A great job aid skyrockets the quality and/or quantity of employee performance.
It also delivers consistent payoff in terms of return on investment (ROI).
And yet, job aids are a hugely underused and misunderstood tool.
A solid performance support system that delivers results requires truly great job aids. And truly great job aids require manager buy-in, employee input and a design that is engaging and simple to use.
Since we’re design experts here at Venngage, we’ll teach you how to produce powerful, effective job aids that improve employee performance and look great too–even if you’re not a designer.
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What are job aids? Definition
Job aids are instructions on how to do a work-related task. They’re also known as one-pagers, cheat sheets, direction lists, memory joggers and performance support tools. Job aids remind employees how to do tasks and prevent mistakes.
They are usually printed documents, though they can also be digital–a PDF file or image saved on a a computer, a video, a smartphone app. They are often a page (or less).
Job aids are not training. Job aids are used as the need arises.
Job aids are not tools. Your ergonomic office chair is not a job aid.
Job aids support work on the job. They simplify information and processes to help guide employees in the moment.
How job aids improve employee performance
Learning and development professionals can use job aids to improve employee performance.
No, really. Peregrine Performance Group found that employee proficiency went up by 50 percent when they cut a one-week training course to a day and added an eight-page job aid.
Job aids can help employees:
- Remember how to do something post-training
- Solve a complex problem in the moment
- Test out new workflows or adapt to other changes
To do this effectively, job aids should be:
- Highly relevant to the task at hand
- Well-designed i.e. easy to use
Obviously, a badly designed, confusing, poorly written or incomplete job aid will hurt more than it helps.
We’re here to teach you how to create engaging, useful job aids. Let’s get started.
How to create a job aid
Strong copy and visuals are key when creating a job aid. That said, they’re only part of the process.
A truly great job aid is created with a specific outcome in mind, buy-in from managers and once created, is tested and revised until perfect.
In this section, we’ll teach you how to plan, create and test your job aids. And since Venngage is a simple design tool for business communications, we’ll provide plenty of easy, actionable tips to make your job aids look great and work even better.
1. Gather information and get buy-in
An effective job aid is one that’s made specifically for its target audience. Is the job aid for C-level executives or entry-level employees? Or a role in between?
Make sure you’re communicating the right message by interviewing a Subject Matter Expert or even individual employees. Doing online audience research is helpful, but always supplement it with one-on-one interviews.
Focus your needs analysis on what your audience already knows and what they need to learn from a job aid. Let employees tell you what they want to learn. 360Learning has a great guide to the bottom-up needs analysis approach.
Needs analysis complete, get buy-in from managers. Talk with managers how the job aid will be introduced to employees and who will make sure it gets used. Iron out expectations for employees–how and when the job aid should be used and how they’ll receive feedback.
Make sure your job aid strategy is aligned with the managers who will enforce it! Getting alignment from the get-go greatly ups the chances your job aid will actually be effective.
2. Pick a job aid format
The right format for your job aid depends largely on the task at hand. It it a straightforward step by step process or does the worker need to make decisions along the way? Does the worker need to check items off a list or record information?
You can also consider the media for your job aid: a poster, video, audio, app or handout.
At Venngage, we focus on infographics and documents: step by step diagrams, checklists, flowcharts, worksheets and more. So we’ll guide you through the process of creating job aid graphics you can use solo, or add to your posters, videos or apps.
Step by step job aids
Step by step job aids visualize directions and information in a sequence.
You should use a step by step job aid format if the task:
- Is linear with no alternate paths.
- Doesn’t require decision making.
- Needs to be done in a specific order.
How to design a successful step by step job aid:
- Add only the most relevant steps to complete the task.
- Use icons or illustrations as a quick visual reminder of each step.
- Use the same style of icon/illustration throughout a job aid for visual consistency.
- Use a different color header or background for each step.
- Use verbs at the beginning of each sub-header i.e. set goals, create content.
Step by step instructions template
Step by step infographics are great to explain a process simply and easily. Create a text-only outline first. Organize your steps, write the headers and explainer copy. Then you’re ready to start designing!
Intimidated by making your own layout? Ready-made templates like the one below take the guesswork out of making a job aid. Pick a template with the structure you like and then personalize the colors, illustrations and text.
Step by step procedure template
Use a (short!) introduction in your job aid to provide background or guidelines. This is especially useful for difficult conversations or situations.
For example, customer service may need to respond to negative customer feedback, such as in the step by step procedure job aid below.
The introduction makes it clear reps must respond within 24 hours, especially if the review is negative.
Step by step job aids usually follow a single column, top to bottom format. This creates a natural information flow that guides the reader easily from step to step.
Information should also be organized left to right–the direction we naturally read.
Still, you can mix it up by alternating the numbered steps on the right or left, like in the example below. Illustrations help guide the reader’s eye from step to step.
New user onboarding template
Sometimes, a step by step one-column, linear format won’t work for your job aid.
Use a two-column format to compare and contrast. Use contrasting colors to help employees better absorb the information. The new user onboarding template uses blue and orange, both in the header and the two columns.
Flow chart job aids
Flow chart job aids help employees make decisions on the job and finish tasks–with certain conditions.
- Requires several yes or no decisions.
- Needs the decisions to be made in sequence.
- Will be completed different ways based on each decision.
How to design a successful step by step job aid:
- Include a short introduction for context–but only if it’s essential.
- Use short sentences and short words.
- Make sure there’s lots of white space.
- Contrast alternate paths with different colors.
- Use bullet points to condense instructions within a node.
Decision making job aid template
Flow charts definitely need to be planned first. Sketch out the number of steps and decide how complex you want it to be.
Start from a blank canvas or pick a template that best mirrors the process you want to visualize. This flow chart job aid template is a fairly simple linear design. Whatever you choose, start the flow in the upper, left hand corner as that’s how people usually read.
Keep the flow chart simple! Include only essential points so employees can follow the flow with ease. Use contrasting colors to differentiate flows, like the blue and yellow color scheme above.
Decision making flowchart template
Visual cues are really important to make flow chart job aids easy to follow. Place parallel stages at the same levels. In the example below, points on the left are aligned with parallel options on the right.
Use different shapes and colors for different options.
“Start here” is in a smaller, dark rectangle so the workers immediately knows where to begin the flow.
“Yes/no” options are dark circles. Instructions are green rectangles and “call closed” end points are smaller, orange rectangles. Very easy to understand.
If you prefer the employee to follow a particular path in the flowchart, put it in a different, brighter color. For example, the less-preferred flow could be in grey, while the preferred one is a bright green.
Checklist job aids
Checklist job aids help employees make decisions on the job and finish tasks–with certain conditions.
You should use a checklist job aid format if the task:
- Doesn’t need to be completed in a certain order.
- Relates to planning, inspecting or observing.
- Should be performed the same way every time.
How to design a successful checklist job aid:
- Use a verb or action word at the beginning of each checklist item.
- Group different stages in a process by color.
- Or separate checklists into different tables.
- Skip any long words or jargon, unless relevant.
- (Optional) Add a short intro, with the most important info at the beginning and end.
Work checklist templates
A job aid checklist can be a generalized overview of a long process or more detailed. Formatting and color choice will help keep things organized.
Try a single column format for higher-level overviews. You can add dates, or organize by stage like in the checklist job aid template below. Color coding helps organize the stages visually.
In fact, most job aid checklists will need to be split up into chunks.
And each section should only contain the most important steps. Remember, a checklist can’t do an employee’s job for them. You’re not giving directions; you’re giving the big picture.
Keep each step short and succinct–i.e. easy to understand at a glance. The below job aid checklist template relies on short sentences and lots of white space. Color bars neatly define each section. A clean, white background keeps the focus on the tasks.
Related: More Work Checklist Templates
Safe work practices checklist template
Clustering tasks is even more useful in more detailed checklists, like in the cleaning checklist job aid below. Employees won’t be as overwhelmed; they feel empowered to react to one (short) list at a time.
This is especially key for checklists for safe work practices where the health of workers is at stake. Accuracy is extra critical, so you may need to reject our “short and sweet’ rule and give more detailed instructions to make sure workers don’t miss anything.
Especially with tasks completed daily, like cleaning processes, you’ll want to get feedback ASAP and revise the checklist as needed.
Checklists should be living, breathing documents.
Ask for input and update the list right away to get a more effective checklist that has buy in from the actual people who use it!
Decision table job aids
Decision table job aids help employees make decisions–with certain conditions.
You should use a decision table job aid format if the task:
- Has several variables.
- Does not need to be completed in a certain order.
- Has a moderate number of options tied to each variable.
How to design a successful decision table job aid:
- Stick to essential information only. Just the facts, ma’am.
- Use bullet points with short words and short sentences.
- Add icons to each section as a quick visual reference.
- Include a bold header in large font.
- Use row dividers in different colors to help break up sections.
Table of risk for medical decision making
Color is key for highlighting risk in a decision table. A gradient from green (little risk) to red (high risk) drives home the message.
Icons help support the message. You could swap the icons to symbolize the category or identify the type of risk involved.
Reference guide job aids
Reference guide job aids deliver information employees need to finish a task.
You should use a reference guide job aid format if the task:
- Doesn’t need to be done in a certain order.
- Involves data an employee needs to refer to.
How to design a successful reference guide job aid:
- Use simple icons or illustrations as bullet points.
- Use the same style of graphics throughout.
- Use white space to avoid overwhelming the reader with information.
- Break out the information into easy-to-digest chunks.
- Use short sentences and short words.
Quick reference guide template
Infographics really shine as reference guides. They’re clear, visual and easy to follow.
Here’s how not to go off the rails with your design: keep every element, whether shapes or header fonts or icon styles, consistent.
Keep your header, sub-header and body fonts the same. If you use illustrations, they should all be the same style and have the same colors. Use the same shapes: squares for backgrounds and circles for numbers, like in the example below.
The above job aid is clear and aesthetically pleasing because:
- The illustrations are all the same style, size and colors.
- The grey background squares are all the same shape and are are all aligned as if on a grid.
- The text color scheme, size and font are consistent throughout.
- There is plenty of white space in the background to avoid making the design look cluttered.
- The color scheme is simple, with teal used as an accent color to highlight important information.
Don’t worry about adding too much “flair” to your job aid. Focus on repeating design elements and keeping them aligned and consistent. This is the best way to make your job aid accessible and effective.
Again, the above reference guide job aid is perfectly aligned, the icon styles are consistent and there is plenty of white space around each point.
Nervous about creating perfect alignment? Venngage templates do this for you. Our icon replace function will realign elements for you automatically. There’s also smart guides that show you how each item is aligned to nearby objects.
Another tip: icons help with comprehension and engagement and make your job aids more accessible. Symbols help those with different learning styles better understand your job aid.
Related: How to Create Accessible Designs
Tech software quick user guide
Also on the theme of accessibility, make sure any text is at the sixth grade reading level. And keep your fonts readable. Keep your font size as large as possible, avoid fonts with “flourishes” (serif fonts) and avoid patterned backgrounds to keep text legible.
The below software quick user guide has a simple grey background and consistently uses the same, simple font.
3. Write the job aid
Job aids are instructions, so stick with short sentences that start with an action verb.
You want to instruct the employee exactly what to do. Be direct.
- Enter your company email address and password.
- Click on “Time Off” in the left navigation bar.
- Press “5” when prompted.
- Wipe down your hot desk with the provided disinfected wipes at the end of the day.
- Print out the past call log.
Be consistent with your action verbs. If you write “enter your login name/password/data” don’t then write “plug in your login name/password/data” later. Too confusing. Stick with “enter.”
4. Test your job aid in the real world
Before you release your job aid into the wild, test out a prototype. Include copy and a simple design only. Give it to a few people who’d actually use it on the job. Observe them using it, if possible. Get feedback.
Revise the job aid until it’s as effective as it can be.
You can run a survey to get feedback. Sample questions include:
- Were any steps unclear?
- Were you unsure about anything?
- Were any steps out of order?
- Were the steps easy to follow?
- Did you need more information at any point?
- Was there too much information at any point?
- Was anything not covered?
Then, present your findings to your team or decision makers using an infographic.
Make sure you get sign off from managers or other stakeholders, too. Their buy-in will make sure your job aid is actually used and used how it was intended.
Work with them to figure out the job aid’s medium–digital or printed out–and how it should be distributed. Be specific about how employees should use your job aid: printed out and put in a specific binder, saved as an image to their desktop etc.
This is kind of meta, but you can use an infographic to explain how workers should use your job aid infographic. Edit this template in Venngage and make it “6 Tips for Using Your New Job Aid.” Delete sections as required, then share or download.
How do you prove the effectiveness of your job aid? Here are some markers:
- Customer satisfaction scores improve.
- Tasks are completed with more accuracy.
- Managers get fewer repetitive questions from employees.
- Employees report significant knowledge and skill gains in surveys.
- Measure actions to determine productivity increases.
Put your results in a simple, easy-to-digest report. Use this template and send it via email or instant messenger or add it to an existing presentation or other document.
Above all, it’s not just about the numbers. You need to tell a story: the problem, job aid goals, successes and what needs to be done next.
That’s why infographics are great for reporting–they combine data and and narrative in an engaging and easy-to-understand format.
Creating a job aid with Venngage
Venngage is a simple but powerful design platform to make infographics and other visuals for business.
As you’ve seen, we have specific job aid templates for you to customize in our simple online editor and then download to to your computer. You can also start from a blank canvas.
1. Pick a job aid template
Templates help with design inspiration. Whether you choose to stick with the layout or radically change them is up to you!
Pick the layout you like best for your job aid. Don’t worry about picking a template with the right colors, images, fonts etc. These can all be changed later.
You can search for “job aid” in our template page or for anything else like “customer service,” “step by step template” etc. Or browse the templates in this blog post.
2. Customize your job aid template
Here are some quick ways to customize a job aid template in Venngage:
- Click to edit any of the text (and text style).
- Change the background color or add a pattern/gradient.
- Add or remove sections. Resize your canvas manually or use Magic Resize for Business plan users.
- Add your brand colors and apply them to any template automatically with My Brand Kit for Business plan users.
- Upload your logo.
- Access our in-editor library of thousands of free icons and illustrations.
- Add charts or graphs and edit the data and style easily.
3. Invite your team to Venngage and collaborate on your job aid
Invite people to your Venngage team with Venngage for Business. Edit together in realtime. Add comments, send private links and organize your designs into folders.
4. Download your job aid to your computer
Free users can share their designs via a link. Paid users can download designs as a PDF, Interactive PDF, PNG, PNG HD or PowerPoint format.
Related Resource: Join Venngage’s CEO, Eugene Woo, in this free webinar. He’ll be sharing his easy-to-follow process for creating infographics that are memorable, impactful and easily digestible.