- What is a job aid?
- How to create a job aid
- How is a job aid different from job training?
- Why are job aids important?
- Final thoughts: What are job aids and how to create effective ones
What can you do in five hours? You could hop on a flight to a different country. Or you might follow in the footsteps of Oprah Winfrey and start adopting the “five-hour rule,” in which you spend five hours a week on deliberate learning.
Employees today are more prone to information overload, distractions and meetings that leave them uncertain about processes and priorities that impact their bottom line.
Job aids play a big role in reducing idle time at work and breaking down communication barriers.
What is a job aid?
Job aids are tools that include clear and concise step-by-step instructions to help employees get work-related tasks done.
With job aids, processes and procedures can be completed quicker and with fewer errors. Employees should be able to refer to them easily on the job to avoid forgetting necessary steps, important information or guidelines to make decisions.
Even if you haven’t heard the exact term before, chances are you already have a few job aids of your own laying around. They could be in the form of scribbled checklists, listicles in your notebook you refer to before launching a project or saved cheat sheets of shortcuts to use in spreadsheets and software in your tech stack.
Job aids come in many different formats, both printed and digital. Some of the more popular ones include step-by-step lists, checklists, flow charts, decision tables and reference guides.
How to create a job aid
Like any training material, creating job aids is a structured process that should be created with a clear goal in mind.
But that doesn’t mean it requires a lot of your time. In fact, you’ll see many job aids made with Scribe taking less than a minute. With the right steps and tools in place, you’ll be able to knock out job aids that are easy to create, distribute and understand.
Here are the steps involved in creating effective job aids.
- Identify your target audience
- Gather information about the task or process
- Choose a format
- Create your job aid
- Test and ask for feedback
- Finalize and publish your job aid
1. Identify your target audience
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.
2. Gather information about the task or process
Next, you’re going to compile information about the task at hand.
This includes listing down all steps involved, points of friction in the process and understanding the most efficient way to reach completion. You can also use this time to chat with employees who are already familiar with the workflow you’re documenting.
You have a lot of information at this stage, but not all of it is useful or necessary.
This step comes in especially handy if you want your job aid to include:
- Reminders and precautions.
- Tips or alternative methods.
- Frequently asked questions.
- Common mistakes.
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 made 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 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.
3. Choose a job aid format
After you’ve compiled all the information needed for your job aid, you’re ready to decide how best to present it to your audience.
Each job aid format has its strengths, but ultimately, the most effective format is the easiest to distribute and digest.
Here are some different types of job aids you can use.
Checklists are excellent options for centralizing a group of action items, variables or requirements needed to execute a task or project. Checklists are used to guide employees through steps that don’t have to be done in order. These job aids are especially helpful to organize, plan and manage tasks.
Examples: New hire onboarding, marketing campaign planning.
Step-by-step job aids are best for tasks that can be broken down into chronological steps and do not lead to multiple outcomes. These can be presented as short listicles or visual walkthroughs with screenshots and illustrations.
Examples: short listicles or visual walk-throughs with illustrations and screenshots.
Flowchart job aids are ideal for tasks that lead to multiple outcomes based on several influencing factors. Flowcharts clearly illustrate branches of paths that can be easily referenced by learners during decision-making processes.
Examples: Qualifying sales prospects, responding to support tickets.
Worksheets can support processes such as ideation and decision-making. Using a worksheet template helps structure the employee’s thought process and make it more consistent over time. Not to mention, these tools can keep individuals focused on the most important elements of a project or issue.
Examples: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis template, competitive analysis.
Reference guides are handy when you want to illustrate tips and provide reminders that can be easily referred to on the job. These job aids are often used to organize fragmented pieces of information or to relay important data that is commonly forgotten or overlooked. To get started with a guide, you can use our standard job aid template.
Examples: Copy editing tips for writers, first aid and safety reminders.
These are most relevant for decision-making processes where outcomes or choices are influenced by several variables. Information is broken down into clearly defined buckets with concise text so decisions can be made accurately without confusion.
Examples: Quality assurance, software testing.
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.
4. Create your job aid
You’re now ready to write your job aid.
You can use tools like Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Powerpoint presentations to get started, but there are several software platforms that help you create visually appealing job aids faster.
We recommend using Scribe to make a job aid. Scribe is an AI-powered tool that documents your processes for you. The software captures your screen to create visual job aids with text, links and annotated screenshots.
If you plan to manually write
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. Includes visual elements
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.
5. Test and get employee feedback
Employee feedback helps ensure that your job aid is doing what you need it to. Maybe you missed a step or could have shortened the process even further using new productivity tips and alternatives.
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.
6. Finalize and publish your job aid
Once you’ve made edits based on feedback, you’ll have the final version of your job aid.
Now all you have to do is make it available, which you can do by adding it to your organization’s knowledge base. You can also share it directly with any individuals or teams that would find the aid most relevant. Finally, make sure your onboarding includes an introduction to job aids and where to find them.
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 is a job aid different from job training?
A job aid provides brief instructions that help an employee complete a specific task. As such, it’s used in the moment when the employee performs the given task making it a just-in-time resource. In contrast, formal job training refers to teachings that help employees understand their role and what’s expected of them.
Since job aids and job training serve different purposes, it’s important to understand how they differ.
Unlike job training, job aids are quick reference guides used to help employees when they occasionally need to recall specific information or learn something they don’t already have memorized.
Since they’re used as more of a quick reference, job aids are less effective when used to guide employees through lengthy procedures, policies and job overviews that require detailed explanations, live demos or face-to-face (synchronous) communication.
Job training, on the other hand, might include comprehensive learning materials about how to improve prospecting through proper goal-setting and crafting outreach. This familiarizes the sales team with what needs to be done and the outcomes that need to be achieved, which may involve standard operating procedures on how to communicate with prospects and craft offers.
After employee training, job aids can be used as on-demand knowledge resources during the course of their daily work. Examples of job aids include a visual walkthrough of how to view leads in Salesforce or a cheat sheet of tips for pricing conversations.
Can job aids replace training?
Since job aids are driven by situational needs, they shouldn’t be used to replace formal training, which acclimates employees to their overall roles and responsibilities. Instead, job aids are helpful tools your employees can use in particular moments of need.
That said, some situations and job tasks aren’t served as well by job aids and require training.
- Responsibilities that are unpredictable, inconsistent and cannot be standardized.
- People-facing tasks that require employees to build trust and confidence using their expertise.
- Situations that require your employee’s complete attention, especially when executing high-risk or hazardous processes.
While aids can’t replace training, they can supplement it and continue to give your employees well-rounded support for many procedures even after training sessions end.
Employees may not remember the exact sequence of events for new technology systems and workplace procedures right away, even with training. Job aids keep information accessible whenever an employee needs it until a habit is made.
Why are job aids important?
Job aids help people remember some of the tasks they learned in training. They’re also useful for supporting your team when a certain process or workflow model changes.
Whether you’re an intern, a fresh graduate or a seasoned member of the workforce, you’ll most likely find yourself dabbling in tasks you’re unfamiliar with or juggling multiple responsibilities at the same time. Job aids make it easy for you to find the relevant information you need without having to drop everything to find a knowledgeable coworker.
Here are the key benefits you get from effective job aids.
Fewer communication delays
Employees spend 58 percent of their day dealing with tasks unrelated to their primary job — like searching for information and chasing after responses from coworkers. While job aids can’t completely eliminate this type of busy work, they can significantly reduce it. With effective job aids, employees don’t have to reach out to their colleagues or schedule a meeting with someone to learn how to complete a standard process.
By creating just-in-time learning resources, you can reduce silos and dependencies in your organization. This empowers employees to work more independently and spend more of their time on skilled work, strategy and creative problem-solving.
New processes pop up all the time. You might have a new tool in your tech stack, new team members to account for and new workflows to support existing priorities and bandwidths. But these situations don’t always call for robust training sessions unless absolutely necessary.
Given that 41 percent of organizations reported a lack of employee engagement as a top learning and development challenge, the last thing you want to do is block off calendar time just to give your team a walkthrough of your screen every time some process changes.
Instead, job aids let your employees access the information when it’s most relevant to them, which is when they’re actually doing the task. Not to mention, with asynchronous information tools, your employees can learn at their own pace and only get the information they need, making it a much more efficient way to communicate process and task-oriented instructions.
Shorter, more effective onboarding
A staggering 81 percent of employees recall feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information they received during their employee onboarding. If you’re trying to cover the big picture of their job as well as all of the little details involved in doing day-to-day work, it’s easy to see how new hires can have trouble digesting training.
Job aids can't replace training programs, but they can make your training shorter and more effective. Creating a repository of relevant, just-in-time learning resources enables you to build a training program that’s more concise and focused on the most important information about the job. That way, you know that your employees have tools they can access in real-time and you don’t have to overload them with information during the onboarding experience.
Accelerated ramp-up time
Standardizing your knowledge-sharing and training support efforts helps new and existing employees reach desired outcomes and productivity levels faster. Job aids build familiarization with new processes to help them succeed at work.
If you can get job aids ready to go whenever something is introduced or changed in the workplace, you can ensure your team’s ability to get up to speed quickly without compromising time that should be spent on core responsibilities and strategy-related work.
Final thoughts: What are job aids and how to create effective ones
Effective learning is instilled with “Aha!” moments that shift your employees’ views about how they can work better and smarter.
What does that look like? Here’s one from a user shared by Scribe CEO Jennifer Smith!
These are the moments where everything clicks and makes sense, when you know what you should be doing next and how to improve. Job aids are implemented to give teams accessibility to those “Aha!” moments whenever they need it. That’s the kind of learning culture needed for stronger workplace retention and satisfaction.
If you’re interested in effective job aids for your team, create a free Scribe account today and design an intuitive step-by-step guide in minutes.