Can’t live with documentation, can’t live without it
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Nothing excites a room full of church staff members like announcing the idea to document their job responsibilities, right? Typing several pages of notes detailing how to reconcile the church bank accounts, enter new members into the database, or how to set up kids' check-in each week is a thrilling time for all.
OK, so perhaps not. However, it is important to have key tasks documented.
- What would happen if your finance office department leader suddenly resigned?
- Do you end up calling your children's director when she's supposed to be on vacation to ask how to deal with a check-in issue?
- Do you host the same event each year but keep reinventing the process due to a lack of documentation and faulty memories?
I've documented more than my share of tasks and, no, they're not exciting to create. They do, however, make great training tools for new staff members, prevent extra stress when you're filling in for someone, and can save you time in the long run.
So, how do you get your team to document their key job responsibilities without resorting to bribery? Here are a few ideas:
Tip 1: Teach someone else how to perform the task
It's never a good idea to have only one person on your team who knows how to complete key tasks, so cross training is certainly useful. While your kids director is showing another staff member how to setup check-in and troubleshoot issues, have the trainee document each step. This gets the process documented and reinforces the learning process as the trainee compiles the documentation.
Tip 2: Bring in a volunteer to document the task
Ask a detail-oriented, administratively-gifted volunteer to shadow you as you perform a specific task. She'll document each step and will likely ask clarifying questions along the way. This saves you from the tedious task of documentation while leveraging the skillset of a dedicated volunteer. Yes, some people do enjoy developing documentation. Find those folks in your congregation and turn them loose. Bonus tip: Send a hand-written thank-you note and maybe a gift card afterward.
Tip 3: Test the documentation
Once you have a first cut at documenting a key task, give it to someone who has never performed that task. This staff member should go through the process using the documentation, writing down questions or issues that come up along the way. Then, review that with the person who normally handles that task to update as needed.
Tip 4: Maintain the documentation
A document you park on a shelf or network server is useless. Decide on a schedule for reviewing and updating each document. You could review a few each quarter, when you bring in new interns or new volunteers, at each software upgrade or other key event. Also, create an electronic filing system that makes it easy for anyone on staff to locate the documentation for each task (i.e., organized by department, by service or event type).
Documenting job tasks probably isn't at the top of your priority list. However, it would be if a staff member suddenly became unable to work or if you're trying to prevent issues that came up during the same event last year.
Start documenting the most critical tasks first and work your way down the list. It's worth putting in the effort now to prevent a lot of frustration and time later.
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