Documentation

What Is a Job Aid & What Makes One Good?

Without job aids, employees can spend up to five hours a week waiting for information. Here's what they are, and how to make ones that are quick and accessible.

Introduction

What can you do in five hours? 

You could learn how to cross-stitch or how to play the ukelele. 

You could hop on a flight to a different country. 

You could even follow in the footsteps of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey and start adopting the ‘five-hour rule,’ in which you spend five hours a week on deliberate learning. 

Or you use up your five hours the way many employees do in the workplace — waiting for coworkers to share information, support and training. 

Employees today are more prone to information overload, distractions and meetings that leave them uncertain about processes and priorities that impact their bottom line. As remote and hybrid work becomes more commonplace, knowledge-sharing must evolve into a form of learning that empowers teams with the independence they need to succeed at work. 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 clear and concise step-by-step instructions that 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.

You might already have a few job aids of your own laying around your desk, office, or home. They could be in the form of scribbled checklists and listicles in your notebook to refer to before launching a project, or perhaps it’s a saved cheat sheet of shortcuts to use in spreadsheets and software in your tech stack. 

Similarly, 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 is a job aid different from job training?


It’s important to not confuse job aids with job training, primarily because the two serve distinct purposes.

Unlike job training, job aids are used to help employees on the occasion they need to recall specific information or obtain information they don’t already have on hand. Job aids are less effective when used to guide employees through lengthy procedures, policies and job overviews that require detailed explanations, live demos, or interactive simulations. 

A  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. 

On the other hand, a job aid would come in handy after your sales team has been trained and is conducting their daily responsibilities. This could be a visual walkthrough of how to view leads in Salesforce or a cheat sheet of tips for pricing conversations

Here’s a quick way to distinguish the two: 

  • Job training aligns expectations for overall success in a particular role
  • Job aids get tasks completed successfully at a particular moment of need

Can job aids replace training? 

Job aids are driven by situational needs, and some situations simply don’t fit the purpose they serve. Some tasks require employees to memorize steps without a point of reference to ensure tasks are executed at the highest quality. These include: 

  • 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 

So can job aids replace training completely? No. 

But supplementing your job training with job aids will continue to give your employees well-rounded support for many procedures even after training sessions end. 

It can take 40 to 50 repetitions of an action or task to instill a habit. The same goes for learning. 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 your team needs job aids

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 ensure productivity by making your employees’ lives easier as they navigate bigger responsibilities where a job aid wouldn’t come in to save the day. Here’s how: 

Avoid communication limbo

How much time do you spend waiting around for a red light? For the average American, it adds up to six months in a lifetime. 

Whether it’s on the road or in the workplace, the minutes you spend waiting for somebody else adds up. 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. This is what happens when communication is left in limbo. There are better ways for employees to spend their time in than wait for instructions whenever they’re unsure about a process they could otherwise complete themselves. The lack of job aids creates silos and dependencies within an organization, limiting the ability of employees to work independently and dragging out the time taken to complete projects and assignments.

Faster knowledge-sharing

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. The last thing you want to do is block off calendar time just to give your team an un-engaging walkthrough of your screen. More than half of employees want learning to be more “just-in-time,” which is a less formal form of learning that lets teams look up answers for themselves instead of waiting around for scheduled training. 

Consultant and speaker Britt Andreata tells LinkedIn that “when employees are stuck they need an answer quickly. It doesn’t help them to sign up for a class that will happen three weeks from now and sit through a four-hour session to get the answer they need this minute.” That’s where your job aid comes in.

Less time spent on training programs

Job aids cant replace training programs, but they can make your training shorter and more effective. It’s hard to forget the headlines about a Microsoft study discovering we had the attention span of goldfishes. But when getting employee training ready, it’s an effective reminder to mould your program into one that’s concise, actionable and built for information retention. In 2021, employees around the world spent 129 hours on unnecessary meetings. If you’re going to take more time away from your team, it’s better not to fill it up covering routine tasks and on-the-job instructions that employees can learn on their own time or while they’re working.

Accelerate ramp-up time 

Standardizing your knowledge-sharing and training support efforts helps new and existing employees reach desired outcomes and productivity levels faster. Unclear processes cause 23 percent of employees to miss deadlines. 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. 

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 in place, you’ll be able to knock out job aids that are easy to create, distribute and understand. 

  • Define who you’re writing your job aid for
  • Gather information about the task you’re writing about
  • Select a format to present your instructions 
  • Draft your job aid 
  • Test your job aid and gather feedback
  • Finalize and implement

1. Define your audience

Before creating any resource to support employees in the workplace, know who it’s for and what purpose it serves. Depending on the nature of your audience’s role, the length, format, tone and distribution of your job aids can differ greatly. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when conducting audience research. 

  • What role-specific benefits will this job aid provide my audience? 
  • Do they work remotely or in person? 
  • At one point in their workflow will this job aid be used? 
  • How much time should your audience spend reading this job aid? 

2. Gather information

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.  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 

3. Select a format 

After you’ve compiled all the information needed for your job aid, you’re ready to decide how to present it the way your audience needs. Each format has its own strengths, but ultimately, the most effective format is the one easiest to distribute and digest. Use these examples to help you determine the right format for your next job aid. 

Step-by-step instructions


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.

Good example(s): How to use a new printer, how to create an ad on LinkedIn

Flowcharts

Best for tasks that lead to multiple outcomes based on several influencing factors. Flowcharts clearly illustrate branches of paths that can be easily referenced during decision-making processes. 

Good example(s): Qualifying sales prospects, responding to support tickets 

Reference guides

Best to illustrate tips and 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. 

Good example(s): Copy editing tips for writers, first aid and safety reminders 

Decision tables

Best 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.

Good example(s): Decision tables for quality assurance and software testing

Checklists

Best 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. 

Good example(s): Checklists for new hire onboarding and campaign planning

Draft your job aid

Now you’re ready to create your job aid. You can use several tools to automate, design, or centralize your job aids for easier creation and distribution. Venngage helps you design job aid infographics with varying color palettes, fonts, icons, and illustrations. Popular project management resources like Notion, Asana and ClickUp can be used to templatize formats like decision tables, checklists, and reference guide databases. 

You can also create job aids by recording your workflow or including screenshots, making your processes more remote-friendly and easy to understand with less back and forth communication. Here’s how you can use Scribe to automatically record and generate step-by-step guides that live as shareable links.   


  • Organize: Simplify your audience research by simply navigating to the website or software they’ll be completing this task on. As long as you know where you need to go on the page, you’re ready to get this job aid going!

  • Record: Skip the part where you fumble around your keyboard to start screen recording. Hit the button on the Scribe recorder at the top of your screen to quickly start and stop your recording.

  • Stretch your fingers: Take a second to wiggle your fingers around for the job well done — your job aid is almost complete (we’re not kidding!). Scribe turns screen recordings into a chronological step-by-step guides taking employees through processes one click at a time. It also includes screenshots and short instructions. 

  • Customize: Add, remove, or edit screenshots and text with a built-in editor. You can even include custom branding, alerts and tips to give employees more context for any task.

  • Share: Your Scribes can be sent directly using a URL link or exported and embedded into different tools and resources — just like how we’ve embedded it here! You can always update and edit your Scribe whenever the need arises. 

Get feedback

With the right process and tools, completing a job aid can be simple. The Scribe we showed you above only took 2 minutes to capture 20 steps! But it doesn’t just end there.

To make sure they serve their purpose and are used effectively, you need to get feedback. Maybe you missed a step or could have shortened the process even further using new productivity tips and alternatives. Send your job aid over to a seasoned employee or manager to determine any final edits before you share it with your team. 

Set the stage for more “Aha!” moments

Effective learning is instilled with “Aha!” moments that shift your employee’s views about how they can work better and smarter. What does that look like? Here’s one from a user shared by CEO at Scribe, 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.