Job aides are tools, checklists, scripts etc. that help people perform specific on-the-job tasks.They've been around for years, usually created by training staff or managers, but also by workers themselves as "cheat sheets" or other tools to help them get the job done.
The other day I realized that as it has with most things, technology is transforming the idea of the job aide, at least for me.
Last week, Shari emailed me to ask about how to embed a slidecast and documents into her online portfolio. I was reading this at 7 a.m. (4 a.m., Shari's time), so I couldn't pick up the phone and explain what to do. And I definitely didn't feel like writing a few paragraphs of instructions.
Luckily inspiration struck. Instead of sending Shari written directions, I fired up my FastStone Image Viewer (Free), took a quick picture of the relevant menu, and then drew on the screencapture to point out what she needed to do. She got the graphic you see here, rather than a long email.
It took me less time to pull together than writing directions, Shari found it much easier to follow, and now Shari has it to refer to later if, for some reason, she forgets what to do--something she wouldn't have if I'd told her how to do it over the phone.
I see something like this as a sort of on-the-fly, micro-job aide--nothing full blown. Just a quick little screenshot with a few instructions. I could see this method working very well for quickly responding to many questions that people have about using just about any technology tools, from how to set up colored labels in Gmail to explaining where the "save" button is in Word (for the seriously technologically-impaired).
If you wanted to take this to the next level, a few other ideas come to mind:
- Have staff download the Image Viewer or a similar tool to their desktops and then show them how they could use it to begin creating job aides for themselves. The first time they go through a software package, for example, and are afraid they'll forget how to do something, they can take a quick screen capture, annotate it on the drawing board in the software and then save it to refer to later.
- Teach people how to use Jing, where they can quickly record up to 5 minutes of audio and video of what they're doing on their screens, which is especially useful for explaining multi-step activities.
- Have people upload their micro job aides to an organizational wiki where they're readily accessible to everyone.
- Encourage staff to create Jing recordings or screencaptures for productivity tricks and tips they've discovered for your commonly used software. Again, these can be uploaded to your organizational wiki where they're searchable and accessible to other staff. They could also be embedded in a blog.
They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Maybe we need to start creating more of them on the fly.