First, what is performance support? A first-look definition is “any resource you provide that helps your employees improve their skills as they’re doing real work.” This means that performance support is on-the-job learning, not at-a-desk learning.

If we go by this definition, practically any productivity software, mobile app, web portal, online help, collaboration tool, or print reference could qualify as performance support. That’s pretty broad, and it shows us that we need to dig deeper to find actionable specifics. Let’s take a look at what performance support really involves.

Why performance support is a verb, not a noun

Real performance support isn’t so simply defined. It depends not just on the tool being used (the noun), but also what your employees do with that tool (the action or verb). To create performance support that works, you need to focus on helping your employees develop a solid knowledge base that helps them apply what they’ve learned to real-world problems — in real time.

To this, it’s good to take an in-depth look at knowledge gaps (you’ll need your employees’ help with this). Knowledge gaps happen between what employees have learned and how well they can apply it on the job. These gaps happen when learners:

  • Forget something important and need something that will refresh their memory
  • Need more information (or more specific information) to do a task properly and apply what they’ve learned
  • Discover things didn’t turn out the way they expected, and they need help troubleshooting and fixing the problem

What performance support allows learners to do

For office employees, the necessary performance support may be only a few steps away or even at the same desk. They have quick, easy access to a laptop or desktop, apps, internet, co-workers, and managers.

It’s a different story for field or retail workers. Their only performance support tools may be an iPad or smartphone and, if they’re lucky, reliable Wi-Fi access. If that’s the case, they need support that’s quick and easy to access — anytime, any place (mobile-friendly is a must). Most importantly, they need convenient tools to help bridge the gaps listed above.

Any performance support solutions you create should help learners take the following three steps.

1. Remember and apply key concepts and new information

If you have a sales team, you might sales resources that remind reps about each stage of your selling process, when and how to apply those stages, and what questions are best to ask prospects or potential customers at each stage.

2. Find important information they need to complete tasks

Make product manuals and marketing materials available in a format that instantly and attractively scales to the size of the device it’s displayed on, without the need to reformat or print. Add simple yet powerful navigation, search, and browsing tools so your employees can find what they’re looking for in seconds.

3. Automate repetitive tasks

The last thing anyone wants is to do the same boring, repetitive tasks over and over again. This wastes a lot of time your employees could be spending on more important projects. Take an audit of these repetitive tasks. If you’re lucky, some of your best and brightest employees may have improvised workable solutions.

If your employees are improvising solutions, your first reaction might not be positive. If so, think twice. It might be to your advantage to reward their initiative, pick their brains, and enlist their help in making these solutions better and more widely available. In fact, you could pull together your research and the best employee solutions, then build a platform-flexible app that reduces time spent on repetitive tasks while improving speed and accuracy.

You’ll find that the more you involve your target audience (such as your employees) in design and development, the more successful and widely adopted your performance support solutions will be.

Making performance support a verb

Remember, simply calling something “performance support” doesn’t make it that. It’s what your employees do and the quality of their results that’s most important. Help them take action by finding the right tools to apply what they’ve learned where it matters most: on the job, tackling real problems, and finding real solutions.

Make your performance support solution a verb instead of a noun and, before you know it, your learners will consider it their solution, not yours.

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