A large infrastructure management company had invested heavily in documenting its health and safety and regulatory compliance protocols in an integrated management system (IMS). Their aim was to get ISO accreditation, so they needed to improve engagement with the documentation and be able to demonstrate staff competence and awareness.
When we reviewed the IMS, which was accessible via an intranet, we saw immediately why people struggled to use it. Each screen was a daunting wall of words. There were hardly any subheadings, just long paragraphs, long sentences and heavy use of the passive voice.
While there was a wealth of valuable information, it had clearly been documented without much thought given to the audience. There were, in fact, multiple audiences, but the content wasn’t structured for their different information needs. As it was, the IMS wasn’t fit for purpose.
We conducted a detailed analysis of the different audience segments, their information and training needs and the purpose of the documentation. A key finding was that only a small group of managers needed detailed information. Most employees needed only high-level overview information. But access was a problem. Many workers were spread across various sites, didn’t have regular access to a desk or computer, and had different levels of literacy and learning preferences.
So, we set about creating a visually inviting information space that would draw people in. Wherever possible, we presented key concepts and facts as diagrams or graphics. To make the text more digestible, we inserted subheadings for easy scanning, shortened text and rewrote it in plain language, and used bulleted lists and tables. Key messages were captured in flowcharts and diagrams on quick reference cards and posters to be displayed in workspaces.
We also created several short e-learning modules to formalise training and assess core competencies. Depending on the audience, the modules worked either on their own or in tandem with the reference documentation. We used the same visual design style as for the documentation, reusing many of the graphics but with added interactive elements. We also included carefully scripted audio commentary to cater for people with an auditory learning style.
Usability testing showed that people responded well to the revamped parts of the IMS and found the e-learning modules engaging and easy to use. Managers started to refer to the IMS, posters and reference cards in meetings, and the e-learning modules gave the company a tool to systematically train people and capture awareness and competence.
The company was now well on the road for ISO accreditation, but the benefits were wider. Good visual design had made the documentation and training much more accessible and usable. People felt that their needs had been considered and that they were able to participate, resulting in improved morale and greater engagement and compliance.