Designing Usable Job Aids

As Instructional Designers we do not always have the time to develop extensive training for the field.  Sometimes we need a just in time approach to training and the traditional job aid that we produce for addressing infrequently performed tasks fits the bill. 

This No Parking sign is an example of a good yet simple job aid.  The city council could ensure that every citizen memorize all the parking by-laws of the city, however it's easier to just provide some simple instructions in the form of a sign. As a job aid, the sign helps everyone obey the law.  Of course people who break the law are not paying attention to the sign and that becomes a compliance issue rather than a training issue.

A job aid in the work place should do exactly the same thing.  It instructs the worker on just what they need to know to correctly performing their job.  Unfortunately many job aids don't do this.  Often job aids are created for other purposes entirely.  As training professionals it up to us to ensure that a job aid accomplishes it's goal of providing instruction on how to perform a job related task and that it be easy to use.  The following is a simple template that I use to help me produce a job aid for a set of action steps.

Job Aid Title goes here
Introduction A single statement or two that explains the purpose of this document.  If someone is reading my job aid thinking it serves a different purpose, I don't want to waste their time reading the entire document to find this out.  An example of an introduction statement might look like:

This job aid will instruct you on the steps to complete the online order form for ordering supplies for your location.

WIIFM This section is optional, however with much of your audience you may need to answer the "What's in it for me".  It's purpose is to address the issue of compliance, expecially if the task being trained on is not the path of
least resistance.  Showing your audience why performing these skills is so beneficial to them is crucial in getting their buy-in.

part 1
Here is where you provide the specific instructions for the tasks that need to be completed.  It is recommended to use a Step/Action chart to make it easy for your learners to understand and follow.  For example:

1.   Instructions for step one
2.   Instructions for step two and so on.

part 2
When the instructions exceed around eight or so steps you may want to consider further breaking down the procedures by having a second set of instructions with sub steps as I have made space for here.  Again it's far easier for you audience to follow and more likely that they will remember procedures that have no more than about 7 steps or so.

Of course there are thousands of variables that may force me to change or expand on this, however this is where I typically start from.  I may also fancy it up a little by being creative with my use of fonts and graphics to match the branding of an organization, however the beginning is always the same.  I add additional sections as needed depending on the performance gap that I am attempting to fill.  Again it's all about creating a tool that will truly help your people in the field perform there jobs correctly and comfortably.