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Get Huge Learning Value From Handouts and Job Aids, By Robert Bacal

In tough times, the pressure is on to cut any hours spent in training sessions past the point where learning is impacted, and trainers, speakers, group leaders and even managers have to make do. The use of handouts and job aids can help tremendously in increasing the learning that gets taken back to and used on the job, provided the material is usable on the job, and is easily accessible — a kind of Just In Time Resource.

Of course what will work for one job may not work for another, but we do know that job aids and summaries need to be short and concisely written, not an easy task. Examples might be short checklist to use as a reminder of a process for interviewing a client, or actually being interviewed for a job. Or, quick summaries of key points on any subject. Handouts or job aids can also be used after team development sessions so participants can have a summary of team building elements.

For simple topics it’s actually possible to create small cards that could fit in a pocket or purse if one prints on both sides and uses small (but readable) fonts. Most topics will require more space to be usable, so larger cards can be used. The principle is simple. The user should be able to find what she needs when she needs it almost instantaneously.

Here are a few points to consider. These could actually be put on a transportable job aid for those using handouts and job aids.

You will find that if you do training, that your participants will be very impressed if you actually supply them with something concrete and usable at work.

Durability is always an issue. We laminate our handouts and job aids so they are virtually indestructible.

The writing of job aids is difficult and challenging because of limited space. Often consulting with subject matter experts or your actual trainee/participants will help.

You can also use handouts/job aids to summarize group discussions or brainstorming results if you have enough time to get the process done before the conclusion of the seminar. Or, you can distribute them after the seminar as a follow up. Both can work.

Job aids and takeaways are great for branding if that’s an issue for you. You are providing great useful material with your name and particulars on it.

Be realistic. Most jobs won’t really permit consulting a job aid DURING the actual job task (some do, some don’t), so keep in mind that your job aids can also be used as reminders just before doing a task, or just after, as a means of comparing performance to what’s suggested on the job aid.

The number one reason to do anything in training or presentations is so attendees can use what they learn in “real” life. Properly constructed handouts are one of the best ways to improve transfer of training back to the workplace.

Our Experience With Job Aids/Helpcards

We started using and developing our job aid “helpcards” about 15 years ago at the request of a client. I was doing a number of seminars for government on Defusing Hostile Customers and my client wanted something they could take away with them that was different from the 150 page course manual we used. I was impressed with the idea and we created the content for the first helpcard, called Defusing Hostility. We got the appropriate graphics from the client so the handout ended up branded with their visual identity.

It was a huge hit, and something that over half of the participants commented on as invaluable in the course follow ups.

From then we went on to create a number of “helpcards” covering a wide range of topics. Originally we created these for end users who had limited time to learn a topic, but they are equally valuable for trainers, speakers and presenters, counselors, group leaders and managers.

Whether you write your own, or buy material that fits your training content, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how job aids and handouts that are on-the-job usable can improve learning, and transfer of the learning to the real workplace. And your participants will love you.