In the workplace, the only constant is change. As a result, people always need to learn new skills, follow new procedures, and master new information.
Except that’s not really true. What people need is to achieve new results, or different results, following such change. However, it’s not always necessary to learn in order to produce the desired results.
A job aid is external information someone uses on the job that reduces the need to memorize while enabling that person to produce the desired results. For many tasks, especially if they have many steps, or complicated steps, or if it’s especially important to do them correctly, job aids can lower or even eliminate the need to “learn” information. Checklists at a hospital operating room or on aeroplanes are a form of job aid; in critical situations people should not rely solely on their memory. Instead, the checklist is a faithful, patient reminder. In a crisis, a job aid helps you proceed step by step to the desired result.
Job aids even make staff training better. Instead of spending time on memorizing information that doesn’t need to be memorized, staff can learn in training how to do their work using the job aid – and apply that same guide, back on the job.
This week’s guest writer, Dave Ferguson, has created job aids for organizations like GE, Kraft Foods, and the corporation that administers public-sector pensions for the province of British Columbia. He’s given workshops on building job aids at professional conferences, and shares examples and advice at Dave’s Ensampler.