Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 01-11-2021 01:52 PM

    Hello all,

    I would like to start a discussion on task aid documents, especially onboarding documents that can be used for new hires and interns. We brought on two new graduate engineers last summer and as they started asking me after meetings what something mentioned during the meeting stood for, I started to realize how much 'alphabet soup' we tend to use. As someone who was in their shoes not too long ago, I know personally how it can sometimes be intimidating as a grad engineer or a new hire to pump the brakes in the middle of the meeting (or don't want to take more time) to ask what that acronym just used actually means. Inspired by these events, I took the initiative to create a document for my group titled "Bridge Group Acronyms and Common Terminology". In this document, I have included things like DM-4  - a PennDOT Design Manual, Part 4 – Structures (and then a link to the most recent publication). It has also led to some great discussions within our group and we continue to add to this now living document.

    My question to you all is what documents for onboarding or other task aids have you created or contributed to for your group? 

    Looking forward to your responses! I would be especially interested if anyone has developed a CADD workflow and production procedure specific to their group. I have started to record short videos on tools in MicroStation like Activate, but want to try to take this a step further in the future!

    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/her)
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA

  • 2.  RE: Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 01-14-2021 11:53 AM

    Hi Danielle,

    One option is to create a hyperlinked A-Z list.* I first employed this technique in the work environment for a business line I was helping to shut down. The purpose of the A-Z document was to provide pointers to those that might pick the business back up in the future by providing ready access to questions that would likely arise; or should be asked. I also used the technique to develop an operational handbook for my homeowners association board of directors. Prior to this document, information was only passed along by word of mouth. The guide provides new (and old) directors with the chance to get themselves educated and be able to reliably answer homeowner questions.

    *) You can do this in Word using the built in headings, creating a table of contents at the requisite level, and then sorting alphabetically. I can provide more details if interested.


    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 3.  RE: Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 01-14-2021 03:45 PM
    The living document is a challenge.  I have my own stash of resources and means of standardization, which I seek to share with the team.  Formatting multiple resources that may or may not be related into a single manual may introduce unnecessary formalities.  A directory may offer more flexibility, whether it is simply Windows folders, BlueBeam Studio, GoogleDocs, or SharePoint.  This has led me towards thinking that a social network model is a great approach.  Collaborate has many library and blog features that would work great as a corporate solution (I am sure Higher Logic would be glad to help).

    I started a directory on SharePoint to share resources with my teammates.  While the platform is powerful, there seems to be several hurdles to implementation:

    - searchable fields need to be tagged... what should I tag something?? In many cases it is easier to just browse a directory to find something, the directory is not big enough to take advantage of any search feature

    - it is another directory, that needs to be updated when the server is updated

    - I don't know if my teammates are accessing and participating on SharePoint.  No one uses all the features or visits it daily.

    - Limited file storage space

    Once I filled the file storage space on SharePoint, I stopped using it.  Does anyone feel like they use SharePoint to its full potential?
    I think this might lead to another discussion thread for another day: where does social media fit within company communications and what platforms are considered professional and adaptable?

    Ultimately, I am seeking guidance on how to engage colleagues in accepting and learning best practices being shared (how to build and maintain an audience) and get them to collaborate in an ongoing process.  This way a "living directory" can be maintained.  Too often, the living document is left outdated after a couple of years of neglect.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 4.  RE: Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 01-25-2021 03:52 PM
    I love this topic because it is something I am particularly passionate about in my company. (Also a fun abbreviation story at the bottom)

    We have a Google Drive library where we keep all these documents. There is an individual document per topic to minimize scrolling and searching time.
    I like to format these documents in a consistent way so that people become familiar with navigating them.

    Here is a sample of my typical format:
    Title at the top
    Date last modified
    One or two sentence intro on what the document contains
    A "Why it Matters" header with an explanation
    (the rest can greatly differ depending on the topic, but here is an example for drainage design...)
    Goals of Design
    Pre-Design Considerations
    Grading Considerations
    Drainage System Sizing
    Design Analysis
    Presentation of Results

    What I like about this format is often engineers in training are taught what to do but not necessarily why to do it. I try to briefly capture why it matters and the impact it has so the importance of following the guidelines is understood.

    Okay, story time now.
    When I was a first-summer intern, one of the PEs took me out to a site visit for one of his university campus projects. The contractor had called him out because their excavations had uncovered some items that they didn't know were there. (Super common on university or school campus projects). The contractor was showing him a few things, but then with a very grave expression he said, "We have also discovered some RCP in the excavation over here. Follow me." We were following him, and I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what RCP  would stand for. I'd had 3 years of chemistry, and it definitely sounded like some kind of chemical. We walked over to a deep excavation where he told my mentor about all the RCP they'd found and in what areas.
    Then a sub called the contractor over, and I asked my mentor what RCP was. He said, "oh! I didn't even think about you not having learned about that yet. It's reinforced concrete pipe." A wave of relief washed over me. No toxic pollutants in the campus soil after all.
    Later the contractor realized I was still in college and said, "If you have any questions or if anything doesn't make sense, you just ask. I'm proud of you for sticking with it. After being a contractor I tried to go back and get a civil degree 'cause I thought lookin' at the plans it didn't seem that hard. But tell you what, I had to drop out. Hang in there, girl, it'll be worth it."

    Heidi Wallace EI,P.E.,M.ASCE
    Tulsa OK

  • 5.  RE: Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 01-26-2021 08:53 AM
    Great topic! What program do you use to record walk-through videos? We just use MS Teams for recording but wondering if there is any better software out there. Thank you!

    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Water Resources Engineer
    Sacramento, CA

  • 6.  RE: Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 02-01-2021 07:23 PM
    You might be interested in checking out Gyazo. It can make videos and gifs of things on your screen.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 7.  RE: Task Aids Documents (Especially for Onboarding)

    Posted 02-03-2021 02:52 PM
    Great follow up question, Tung! Yes, I typically just use Microsoft Teams and record the meeting to use as a future walk-through for other employees (or even for the person I am teaching during the meeting to be able to rewind and rewatch on their own time!).

    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/her)
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA