Book review – Job Aids and Performance Support: Moving From Knowledge in the Classroom to Knowledge Everywhere

Improving your performance may be as simple as having a job aid on hand. Take a recipe for example. Recipes are a job aid used to help you bake a cake or make a casserole. When you are just learning to make this particular dish, you might have to refer to it often to get the dish right; if you make the dish often, you might have to refer to the recipe occasionally.  Nonetheless, it certainly is convenient to have these job aids handy when you need them.

We use job aids more than we realize, and yet, not enough. Appliance vendors give you job aids when you purchase a new refrigerator. The documents show you how to use all the appliance features. You probably use a number of job aids to help you travel; these vary from printing out maps from the Internet to using a normal road map to your GPS device.  But how many job aids to you have at work? Do you support your learners with a job aid, one they can use while training as well as support their performance after the class.

While at the ASTD conference, I picked up a book called Job Aids and Performance Support: Moving From Knowledge in the Classroom to Knowledge Everywhere* by Allison Rossett and Lisa Schafer. The authors point out that it is impossible to remember everything; job aids are there to help support your memory. We do a disservice to learners when we do not support their performance after a learning session.

In a training environment, job aids can reduce or even eliminate needed training (Rossett & Schafer, 2007). In a classroom environment, job aids should support the teaching of new tasks and should be available to trainees during and after the learning session.

Performance support or job aids should also be used when:

  • The task is infrequent
  • The task is complex or has many steps
  • When there can not be errors.
  • When there is a lot of information
  • When procedures change frequently
  • When performance can be improved with self-assessment
  • When there is high turnover in a job
  • When there is not time or resources to conduct training (Rossett & Schafer, 2007).

Rossett and Schafer (2007) note that their are two major categories of performance support: planners and sidekicks. Planners are used before and after a task whereas sidekicks are used during the task. These two categories are improved by the degree of integration and tailoring as related to the task. One example the authors used focused on traveling on a trip. There is a difference in level of integration and tailoring as well as whether the job aid is a planner or sidekick when comparing a road map to a Google map with directions to asking a friend for directions to a GPS with the address entered.

Do we enough to support those to who we provide training opportunities. Personally, I need to do a better job putting together job aids together; this book helped me realize that. In order to plan performance support and develop job aids, you need to know about the audience, the task, and the organization (Rossett & Schafer, 2007). The more you know about each, the better you can support performance with the right job aid.

Rossett and Schafer provided countless examples and case studies of how job aids are used to support organizations. I personally would have liked to see more visual examples.

They did stress that simply creating a job aid was not enough. There has to be a supported integrated approach to incorporating them into the organizational culture (Rossett & Schafer, 2007). Support has to start at the top and must permeate through all managers and supervisors. When a new aid is introduced, it requires instruction on its use, supervision, and metrics to see that it is making a difference on performance.

When creating a job aid, the appropriate technology must be chosen. The job aid may be a simple flyer or a complex computerized coaching aid. Technology allows for immediate access, it’s scalable, can be updated at one time, and it’s accessible from everywhere.

If you want to know more about job aids, I would certainly recommend this book to gather ideas.  I have an upcoming class on clickers, I will be implementing ideas from this book into that course.


Rossett, A., & Schafer, L. (2007). Job Aids and Performance Support: Moving From Knowledge in the Classroom to Knowledge Everywhere*. San Francisco  CA: Pfeiffer

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