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(In my last several posts, I discussed Job Performance Aids–JPA–and online Job Performance Support Systems–JPSS.)

JPA and JPSS are great–if your performers actually use them.  One reason they don’t get used is that performers aren’t trained to use them.  Generally we simply distribute JPAs to attendees at real-time events or make them available as attachments to online, self-study training modules.  Similarly, we tell learners that there is a JPSS, but don’t drill them in the use of it during class.

We’ll focus in what follows on JPA.

When we don’t require the use of JPA in class or in a module, we are training performers not to use them on-the-job.  This means we are encouraging them to rely on their memories–or a bulky three-ring binder, or a co-worker–when they perform.

The not-always-obvious alternative is to train performers to use the JPA/JPSS in the course of doing in class the things they are being trained to do.  This may sound simple enough, but consider the implications:

If it’s in the JPA/JPSS:

  • Don’t include in the three-ring binder a description of the steps in some other form; only include the JPA itself.
  • Don’t present the steps on a slide.
  • Do make any quizzes “open book.”
  • Do ask quiz questions whose answers are contained within the JPA/JPSS.

Here’s a rough outline of a Leaders Guide for a segment of a training session addressing the performance of tasks documented in a “How to” JPA:

  1. Briefly discuss the purpose of the JPA.
  2. Distribute the JPA.
  3. Instruct learners to briefly read through the JPA.
  4. Ask a learner to read the first step aloud.
  5. Solicit questions about the first step.
  6. Invite learners to answer one another’s questions or, if necessary, answer them yourself.
    • If none of your learners can answer a question, make a note to edit the JPA to make the instructions more clear.
  7. If your classroom logistics permit it, have your learners perform the step.
  8. Repeat numbers 4 through 7 above for each step in the JPA.
  9. After all steps have been reviewed, facilitate a practice exercise where all steps will be performed with reference to the JPA.

There is no guarantee that teaching learners how to use a JPA will result in them actually using it.  For one thing, they may have sufficient confidence in their ability to perform the task properly from memory.

If performers do, in fact, perform the task correctly most of the time, you may decide that no further action on your part is warranted.  If the task is performed incorrectly much of the time, however, you may need to engineer reinforcement of the use of the JPA in the field.

Reinforcement in the field can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Via observation of the performance of the task by the performer’s manager or mentor, or by you, the trainer, followed by STAR-quality feedback.
  • Via “spot” quizzes delivered now and then, most likely via e-mail messages to the performers from you.

Generally, reinforcement in the field is left to the manager or mentor of the performer, or to other co-workers of the performer.  Very often, this doesn’t happen, because no one is “reinforcing the reinforcer.”  That job is unlikely to be undertaken by anyone but you, the trainer.

Here are some things you might do to reinforce the reinforcers in the field:

  • Send periodic reminders of the importance of reinforcement.
  • Distribute success stories.
  • Distribute stories of errors committed that would not have been committed had the performer followed their JPA.
  • Make unscheduled calls on their performers and ask them to read a section of the JPA.
    • A nice extra touch is to provide a fun gift of nominal value to those that can quickly lay their hands on their JPA.

You only have so much time, of course, and can’t do all of the above for every performer with respect to all of the dozens of JPAs they’ll receive in classes.  You’ll be surprised, however, at the impact you’ll have by doing a little of this sort of thing every day.

You’ll need to adapt the above, of course, when you are referring learners to an online JPSS rather than providing paper JPA.

The bottom line on this is that few performers will use the JPA or JPSS just because you give it to them.  You need to do more and stop doing some of what you are used to doing.  To do that, of course, you’ll need to get some reinforcement.  😎