The Job Aid: A Reliable, CHEAPER Alternative

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Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

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DSA would like to thank Chris Mueller for contributing this month's tip on Job Aids. Chris has been on staff with DSA as an Instructional Designer for 3 years this past September.

Job aids are everywhere. We use them at our jobs and in our everyday lives. Most of you have even created job aids to help someone complete a task for their job, whether a hand-written post-it or a large, graphical decision chart. While ‘quick-and-dirty’ job aids are commonplace and helpful, formal job aids require much more analysis and follow-through. These aids can act either as supplements to training or stand alone as references or ‘cheat sheets’. Why go through all that trouble? Here are two reasons that stand out most:

  1. Save money. In the right situation, job aids can help avoid formal training.
  2. Insurance. A job aid will help ensure that a task is done right every time.

So, when is a formal job aid a good idea? How do we know if a job aid is needed? Generally, a job aid can (and probably should) be used when a task:

There are several steps and considerations involved in developing and designing a job aid. We need to collect the data that will be used, choose how the aid will be designed based on many factors, and of course develop and test the final product. One question to ask is: What type of structure should be used? In other words, how should the job aid be organized? For example, should it be a checklist, series of photographs with callouts, table, flowchart…?

You’ve probably seen many types of job aid formats, making them seem hard to categorize. However, while a job aid might look complicated, it will almost always fall under one of the six categories listed below, as determined by job aid guru J.H. Harless.

Structure Type


1. Cookbook

Sequential job aid that has ‘ingredients’ and procedures. It is based essentially on stimulus and response items.

Example: An instructor checklist for preparing a training session.

2. Worksheet

While this job aid is also sequential, it requires input from the performer. It is based essentially on input & output items.

Example: Calculating a loan.

3. Cookbook & Worksheet

As a combination of the two types above, this job aid will have both procedures and input from the performer.

4. Decision Table

This job aid is in a decision-making format, in which the user must discriminate or decide using 1-3 categories for every action.

Example: A troubleshooting table in a computer manual.

5. Algorithm

Like a decision table, the user must decide between categories; however, an Algorithm job aid contains 4 or more categories. Example: Flowchart containing many decision points.

6. Combination

When appropriate, any combination of the above can be combined when the task requires both sequential and decision-making formats.

Next time you’re planning a training project, don’t forget to make room for job aids. It could be just the cost-saving solution you need!

See you next time,