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Writing a Work Instruction: A Complete Guide

Written by: Letícia Fonseca

Apr 21, 2022

Writing a Work Instruction: A Complete Guide

With clear, concise, and coherent work instructions, you can guide workers’ training, performance, and assessment, maintain quality standards and improve efficiency in the workplace.

In this guide, we will dive deep into the definition of a work instruction, its purpose and benefits, and how it should be written.

Then, using Venngage for Training & Development, you will be able to create actionable and detailed work instructions that will benefit both workers and the company.


Click to jump ahead:

What is a work instruction?

A work instruction is a written document that provides clear and precise steps to carry out a single instruction.

As an example, this work instruction outlines the specific steps on how to file and approve an employee expense claim:

Simple Employee Expense Claim Process Infographic Template

Work instructions describe the correct way to perform a certain task or activity. Each task is part of a larger process, so every step must be followed accordingly in order for the task to be performed properly, otherwise it will affect other aspects of the business.

Work instructions are sometimes called work guides, job aids, or standard operating procedures. However, work instructions actually differ from the three.

A work instruction is more detailed than a standard operating procedure and it is mandatory, unlike a work guide. Meanwhile, work instructions are just a category under job aids.

Why are work instructions important?

Work instructions are vital to a company’s success as they help sustain and support processes that make up the day-to-day activities of a business.

What is the purpose of a work instruction?

By creating work instructions, employers ensure that the best way of doing a specific task is clearly communicated, understood, and implemented. 

This guarantees a consistent outcome out of common tasks or projects, no matter who the task owner is. That way, business processes and operations will continue to run smoothly.

What are the benefits of a work instruction?

Work instructions enable companies to keep refining and streamlining their processes. Aside from that, here are other benefits of work instructions:

  • They help reduce risk and prevent errors or accidents. Most work instructions are prepared after multiple refinements, which means that they can establish the safest way to do a job correctly.
  • They save time in the long run. Work instructions help train employees thoroughly so there’s less chance of them wasting time correcting mistakes later on. 
  • They facilitate the continuous improvement of processes and systems so workers can do their jobs better over time.
  • By providing a reference for correct and ideal scenarios, work instructions help with workers’ problem-solving skills and serve as a guide for how workers can execute corrective actions.

Here’s an example of how a work instruction is used to streamline the process of onboarding new employees:

10 Steps Employee Onboarding Process Infographic

Work instruction examples

Not sure what your work instruction document should look like? Here are some examples to get you started.

For any task that’s done frequently especially, work instructions are a game-changer. They ensure consistency and minimize errors, especially when dealing with new hires or covering for absent staff.

Take customer service roles for example, work instructions ensure that customer service reps follow consistent procedures when handling inquiries and resolving issues. This reduces call times, increases the number of customers served and frees up time for complex situations.

Work Instruction Example For Customer Service

In some industries, specific regulations or standards need to be followed. Work instructions help guarantee that employees are fulfilling these requirements consistently.

This applies to tasks in healthcare, finance or any field with strict legal or ethical guidelines like this work instruction on healthcare accessibility:

Healthcare Accessibility Work Instruction Template

Now that you have a better understanding of work instructions, let’s talk about what information they typically include. This will help you build your own clear and effective guides.

What should be included in a work instruction?

The structure and content of work instructions vary depending on the job. However, most work instructions consist of these essential parts:

  1. Title and short description of the task
  2. Objectives or expected results
  3. Purpose of the task
  4. Scope of the task
  5. Tools or skills required
  6. Safety requirements
  7. Step-by-step instructions for the task
  8. Expected outcome for each step

Here’s an example of a work instruction to help employees learn to use Google Meet: 

work instruction

8 steps for writing an actionable and clear work instruction

Creating a work instruction can be a bit overwhelming especially when there are multiple, detailed steps that need to be dissected. Don’t worry; by following these easy steps, you will be able to write work instructions without any trouble.

Step 1: Choose a task or job for the work instruction

Before anything else, define which task you’re going to write the work instruction for and make sure that you know the exact steps on how to do it. This will give you an idea of what tools, materials, or references you will need for creating the work instruction.

Step 2: Choose a tool for creating your work instruction

Now, decide on a tool you will use to create a work instruction. It should provide you with the easiest way to format and edit your work.

Also, choose a medium that will be the most accessible to users. In this case, the best option is going paperless because a digital file can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Venngage for Training & Development teams offers flexible and user-friendly features to help you create graphical work instructions even without any design experience. You can then conveniently download your work in different file formats or directly share with workers online.

Create your work instructions with Venngage

Step 3: Write a clear title and introduction

To proceed with writing, first give a background of the process that the task is part of. Then, briefly explain the purpose of the task and the output required from it. Identify who is responsible for carrying out the task, which in this case is the worker.

As for the title, it must refer to the task or job itself. For example, in this template, the title is ‘Responding to a Negative Customer Review:’

Customer Support Response Process Work Instruction Template

Step 4: Break down the task into steps

Next, define the steps needed to complete the task and describe each extensively. List the materials that will be used for each step as well. One step is equivalent to one action, so if there is more than one action involved, it means another step is required.

If there are more than 10 steps, subdivide them into different topics, like in this example:

Healthcare Accessibility Work Instruction Template

Step 5: Enhance the steps

Once you have enumerated all the steps for the task, add images, graphics, icons, or illustrations to support the information you have provided and to better demonstrate each step.

Visual materials can not only capture attention, but they can also enhance learning, so including powerful visuals in your work instruction can help the reader absorb information better.

With Venngage, you can choose from thousands of graphic templates that you can easily customize. Using the smart editor, you can integrate images, colors, and backgrounds into your design with just a few clicks.

As an example, here is a template that effectively uses graphics to demonstrate the step-by-step procedure of navigating an employee management system:

Employee Reference Guide

Step 6: Format your work instruction

After building and fleshing out the content, it’s time to work on the format. Be consistent and follow the same format throughout the entire document. If you start with middle alignment, then the rest of the text should be aligned at the center.

Make sure that the steps are displayed in a logical sequence, ideally in numerical order. 

Emphasize important information by bolding, italicizing, or using a different font color. Increase the font size for titles and headings for better distinction between sections.

This template is a great example that applies all of the above:

Instruction Customer Onboarding Process Work Instruction

Step 7: Proofread and simplify the document

At this point, your work instruction might as well be complete. However, you still need to proofread to catch any mistakes or gaps and simplify to trim down any unnecessary details and clarify ambiguous information.

Replace complicated and multisyllabic words with short and simple ones for better comprehension and readability. Keep sentences under 15 words.

If you shall use specific or technical terminologies, they should be defined within the document. You should also stick with a single term when describing similar things.

For instance, this example uses bullet points and sentence fragments instead of complete sentences to make the document more readable:

Simple Escalation Matrix Infographic

Step 8: Test the work instruction

By now, your work instruction is finalized. All that’s left to do is to test the working document.

Testing is required to make sure that the work instruction is easy to understand and follow. To do that, have someone perform the task by following the work instruction you have created.

If they found that some parts needed further explanation or clarification, then you need to adjust and revise the document.

But if they were able to follow each step without any difficulty and were able to achieve the specified outcome at the end of the task, it means your work instruction is successful.

FAQs about work instructions

What is the difference between processes, procedures, and work instructions?

A process is a series of activities or events from which an output is produced. For example, a recruitment process leads to the employment of a new staff member.

A procedure, on the other hand, outlines how to perform a process. Let’s say in a recruitment process, sourcing, prepping, and converting applicants are some of the activities involved. These activities are outlined in a procedure.

Meanwhile, work instructions detail how an activity within a process is performed. Following the same example, it means the recruitment process may require a work instruction with steps on how to source an applicant, another on how to prep an applicant, and so on.

Processes, procedures, and work instructions are all part of a quality management system. Quality management systems are formalized systems that document business processes with the goal of enhancing customer satisfaction.

What is a standard work instruction?

A standardized work instruction explains how to carry out a procedure and turn it into an action plan through step-by-step guidelines. It is different from a standard operating procedure that provides a guide for what actions to take to fulfill a process.

In conclusion: Writing work instructions can help standardize and improve business processes.

Work instructions ensure that tasks are accurately and efficiently accomplished, therefore preserving quality and continuity in business processes. Use Venngage for Training & Development to create your company’s work instructions easily and more creatively.

About Letícia Fonseca

Letícia is a Content Marketing Specialist, and she is responsible for the International strategy at Venngage.