Remember: the human brain forgets information very quickly.
No, seriously. According to Cognitive Science Expert Art Kohn, the average learner forgets 70 percent of what they learn within 24 hours, which goes up to 90 percent in a week if they try retaining it.
That’s why you have to consider knowledge retention when planning and delivering training.
Job aids are an excellent tool to improve knowledge retention. They’re simple instructions that assist in the learning process. Employees can use them to complete tasks more efficiently, boosting the quality and quantity of their performance.
The only catch?
Job aids only work when made thoughtfully to enforce what the training process already implemented. So, knowing how to create a job aid successfully is important to standardize work processes and boost output quality.
What are job aids?
A job aid is a set of concise step-by-step instructions or visual hints that helps employees perform tasks faster and more efficiently by preventing mistakes.
Common examples of job aids include:
- Cheat sheets.
- Paper handouts.
- Instructional lists.
- Performance support collateral.
- User manuals.
Unsurprisingly, job aids work across many types of organizations. Flashcards for K-12 education. Paper handouts for corporate training. Or reference guide for HR departments.
Job aids are everywhere, and they’re making a difference across industries.
Why are job aids important for businesses?
Job aids help improve employee performance and promote efficiency in major ways. Whether it's performing unusually complex tasks or tasks done with low frequency, these little tools are a game-changer for minimizing errors and saving time.
You don’t have to take our word for it — we’ve got proof.
Peregrine Performance Group conducted a study where they reduced a one-week training course to just a day with an eight-page job aid. The result? A staggering 50 percent boost in employee proficiency.
You’re probably wondering what makes a job aid successful. Generally, it has to meet the following criteria.
Use job aids to solve a problem
Job aids provide employers and employees with help right away instead of making them go through layers of documentation. This ensures employees complete tasks correctly the first time.
Use job aids to adapt to changes
Job aids are also helpful when testing new workflows or adapting to changes. If your employee is using a new software version, you can walk them through it by placing a job aid next to their workstation. This will help them use the software correctly and save time they’d otherwise waste trying to figure it out on their own.
Use Job aids to help recall information
Employees can retain only so much information after attending training and coaching sessions. As their knowledge starts growing stale with the passing days, job aids help them recall information needed to do tasks whenever needed.
Another advantage is that job aids can be deployed 75 percent faster than traditional training and at a much lower cost.
But fast doesn’t necessarily mean effective. You have to do it the right way.
Examples of a successful job aid
One of the biggest USPs of a job aid is it’s incredibly versatile. You can draft it as a step-by-step guide like this one from Scribe, a free software that auto-generates SOPs and process docs.
Create a step-by-step guide.
Or make listicle-style guidelines in a larger process doc, with Scribe Pages.
Your job aid can simplify process documentation by letting you convert elaborate (and frankly boring) instructions into digestible formats that help employees do their jobs better.
How to create a job aid in 7 steps
Job aids aren’t randomly-put-together streams of text. They’re well-organized and structured. Without fluff. Purposeful.
The best job aids are simple and visually appealing. Below, we’ve created a seven-step rundown to help you create effective job aids for your team.
Step 1: Identify and understand your target employees' needs
To ensure your job aid supports your employees in the workplace, you need to know what purpose it'll serve and your audience’s preferences.
Depending on your employee's role, the length, format, lingo, tone and distribution of your job aid should be different to communicate the correct message. For example, a job aid for C-level executives will be different than one for entry-level employees.
Here are some questions to help you define your audience:
- What role-specific benefits do you want your job aid to provide?
- Does your intended audience work remotely or in person?
- At what time point in their workflow do you anticipate they will need the job aid?
- Will they benefit more from a brief job aid or a detailed one?
Also, meet with subject matter experts (SMEs) and interview individual employees to get more insight into your target audience. After that, perform a needs analysis to find out what your audience already knows and what information to include in your job aid.
Step 2: Get buy-in from management
Proper alignment across the organization is important to ensure success, and job aids are no different.
Get buy-in from the upper management and align with your managers. Use this as an opportunity to confirm whether job expectations are clear and workers are getting feedback.
Ensure the tools necessary to do the job are working. Then decide how to introduce the job aid and who will enforce and reinforce its use.
Management needs to be clear on these decisions to avoid any confusion down the line.
Step 3: Collect and consolidate your information
You have a lot of information at this stage, but not all of it is useful or necessary.
Focus on what your employees need to know about the task at hand. Also, ensure the content has context and is easy to understand. A visually attractive job aid that’s confusing isn’t going to be useful for anyone.
So how do you achieve the right balance?
Create an outline for your job aid. Jot down all the necessary steps, friction points and tips you think will help employees complete their tasks most efficiently. Organize your main points into bullets and then add sub-categories and body content.
Here’s a snippet from a Job aid with Scribe:
Note how the instructions are concise and to the point. The idea is to have a cohesive structure without any unnecessary information.
Scribe Top Tip: Chat with employees familiar with the workflow you’re formatting. Ask them what information they think is most important to include and how to present it.
Step 4: Choose a job aid format
Decide how to present all the information you gathered in Step 2.
The good news is you have tons of job aid format options, each with its own pros and cons. Pick one you think would be most effective, easiest to distribute and digest, and resonate with your target employees.
Here are some of the most popular types of job aids:
Job aid step-by-step how-to’s
Break down tasks into chronological steps to achieve a single outcome. Present it as short listicles or visual walk-throughs with illustrations and screenshots.
Job aid checklists
Create a list of action items, requirements, and variables necessary to execute a task or project. You don't have to present them in any specific order since they are just meant to help employees organize, plan and manage tasks.
Job aid flowcharts
Made using various symbols, lines, questions, and decision points, flowcharts are best for tasks with multiple outcomes based on different influencing factors. Prepare “Yes” and “No” statements that lead employees to their next decision and eventually help them arrive at a solution or ending point.
Job aid templates
Create detailed formats to help employees understand how to complete a document. This will save time while helping you maintain a consistent look for all documents.
Job aid reference guides
These come in handy when employees are already familiar with the procedure but need a quick reminder. Organize fragmented pieces of information or important tips and reminders that are commonly forgotten or overlooked for multiple processes. Add illustrations and images as visual examples.
Job aid decision tables
These are best for decision-making processes where a set of variables influence the outcome. Break down information into well-defined buckets with supportive (and clear) text to help employees make decisions without confusion.
Job aid worksheets
Test learner knowledge when performing real-world tasks. Employees can also use them to organize and record information to do their job more efficiently.
Job aid videos
Depending on the type of content you plan on presenting, use video job aids to explain complicated tasks and concepts, give product demos or record on-the-job training.
Step 5: Draft your job aid
You’re now finally ready to bring your job aid to life.
For the drafting phase, ensure your job aids ticks off the following two pointers:
1. Carefully worded
When writing the copy for your job aid, make sentences short and direct and use action verbs. Words like “proceed,” “check,” “press,” “open” and “close” work well to give instructions concisely.
Ensure your action words stay consistent throughout the job aid. For example, if you use the phrase “Click on the menu bar on the right-hand side of your screen,” continue using “Click” throughout the remaining text. Don’t substitute it with “Select” or “Press.”
2. Visually beautiful
Visual design is an important part of successful job aids, but getting the right balance between graphics and text can be surprisingly tricky.
You may have given all the necessary information in your job aid, but it’s no use if your employees can’t read or understand the graphics.
IKEA user instruction manuals, for instance, use pictures without text.
While this may work in certain situations, you can never be completely sure the user understands what you want to tell them.
Your best bet is to use a combination of short, descriptive text and relevant imagery.
Here are a few tried-and-tested UX design best practices you can apply to enhance job aids.
- Present information in small bits.
- Add examples and use graphics, drawings, and photos whenever possible.
- Ensure the text is readable (at least an 11pt font).
- Keep the look and feel consistent.
- Use two to three colors to avoid overwhelming users.
We also recommend leveraging tools to automate, design and centralize your job aids. For instance, Notion and Asana are great project management resources for creating template-like formats (think: checklists, reference guides). On the other hand, Venngage is useful for designing visually appealing infographics.
But if you’re looking for a more effective, convenient, and quick way to create job aids, choosing Scribe is a no-brainer. Scribe is a browser extension and desktop app that auto-generates step-by-step guides. In seconds you can create, share or embed a visual job aid for any team.
Start making step-by-step job aids with Scribe — it’s totally free.
Step 6: Get employee feedback
Considering the whole point of creating a job aid is to help and support employees, getting their feedback is a no-brainer. If they don’t find it helpful, all your efforts will be in vain.
Send a prototype of your job aid to a few seasoned managers and employees to determine any final edits before sharing it with your team. Ask yourself:
- Are they having a hard time understanding certain parts?
- Was there too much information or too little?
- Does it provide complete and accurate information?
Encourage them to voice their opinions and give suggestions to improve the document. Then incorporate their suggestions and revise until you get their approval.
Step 7: Share it with employees
Now that your job aid is perfected, share it with your employees.
Place it where you think your employees would need it most. For example, if the job aid is for office workers, send them downloadable links they can open on their computers. Or, if the job aid is for manual workers, take a printout and tape it on the wall or their workstation.
How to create a job aid in summary
Paul Elliott, the author of Handbook of Human Performance Technology, famously said, “Despite its major payoffs, the job aid is a vastly underused tool.“
Now that you know how to make effective job aids, you won’t lose out on their benefits. Just make sure the document covers the information your employees need to do their tasks.
And take advantage of tools like Scribe to make the process even easier. All you need to do is execute the task as you usually would. The tool will auto-generate visual step-by-step tutorials within less than two minutes.