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How to Create Job Aids that Actually Work

Table of Contents

Job aids are an unsung hero of the workplace. These written instructions for how to perform certain tasks can ensure that necessary work gets done correctly and on time, and they help everyone from new hires to long-time employees. Similar to Standard Operating Procedures, a job aid is usually a simplified, instructional, and action-oriented document aimed at helping workers complete one specific task.

Job aids can include documents such as

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Checklists
  • Cheatsheets
  • One-pagers
  • Flowcharts
  • Wiki-style articles

However, not all job aids are created equal. A poorly written job aid will confuse readers, increase the risk of mistakes, and slow workers as they must spend extra time decoding or untangling what the bad job aid is saying. Instead, how can organizations create job aids that reliably promote learning, efficiency, and effectiveness?

Here are 5 tips to create job aids that work.

1: Target the correct audience. Job aids should be written directly to the people who will be using them. Use vocabulary with which they’re familiar; avoid jargon or technical terms they won’t understand. Bear in mind their education level. Most importantly, consider what the user needs out of the job aid and make sure the document delivers it.

2: Choose the right type of job aid for the task. Job aids can take a variety of forms; match the kind of job aid to the task it describes. Ultimately, it will probably come down to the complexity of the task and whether the worker has decisions to make during the task. A simple task may require only a one-page step-by-step guide or checklist. More complex tasks, such as those that require employees to make choices, may require a flow chart or reference guide.

3: Remember the KISS principle: Keep it simple, silly. Job aids should be as brief as possible without losing crucial information. Write them so that they’re clear and straightforward. Job aids don’t need to go in-depth: they can re-direct the user to other resources for greater detail. Stick to only the most essential facts for completing the task.

4: Be directive and action-driven. At heart, a job aid is instructional. It’s not there to explain the why but the how. So, statements should be imperative, telling the user exactly what to do and how to do it. Begin each task with a verb: open/close, turn on/off, check, enter, exit, delete, etc.

5: Format the job aid nicely. A simple, concise, and well-written job aid is only half the battle in creating an effective document. The document should be formatted so that it’s easy on the eyes. If possible, incorporate visuals that further enhance the reader’s experience and understanding of the material.

Are you looking to strengthen your team’s professional writing? Explore our “Better Business Writing” course to find the training your team needs to become expert writers.

How to Create Job Aids that Actually Work

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Prefer to chat? Call us at 877-249-7483

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