What is a job aid? How do they create effective employees?

Gary Stringer
September 22, 2020
July 20, 2023
Learning And Development

If your people are going to be effective in their job, they need access to the right content and resources in their moments of need. But overwhelming them with too much detail will have the opposite effect. What they’re crying out for is the key information in a format that’s easily understood, and it’s this idea that informs the role and format of job aids.

So, what exactly do they look like? Defining a job aid

It might not be a term that you’re familiar with, but you’re probably using and encountering job aids every day. If you’ve ever used a cue card to remember something complex for a presentation, you’ve created a job aid. If your office has the Wi-Fi details plastered around to stop everybody heading over to the router or asking a colleague, you’ll already have an idea of how helpful job aids can be.

These are informal job aids, they make sure you’re connected and confident, but they don’t necessarily make you better at your role. In a more formal and productive sense, effective job aids provide important information and instructions in an easy-to-follow format, allowing people to work smarter, faster and more independently.

They’re step-by-step guides, checklists and resources that provide the right amount of detail to help people complete a task, by clearly detailing how it can be done. As we’ll now discuss, this empowers employees to find the resources when they need them and complete work in a more accurate and timely fashion.

How job aids can help employees perform better

  • Easy-to-follow reminders on processes within your company.
  • Clearly communicate when information and processes have changed.
  • Summarise useful resources and data into bitesize amounts.
  • Provide key information that encourages better conversations with prospects and customers.
  • Ensures consistency, with people working from the same resources.
  • Reduces question/answer exchanges between employees and management.
  • Reinforces what has been learnt in courses and training sessions.

Let’s wrap up and explain what this all means. If there are necessary tasks when adding new customers to your system or the process changes, an effective job aid would outline all the steps for your staff with brief guidance. This ensures that they have the resources to onboard those customers accurately.

If customer-facing employees need to talk prospects through a list of key features,  a job aid that describes these and their key benefits will enable them to have better conversations. The same guide would also mean those employees are literally working from the same page, meaning there’s consistency in how you’re talking to customers. And its availability means there is less back and forth with them as they search for the resources they need.

Lastly, they’re an excellent tool to reinforce what employees have learnt during courses and training sessions. When done well, creating a job aid can help you summarise the key takeaways concisely and this makes for more actionable learning for your staff.

How learning platforms can help deliver job aids to your people

It might sound a little simple to say, but a job aid is only useful if people can find them easily. They can only help in the moments of need if they can be found in the moments of need, and that’s why learning platforms are so helpful in delivering job aids effectively.

If you’re unfamiliar with learning experience platforms (LXPs), the important idea is that they create a library of internal and external resources that can be found by your employees, either through you assigning them in courses or people searching for them. Essentially, you’re creating a searchable database of resources, in various formats, that’s available on-demand. This streamlines and amplifies those concepts of consistent job aids, resources that can be found when they’re needed, and employee independence in finding that information.

At HowNow, we integrate with the apps you use every day, so that whatever job aid you need or those useful resources can genuinely be found in the workflow.

Examples of great, informative job aids

What do the three examples below have in common? All of these job aids make it crystal clear what you’ll learn from them and list out the steps in an easy-to-interpret manner. They’re written in chronological order with steps that seem fairly easy to follow – even if you’re a complete newbie to that topic.

That’s one of the most crucial elements of an effective job aid! They should be standalone documents that someone can pick up with no prior knowledge and at least be able to make a good fist of carrying out the task. One thing we can do is train our minds to become job aid friendly. Think concisely, which waffle can go and what’s absolutely necessary to complete the task at hand. Secondly, anticipate whether there will be follow up questions, and work out whether they can be covered in this job aid or one of their own.

Back to these examples, they all get bonus points for including a visual element, a big boost when job aids also need to cater to employees who could be new to your company, platforms or processes. I think we can all agree that it’s easier to follow instructions when you can physically see the step you’re being told to take.

That’s why you might see job aids in the form of short video demos or even audio attachments that talk people through various steps.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Source: Asana

Tips for creating a step-by-step job aid

  • Remember, you’re only trying to solve one problem. Good job aids are specific, they tackle one pain point or help people overcome a single challenge they might encounter in the workplace.
  • Create a clear and descriptive title. How well you name your job aid will influence how easy it is to find. If the title doesn’t describe the problem it solves in terms your employee might use when looking for it, they won’t have much luck. So, make sure you speak to people or, even better, listen to how they’re already talking about problems.
  • Set it out in clear, chronological order. It’s important that the process is broken down, step-by-step, into instructions people can easily follow.
  • Speak to people who know best. It would be nice if we did, but nobody in L&D knows everything about everything. However, your internal subject matter experts are well versed on plenty of topics and can boast hours and hours of experience. They’re your secret weapon when it comes to creating job aids that help people overcome challenges they’ll encounter on the job.  
  • Don’t always strive for perfection. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes it’s better to get that great information out there than to wait around for the design to be perfected. The main benefit is that people receive knowledge that helps them complete a task. If that means sending out a set of bullet points today instead of waiting weeks for design turnaround, so be it. Why? Because in those six weeks, there will be countless moments that matter, where people need that information to be more productive. In those crucial situations, a polished design is the last thing on their mind.

For the full scoop on creating job aids that help people thrive in the role and upskill on the job, check out the below tips and read our full building work aids that get the job done.

And if you’re ready to start talking about where you’ll store all these brilliant job aids, speak to a HowNow expert today and we’ll show you the learning platform that helps people find knowledge in the flow of work.

Infographic: Tips for creating job aids that effectively help people overcome their challenges.

Auditing your existing content and consider whether they tick our job aid boxes

Chances are, you’ve got a whole load of existing content. At one point, there was a problem that needed solving and this was the best attempt at solving it. The questions you need to ask are: is this still a relevant problem? Does this resource still answer the question? And is the format still the right one, or do you need to look at it through a job aid lens?

And then are a few ways we can work this all out!

Analyse our content views, feedback and ratings

If content has a lot of views, it’s an indication that the issue is still a problem. But if people are leaving comments on that resource explaining it didn’t guide them through those choppy waters, there’s an argument that the content doesn’t achieve its ultimate goal. For example, imagine you did a face-to-face session on crisis management and uploaded the slides to your shared drive, that 40-page PowerPoint will not be well received in the middle of a real crisis. However, applying our job aid mindset, we can think along the lines of: what are some simple and crucial steps that need to be followed in a crisis? How can we talk people through those core things that mitigate the consequences – that’s how you create a relevant job aid.

At the same time, if content is hardly ever viewed, that might indicate that the initial problem has shifted or people are struggling to find the resource you’ve created. In that case, you’ll have to speak to people and really understand what’s happening.

Are commonly asked questions in your resource bank?

Every week, without fail, there’s probably a question you’re answering again and again. Like some kind of knowledge sharing groundhog day that begins with where, who or how…

Now, are you doing yourself a favour and delivering a job aid that answers this for you? Wouldn’t that be better than answering it over and over again?

Establish all your frequently asked questions, check if there’s a job aid for that in your knowledge bank, if not, go ahead and create one.

If there is something there already, ask yourself it ticks our job aid boxes or whether it’s still the answer to the problem.

Is the best person to answer the questions the one who created the resource?

One thing we haven’t really tackled so far is who’s creating your job aids. Sometimes, in top-down L&D cultures, a select few take the burden of creating every resource.

However, that excludes subject matter experts in many ways, even when you consult them during the process. Their will be people in your business who’ve built up countless hours on the job and tackled similar problems countless times – they are best placed to advise on how someone else can do it and they should be critical in the process of creating job aids.