Formal training is lengthy and not accessible as and when needed by learners. 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 job support resources that deliver support to employees at the exact moment of their need for such support.
- Also called learning aids or Performance Support Tools (PSTs), they help learners improve the application of learning by addressing specific job-related challenges and needs.
- They enhance performance due to their ease of access and availability and their shorter (compared to formal training) time to consume and apply to real-world challenges.
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. By delivering access to on-time, in-the-moment of need 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?
The traditional way of training, through formally scheduled learning programs, is still useful and has its applications.
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.
Ideally, these aids must be organized and then integrated into the workstream, 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 Design Job Aids?
As powerful as they are, training designers must resist the temptation to make job aids complex and all-encompassing pieces of learning.
Here are some 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 and
- 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 Formats Should You Use?
Fortunately, today’s instructional designers have a vast array of formats to choose from. 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 Format
Which format you choose depends on several factors, including the subject of the learning, your audience, and the organization’s underlying 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.
Job aids are great learning tools, but they also act 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.
- eBook: How To Boost Employee Performance Through Just-In-Time Learning And Performance Support Tools
- 3 Microlearning Strategies to Promote Learning in the Flow of Work
- How to Overcome Learning Fatigue in Your Remote Employee Training Programs
- What L&D Teams Must Do to Build a Growth Mindset and a Learning Mindset in Employees
- Why Should You Outsource eLearning Content Development in the New Normal
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