You can assign people to job-related tasks, but if they don’t have the necessary expertise and training, they likely won’t succeed.
To bridge this knowledge gap, employees either reach out to co-workers with the right experience or decide to forge ahead on their own.
Unfortunately, while both approaches have their place, they can sometimes be impractical and lead to a severe dip in workplace productivity.
This begs the question: how can employees access the right information at the right time?
The short answer is job aids. These handy little tools are the perfect performance support system that provides employees with helpful information on job-related tasks.
Today, we’ll help you make your very own job aid. Read on to learn trusted job aid tips and job aid templates that will help you take a solid first step towards a more productive workplace.
What is a job aid?
A job aid is any material — like reference guides, flashcards, cheat sheets, videos and one-pagers — that contains concise instructions on how to do a task.
It provides employees with the right information on demand, preventing mistakes and boosting productivity.
Understand that job aids are different from job training and in no way a replacement.
Job aids help employees when they need to recall specific information or get the information they don’t have. They are suitable for tasks that don’t involve detailed explanations, lengthy procedures, and interactive simulations.
Job training uses comprehensive learning materials to align expectations for overall success in a specific role. Through goal-setting and outreach, it familiarizes employees with what needs to be done to improve long-term business outcomes.
As both serve different purposes, job aids are the perfect supplement to job training to continue giving your employees additional support after sessions and beef up your training program.
What are the elements of a successful job aid?
Job aids should be simple, succinct and direct — not complex content dumps. You need a structured process that includes certain core elements to do this.
The following are the five elements of successful and effective job aids:
Crystal-clear job aid copy
The whole point of a job aid is to empower your employees with on-demand, relevant knowledge. But it can’t do that if you fill it with vague and unnecessary information.
Talk to a subject matter expert to better understand the complete process. Know all the steps of the process and your employees' skill levels. Then, create crisp and concise content.
Also, be specific when writing the job aid. Use direct instructions to help them tackle the task at hand without second-guessing what a word or phrase means. Focus on individual tasks instead of addressing multiple projects.
We recommend dividing the information into two categories:
- Critical tasks and information
- Important but non-essential tasks and information.
When writing the job aid, add the critical tasks and information right away. If you have extra room, you can include the non-essential information.
Consistent layout and design elements
It’s rare for job aid templates to be static molds that you can pour content into.
All information and tasks can’t fit in the same design, so you need to improvise. But while you do that, you also need to ensure consistency.
Why? Consistency in your job aid helps eliminate unnecessary distractions, making it easier for your employees to follow and comprehend the information. Take this flowchart job aid from Gliffy, for example:
Notice how consistent the overall design and layout are. The start and end shapes are oval, and everything else in between helps create a clear pattern. All the shapes are the same size, aligned and spaced out evenly.
Alongside the visuals, be consistent with what you write. If you use certain words to describe an action in your step-by-step instructions or checklists, stick to them throughout the job aid. For example, if you use “Go to“ or “Click” in your job aid, don’t change it to “Navigate” or “Press,” later on.
If you want to transform a good job aid into a reaaally good job aid, you need visual elements.
Without a considerate mix of screenshots, illustrations, icons, images and other visuals, your job aid wouldn’t be half as engaging and effective — something that makes sense considering we’re wired to process and respond to visuals much faster than words.
Plus, if there's anything better than telling employees how to do job-related tasks, it’s showing them.
Use high-quality and relevant visuals to convey information and reduce the text density of your job aid content. At the same time, striking a balance between text and visuals is also important. Don’t go overboard with images and screenshots. Otherwise, your job aid will lose its value.
Job aid tools
Reliable process documentation tools can significantly simplify job aid creation procedures.
From ensuring the right story flow between text frames and screenshots to annotating and editing the overall layout for greater customization, these tools make everything possible without you investing any extra time.
Not to toot our own horn, but Scribe can give you engaging and effective job aids within less than a minute.
Simply open the page you need for the job aid, and switch on the Scribe recorder to quickly start documenting workflows. When you’re done, click stop. Scribe will automatically convert your process into a chronological step-by-step guide, complete with screenshots and short instructions… in seconds.
You can also use our built-in editor to add, remove or edit screenshots and text and include any alerts and tips to give tasks more context. Finally, send your Scribe directly using a URL link or export or embed it into various resources.
Process documentation hasn't ever been so convenient.
Think about where your employees will use the job aid.
If your audience is the remote sales department, publish your job aid in a digital format instead of getting a printout. Share the work instructions through direct links or embed the links on your staff portal or website.
Similarly, if the job aid is about using equipment, take a printout and place it next to the equipment.
After all, what’s the point of having a job aid if your employees can’t use it when needed?
3 tips to make your job aids more effective
Now that you know the elements that make a job aid successful, here are three additional best practices to enhance your performance aids.
1. Prioritize relevant over extra
Effective job aids don’t copy the entire step list or flowchart from training or process. They are carefully curated, edited and reworked to provide genuine value to employees.
If you want your employees to use or continue using your job aid, keep it relevant to them and the task. Having theoretical and unnecessary information will make the job aid wordy and too long, which will only frustrate employees.
Before beginning your job aid, do an audience and task analysis. Consider questions like:
- How much knowledge do your employees already have on the subject?
- What are the demographics?
- What task is the job aid supporting? How difficult is it?
- What is the average education level of your employees?
- How much of a priority is this task?
Be sure the information in your job aid sets the context for your employees. This will help them understand, retain and process information faster.
Match the job aid format with the content
Choosing the right job aid format is an important aspect of a consistent layout.
Will your job aid be an A4-size laminate paper hung on the wall? Or will it be a shareable link on the computer? Perhaps it’ll be an interactive app. You can pick any format you like, as long as it aligns with your information.
For instance, if the task requires a chronological sequence of steps, you should create step-by-step instructions. But if you think your employees would engage better with charts and images, a flowchart or a reference guide infographic would be a better bet.
Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of job aids:
- Step-by-step processes: These include step-by-step instructions in sequential order.
- Flowcharts: These use various boxes and arrows to guide users through a series of conditions before arriving at an outcome.
- Decision table: This is a more technical job aid format that uses a grid to help users arrive at a decision after considering certain conditions.
- Checklists: These contain a series of tasks or action items for each day, week or month presented with checkboxes.
- Worksheets: These often test learner knowledge, carry out real-world tasks and give employees space to organize and record information for future use.
- Videos: These can be explanatory or learner videos to give users a live demonstration or visual rundown to execute the task at hand.
- Reference guide: These are handy for situations when your employees are already familiar with the procedure but would benefit from quick reminders and best practices.
You can also refer to our job aid examples guide for more in-depth guidance on how to choose a job aid format based on your content.
Follow the CRAP principle of design
If you’re familiar with UX design, you’ve probably heard of Robin Williams and his infamous CRAP acronym (yup, you read that right) for the four main principles of design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.
Here’s what these principles mean for your job aid:
- Contrast. Add contrast between headings and text so that employees understand the different sections of your document. Consider making the headings bold or in full caps, incorporating color or selecting different fonts for your headings and paragraphs.
- Repetition. Having a consistent design throughout the job aid gives it more integrity. For example, you can repeat color headings with bullet colors and note/tip styles or repeat small logos or other shapes to unify the design.
- Alignment. Ensure symmetry between elements like images, paragraph blocks and headings. Focus on alignment more than symmetry (for example, keep your content aligned along the right or left side) to sharpen and strengthen your design.
- Proximity. Group like-objects or similar information near each other so employees can see the connection between them. If objects aren’t related, don't place them too close. This visual grouping lets employees know the location of the content has a relationship with its meaning, even without reading the text.
Presentation matters. And when you design your job aid based on these principles, you’ll be more likely to create effective documents that successfully reinforce training knowledge and reduce task-related errors.
Job aid templates to steal
Here are two handy checklist and worksheet templates. Simply customize these job aids templates based on your content and employee preferences and share them with your employees to get started.
1. Standard job aid template
This job aid template is designed to help you create a comprehensive and user-friendly guide for your employees. It includes sections on job overview, procedures, checklists and references.
You can use this template to create job aids for any role or task, including customer service, manufacturing, construction, or anything else that requires clear and concise instructions.
Checklist job aid template
This HR onboarding checklist template from Venngage makes it easier than ever to keep track of tasks for specific time periods.
This job aid template also meets Williams’ CRAP principles. For instance, there’s a clear contrast between the headings and the tasks and the elements follow a consistent design and are well-aligned. Task grouping tells managers what needs to be done within each time frame.
2. Worksheet job aid
This is a relatively simple competitor analysis worksheet template from Visme that reinforces design uniformity while helping employees perform a SWOT analysis. The fact that it allows you to compare market positioning with three competitors at once is a thoughtful addition to saving time.
If you need more inspiration for making job aids, check out the Scribe’s extensive gallery to explore 40+ how-tos, reference guides, and step-by-step tutorials.
Are you ready to empower your employees and fill gaps in formal training programs? Get Scribe for free and make your own job aid within 60 seconds.