Coaching our new Technical Author

Our technical writing team has grown from two to three in the last few weeks. Yes, our recruitment was successful and we now have a new bod to get used to our way of working, our projects, and our tools.

The new member is fresh from a support role and so despite having experience in writing knowledge base articles, hasn’t written in a technical author environment before. There is a lot to learn, and we need him to be productive in a short space of time.

But, I was prepared.

The department had to go through an exercise last year, listing all the skills and experiences we each needed in our roles. This is essentially a checklist that can be worked through when assessing your own knowledge gaps.

I’ve taken a copy of this and used it as the basis for a learning plan.
Rather than throwing this in the direction of our newbie and expecting him to deal with it on his own, I’ve scheduled coaching sessions with him and we work through the spreadsheet. I’ll demo something, and ask him to repeat the task or we’ll talk about how he might use that in our real life projects.

I’ve never done formal coaching before, so I’ve no previous experiences to compare it with. But, we talk about how things are going, and our newbie seems happy that this process is working.

How to get the most out of coaching:

  • Know what the point of the coaching is. Without this, you can’t know when you’ve reached your goal.
  • Discuss the coaching plan with the coachee. Does this suit their preferred way of learning?
  • What other materials can support the coaching once the session is over?
  • Involve the coachee in the session. I never let it go a couple of minutes without asking the newbie to try to replicate what I’ve just done.
  • Ask for feedback. Remember you’re doing this for their benefit, not yours.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your approach. Not everyone learns in the same way. Be adaptable.