You can access HSA's Website at or
contact us directly at or toll free at 1-888-834-9928.

Job Aids

By Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps &

When lack of skill or knowledge is the cause of inadequate performance, job aids (versus training) may be the answer. This brief article addresses job aids as alternatives to training. Cheaper, faster and often times more feasible, job aids can do the trick!

What are they?

  • When added to the work situation, job aids are anything that improves job performance by guiding, facilitating or reminding performers what to do in accomplishing job tasks.
  • Job aids commonly have the following characteristics:
    • They give information that enables the user to know what actions and decisions are called for by a specific task.
    • They reduce training time by minimizing the amount of knowledge or the skills the user must remember to perform the task.
    • They assume the user has prerequisite skills/knowledge to carry out specified actions and interpret information.
    • Job aids are used during actual performance of the task.

With whom can they be used?

  • Use job aids with any and all populations. Even if your performers are illiterate, you can guide performance using symbols, icons, illustrations and actual photographs.

For what type of content can they be used?

  • All content areas are appropriate, but only those parts of the content that involve multiple-step or complex tasks (for example, a mechanic can use a job aid that describes specific evaluations of engine valve wear and the adjustments required for a particular car model). Job aids are also good for tasks that are infrequently performed or that require consideration of a number of factors to make a decision or initiate an action.
  • Job aids are especially helpful in procedural tasks (such as setting the alarm on a watch) or in making decisions that require taking several if-then considerations into account (such as determining if an applicant qualifies for a $50,000 loan).

What are the components?

  • Instructions on how to use the job aid (if necessary)
  • One or more of the following:
    • step-by-step procedures that specify all the actions and decisions required to complete a given task
    • mnemonic devices or word lists
    • illustrated lists - diagrams, drawings, photographs or symbols
    • decision trees or tables that guide one through choices to be made relative to a task
    • flowcharts, which usually present steps and decision points in a procedure (also known as algorithms)
    • checklists, forms or worksheets that guide the recording of task outputs
    • models or samples of acceptable task outputs that can be used to guide the desired job performance (such as samples of contracts for legal secretaries and filled-out receipts for counter personnel, or model reports for specialists or managers).

Here are some examples of job aids:

Figure 1. Emergency Response Directory

Figure 2. Campus Map

Exhibit 1. Decision Table: How to Handle Frozen Foods After a Power Failure

If the food is… And is… Then…
Partially thawed (some ice crystals remain)
  • Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish
  • Produce
  • Dairy
  • Juice
  • Baked goods
  • Organ meat
  • Stews, casseroles, other cooked combinations
Do not refreeze. Cook and serve. (Refreeze only after cooking.)
Thawed, but cold (below 40 ºF)
  • Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish
  • Produce
  • Organ meat
Cook and serve. (Refreeze only after cooking.)
  • Juices
  • Dairy
  • Baked goods
Thawed, and warm (above 40 ºF)
  • Any food except baked goods
  • Baked goods

(Adapted from Keeping Food Safe During Emergencies,

Note: We've adapted this decision table without expert verification, so before you even think of using it, go to the Website listed or check with a food expert.

How do you create them?

  1. Conduct a task analysis to determine all the elements required in the task and the sequence of actions and decisions to be followed.
  2. Select the most appropriate format for the job aid (for example, list, decision table, flowchart, form, checklist or model).
  3. Create a prototype job aid and instructions for its use.
  4. Test the job aid and instructions with sample performers, and then revise as required.
  5. Distribute the job aid and monitor application to verify its applicability and results.

Here are a few simple rules for constructing job aids:

  • No matter what type of job aid you're creating, always consult expert performers as you conduct an analysis of the targeted task or decision process. Verify and validate accuracy, completeness and currency (that is, is this the latest, most up-to-date information and procedure?).
  • Think visually in laying out information. Use tables. Illustrate lists if necessary. Create clear samples and models. Use color. Make the job aid durable and easy to see and manipulate.
  • Make the job aid and accompanying instructions as simple as you can. The fewer the words and elements, the easier it is to use.
  • Test and retest the job aid to ensure results match work process and output specifications (for example, efficient, safe, timely, effective and/or error-free output).


Job aids abound and come in a variety of formats such as step-by-step procedure, worksheet, directory display, decision tree and table, algorithm/flowchart, checklist and sample/ensampler. None of these are difficult to create, although doing them well requires both experience and a sense of visual logic. Appropriately applied to the situation and audience, they can save time and effort, and produce amazing results.

This article is an excerpt from Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps' bestseller, Beyond Telling Ain't Training Fieldbook. Interested in learning more? Visit order.htm#BTAT to order a copy of the book.

25 Year Double Anniversary

My how time flies! In June 2009, Erica and Harold celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and 25 years as partners and principals of HSA. In honor of both occasions, they cruised Greece, Turkey and Italy on Crystal Cruises. They found their journey fascinating as they visited ancient civilizations and historic ruins. As usual, their trip combined business and pleasure. After delivering the keynote address to open a training and development conference in Athens, they enjoyed five days on Santorini and then set sail.

Throughout their partnership and marriage the most frequently asked question of Harold has always been: So what's it like working with your wife? Harold intelligently answers: I don't work with my wife, I work for her! All kidding aside, their partnership both at work and in life has been extraordinary.

Harold Stolovitch Podcasts

Harold Stolovitch recently discussed "Training Ain't Performance" with ISPI Michigan's Jennifer Eichenberg. The first of the podcasts can be accessed at and the second at

Harold will be the featured speaker at ISPI Michigan's Annual Signature Program on November 19, 2009 as well as conduct his Training Ain't Performance workshop on November 20, 2009. For more information and/or to register for either event, visit ISPI Michigan's website at

Talent Management Columnist

Talent Management is a monthly magazine directed to top-level management, senior human resources and workforce and organizational development executives whose task is to optimize the abilities of their human assets to drive and improve the execution of enterprise strategy.

Harold Stolovitch is the regular "Human Performance" columnist for Talent Management magazine. You can read his latest article, "The Value of Deliberate Practice " by visiting page 10 of the July 2009 digtial edition at For more information on Talent Management, visit their Website at If there are any topics that you would like Harold to address in his column, please email him at

ASTD Telling Ain't Training Conferences

Have you made your plans to join ASTD for the Telling Ain't Training Conference? Based on the best selling book of the same name, this conference explores the art of engaging employees in training programs using interactive activities to stimulate conversation and interest.

This year there are three chances to attend this popular event, including a one day program with Harold Stolovitch in partnership with the Canadian Society for Training & Development in Toronto, Canada. The dates for this year's conferences are : July 15 & 16 in Chicago, IL, October 14 & 15 in Atlanta, GA and October 23 in Toronto, Canada.

The 2007 and 2008 conferences sold out, so make sure to act fast. Register today and gain valuable tools to improve your training programs and promote long-term retention and behavioral change in your organization. For more information, visit

Looking For a Dynamic Speaker?

Dr. Harold Stolovitch, Emeritus professor, Human Performance at Work and Principal of HSA Learning & Performance Solutions, has successfully developed workplace learning and performance professionals for over 40 years. He is an experienced keynote speaker, workshop leader, author and consultant who has worked with hundreds of major corporations and professional organizations throughout the world.

Harold is available for presentations, keynote addresses, consulting and workshops at corporations and professional organizations. Click here for more information.

Guest Author Series

Our Guest Author Series features articles by various professional colleagues. The latest in our series is an excerpt from the recently released Performance Architecture - The Art and Science of Improving Organizations by Roger Addison, CPT, EdD, Carol Haig, CPT and Lynn Kearny, CPT. Roger is the founder of Addison Consulting and can be reached at or through his blog at Carol is the principal of Carol Haig & Associates ( and can be reached at Lynn is the founder of Graphic Tools for Thinking and Learning ( and can be reached at For more information or to buy a copy of Performance Architecture - The Art and Science of Improving Organizations, click here.

Excerpt from Performance Architecture - The Art and Science of Improving Organizations
By Roger Addison, Carol Haig and Lynn Kearny

Reprinted with permission of John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

This excerpt from Performance Architecture - The Art and Science of Improving Organizations describes an approach to performance consulting that considers problems and opportunities for improvement at multiple organizational levels. This discussion is followed by a brief exploration of the performance consultant's view of each organization as a system and how this holistic focus informs the results we produce in partnership with our clients.

Work Environment

In organizations, work is performed at three, and sometimes four, levels:

  1. Individual/teams: the worker level
  2. Operations/process: the work level
  3. Organization/enterprise: the workplace level
  4. Society: the communities served; the world

Performance consultants determine where issues originate and how they permeate the various levels to make sure that our investigations are complete. A client may, for example, identify an issue as originating with an individual worker or a work group. We may dig deeper to discover that while the issue affects individual workers, its source is a work procedure at the process level. Then we strategize differently based on where the issue "lives". One strategy for a performance issue that originates at the individual or worker level is to raise its level to make it more visible and thus gain additional support for resolution.

At the work or process level, we identify all the functions impacted by the process under investigation, working horizontally to ensure that relevant stakeholders are partnering to make the needed changes.

For a workplace or organizational level issue, we show how it impacts the entire enterprise, including suppliers, customers, and the competition.

Many organizations today acknowledge society as a fourth level where they, as good corporate citizens, can make valuable contributions to the environment, the economy, and to the communities they serve. This service may involve encouraging employees to contribute their efforts to local charities, such as the Volunteer Day program or the 78 Community Involvement Teams at Levy Strauss worldwide ( Another example is through active support of humanitarian issues as with Hewlett Packard's Design-for-Environment program. that provides environmentally sustainable products through recycling services, or the Siemens Arts Program, that supports and advances local arts and culture in company locations around the world.

Performance improvement professionals also work at the societal level, using HPT tools and techniques to address broad areas of need in the developing world (Haig & Addison, 2002, Kaufman, 2006).

Whenever possible, performance improvement practitioners expand their work to higher organizational levels to increase the impact of improved performance and add value for the organization. Many practitioners are accustomed to working with individuals or teams to improve performance. However, organizations realize broader, longer lasting gains in performance improvement when we work across the organization rather than escalating because the customer is ultimately affected.

How We Think - System, Systematic, Systemic

Just as architects view the total project as a system as they plan and design, we in HPT see the organization as a system, thus differentiating ourselves from other disciplines which lack our system viewpoint.

System Viewpoint

HPT professionals consider that every organization is, by definition, a system, and that all components of that system are related. Therefore, when performance improvement is needed in one component we consider all of them in our investigation. Any place we touch in the organization will affect other areas because the organization is a system. This is often referred to as thinking systemically. The System Model that follows is representative of this basic HPT principle. Many performance improvement professionals have their own version of this model.

We make the greatest impact on performance when we address the whole system. As the System Model illustrates, performance begins with Inputs into a system, which are processed until the Results reach the Receiver; hence, performance occurs from left to right. Performance improvement specialists, however, work from right to left, beginning by clearly identifying the desired Results of an initiative and then working backward through the model to Inputs. (Addison & Haig, p. 40)

Thinking Systemically

By thinking systemically we are able to view the enterprise as a complete system made up of these components (adapted with permission from ISPI, 2004):

Receivers: The people who receive or are directly affected by the result - the stakeholders.
Results: The products, services, or any valued result produced by a process.
Process: The sequence of actions in the value chain that produces the desired results.

The Organizational or Workplace Level focuses on those processes concerned with the governance of the organization.

The Operational or Work Level includes all the processes in the value chain as well as those that maintain them. The variables here take into account the specific activities and tasks and their sequence and flow. At this level we often look for broken connections and misalignments such as bottlenecks and disconnects.

The Performer or Worker Level is focused on the actions of the individual. It therefore seems best to put the performer in the Process box. The variables to be considered are those internal to the performer that are relevant to the execution of the task. These include:

  • Skill or knowledge
  • Motivation
  • Other variables such as confidence, preferences, practices

It may be useful to think of two types of processes. Some, such as sales or service, touch the customer. Others, like employee payroll or recruitment, enable the organization to function. Ultimately, organizations require both types of processes to be effective.

Inputs: Everything that initiates or is used during a process including customer requests, stakeholder demands, information, the strategic plan, tools and equipment, work schedules, assignments, and support.

Conditions: The surroundings or environment within which performance occurs such as economic and market trends, industry norms, the physical, business, and social environment. This includes the physical workspace.

Performance Feedback: Information about the quantity or quality of outputs that is fed back to a performer, operational unit, or organization from within the system. It can be used to make adjustments that will improve the results.

Value Feedback: The same type of information as provided by Performance Feedback, but originating from outside the system. Sources may include end users, stockholders, the surrounding community, the media, and so forth.

Remember that performance feedback comes from within the system and value feedback from outside. One of us explains the difference this way: when the chef tastes the soup it is performance feedback; when the customer tastes the soup it is value feedback.

System thinking is scalable and can be applied at any of the three organizational levels: worker, work, or workplace.

Systematic Approach

Performance improvement professionals use a systematic approach to organize projects. They follow sequential steps and create a replicable process to identify needs and recommend solutions, shown in Table 1.1.

Finally, performance improvement specialists take care to nurture and enhance the business partnerships we have established with our clients. (Addison & Haig, p. 42)

We're looking for articles to include in our Guest Author Series. If you have one that you would like us to consider, whether it be new or previously published elsewhere, please contact Erica Keeps at

Upcoming Events Featuring Harold Stolovitch

Harold Stolovitch will present at the following organizations in the near future:

  • ASTD Telling Ain't Training Conference - July 15 & 16, 2009 in Chicago, IL. He will be the principal speaker and facilitator.
  • ASTD Telling Ain't Training Conference - October 14 & 15, 2009 in Atlanta, GA. He will be the principal speaker and facilitator.
  • ASTD Telling Ain't Training Conference - October 23, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. He will be the principal speaker and facilitator.
  • ISPI Michigan Chapter - November 19 & 20, 2009 in Detroit, MI. He will present Discoveries and conduct his one-day Training Ain't Performance workshop.

Visit to view HSA's Events Calendar to learn where and when Harold will be speaking as well as to read session descriptions.

Ask Harold

Do you have any burning Human Performance Technology questions? Visit the Ask Harold section of HSA's Website and ask your questions for Harold Stolovitch to answer. Here is a recent submission that might intrigue you:

According to a leader in my organization, “HPT” and “coaching” are the exact same thing. In fact, according to the leader, the two expressions are synonyms and one hundred percent exchangeable. I was under the impression that “coaching” was a trend in Europe (most books I have seen come from France or England) and, although it was about performance improvement, it was not rooted in theory and research, and was only systemic but not systematic. Actually, I thought it was a trend started by a few athletes “importing” their coaching expertise into the business world. Would you be kind enough to give me your impressions on this?

To read the response, visit To ask your own question, visit and fill out the form at the bottom.

Publications & Learning Aids

For more information or to purcahse copies of our books and learning aids, visit

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Samantha Greenhill, Publications and Communications Specialist, at

To unsubscribe from this Newswire, please reply to this email and put the word UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

© Copyright 2009 Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps