5 Tips for Designing Great Job Aids

As the 70:20:10 theory implies, a lot of learning in organisations happens outside the boundaries of formal training. While we often cater to the formal side, there’s a lot of other important use cases for learning. With the current speed of change in business, being able to up-skill people ahead of time becomes more unrealistic. Often, we just have to start doing faster, and hope that it goes well. But the inability to train people beforehand doesn’t mean we have to forgo training altogether. Job aids, for instance, are a great way of providing learning resources on the job. Here’s what you should take into account when designing them.

1. Simplify radically

One of the key characteristics of job aids is that employees engage with them within the workflow. To minimise disruptions to that workflow, we need to minimise the time spent querying information. Therefore, similar to the logic of good storytelling, job aids should be as simple as possible. Don’t circle around the topic, but dive right in. This is not a medium to display every single bit of knowledge either, but rather to provide concise information to help the employee with a highly specific task. Everything that goes beyond that or doesn’t support that goal is excess clutter, and should be removed.

While simplifying radically enables employees to find the information faster, it also eliminates the need to spend time on making judgement calls on what information is relevant. Therefore, they’re able to get back to peak performance faster.

2. Avoid excessive use of interactivity

In the general realm of digital learning, we often talk about the importance of interactivity. While interactivity is vital in creating engagement around the learning content, with job aids, it rarely serves a purpose. As the goal is to consume nuggets of information as rapidly as possible, any interactive elements, such as questions sets, exercises and the like just get in the way.

Instead, simplify the content also in this regard. Often the simpler the better. We should always choose content types based on their fit for purpose and ability to convey the information. Videos might be the best options for some material, whereas simple text and images might work for some.

3. Make it searchable

In most cases, these type of performance support resources are accessed via some kind of system. Accessibility is a big consideration in designing effective job aids. You can design great resources, but if we bury them inside a complex, layered LMS system, finding them might become too much of a burden. If we don’t provide employees with a seamless way of making queries and finding the right material from the library, they’ll quickly default back to Google and Youtube.

Therefore, it’s important to first of all make the content searchable. The nature of job aids entails that there’s going to be quite a lot of them. To enable employees to find the relevant stuff fast, you do need a search function. While identifying the right content is important, it might also be beneficial to be able to search for e.g. keywords within a piece of content, to locate the relevant information faster. If you’re doing videos, providing navigation buttons inside the video might make sense.

4. Make the user experience simple

As mentioned, employees often access job aids via a platform, tool or a system of some sorts. Whatever the system is, it’s important that the user experience is fluid, natural and easy to use. The experience must be intuitive, meaning that employees don’t have to spend time on learning how to use the system. The less clutter there is, the better.

Generally, performance support tools or job aid portals contain a much more limited set of features compared to conventional learning tools. If you’re implementing one, it’s a good idea to review out-of-the-box or “popular” features, and consider whether they’re actually necessary for this particular use case.

5. Understand the users’ context

Finally, it’s incredibly important to understand how the employees actually engage with tools like these. Often, but not always, these types of job aids tend to be consumed on the mobile. If that’s the case, you’ll want to focus on that as your primary medium, and employe best practices for mobile learning design. If the use case is more corporate office, you might see more desktop use, and thus have more “real estate” to play with.

Going beyond devices, it’s also important to understand the use situations, i.e. the learning opportunities in the workflow, in more detail. E.g. if employees are using job aid videos on a noisy factory floor, they might not be able to hear the sounds of videos. Thus, it may be necessary to provide subtitles and ensure that the information is conveyed even without narration.

Final words

Across industries, we are seeing a trend of looking beyond the conventional formal training when considering the corporate “learning mix”. Well-designed job aids are a great way of providing performance support and rapid learning within the workflow and on-the-job. Not only does this enable people to maintain better productivity, it may also make sense for learning too, as all learning gets put into practice right away, which tends to increase retention. If you’re looking into job aids, and think you may need help in designing them or implementing proper tools for them, we might be able to help. Just drop us a note here.

More Learning Ideas