Save The Planet – Ditch The Manuals

I have had many different kinds of jobs over the years, much like that guy on The Pretender. Not that I was raised in a quasi-government facility and trained to be a human weapon, although that would have been cool.

Anyway, each time I started a new job I was given a training manual to teach me the duties of my position. When the training period was over, and I felt that I had a good grasp of what was expected of me, I would toss the manual into the recycle bin. If there was one. If there wasn’t one, I would throw it into the regular trash.

I cringe when I imagine all the manuals I threw away lying there in the landfill for thousands of years, trying to break down and dissolve into the earth. And I am just one person. There are hundreds of new hires every day. Then there are the people in the medical profession. They receive paper documents and a thick manual every time they need to learn a new piece of medical equipment or medical procedure.

I was curious to see how much paper waste this actually added up to, so I asked a recycling professional from a well-known waste hauler to send me some numbers.

Paper waste makes up about 35% of the total materials filling up landfills. And the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year (not counting training manuals), which is 4 million tons of copy paper used annually!

One way employers can help the environment is to switch to online training. It uses absolutely no paper what-so-ever, and you can make your training manuals as long and detailed as you want, without having to worry about the impact on our planet.


When a Test Really Tests You

Years ago, when I worked at a bank, I was required to take an online training course once a week in order to keep up with federal regulations and bank compliance. I would spend thirty minutes going through the training course, clicking through each course page, reading word for word. When the test came along at the end, I was confident that I would score well, and felt that I had a good grasp of the material. Then I would see the questions and realize that I was about to fail.

The problem was not my lack of knowledge, but the questions themselves.  I was expected to know some random statistic that had been tossed in at the bottom of page three that really wasn’t important to the lesson as a whole. Or know the answer to a question that wasn’t even in the training course at all! I felt like I was being tested on how much I was paying attention and not on my comprehension of the lesson.

So I would fail the test and have to restart the training course all over again. This time I would take notes. Then the questions at the end would change! There was another round of random statistics I should have had memorized. In the end, a half hour lesson took over an hour. This was time I could have spent attending to other duties. And as we all know, time is money.

To avoid this mistake (and to save yourself some money) be sure to carefully design your test to reflect what you really want your trainees to get out of your training course. Be more general. Put yourself in your trainees’ shoes. Well not literally, as that would be strange…but you get my meaning.

Here’s an excellent article about how to best design a test at the end of a training course:


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