up successfully, navigating the dashboard, etc.
2. Determine the kind of visuals to use
Once you’ve outlined the steps in a written form, the next thing is to determine the kind of visuals you should use for each of these steps.
This is because different steps have visuals that will work well for them.
Below are some types of visuals and how to use them in your work instruction.
Still images: If you want to create a visual for a physical product, this is the best one.
Screenshot: If you want to create a visual for a software or website, then using a screenshot is your best bet.
GIF: If you want to explain a short process (less than 10 seconds), then you can use animated images for them.
Chart: This includes bar charts, pie charts, graphs, and so on. This is a perfect choice when dealing with statistics, data, and sets of numbers.
Video: This is unarguably the best form of visuals. You can use it to explain any process you want. If you’re using your mobile or computer screen, you can also do a screen recording.
3. Format the work instruction using the visuals
This is the final step in the creation of a visual work instruction template. This entails using the appropriate visuals that you’ve identified for each of the steps to format the work instruction accordingly.
If you prefer to use images for the visuals, this is where to use it. If you prefer to use videos, here’s where to use it as well.
If you want your company to be more efficient, you need a work instruction template. This is because it helps your employees to complete their tasks seamlessly and communicate effectively.
A lot of business owners still find it difficult to create a work instruction template from scratch.
This is why we’ve gone the extra mile to compile 15 free work instruction templates across different industries for you. They’re available in PDF, Microsoft Word, and Excel format.
Any member of your team can download these work instruction templates and tweak them as needed so you can start using them in your company straight away.
Manage Your Work Instruction Templates with SweetProcess!
If you want to improve your organization’s efficiency and communication, then you need work instruction templates. You’ll find it much easier to standardize your business process and improve your team’s productivity with them.
SweetProcess is an intuitive work instruction software that helps you document your processes, procedures, and tasks in one place.
That way, it becomes much easier to manage your work instruction templates, and you can focus on doing other things that matter to your business’s growth.
Would you like to manage your entire work instruction templates using SweetProcess?