Checklists With Learning Attached: A Powerful Combination


Let’s paint a mental picture. Imagine you work in a technical role. Your typical day involves working with high-powered and complex machinery. It doesn’t matter whether you’re picturing a job in automotive manufacturing or at a nuclear substation. You don’t sit at a desk all day. You’re up, out and about, working with your hands and possibly even outdoors, rain or shine.

The work you do is important. Mistakes are costly—they either hold up the following steps in a process, cost time and money to repair or, in some cases, are dangerous. Not just dangerous for you, but for others: your coworkers or even the public at large.

Technical Jobs Require Ongoing Learning

Your job involves a certain amount of routine tasks: tasks you perform on a regular basis. You can practically complete these in your sleep, you’ve done them so many times. But, that wasn’t the case when you first started this job. You had to learn what to do and why, how to quickly assess and correct mistakes, and practice each step repeatedly until it became habit.

On the other hand, your job also involves tasks that aren’t performed regularly. Perhaps certain types of maintenance are only performed sporadically. You also need to know how to handle malfunctioning equipment, to either repair it or shut it down to ward off additional problems with potentially severe consequences.

How do you learn these processes?

What do you do when you need to complete a task and you don't remember all the steps?

It's a lot to remember and frankly, it's unrealistic to expect people working in a technical role to commit to memory every step of every process. Thankfully, there are better solutions.

Our Day-to-Day is Always Evolving

As technology advances, equipment may be replaced or processes updated and streamlined. Any of those situations can impact how an employee goes about his day-to-day. There is always something new to learn.

That said, what’s the best way to

  • train existing employees on new equipment or processes?
  • train new employees entering the field?
  • help employees complete tasks or processes that are beyond day-to-day work?

We’ve written recently about checklists, and what a powerful tool they can be to help guide employees through a complex process. When the brain needs a boost, the checklist is there to jog the memory.

Moving up a notch, we can make checklists available electronically on a computer or mobile device. Not only are they easier to fill out, submit, record and report, they are portable. It’s an effective way to help employees tackle new, difficult or infrequently performed tasks.

Why are checklists with learning attached a powerful combination?

We can still do one better. Let’s make the checklist electronic AND have it link directly to additional information that supports each step. It puts everything an employee needs to complete any task at his fingertips.

So, if Step 3 involves adjusting a setting, but the worker isn’t sure exactly how to do that, not only can he refer to the checklist to remember when to adjust the setting, but he can watch a quick video or review a short job aid that walks him through how to adjust the setting.

When employees have access to performance support tools, they feel more empowered, are more self-sufficient and make fewer mistakes. Companies therefore improve overall quality, save money and realize lower employee turnover.


If you're interested, check out ExpandShare's eLearning Services to see how your program can be an epic success.

Will Holland