How can the real world inspire Just-In-Time training?

An employee has a task to complete. It’s not something she normally does, and she may not need to do it again any time soon, but it’s really, really important that she’s able to do it correctly, right now.

Maybe she’s an administrative assistant sent early into a conference room to connect the projector to her boss’s computer for an important presentation to the executive team.

Should she have learned how to do this 5 years ago during her new employee orientation? Maybe, but that was five years ago and she hasn’t been asked to do it since. Can’t she get the information from the user manual that came with the projector? Maybe, but that could take some time skipping past the pages and pages of information about the different parts of the projector and the warranty and all sorts of other information.

‘Why hasn’t someone just taped the basic instructions onto the top of the projector machine?’ she wonders?. That would be the information she needs, where she needs it, at the moment in which she needs it.

What are just-in-time training resources?

Just-In-Time training resources are just that – simple resources that offer people the solutions they need, when and where they need them. They could be simple job aids – like checklists or flowcharts. They could be expensive, vendor provided systems that lay “help text” over your new database so that users know the correct process and information to input every time.

Next Tuesday, I’ll be joining Meghan Atilano of Panera Bread and Michelle Vidensek of Google on a panel moderated by Ann McDonald from Mimeo, which will take place at ATD ICE, and we’ll be talking about our experiences with Just-In-Time training resources. In preparation for this session, I’ve begun to look around at all of the examples of Just-In-Time learning that exist in my everyday life, and I’m wondering why more of our training time and energy isn’t spent on integrating such Just-In-Time ideas into the daily workflow at our organizations.

Examples of Just-in-Time Training Resources

Here are a few examples I’ve noticed recently, and some thoughts on how they can be applied in a work setting:

1. Low tech support for a high tech system

Self-Checkout as Just-in-Time Training

I can’t imagine how many millions of dollars that grocery stores have spent on installing self-checkout systems, and I wonder how much more money is invested in staffing additional people to help in the “self” checkout aisles. Recently, I noticed this little slip of paper that says: “PLEASE CHOOSE YOUR FORM OF PAYMENT ON THE TOUCH SCREEN”. For months I’ve been inserting my credit card into the card reader and wondering why my transaction wouldn’t be completed, and for months the poor attendant at the end of the self-checkout aisle has had to patiently explain that I need to select the form of payment on the touchscreen before I insert my card in the card reader. Now a little slip of paper has replaced the attendant and I no longer need to sheepishly ask for help.

Application Possibilities: Similar to the scenario to open this blog post, a simple instruction printed out on a piece of paper and taped to things like projectors or copy machines can be the Just-In-Time learning that people around the office could benefit from in order to figure things out for themselves, without having to sheepishly ask a co-worker or an office manager or the IT department for help.

2. A reminder instead of a training program

Cable Car Safety

When I flew to San Francisco a few weeks ago, nobody needed to interrupt my flight to make me sit through a 60-minute cable car safety mandatory compliance training in the event that I might, at some point, decide to hop on a cable car while in San Francisco. But, when I did choose to hop on a cable car, this sign was conveniently posted so that I could be familiar with the riding and safety etiquette.

Application Possibilities:  Whether it’s a poster-sized notice offering instructions about how to do something around the office or a scaled down sticker that can be created and stuck to an office phone so employees know how to check their voicemail or transfer a call to someone else, there’s no need to take time out of people’s busy schedules to actually train them on these things.

3.  Instructions right on the package


I’m a big fan of frozen pizzas, but different brands suggest different temperatures at which to cook the pizza. I love this example because I don’t need to go searching around or guessing at which temperature I need to bake the pizza, I don’t need to Google it (which is another Just-In-Time resource, but it would add a step), it’s right there on the box.

Application Possibilities: If your organization uses a specific model for coaching employees, why not have the steps to that model printed on performance evaluation forms so that a supervisor can follow the steps and take notes, all in one document?

Just-In-Time resources are all around us, why not borrow some of these ideas from the real world and bring them into our work world to help people do their jobs better, where and when they need the help?

Have a question about Just-In-Time training design or ideas that you’d like to learn more about? Post it in the comment section and I’ll see if I can sweet talk Ann McDonald into asking it during our panel discussion at ATD ICE on Monday, May 7th at 1:00pm. If you’re not going to ATD ICE, I’ll post a recap of your questions and the answers that our panelists came up within the next week or two.

Going to ATD ICE in San Diego next week? Drop me a line ( Let’s have coffee!



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