HR Advisors Conference Blog

Further thoughts from the conference or about the challenges of being in an HR Advisory role.

Could you follow these instructions to make a cake?

One of the things that you often have to do in an HR Advisory role, is provide instructions for managers on how to complete different HR processes (loading new employees, doing performance reviews, using the 360 software).

But there is an art to writing instructions.

Let’s take making a cake. That’s the basic instruction = ‘Make a cake’.

But then you realise that doesn’t have enough detail, so you add in what the ingredients are and some basic instructions. But sometimes we then worry about whether the person will use the wrong tin so add in instructions around what equipment to use. Then we worry they won’t present the cake correctly, so more instructions are added about icing. And suddenly you have 6 pages of instructions!!

Often we do this for managers. We might start simply, but then we try and cover all our bases and make our instructions longer and longer as we think of different things they may not understand or get wrong.
And then we wonder why they are put off from using the new HR system because the manual is 800 pages long!

So what should you think about when you’re writing instructions:

  1. Consider their level of expertise. If you were working with Mary Berry from the Great British Bake Off, you could just say ‘Make a Victoria sponge’ and as she’s an expert, she’d be able to do it. But someone who had never made a cake before would need more specific instructions.
  2. Think about the person’s learning style. Some people can follow written instructions well, but others need pictures to see what to do and others learn much better if someone shows them how it works. If you’re sending out instructions to lots of managers or employees – have written and visual instructions and also have a SME (subject matter expert) who can come and train them one on one or through an online session.
  3. Consider your personality style. This is the one thing that often gets missed. If you’re a very detailed person yourself, you might write instructions that are incredibly long and detailed. Which can be good – but perhaps those instructions could be much simpler. And perhaps could be presented completely differently. If you’re a big picture thinker you might find details boring and so write instructions that miss huge steps out. Our best advice is to get someone else who is the opposite personality style from you to review and make suggestions.

Lastly think about what the outcome of them following the instructions correctly is. Many people don’t follow instructions because they don’t know WHY. If you say in your instructions ‘Once you enter when each of your employee’s has taken annual leave, you’ll get a report so you can keep track of how much leave they have left’.

As Simon Sinek said in one of the most watched TED talks of all time – people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it. The same applies here.

So this week – if you’re writing instructions, do step back and consider if you’ve got Mary Berry’s on your hands or amateur bakers, what their learning style is and what your style is and explain your WHY. You might find that suddenly you have lots of lovely cakes on your hands!!

P.S. For those coming to the HR Advisors conference next month in London – we’ll make sure we have some yummy cakes for afternoon tea!


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