Experienced trainers use a variety of training aids throughout their training programs. These include models, simulations, diagrams, mnemonics, reminder cards, templates, and so on. All of these are designed to assist trainees in the learning process. However, learning does not finish at the conclusion of the training program. In fact, for some training programs, work quality and efficiency will actually worsen immediately after the training. This is normal as employees stumble in their first applications of the newly learned skills.
Unfortunately, at this point, many managers give up and either overtly or covertly discourage further employee practice and experimentation. By providing and encouraging the use of job aids, you can help ease the anxiety felt by employees and get them up and running more quickly. Many training aids that are used during training are ideal for replication in the work environment. Think of these job aids as a way of extending the training room into the workplace.
Implementing job aids is especially useful when the task is complex, performed infrequently, carries high risk or uses an extensive or changing knowledge base. On the other hand, do not implement an on-the-job aid if the employee is required to perform the task automatically, without conscious deliberation or assistance.
Below, I have categorized ten types of training aid that you can usefully export from your training program. I have also included examples from previous programs that I have conducted or have seen others use successfully. If you see a job aid that you feel could be useful and it is not currently used in your training program, then make it so. You could even turn the creation of the job aid into a learning experience itself. At a suitable juncture in your program (following a theory session, for example), lead participants into an exercise in which they create the aid that they will use in their own workplaces.
A checklist is a form comprising of a list of items that are checked off one at a time. Its purpose is to ensure that all items on the list are accounted for, usually as a prelude to some other activity. For skills training, they can be used primarily as a memory jogger.
- items to be completed before an application form is accepted
- parts to be collected before items are sent to the assembly line
- qualities to be inspected before product is dispatched to the customer
As with checklists, reminder cards are used primarily as a memory prompt. They are usually pocket-sized for easy transportability and often laminated to give durability. Unlike checklists, they cannot be modified by the user. You can use these cards as prompts during skill rehearsal sessions. They are also well suited to providing lasting ongoing assistance to trainees beyond the program.
- summarizing steps in conducting a performance appraisal
- listing keyboard shortcuts for a software program
- illustrating steps in administering a vaccination
Procedures and Process Maps
Procedures and process maps are documents that an organization uses to convey to people why actions are performed, who is responsible for performing them and how they are to be performed. Procedures are predominantly in text format, whereas process maps rely primarily on diagrams to graphically represent the flow of activities.
- creating a purchase order
- inducting a new employee
- adding an inventory item
A mnemonic is any kind of visual, verbal or literary device used to help people remember. Mnemonics can be images, rhymes or acronyms and are commonly used in helping people learn. The mnemonics used as a teaching device during the training sessions can be of lasting benefit to employees back on the job. Some mnemonics have been known to be used by employees many years after their initial training. You can also reinforce these helpers in the workplace by building them into the other job aids mentioned, such as procedures, reminder cards and diagrams.
- knuckles representing number of days in each month
- rhyme indicating to pilots in which direction they should correct their instruments
- first letter of each word in a sentence representing the order of musical notes
A template is a preset format that limits how something new will be created. It can be in the form of a pattern, layout or stencil and can be used for the creation of documents as well as physical objects. Their primary purpose is to save time in recreating the same style, shape or structure and to ensure standardization.
- web page design template
- dress manufacturing template
- document templates for reports, letters, resumes, etc
Forms can be considered a special kind of document template. Forms contain empty data fields and are designed to collect data according to a preset structure and from a number of sources. Within an organization, they are especially useful for ensuring that all of the required information is collected prior to handing a process over to the next department. Carrying over the templates and forms you use with your trainees into their work situation can result in increased consistency, productivity and accuracy.
- applications (job, training, admission)
- finance (purchase order, receipt, invoice)
- questionnaires (customer, supplier, user)
Calculators and Ready Reckoners
A "ready reckoner" is any device that helps people perform calculations. It can be in the form of software or in hardcopy. Using such devices in the workplace reduces the amount of training required, as it saves employees from performing lengthy calculations. As an added bonus, error rates will be lower.
- redundancy payments calculator (software)
- lookup tables for calculating timber roof rafter dimensions (hardcopy)
A diagram is a graphical representation designed to explain how something works or how something is constructed. It is used to illustrate concepts, ideas or relations and makes an excellent teaching device, not only for learners with a preference for visual representations. A diagram can be in the form of a drawing, sketch, plan or chart. The point is that diagrams used during training can also be used effectively on the job to enhance productivity and reduce errors.
- color code chart for resistor values (an electronic component)
- cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) technique diagram
- floor plans showing emergency exit points
Online help for users of software is now an expected inclusion with all major software programs. Done well, it can reduce error rates and improve user productivity. For users of organizational systems who deal with complexity, yet are expected to respond quickly, providing such online help is of similar benefit. Where this impacts the delivery of training directly is that, by implementing such an information system, employees can be spared from trying to remember impossible amounts of information. Training time can be better used by showing employees how to access the data quickly and accurately. Before you think about rolling out an "information heavy" training program, consider placing the information where and when it is needed.
- accessing and entering medical records
- retrieving case law examples
- managing customer contact data
Mistake Proofing (Poka Yoke)
Mistake proofing (or poka yoke) is a concept originally championed by Japanese manufacturers. It is not a learning aid per se and is not usually treated during training programs. However, it is a technique that can dramatically reduce the incidence of errors on the job. Consider mistake proofing during both the training program design stage and implementation. Discuss with workers and their managers how the work design could be modified to reduce the amount of training required and improve the efficiency and accuracy of the task. You could make it a part of your training sessions to ask trainees how the materials, tools or equipment they use could be modified to reduce or eliminate the chance of error. Not only does involving employees in this challenge spark their interest and motivation, it can lead to a lasting legacy of the positive impact of training back on the job.
- keyed battery charger connectors that prevent reversed connection
- manufacturing jigs that prevent the insertion of wrong parts
- color coded equipment leads that prevent the insertion of incorrect leads
The ten types of job aid considered in this article are powerful devices for helping your trainees learn. They also serve as an excellent vehicle for transporting the benefits of the training room into the workplace. Through the effective use of on-the-job aids, your training programs will enjoy enduring practical application and worth. Enlist the support of training participants and their managers as you think carefully about which job aids trainees could benefit from during your training programs and beyond.
The above is a condensed adaptation from Leslie Allan's book, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance.
Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and trainer for organizations large and small.
He is also the author of five books on training and change management and is the creator of various training tools and templates. Leslie is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the Quality Society of Australasia. He is also a member of the Divisional Council of the Victorian Division of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). Leslie may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about implementing job aids in your workplace. Check out Leslie Allan's highly practical electronic resource for building and delivering effective training programs. Visit the From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive employee performance guide and toolkit today.