Training Isn’t Always the Answer

Don't underestimate the power of a good job aid

Training isn’t always the answer to a performance problem.  

Recently, I worked on a project where a large number of employees, in widely dispersed locations, were going to start using updated software for a complex medical device.  During the analysis phase of this project, it became clear that training was not the best solution.  We reached this solution for a number of reasons, including:

  • The software has safeguards in place to ensure that serious mistakes (i.e., mistakes that could negatively affect patient care) are difficult to make.
  • Users need to use many features, but most of the features only need to be used occasionally.  If all of the features were included in a training, it would be very long and it is unlikely that users would retain important details.

Instead, we decided to create a highly searchable user manual.  I built this manual in Articulate Rise, with a few specific features to make it effective.

  • Every task was given a descriptive title and placed in its own “lesson” so that there would be a detailed table of contents.
  • The instructions were all typed into Articulate Rise so that the text would be searchable (i.e., no instructions were found ONLY in an image).
  • Annotated screenshots of every task, with arrows pointing to important buttons and numbers labels indicating the sequence of events allow for quick reference, allowing users to quickly see what steps they need to take.

It’s important for instructional designers to remember that training isn’t always the best solution for a problem.  Job aids and manuals get a lot of jobs done quickly and efficiently.  When they’re well-designed, they can make the workplace function much more smoothly.