3 practical tips for documenting essential job responsibilities
By Deborah Wipf

Share this article:  

Ahhh, summer! Time to head to the beach or nearest pool, fire up the grill and enjoy some time away from the office. But wait, what happens to your work responsibilities when you go on vacation? What if you have to take a sick day? Does it all pile up for you to deal with when you return? What would happen if one of your team members quit? Do you know how to do all the tasks he handles each week?


Does your organization document key job tasks?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

There's a ton of information residing within your team members that would disappear if they did. This loss could lead to reduced productivity, delayed deposits or payments, key tasks missed completely, and more. So how do we fix this issue and somehow capture that knowledge?

Well, we document it. Now, this isn't a fun or glamorous task — I'll certainly agree with you there. However, it can save you from a lot of frustration and can be useful even when there's not an urgent need.

Why should we document key tasks?
  • Documentation is useful for when you train a new team member.
  • You can leverage detailed documentation to pay the bills when your AP clerk takes vacation.
  • If someone suddenly quits, documentation enables you to keep those tasks moving forward.
Here are three practical tips to make documentation less painful and help your team learn in the process:

Tip 1: Cross-train

You need more than one individual on your team who knows how to perform certain tasks anyway, so why not document those tasks and cross-train your staff in one fell swoop? Have one person shadow another as she performs a task such as entering invoices or recording donations. The person shadowing is responsible for documenting each step along the way.

Tip 2: Document reoccurring tasks and crush departmental silos

It's easy for departmental silos to develop when one group doesn't understand what another team really does. This tip enables documentation and knowledge sharing across departments.

Set a goal for your team members to document one of their reoccurring tasks each week. Whatever the task, have them document it and send it to you for review. Then have another staff member, who is in a different department and not at all familiar with that task, review the documentation. His responsibility is to see if he could perform the task with just the documentation as a guide and provide feedback as to what isn't completely clear.

This has the added benefit of helping your team members gain a better understanding of other departments. The next time they want to make a change or do something that might impact another group, they just might recall what they read and ask for input first.

Tip 3: Leverage detail-oriented volunteers

Ask a college student on break to come in and document a few roles as an internship effort. They'll gain experience, and you'll have more documentation completed.

Another option is leveraging retired executives or administrators. People who enjoy details and are committed to your organization just might be willing to put in a few hours each week to help you document key processes.

Documenting job responsibilities isn't on anyone's fun-things-to-do list. However, when you want to take a vacation and still need certain tasks to keep going, you'll be glad you invested the time to document your tasks. Reduce risk, cross-train your team, and get to take time off. Documenting is sounding more fun by the minute.

Deborah Wipf is the president and founder of Velocity Management Group, a company dedicated to helping the leaders of nonprofits with the business side of running an organization. She loves ministry, big vision, details, project plans and organization. Combining these passions into becoming a "business coach for churches, ministries and nonprofits" is how Deborah seeks to serve God and help people.

Over the last 10 years, Deborah has worked in the for-profit arena developing the skills needed to pursue her passion — helping nonprofits. Connect with Deborah online on Facebook or on Twitter (@VelocityMgmtGrp).

Need more help getting started with documentation? Click here for a free, easy-to-use template.