Traditional formal training can be time-consuming and may not always be readily accessible when learners need it. Job aids address this gap and enhance job performance. In this article, I outline aspects of designing and deploying job aids to increase engagement and job performance.
What Are Job Aids?
Job aids are practical tools designed to assist individuals in completing tasks more efficiently and effectively. Unlike comprehensive training programs, job aids provide immediate, accessible guidance to enhance task performance, especially in complex or infrequent procedures. They serve as quick references that reinforce learning and support the application of skills in real-time scenarios.
Key Characteristics of Job Aids:
- Concise Information: Job aids distill essential information, presenting it in an easily digestible format.
- Task-Oriented: They focus specifically on tasks, providing step-by-step guidance or key information needed to perform a task correctly.
- User-Friendly Design: The design of job aids is intuitive, ensuring that they can be used with minimal additional instruction.
- Accessibility: These aids are readily available at the moment of need, often positioned within the work environment for easy access.
What Job Aids Are Not
While job aids are valuable tools in the workplace, it’s important to understand what they are not. This distinction helps in effectively utilizing them without unrealistic expectations.
Misconceptions About Job Aids:
- Not a Replacement for Training: Job aids are supplements to formal training, not substitutes. They reinforce and support training but cannot convey complex concepts or skills from scratch.
- Not Comprehensive Manuals: They are not meant to be exhaustive resources. Instead, they provide targeted, concise information relevant to specific tasks.
- Not One-Size-Fits-All: A job aid effective in one context may not be suitable in another. Customization is often necessary to meet the specific needs of different tasks or roles.
- Not Always Paper-Based: While traditionally many job aids were in print, modern job aids often take digital forms, including interactive apps and online tools.
In essence, job aids are practical, task-focused tools designed to provide quick, easy-to-digest assistance. They are part of a broader learning and performance support ecosystem and should be used in tandem with other training and development strategies.
Difference Between Job Aids and Training
Understanding the difference between job aids and training is crucial for effective employee development and task execution. Here’s a concise comparison:
- Purpose and Scope:
- Training: Aims to build knowledge and skills from scratch, covering broader concepts and practices.
- Job Aids: Provide on-the-spot guidance for specific tasks, focusing on application rather than learning.
- Format and Duration:
- Training: Often lengthy and in-depth, including workshops, courses, and seminars.
- Job Aids: Concise, quick-reference materials like checklists, diagrams, or short videos.
- Usage Context:
- Training: Predominantly used in a learning environment, prior to task execution.
- Job Aids: Utilized during task performance, acting as immediate performance support.
- Customization and Flexibility:
- Training: Typically standardized, following a set curriculum.
- Job Aids: Highly customizable, tailored to specific tasks or individual needs.
Benefits of Job Aids
Job aids offer significant benefits both to learners and organizations:
- Immediate Assistance: They provide on-the-spot help, reducing stress and uncertainty.
- Enhanced Learning Retention: Aids reinforce learning, aiding in long-term retention of information.
- Increased Efficiency: They streamline task completion, saving time and effort.
- Improved Performance: Employees perform tasks more accurately and consistently.
- Cost-Effective Training: Job aids reduce the need for extensive retraining.
- Adaptability: Easy to update, they keep pace with changing business processes.
Why Are Job Aids a Vital Strategy in the Hybrid Workplace?
In-person workplaces offer higher levels of performance support to employees, including the ability to reach out to peers across the room for help and support.
However, modern-day hybrid working environments rely on the resourcefulness of remote employees to make themselves productive. Because employees in hybrid teams may work in different shifts and across multiple time zones, they may not have the same support networks as traditional workforces do. Providing access to real-time, in-the-moment information to learners, job aids enhance the on-the-job productivity of employees in the hybrid workplace.
A lot of learning occurs as discrete, formal event-based training – for instance, how to use the new enterprise order management software. However, job aids transcend formal event-based learning and turns it into a continuous learning form, where employees continually leverage these tools as and when the need arises. No longer does an employee need to wait until the next scheduled formal training session to learn how to perform a new function in the software. They continually engage through in-the-moment of need job aids to perform the tasks they need to do. Not only does this result in enhanced engagement for hybrid workforces but it also delivers a more fulfilling learning experience for them.
How Do Job Aids Help Improve the Impact of Your Training Programs and Drive Employee Performance?
While traditional training programs have their merits, the modern workplace demands more flexible approaches.
However, in a hybrid workplace, performance support job aids must supplement traditional training approaches, and here’s why:
- Learning in the flow of work: Employees in a hybrid and fast-paced work world need learning when they face a work-related obstacle. They can’t wait for the next scheduled training course, or log onto their LMS to get that help – Job aids offer that flexibility.
- Driving on-demand learning: As a corollary to the above, performance support learning aids encourage the consumption of on-demand learning as and when it’s needed to boost on-the-job performance. Employees access the exact information they need without sifting through mountains of learning content.
- For driving continuous learning: Unlike formal training, which starts and ends on specific dates, job aids lend themselves to a continuous cycle of learning: Problem encountered – Job aids leveraged – Problem resolved. Ongoing reference to those aids ensures the employee enhances and refines the response to the original problem. Each unscheduled interaction with job aids results in a boost to employee performance.
- Targeted learning: Job aids help performance by delivering targeted learning to employees needing specific support at a particular moment, to address time-sensitive and critical work challenges.
- Asynchronous learning: As SMEs contribute their knowledge, within the job aids bank, others tap into that bank asynchronously and benefit from peer experience.
- Reinforcement learning: Once formal training ends, job aids serve as an ideal tool to help review, refine, and reinforce that learning when employees return to the hybrid workplace.
When coupled with formal training, and integrated within a social learning strategy, job aids can drive training engagement levels and contribute to significant on-the-job performance improvements.
How Do You Integrate Job Aids in Your Training Programs?
Because job aids are most effective when made available at the point of need, they should be as closely integrated into the employee’s workflow. This seamless accessibility between when and where a learner needs support and the availability of supporting learning aids to deliver such assistance is the best way to boost employee performance.
For optimal effectiveness, organize these aids and seamlessly integrate them into the workflow, so they address specific job processes and the unique needs of each role. One popular method to build them into a training program is through the use of Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) such as WalkMe and Whatfix. In doing so, organizations can integrate additional learning support using various approaches, such as walkthrough overlays and in-app learning aids, to drive hybrid learning engagement and boost on-the-job performance.
How Do You Create Effective Job Aids?
Despite their power, training designers should avoid the temptation to create overly complex job aids that try to cover everything.
Creating effective job aids involves understanding the task at hand and the needs of the users. Key steps include:
- Identify the Need: Understand the specific task or process that requires a job aid.
- Determine the Format: Choose the most suitable format (e.g., checklist, flowchart, video) based on the task and user preference.
- Gather Content: Collect accurate, relevant information for the job aid.
- Design for Clarity: Make the job aid user-friendly and easy to understand.
- Test and Refine: Pilot the job aid with a small group and refine based on feedback.
Best Practices for Designing Job Aids
- Make them accessible when employees need them.
- Design them so learners can access them where the need arises.
- Use the most appropriate design format for your learning audience.
- Use short sentences, numbered steps, and bullet points instead of lengthy textual commentaries.
- Make them searchable.
- Embed links to more enhanced/formal learning content.
- Use the KIS principle and keep it simple and focused to aid with no more than a single task/process/procedure.
- Avoid complex design elements that require additional training to use them.
The process of designing job aids is identical to designing most other learning content: Pick your topic – Assemble the required information – Choose your format – Design and develop the content – Test it in a real-world environment.
What Are the Different Job Aids Formats You Can Choose?
Thankfully, modern instructional designers can choose from a wide array of formats. These include:
- Interactive parallax-based scrolling.
- Mobile apps.
- Gamified quizzes.
- Complex branching scenarios.
- Videos (Interactive, Explainer, Expert, Webinars).
- Whiteboard animation.
- Kinetic text-based animation.
- Interactive PDFs.
- eBooks, audio eBooks, and flipbooks.
Guidelines for Deciding the Right Job Aid Format
The choice of format depends on factors such as the subject matter, the audience, and the organization’s learning technology environment. For example, some employees may react more favorably to interactive PDFs and infographics, while more tech-savvy remote employees may prefer mobile app-based learning.
Here are some examples illustrating the use of a few of the job aid formats listed above:
- Videos: Designed as high-recall aids, videos can easily adapt into both formal training as well as at-the-moment learning. They’re also great for explainer and summary context as well as for short expert-level content made available for remote employees to access on-demand.
- Interactive infographics: These allow designers to pack the maximum amount of information within a smaller footprint. Use them to create ready reckoners or summarize job-related topics.
- eBooks: These are great formats to design job aids that appeal to an HTML5-compatible multi-device user audience. Enhance the power of your job aids by integrating video and audio into your eBooks.
- Flipbooks: This is an excellent format where job aids require some degree of interactivity and must be deployed to a multi-device-user workforce.
- Animated videos: The most popular job aid format, these are excellent for “How to” or “Quick Intro” type content.
- Recorded webinars: Hybrid employees often work in different time zones and across physical geographies. Having access to pre-recorded webinars, on specific topics, can aid your hybrid workforce to access specific content when they need it most.
- Podcasts and audio eBooks: These are versatile formats for employees on the go. Accessible anywhere and anytime, they’re lightweight and small-footprint content that remote employees can quickly consume and implement at the point of need.
While job aids are excellent learning tools, they also serve as performance-enhancing aids in the moment of need. In a hybrid workplace, where traditional learning support isn’t always available to remote employees, these PSTs not only supplement formal learning but also deliver targeted job performance support. Best of all, they receive this support when they need it, and in a short amount of time, without them having to consult more lengthy learning resources.
I hope my article provides the required cues on how to design and deploy job aids to increase engagement and job performance.
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