Job Aids are one of two types of performance support tools, the other being planners. Job Aids benefit organizations in that they are there “just in time” to allow a task or skill to be self-performed. Planners are there when preparing to perform a task and afterwards, when we reflect on our efforts (Rossett & Schafer, 2007, p. 20).
Job Aids in the Workplace
Job Aids are common in the workplace, and employees have been self-publishing them for on-demand learning for years. A sheet of paper taped to the copy machine that explains the steps for clearing a paper jam is a Job Aid. The list of contact names and telephone numbers posted above the receptionist’s desk are Job Aids.
Job Aids are essential training tools when individuals join an organization one at a time, and it’s economically impracticable to conduct instructor-led training. With Job Aids, the new-hire can virtually train themselves! Job aids are also handy reference tools, so when the new-hire becomes inundated with new information, Job Aids provide a resource for reference rather than having to go back to their mentor or trainer for support.
Why On-Demand Learning is Important to the HRD Field
When a procedure is known by only one person in the organization, or it is a procedure that is done on an infrequent basis, the design, development, and implementation of Job Aids are the perfect solution to the problem of “how do I perform this task?” So, you might ask, if people are self-directed and figure out new ways to do things on their own, and if employees have been self-publishing Job Aids for years, why is on-demand learning important to the HRD (Human Resource Development) field? The challenge is to be able to develop content rapidly, make it highly accessible and integrate it into workflows. Often, when we are expert at what we do, we leave out important steps because they seem intrinsic in the task. This is the potential problem with integrating self-published on-demand learning into the workflow. For example, we may assume that someone would save a document before exiting a computer software program, but if the Job Aid doesn’t explicitly say to do that, the learner may be confused and the intended step of saving the document may be missed.
HRD professionals are required to have technical, business, interpersonal, and intellectual competencies (Wilson, J. P., 2005, pp. 18-19). Within these categories lies the core competencies of adult learning understanding, competency identification skill, objectives preparation skill, business understanding, organizational behavior understanding, presentation skill, questioning skill, relationship building skill, information search skill, intellectual versatility, and observing skill. It is the HRD professional that can identify a performance gap and determine if training or performance support is the solution. Specifically, the role of the Instructional Designer is to assure that Job Aids contain all steps and contingencies so that the Job Aid can stand alone as a training aid and future reference tool. The Instructional Designer is experienced in utilizing instructional systems design models that consider the environment in which learners are expected to perform, characteristics of the learners, and characteristics of the learning environment that could impact the effectiveness of the instruction.
Rossett, A. and Schafer, L. (2007). Job Aids & Performance Support: Moving from Knowledge in the Classroom to Knowledge Everywhere. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer—John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Wilson, J. P. (2005). Human Resource Development. Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development