Using Job Aids

Have you ever assembled a piece of furniture from IKEA? Or perhaps you put together a toy at Christmas? Or maybe you had to clear a paper jam in the printer, but forgot how to do it? Whether it was one of these situations or something else, you probably have used a job aid. It is a document or tutorial designed to give you just enough information to get a specific task accomplished, at the moment it needs to be done. Once you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere.

What you may not have known is that Instructional Designers are experts at creating job aids. It’s another learning deliverable, just like creating a training course. Sometimes they are used along with a training course as supplemental material. Sometimes they stand on their own.

Types of Job Aids

There are several types of job aids including:

  • Step-by-Step: These job aids give step-by-step instructions on how to perform a task.
  • Worksheets: These work well when there are calculations involved. Responses are recorded, and information to complete a task is generated based on formulas.
  • Checklists: Checklists are great if items can be completed in any order. They are also helpful in maintaining consistency.
  • Decision Tree: When there are limited options with each decision, a decision tree can guide an employee in making the correct choice based upon their input.
  • Flow Chart: Flow charts work well as troubleshooting guides.
  • Reference List: This type of job aid is good when a task requires data, as opposed to a set of steps.

When to Use Job Aids

Job aids are best used when trying to remember how to do something you’ve already learned how to do, or doing a task you know in a new or unique situation. They also work well when troubleshooting, or solving a problem. Also, they are helpful in situations where you’ve been trained on a process, but one aspect of the routine has been changed.

Job aids speed up work by reducing hesitancy, and the opportunity for making errors. They essentially coach the user along the way, increasing consistency of performance. They allow employees to focus on one step at a time, making the task seem less complex than it is.

When NOT to Use Job Aids

Job aids are not a good fit if you’re trying to learn something brand new for the first time, especially on an unfamiliar topic. They also aren’t that great at teaching conceptual knowledge, or taking learning to a deeper level. Finally, they should not be used to replace an entire training course. They should be viewed as supplemental material, not the main event.

Software Tools for eLearning

Using eLearning to train employees on soft skills, policy updates, or even highly technical content has become a routine practice in business training today. Some topics will be generic in nature, making the use of “off the shelf” third-party courses easy and affordable. Other content will need to be customized to the specific requirements of your organization. In that case, you will either need to hire a professional to create the courseware, or do it yourself by learning and using an eLearning authoring tool.

Given that there are so many eLearning authoring tools to choose from, it may be difficult to even know where to begin. You will want a program that has the features you need, that is reasonably priced and easy to use. You’ll also need to determine whether your software will be installed and run locally, or if it will be a cloud-based service that can be accessed through a web browser. Let’s take a look at two of the top tools available today, to better understand the pros and cons involved.

Articulate Storyline 2

Articulate Storyline 2 is a locally run tool, which means that you don’t need internet access to log into your account. You simply download the program and run it from your desktop. It has a reasonably rich multimedia functionality, comes with a vast image library, and is easy to use. Current pricing is around $1,400 for a one user license. That may seem expensive, until you consider what you are getting for that price. It is designed with Microsoft PowerPoint in mind, making course design easy to pick up for someone who already knows PowerPoint (don’t we all?). You can also import existing PowerPoint content into Storyline. One other important feature is the ability to record video directly from a webcam and insert it into your course.

TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8

On the other end of the scale is TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8, which has a comparatively low price of under $300 for one license. It also allows you to record a video from your webcam. In fact, it’s primarily a video-based tool. If that’s what you are focused on doing, then it may be the perfect solution for your eLearning needs. However, while it’s easy to set up, it lacks many of the features available with higher priced tools.

Making a Decision

When making your decision, you’ll need to consider the unique requirements of your organization. This brief overview will just get you started. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Using professional help is not a sign of weakness!

Professional and Management Development Training – Part Two

Successful organizations already recognize the value of professional and management development training. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are necessarily getting the best value out of their development dollar. To do that, businesses need to be aware of some cutting-edge trends. Below is a brief summary of a few of the leading ideas in this field.

Content Isn’t King

It doesn’t matter how wonderful the training content is, if employees don’t find the time to use it or they aren’t inspired to even try. For professional and management development training efforts to be successful, they need to be able to fit into already tight calendars. Training needs to draw the learner in, with manageable chunks of information that seem doable in small fragments of time. Usually this means a heavier reliance on remote learning. Using today’s cutting-edge technologies to make training available on mobile devices will help employees find the time for learning. Also, using a fixed-calendar of training delivery is giving way to on-demand applications that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.

Be Social

Just because training is offered online, doesn’t mean that the social aspects of learning need to go away. There are creative new ways of allowing learners to share their experiences with colleagues. For example, Workplace by Facebook is a tool that allows employees to connect and communicate, with all of the familiar features of Facebook. Companies can join Workplace for free, or pay a fee for an enhanced version. Either way, allowing employees to collaborate via a social platform will take current professional and management development efforts and kick them up a notch by enhancing engagement.


The popularity of online gaming has been growing steadily for the last several years, and there are no signs of it slowing. Taking this high level of interest, and using it to incentivize online learning is a smart business move. Gamification of training will not turn the content into the next Fortnite Battle Royale, but it will help motivate learners. Through a simple system of points, badges, and leaderboards, training can grab the attention of the most cynical employee.

Balance Technology Training with Soft Skills

Millennials are known for their tech savvy, but there continues to be a soft skills gap with these employees. There needs to be increased emphasis on such soft skills as communication, interpersonal relationships, negotiation, problem-solving, and decision-making. This type of training can be still be delivered online to appeal to the younger members of the workforce.

Essential Professional Management Training Topics

Managers aren’t like other types of employees who have very specific job duties, such as accountants or engineers. Managers need to have a much broader skill set that includes mastering five basic management functions: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. Successful managers will receive professional management training in all of these areas. Let’s take a brief look at what each function involves.


Planning is probably the most essential management skill. It involves creating goals, and then setting out a plan of action to accomplish those goals. While some people believe that only top management is involved in the planning process, it actually occurs at all levels within an organization. To excel at planning, managers must also be good at problem solving and decision making.

Effective planning involves internal as well as external factors. Internal factors include things such as organizational structure, and the makeup of the workforce. External factors include management of resources, economic trends, technological changes, government regulations, political influences, and more. Staying on top of all of these factors takes extensive training and experience.


After a plan is made, next the manager needs to break it into activities, and then allocate resources for the accomplishment of those activities. Resources include things like materials, personnel, and financial support. Managers also organize by prioritizing which resources are given to accomplish which goals, and when.


Staffing is all about finding the right talent to serve in specific jobs, as well as making certain that enough staff is hired to meet the needs of the organization. Managers are also responsible for ensuring that talent is developed within the organization, as well as locating and hiring additional staff as needed. Managers get things done with and through the efforts of other people, so they need to be able to maintain the workforce with incentives and the proper motivation.


Directing the activities of others is probably the most commonly identifiable function of management. But just telling others what to do is not enough. Managers need to be trained on how to motivate people, and guide them with clear communication. Good managers are able to maintain the harmony of the workforce, while also accomplishing all necessary tasks.


The fifth and final function of management is controlling operational systems and processes. This involves establishing performance standards, and holding the appropriate staff accountable for the accomplishment of business goals. Managers also solve problems that come up along the way, in order to get the desired business results.

Options for Leadership and Professional Development

Leadership and professional development often takes place in a classroom, which might be either online or in-person. But that’s not the only way to enhance your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Below are several additional options for career enhancement.

Job Shadowing

If you are curious about the various leadership roles available in your company, then you may wish to consider job shadowing. It is an easy way to learn first-hand about the roles and responsibilities of a position, before committing too much time learning about an area in-depth. Some companies have formal job shadowing programs, usually available through your Human Resources Department. If that’s not an option, you can still approach someone you know and ask them informally. Your manager may be able to help you with this.

Professional and Trade Organizations

You might consider membership in a professional or trade organization. You will find members who share your interests, either in a common profession or in a particular industry. One of the main reasons that these organizations exist is to expand the knowledge and skills of its members, while also promoting a set of professional standards. You could attend industry events, conferences, or workshops that are put on by the organization. Other opportunities don’t require physical attendance, such as reading trade journals, newsletters, or participating in webinars. All of these undertakings can promote professional development, and some companies will reimburse their employees for membership activities.


Consider volunteering as a way to promote your leadership and development plans. If there are limited opportunities for you to exhibit a particular skill within your organization, going outside as a volunteer may be an option for you. For example, if you need experience in accounting and finance, consider volunteering as the treasurer for a local club. Want to develop goal-setting, planning, and budgeting skills? Why not volunteer to plan and implement a major fund raising event? And don’t overlook the benefits of networking that come with a volunteer position.


Most companies have committees that are looking for new members. Perhaps you might join a committee on health and wellness, or office safety. Committee membership can sharpen your communication skills, as well as develop your leadership, influencing, organizational, and teamwork skills. This can be particularly useful if you don’t have those opportunities in your present position.

Don’t Limit Yourself!

Traditional training classes and workshops are just one way to go about leadership and professional development. As you can see, there are many other options available. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to wait for a class to improve yourself!

Professional Development Programs for Managers Today

With more and more baby boomers retiring, major changes are taking place in the workplace. In particular, as Millennials take over manager positions from their Baby Boomer (as well as Generation X) predecessors, professional development programs will need to be re-evaluated and made more relevant to today’s work environment. Unlike those before them, Millennials are actually excited about professional development, viewing it as extremely important to them. Therefore, companies need to offer updated and enhanced professional growth and development opportunities in order to attract and retain top talent.

Love of Learning

Millennials, more than any previous generation, have a love of learning new things. They grew up with access to the Internet, and are accustomed to having answers to their questions on-demand and personalized by a Google search. This translates to a continuous drive to acquire new knowledge, and learn new skills. Millennials will never be satisfied with the status quo. They need new challenges, and expect to be provided with developmental opportunities. And they expect these opportunities to start right away, not just after they have been in their position for a while. They expect to learn new things early and often. In fact, Millennials value quality developmental opportunities more than job security, or even higher pay.

Offer More Learning Options

Learning in a classroom is fine, but it’s not the only option. Millennials are eager to learn and acquire new skills, so offering a variety of learning options is a smart move. Some of these options might include:

  • Establish mentor programs
  • Create job shadowing opportunities
  • Provide job rotation and cross-training
  • Send workers to professional conferences
  • Offer the ability to attend off-site training and workshops
  • Bring in guest speakers
  • Assign stretch projects that go beyond regular duties
  • Develop “micro-learning” for mobile devices

Areas of Development

Helping your employees prepare for a digital future (e.g., advanced analytics, automation, artificial intelligence, etc.) is just one element of professional development. Other skill areas are in high demand, such as:

  • Managing interpersonal relationships
  • Enhancing innovation and creativity
  • Becoming more self-aware
  • Thinking strategically
  • Planning and organizing
  • Building business relationships

Become a Learning Organization

Millennials are going to push the envelope when it comes to personal and professional development, but that’s not a bad thing. Creating a learning organization is not only good for employee retention, it will also create a better workplace. One where every generation will want to work.

Professional Management Training

Professional Management Training

What Are Management Skills?

The skills of a manager include anything and everything that will help that person effectively manage other people. This may sound simple enough, until it comes time to implement a training plan. The management training needs are going to be different for each individual, so it’s important to have a process in place such as the one outlined below.

Identify Your Employee’s Career Goals and Interests

The first step is to identify the career goals and interests of the specific employee. Again, no two people will be alike. Some will aspire to middle management and higher, while others may only wish to achieve the level of supervisor. It is vital to start any professional management training effort with this step.

Identify Training

Once an employee’s goals and interests have been identified, then it’s possible to identify the type of training that is suitable for that employee. Some courses, e.g., time management, delegation, communication, etc. will likely be important for all employees. Others may need more specialized training depending on their ambitions.

Prepare the Career Development Plan

Once training has been identified, it’s important to develop a plan for delivering the training. Some courses will be needed sooner than others, and some training will build on previous courses. Also, you need to allow time for the employee to absorb new information and implement it in the workplace, before moving on to another course.

Meet with Employee to Discuss

Everyone understands the need to sit down with the management employee to discuss goals, interests, and the career development plan. It’s also important to meet periodically during the implementation of the plan. Every employee needs to take ownership of their development plan, which makes such meetings critical to the success of their professional development.

Revise and Adjust Plans as Needed

Conditions change, employees move around, new business processes are introduced, and so forth. Therefore it’s important to revise and adjust the development plan as needed over time. In many cases the development plan will cover multiple years, so making adjustments becomes even more critical.

Start Over

Sometimes major changes will occur that will require an entirely new plan. Employees may decide to change their career field, such as going from line supervisor in an operating department, to a staff position. Such a change will require a complete reassessment, and a new training plan. It’s important to remember that training plans are never set in stone, and should be regarded as a living document.

Leadership and Professional Development


When a business person decides that it’s time to move up to the next level, that generally means seeking out professional development to master the competencies needed as a leader. Although everyone’s journey is unique, there are certain key abilities where everyone will require proficiency. Let’s explore some of those competencies in detail.


Making Decisions Under Pressure

Members of any organization look toward their leader for direction and guidance. An effective leader will make confident decisions that drive productivity, resolve conflicts, and focus a team’s efforts on the right tasks at the right time. Professional development will help budding leaders evaluate their options, generate possible solutions, and then decide upon and implement the most logical strategies. With the proper development, these leaders will be able to convert conflicting opinions into useful insights, and make intelligent decisions even with limited time and other resources.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Few would argue the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI) to the effective functioning of any organization or team. It helps leaders identify and manage their own emotions, while simultaneously recognizing and influencing the emotions of others. Leaders benefit from professional development that will help them learn how to effectively connect with others, and support healthy and productive interactions even in stressful situations. EI also helps leaders identify team members who might be frustrated or burnt out, before these emotions can have an adverse impact on work.

Prioritizing Effectively

Everyone can benefit from some time management training. For leaders, the emphasis is less on being efficient, and more on being effective in their positions. This means improving their focus, identifying and avoiding obstacles, staying on track, and maintaining focus on the right priorities. Everyone has the same amount of time available to them. Effective leaders know how to get the most out of every minute.

Getting Results

Goals, plans, and objectives are important, but at the end of the day success is measured by the results that are accomplished. Leaders will benefit from professional development that helps them grow a leadership style that commands results, motivates their teams, and influences others to get the results they desire.

Using Critical Thinking

Critical thinking gives leaders the ability to evaluate, identify, and distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. It helps leaders determine the most efficient and effective course of action, while exploring challenges, identifying incorrect assumptions, and looking at things from a new perspective.

Customized Professional Development

There are many “off the shelf” professional development courses available on the market today. Depending on the organization and the resources available, it may be beneficial to ask an instructional design professional to customize these development resources to more effectively meet the needs of your organization. It can save time and effort in the long run.


New Trends in Blended Learning

Blended learning has been around for about two decades. It came into being when trainers and instructional designers realized that CBT and web-based training wasn’t suitable for every training topic, while at the same time offering exclusively face-to-face instruction was cost prohibitive. The obvious solution was to do a little of both, depending on the content and the circumstances.

Initially, blended learning was about mixing on-site training delivery with a few web-based lessons to support or enrich the in-person experience. Today there is greater emphasis on picking a learning strategy that best fits the learning objectives. Every year, blended learning gets better, with new options and techniques. Let’s look at a few of the recent trends.

Online Collaboration Tools

Blended learning isn’t just “one way” delivery of content. Increasingly, instructional designers are using online collaboration tools to engage learners, and to some extent customize the delivery of the training. These tools help employees collaborate across departments and locations more efficiently.

Easy to Access Microlearning

Microlearning is a trend by itself, as well as a tool used in blended learning. It is a way to deliver content in small, concise, and very specific chunks. Nearly as important as the size of the lesson is the timing of delivery. Learners are in complete control of when they access the information.

Having a short attention span used to be frowned upon. Now, which so much competing content, it’s the new normal. Millennials, in particular, have an average attention span of just 90 seconds. Instructional designers have adjusted by creating short, micro learning modules. Some of these can be only five minutes in length, and cover one specific idea or objective. They can be completed in small increments of time between other projects.

Using Smart Phones for Learning

Along with micro learning, designers have realized how many learners access content from their smart phones. This requires greater emphasis on formatting for a small screen, but otherwise has the same functionality as a laptop or iPad.

Maximizing the Impact of Onsite Training with Technology Follow-up

When learners do participate in onsite training, it’s important to get the most out of the time and expense. This is best accomplished with some form of follow-up using digital technology. It can be as simple as an email summary, or as complex as an online assessment. Either way, it’s no longer “one and done” when it comes to attending face-to-face learning events.

How to Maximize the Return on Your Training Investment

There is no such thing as “one size fits all,” particularly when it comes to training and professional development. The more customized your courses are, the greater the likelihood is that your workers will become and stay engaged in continuous lifelong learning. This, in turn, will help you get the most out of your training investment.

Make It Personal

Creating a culture of ongoing learning and development starts by making it personal and meaningful. This means that “off-the-shelf” programs are not your best bet for meeting the needs of your employees. Start with personalized learning plans, designed for the individual needs and learning styles of each employee. Then tailor and customize your courses to reflect the organizational culture, mission, vision, and values.

Leadership Development

Leadership is a skill that can be found at every level of an organization, not just with executives and managers. By developing the leadership capacity of all employees, they will be empowered to engage in problem-solving to find their own answers and direct their own learning. This frees up supervisors and managers to engage in higher level strategic activities, and removes bottlenecks to productivity.

Professional Development for Managers

Managers are the key to promoting a culture of learning in your organization. This means that they will require specific professional development that will give them the skills they need to support training and development, and find ways to engage employees, encourage participation in learning initiatives, and be accountable for following through on learning plans.

Training for HR Professionals

HR professionals will also need specific training on how to measure learning effectiveness, present their case to key decision makers, and ultimately translate their findings into action. They will also need to master a variety of learning modalities, from ILT to digital platforms, and know how to get the most of every form of learning. This will require continuous, lifelong learning.

Case Study

One company, Ingersoll Rand, co-designs their learning solutions with business leaders. They identify what knowledge and behaviors are necessary to create their desired business goals. From this, instructional designers develop specific learning options, which create higher levels of ownership and relevancy than would have been possible without the involvement of these business leaders. These highly-customized training sessions always have the sponsorship of a senior executive, which ensure business relevance and return on investment.

Investment in Training

The value and relevance of training should not be taken for granted. Developing a case for the return on investment in training is more important than ever. Showing how training improves the business, helps attains goals and objectives, or supports the values and vision of the organization is essential in today’s business climate.