Whether you’re training a new employee or training your entire staff on a new process, the way you deliver information can make all the difference. Manuals and word-based documents are a natural fit – particularly for the minutiae – but a visual representation of work flow, procedures, and processes can go a long way to help those who will use them every day truly understand your expectations. After all, according to Pearson, a leading education company, “65 percent of the population consists of visual learners,” so by using a flow chart creator to convey important information using words and images, you can not only improve comprehension but improve the odds that protocols will be followed. As an added benefit, you’ll also give your staff a “one-pager” they can print up and refer to at any time.
Creating a flow chart can quickly become overwhelming – especially if you’re trying to do one on the fly. So, before you ever open your flow chart software, take a step back and think about the process from the perspective of those who will actually use it (possibly for the first time) and develop a plan using the steps below.
- Define the process. One flow chart can’t reasonably encompass every aspect of a job, so break down individual portions of a job and use your diagram creator to provide instructions on how to perform them. For instance, if you’re a small business owner with a brick-and-mortar location, you might create one chart for “opening procedures,” another for “closing procedures,” and yet another for your business’s “chain of command” – which can help your staff know who to contact when problems arise.
- List the tasks. By creating a list of tasks as they should be performed (in chronological order), you can help new (and current) employees understand what needs to happen and when. As you do this, ask yourself questions like “Do I need to make a decision before the next step?” or, “Is there an approval process before I can tackle ‘x’?” – and jot down that information as you go.
- Create a draft chart: With all of your information gathered, start plugging it into your flow chart creator exactly as you have it listed in your notes – making sure there’s a clear start and finish.
- Review and refine: With your flow chart complete, take a break. Step away from your desk for an hour – or overnight – then come back to the chart and take another look. Edit it for clarity, add in any steps you may have missed, and remove any that might be unnecessary. Then review it all again.
- Outside review: Once you’re comfortable with your flow chart, send it to at least one person inside your organization to review the process and provide feedback. If possible, send the chart to one person familiar with the process you’re describing (or who will be using it), and another who is wholly unfamiliar with the process, and ask them both for input. This way, you can learn how to change your chart for current and future employees.
Of course, flow charts aren’t just used for describing tasks and duties, they can also be used to outline your organizational structure, employee benefits, decision-making processes (if-this-then-that scenarios), and more.
Best of all, you can easily print your charts and pop them into binders for new employee training sessions, or keep them at the cash register, in your back room, or pinned to a board where everyone can find them at a moment’s notice. In addition, you can easily distribute them via email, and save your flow chart diagrams online in your intranet or in the cloud – where you (and your team) can access them quickly and update them in seconds – no matter where you are.
If creating a visual representation of your processes intimidates you, don’t worry. With today’s flow charting software, you don’t have to be an artist – you simply have to know your organization – and the program will do the rest. It really is that easy. And if 65 percent of the roughly 358,159,530 Americans really are visual learners (as the SSRN research revealed), then using a diagram creator means that you’ll be able to connect with more of your staff on a more meaningful level. So, it’s worth the effort.