What is Just-In-Time Training and When Do You Need It?
What does your latest training intervention look like? Is it a seminar or series of eLearning modules, or is it a sticker on the side of the printer showing how to clear a paper jam or a QR code on a factory tool linking to a maintenance diagram? A sticker or QR code may not be the first thing you think of when asked for a training strategy, but there are times when they’re the most effective solutions to your problems. Welcome to just-in-time training (JITT). This article will explore what it is and when it’s the right choice.
What is just-in-time training (JITT)?
Some say there’s no set definition of Just-in-time training (JITT) or just-in-time learning. Others disagree, calling it “an approach to teaching and learning that provides learners with information or activities focused on a specific topic or skill that is accessible whenever it is needed”, or “information delivered to learners at the moment they need it and to the location they need”.
JITT can be confused with microlearning, learning offered in bite-sized segments. There is substantial overlap, as microlearning can be just-in-time, and just-in-time learning is usually microlearning. The difference is that microlearning is defined by its short form while JITT is defined by its function or use. The purpose of JITT is to provide performance support or "personalized, 24/7 scaffolding that provides answers within seconds, not minutes or hours, within the context of work".
In practice, JITT is many things. It might be:
- A three-minute learning module
- A diagram
- An infographic
- A video
- A job aid
- An animation
- A step-by-step procedure
It can take any form that can be accessed on the job:
- eLearning or m-learning, accessed on an employee’s phone or computer
- A card or sticker in the workplace or on work equipment
- A learning kiosk on a factory floor
Despite the variety of offerings, JITT events share several key traits:
- JITT does not disrupt the workflow: JITT is meant to be accessed within the workflow. It is used for topics that directly assist employees to complete work tasks, and it is designed to be accessible during those tasks.
- JITT is used for performance support, not in-depth learning: JITT provides practical information employees want and need to complete a job task. Theoretical and complex information should be presented in a different context when necessary.
- JITT is short and to-the-point: To avoid disrupting the workflow, JITT should take no more than a few minutes to complete.
- Easy to access: JITT must be easy to access during work. For example, eLearning and mLearning are appropriate forms of JITT for office workers who have constant access to computers and phones but are not always suitable for factory or off-site workers who won’t necessarily have such technology in the workplace.
- Learner-driven: JITT puts the learner in control. It is sought by employees at the point of need, not assigned.
- JITT is most beneficial when it’s in demand: when employees are having trouble remembering how to complete a task or seeking details about a product or tool. JITT can be particularly helpful with irregular or infrequent tasks that employees are likely to have trouble remembering how to carry out. In these situations, it should be considered as an option provided the subject matter is suitable and can be covered quickly and easily.
When other approaches are more effective
Like all strategies, just in time training isn’t the solution to every problem. Other options are better choices for the following situations.
1. As the primary driver for compliance training and other mandatory learning
JITT gives learners control of how and when they make use of training content, a beneficial trait for learning but not for compliance. Documenting compliance also requires assessments, which are rarely included in JITT. Traditional learning strategies are a more appropriate basis for those times when it’s necessary to take back control and require employees to successfully complete learning interventions.
JITT’s value in compliance-related initiatives is in a complementary role. Compliance training is all too often a one and done proposition, with the focus on meeting legal requirements. The content of such one time learning events is not retained well. JITT offers the opportunity for on-the-spot reminders when critical material has been forgotten.
2. When learners don’t know they need training
Again, as JITT puts the learner in control of when and how they access learning, it only works when people know they’re missing something. If they mistakenly believe their skills and knowledge are up to par, they won’t bother looking for training. More effective strategies for these situations include mandatory training and self-assessments.
3. Longer, complicated topics with multiple objectives
Another key feature of JITT is that it involves short learning events that don’t disrupt the workflow. Some topics can be broken down into brief chunks, but others are more complex and must integrate coverage of several learning objectives. The length and complexity of the learning material requires dedicated attention outside the flow of day-to-day tasks. For in-depth, complicated learning material, seminars and traditional eLearning are likely to be more effective.
Here are some other examples:
As you can see, different technologies address different needs, which is why you can’t start the L&D process by choosing your technology. You need to understand your need and have clear objectives.
Just-in-time training is a valuable resource in most workplaces, but it must be used in the right circumstances. It shines when there’s demand for brief treatment of topics providing performance support, but it loses effect when used as the core of compliance training, when employees don’t know they need help, and when long, complex topics are covered.
Shauna graduated from the University of Toronto in 2002 with a Master of Arts in English before moving home to Calgary to work in the fast-paced, detail-oriented oil and gas industry. Now certified as a technical writer, Shauna is comfortable writing in a variety of styles, and for a variety of audiences.