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(In my last post, Solving Problems with JPAs, I encouraged you to consider using job performance aids as a quicker, easier and more effective path to competence than traditional training.)

JPAs are typically answering one of two questions:  How? or, what?  Aids that describe procedurees answer the How? question.  Aids that provide reference information, such as a list of product features, answer the What? question.  We’ll start with the hows.

First of all, get very clear about what specific question your aid needs to answer.  For example, “How to Peel an Olive,” might be the question.  It should appear as the header of your document, in an easy to read font style at about 16 points.  (Using the same formatting in all of your aids will create a more professional impression on your employees and, hey, on your boss if you have a chance to show-and-tell.)

Another nice touch in the header is to embold the text after how to.  For example, How to Peel an Olive.

For the body of the job performance aid, a good approach is to start at the last step in the procedure and work backwards.  By doing it this way, you are unlikely to leave out important steps.  (If you do much cooking, you know well how frustrating it can be when a recipe omits important steps, or presents them out of order.)

Use a numbered list to create your aid.  At the parent level, state the action to be performed.  At the child level, list any qualitative details.  If the latter require further explanation, provide this at the grandchild level.  (If you need more levels, you probably need to split your aid into several aids.)

Here’s an example from the How to Peel an Olive aid:

  1. Prepare the work area.
    1. Obtain a clean cutting board.
      1. Cutting boards are located in the first lower cupboard to the left of the sink.
    2. Put on a pair of clean latex gloves.
      1. A box of gloves is kept in every work area.

What else do you need to know about creating performance aids?  Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • If beneficial, incorporate images.  Many of your learners will find the combination of images and words more helpful than text alone.  Screen prints are particularly helpful when the steps are performed on a computer or mobile keypad.  Photos that illustrate manual steps are also very helpful.
  • A font size of 10-12 points should be adequate in most cases, unless you have sight-impaired employees on the team.  Again, try to stay with the same formatting across all of your aids; use bolding and italics consistently, for example.

How do you know if a Performance Aid is complete?  The best way is to hand it to an employee who just walked in the door and see if they can perform the task adequately with nothing but the PA to guide them.  If you don’t have a new employee to serve as your Guinea pig, try the next-newest and so on.

In my next post, you’ll learn how to create job performance aids that answer the question, What?