Job-Aid Design: Tips, Tricks, What to Include, How to Format?

Hello helpful instructional design & training peeps, 

I've been working on designing a few job-aids lately and I was looking at templates and ideas for how to format it online when I thought... why not check with the best training community there is!

Does anyone have any tips, tricks, or best practices for creating job-aids? What do you include in your job-aid? How do you format it? What advice would you give someone who's about to create their first job-aid? 

Love to hear your ideas and feedback on this...

Thanks in advance!

28 Replies
Dave Neal

Not really a specific suggestion, but it always helps me to try to imagine myself as a frustrated user of whatever the job-aid is being created for. What would make me happy to see? What would get in the way? Should it be step-by-step, or a list of helpful items? 

I really imagine myself seeing the job-aid, and what I would be looking for. That helps me to avoid the trap of a pre-defined template that might be easier to create, but may not quite be the thing the end user will find most helpful.

Then, make it blue. Blue always works.

David Glow

Best resource (IMO) to break it down to essential actions and support resources is Cathy Moore's Action Mapping: http://blog.cathy-moore.com/action-mapping-a-visual-approach-to-training-design/

After going through Cathy's process, look at context, and format carefully.  A user at a desk with a computer may have access to multimedia or clickable links to unveil each layer of information as it's needed, with progressive depths of information.

A user in a fire with a fire extinguisher needs a sticker on the side that can be understood in under 5 seconds.

So after Cathy's process, I find context/format (the function) to drive the best choices for form.

 

Alexander Salas

Hi Nicole, 

This is a great discussion.  I recently had to develop some for regulatory compliance at a call center.  As everything else we do, I started with the business need.  Our business need was for agents to be completely aware of Medicare regulations regarding a customer's right to an appeal.  I used PowerPoint in a portrait layout to build the attached job aid. It seemed to work well along with dedicated coaching from supervising staff.  In terms of formatting, I always picture a job aid to have a START and STOP point.

Ben Gianacakos

I think the most important thing for these kind of learning interventions is familiarity. What I mean is you should get in the learner's space. What is their workflow? How do they use systems? What interferences do they have? What are the typical periods during the workday that they take breaks? For how much time?

Once you know the environment, the job aide should just come to you.

Nicole Legault

A lot of really fabulous tips here... thanks for everyone's insights... some of the top tips I think I'm pulling from this are...

  • Put yourself in the learners shoes and consider what they need/want on the job 
  • Understanding work environment, business requirements, and the context is key to ensure the job-aid is usable in a real-life situation
  • Consider  creating an infographic or something more visual 

These are awesome tips so far! You guys rock :)

Mark Shepherd

Hi Nicole:

David's link to Cathy Moore's Site led me to her Twitter Feed, where I found this:

http://eppic.biz/2016/02/18/a-damn-good-job-aid/?utm_content=bufferd7c5a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Guy Wallace's blog post is a little on the thin side, but he does make one or two interesting points about Job Aids and who should/how to go about building them. ;)

Preston Ruddell

I think everyone has said this already... but functionality is a huge driver of the design of the job aid.  Is this job aid a procedural reminder or call to action?  Is it a reference document?

If it's a procedural reminder, then I try to go with a simple statement that sums up the objective.  Any additional words, graphics, or images should direct the learner to the statement.  For example, if the message is "Verify Every Call!"  I might design an aid that explains the repercussions of failing to properly verify a caller.  The options are pretty open with this one.

If it's a reference document, I'm focusing on usability and convenience more than attractive design.  In this case, a simple word document with a neatly designed chart will do.

I have made design and content reasons based on page size too.  If it's an aid that will be kept at an agents desk, I do whatever I can to neatly fit the information on a one-sided 8.5 x 11 page.  Employees here will do better with a simple one page reference document taped up on their cubicle than they will a detailed three page document that they have to flip through.

Ultimately, I'm trying to make it as easy as possible for our employees to make a correct decision or follow the proper procedure.  I want to do that in the least amount of clicks/page turns/sentences possible

Mark Shepherd

Preston:

I LOVE this idea/insight.  If I were building a Job-Aid, the first thing I'd be looking to do is to see how many of these concepts I might work into this.

Example Ideas (personal "light-bulbs" from this Insight):

  • Use an Infographic(s) either at the center OR periphery of my Print-Out or Job-Aid Slide, and then add thought balloons, captions, or other Post-It-Notes-like elements around it.
  • Use a flowchart approach along with a combination of select text and graphics visuals to overview, evaluate, or underscore the desired learning process(es) that Job Aid supports.

I guess the most obvious question(s) that comes out from this is:

"What exactly IS a Job Aid?"

and

"How far should a/how detailed should a... particular Job Aid go/be?"

Alexander Salas

Hi @Tania, 

I think you might benefit more from the guidance and techniques to make content easily read by JAWS or similar software.  This affects anything from a web page to a Word document.  For example; a Word document can be perfectly adapted for JAWS if is properly formatted.  Here in the US we follow 508 compliance. See this post for more info (although the force tells me you already know this ;  )

terry follmer

I echo Ben's suggestion to focus on the current users and what they look for in the work space. This helps you determine what they need and how they use it. Another quick tip on gathering this info: look at their workspace, especially the sticky-notes they place around the monitor or anywhere within view. This is the content they use the most often, and may struggle to remember. Then map them to the specific tasks where they use them. That should prompt some ideas on how to create something useful. Infographics, flow diagrams, something similar to Alexander's example could be some ways to present the info.

In a similar vein, when (if) you get the users/learners in a classroom or conference room, and after reviewing important information or a specific lesson (regulations, procedures, etc.) I've had them work in small groups to create their own job aids on a white-board or flip-chart. Pose the challenge: "What was most difficult about what we just covered? What do you think you might need the most help with when applying this on the job?" Give them time to design a "poster." Take a photo of their output, re-work it in the software of your choice, have accuracy vetted by a SME, and get it back to them. They created the original, it should look familiar, and this increases the likelihood they will make use of it. Or if their original work is THAT good, just send them copies to print and post at their desks or workspace.

Mark mccoy

I know I am late  to this discussion, but I would consider the physical environment in which the job aid is to be used.  If the job aid is to be used outside in the field, i would suggest a laminated sheet.  Also, I would consider if the sheet needs to be full sized.  If the work is done with a computer nearby, consider making a video job aid or micro-elearning session.  That is what we are starting to do.

Dave Ferguson

Just came across this thread. Thanks to Kevin and Nicole for their kind words, and apologies to Tracy -- I had a malware problem on both my blogs, which has since been fixed.

Creating job aids won't reduce the crabgrass on your lawn or make you a better singer, but if you use them when the nature of the task suggests them, you'll help your audience save time and money, avoid stress, and (most important) achieve results that matter.

I've just returned from the Institute for Performance and Learning's 2016 conference, where I offered my Building Job Aids workshop. That's spurring me to share ideas more often at Ensampler.com, including how-tos and makeovers of less-than-optimal job aids.