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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Learning Management System (LMS) Buyer’s Guide

Learn what you need to know BEFORE you begin your search and get a free checklist to guide you, too.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

2 thoughts on “When a Job Aid Is Better than Job Training

  1. We are in the process of creating a formalized training program from scratch for our new hires with a second priority on recurring training. Currently each site has created their own job aides that are specific to their location, but we want to standardize that for the primary reason of knowing that the customer is getting the same service at each site or better. We are currently developing a “How to” guide with trouble-shooting steps in a user friendly format, along with a Quick Reference Guide for those with more experience who just need a fast refresher to jog their memory. Training aids are going to be critical for providing fast problem solving turn around times to keep the customer operational.

    1. Keith, that’s great. We wish you luck with the project and hope maybe the article above was of some help or maybe some of the others on our blog.

      Good luck, happy new year, and let us know if there’s anything else we can help with. We have apps that would allow people to access those troubleshooting guides and quick reference cards on mobile devices, for example.

      Happy holidays and a great 2017 to you.

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