Job Aids 101

Posted by Katelind Hays on Dec 11, 2018 11:00:00 AM
Katelind Hays

Job Aids 101Virtually There session recap

As training adapts to innovative, ever-changing workplaces, our approaches to designing learning and supporting employees evolve, too. We know blended learning gives us flexibility, but it can overwhelm us, too.

Recently, Russ Powell and Joe Halpin, the founders of Peregrine Performance Group, believe, “One of the most effective ways to build training is to focus on performance, build a job aid, and build the training around it.” Sounds like a great plan. But what counts as a job aid? Why does this blended method work so well?

This blog will cover the basics of job aids, as Russ and Joe shared during their recent Virtually There event How to Recognize and Create Damn Good Job Aids. Click here to watch the entire session for a helpful 7-step process you can use to create your own exemplary job aids.

What is (and is not) a Job Aid?

Before making the effort to integrate job aids into your learning design and delivery, we first have to understand what counts as a job aid and what does not fall into this category.

Russ and Joe outlined helpful characteristics that make job aids easily identifiable. In their experience, effective job aids are:

  • A repository for information, processes, or perspectives
  • External to the individual
  • Supports work activity
  • Directs, guides and/or enlightens
  • Exemplary works well

Helpfully, Joe and Russ also clarified that job aids “are not tools, like a tech device or a desk. They do not provide instruction. And they are not unusable.”

Commonly used job aids include infographics, step-by-step process guides, checklists, and decision trees.

Job Aid Advantages

Job aids strive to contain key information, boiled down to its simplest, easiest-to-understand format so learners can use it when a moment of need arises.

Job aids’ defining traits generate specific advantages that work especially well for the modern workplace. Virtually There learners pointed out that they not only help employees in the moment while on the job, but they provide consistent information to everyone quickly. Ideally, they also reduce the need for expensive training when a process or program changes. Instructional designers can simply update an existing job aid with the new steps and provide the revised resource to those impacted by the change. Embracing the idea that job aids can and should transform based on business developments creates a culture of ongoing employee proficiency.

Russ and Joe identified that darn good job aids provide six key advantages:

  • Just-in-time availability. Designing, updating, and coordinating training programs every time something changes for employees results in lost on-the-job efficiency, high costs, and frustrated learners. Incorporating job aids into your learning culture offers an on-demand, in-the-moment support resources that minimize some of the pain points created by traditional learning.
  • Simplicity. Job aids prove useful across all professions, even those with technically stringent processes. Rather than detailing the “why” behind a process, job aids usually only include the “how.” They par down the information to avoid cognitive overload and allow employees to complete the task quickly and without frustration.
  • Relevance. Referring back to Russ and Joe’s preferred instructional design method, job aids align with and support bigger formal training programs. When learners know they have access to helpful resources, and how to use them, they readily believe the information provided in these job aids is relevant to their work.
  • Saves Time. When employees have access to job aids while in the midst of a work task, they do not have to go searching for instructions or information on their own. No more digging through stacks of participant materials that employees may or may not have on hand to find answers to their questions. Employees can instead quickly refer to a comprehensive job aid, complete their task, and move on to the next thing.
  • Reduces the need to recall information. Employees often have two types of responsibilities: regular and rare tasks. They often know the steps involved in regular tasks inside and out off the top of their heads. Job aids provide a safety net for the infrequently performed actions. Rather than having to memorize the processes involved in quarterly or once-yearly tasks, employees can refer to a job aid.
  • Minimizes errors. True performance improvement aims to reduce the mistakes made on the job. Regardless of industry, employee safety, efficiency, and effectiveness rely on reducing the opportunity for mistakes. Because job aids include key information from approved source materials, they minimize the likelihood of employees making mistakes, even on complicated or rarely-performed tasks.

Ultimately, job aids act as a bridge between formal learning and work. Russ and Joe observe that “Training is useful before the need arises and job aid is something you use in the moment as the need arises.” Using a combined approach improves the likelihood of learner success.

A huge thank you to Russ Powell and Joe Halpin of Peregrine Performance Group for their excellent Virtually There session. Check out the associated resources to learn more about job aids and their effectiveness in modern learning programs>

Topics: Blended learning, Virtually There, Instructional Design, Blended Learning Instructional Design