When a Job Aid Is Better than Job Training

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Have you ever read an article that discusses job aids, workforce training, mobile training, parenting, and pumping gas into a car? If not, grab a seat, because you’re about to.

By way of background, companies sometimes create training that their employees don’t need, that won’t fix the problem, or that isn’t worth the cost. For example, you can spend a lot of time and money trying to train your employees to memorize 50 codes—which your employees probably won’t successfully memorize despite your best efforts—or you can create a document that lists all the codes, put that document where your employees need it at work, and give them a very short training session about how to use that list.

That document with the codes on it is an example of a job aid. Have you got a Post-It note by your computer telling you how to do something? That’s a job aid too. And with the ease of recording short, instructional videos at work, and the fact that so many people have mobile devices and smart phones they can use to watch those videos as needed at work as well, you can easily imagine using videos as job aids as well.

Sometimes, a job aid is all a person needs. And they can be much more effective than training. Let’s look at an example from my real life outside the office.

I was reminded of job aids recently because I’m trying to teach my daughters to drive. One daughter is doing pretty well, but she isn’t 100% confident about pumping gas.

(Side note here: “pumping gas” is a good example of something we assume everyone, even a novice, knows how to do because we’re “subject matter experts” on driving cars and pumping gas. Keep this kind of thing in mind when you’re doing a task analysis as part of the training development process).

So when we got home we sat down, my daughter and I got a piece of paper and a pen, and then we talked through the different little tasks involved in pumping gas. And voila—when we were done, she had a handy-dandy checklist of the steps to perform. She then took my car out with the checklist in hand, returned home with a full tank of gas, and told me that the list helped her out. Performance problem solved! That’s an example of a job aid and performance support.

There are two points to the story here. First, training may not always be the right solution, and there are lots of times when a simple job aid is the way to go. And second, while people will continue to use Post-It notes, hand-written checklists, and Microsoft Word documents for these job aids, it’s not a bad idea to look into some tools that can help you create these job aids and get them into the hands of your employees when and where they need them.

For example, the Convergence learning management system (LMS) lets you make checklists for this sort of job aid (see the sample image below). Nice idea, huh? You can then deliver these online to your employees, and they can even access them at the point-of-need in the field using mobile apps on a mobile tablet or smart phone.

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You can use these lists to enter standard operating procedures (SOPs), pre-operation checklists, maintenance schedules, and more. You can then have the LMS “deliver” these to your employees as an assignment or purely in reference mode. And with Convergence Mobile software, your workers can even access these lists on a mobile device while at their work station—even if there’s no Internet connection.

Just as you can deliver SOPs like the ones we just described to your employees online when they need it, you can do the same with things like:

  • PDFs
  • PowerPoint Presentations
  • Video files (like those short videos delivered to mobile phones we mentioned earlier)

By making it easy for employees to access the information they need when and where they need it (at work, while working), you’ll make your employees and your company more productive.

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Check out this article on analyzing performance problems at work, based on Robert Mager’s work, which helps you determine if you need training, a job support, or some other form of intervention.

If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy this second article on performance support and the 70/20/10 model at work.

We’d be curious to know the kind of job aids you are using now and how your employees access them. Leave a note in the comments section below if you can. Or, if you’re interested in learning more about this from Convergence, drop us a line here.

Interested in learning more about job aids? Here are a few book suggestions:

And if you’re interested in buying a learning management system (LMS) and/or mobile devices to deliver training and job aids electronically, you may be interested in the free LMS Buyer’s Guide Checklist below.

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Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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