During our recent webinar Trim Fat and Boost Performance with Exemplary Job Aids, we discussed many attributes of job aids. We also answered common questions about job aids, such as: The definition of a job aid, why job aids are important, the difference between a mediocre job aid and an exemplary job aid and how to create an exemplary job aid.

Here is a summary of answers to these questions and more.

A job aid:

  • Is a repository used to store and make accessible information, processes and/or perspectives.
  • Is external to the individual; supports work activity; directs, guides and/or enlightens.
  • Is defined as being exemplary when it is known to work “very well” for users. (As a designer, you know you’re on the right track when a tester asks, “Can I have a copy?”).
  • Provides advantages that include: just-in-time availability, simplicity, relevance, saves time, reduces need to recall information, and minimizes errors.
  • Should be used when the target task is performed with low frequency, unusually complex, failure results in dire consequences, and/or steps change often.
  • Can take many formats. Examples include checklist, worksheet, decision table, flowchart, step, tailored-step, or physical device.
  • Can be created in any number of media: poster, quick start guide, digital/app, audio, video. Let the needs of the organization and users dictate the media.
  • Should focus on the how, be clear and direct, use simple language, lead with action verbs, present information in small bits, provide examples and graphics as needed.
  • Should be tested with real-world users. Ask your testers questions about usability, completeness, and special circumstances you may have missed during development.
  • Should be revised by remembering to test, revise, test, revise! This test-revise step is THE SECRET to creating exemplary job aids.
  • Should be managed by considering: user feedback, work environment, availability, versioning and revisions. Who will initiate? Who will implement? Who will administer/oversee it?
  • Can be created using Peregrine Performance Group’s seven steps; (1) Clarify desired output, (2) Align with managers, (3) Choose format, medium, (4) Draft, (5) Test, (6) Revise, (7) Manage – Download the Seven Steps infographic.

For more on the essential nature of job aids in today’s complex and fast-paced world, see Atul Gawande’s TED Talk, “How we heal medicine” in which he tells an extraordinary story about his personal experience and success with job aids.

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