One of the most basic definitions of performance support is any resource you provide that enables your employees to learn and improve their skills as they’re doing real work. By this definition practically any productivity software, mobile apps, web portals, online help, collaboration tools, and print references could qualify as performance support. But will it? That depends not just on the tool itself (the noun), but also what your employees do with it (the action or verb). Your focus needs to be on what your employees need to do to apply what they’ve learned to real-world problems, and in real time. That’s when employees discover the gap between what they’ve learned and how well they can actually apply it on the job. These gaps most often happen when:
- They realize they’ve forgotten something important they learned. That’s when they need something that will refresh their memory.
- They realize they need more information (or more specific information) to do a task properly and apply what they’ve learned.
- They discover things didn’t turn out the way they expected. They need help to troubleshoot and fix the problem or, at the very least, keep it from getting worse.
For office employees the necessary performance support may be only a few steps away. They have quick easy access to a laptop or desktop, apps, Internet, co-workers, and managers. It’s a different story for remote, 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, any time, any place. Most importantly, they need convenient tools to help bridge the gaps listed above. Any performance support solutions you devise should help them:
- Remember and apply key concepts and new information. Example: Develop a mobile app that helps sales reps remember the stages of your sales process, when and how to apply them, and what questions are best to ask their prospects at each stage.
- Find important information they need to complete job-critical tasks. Example: 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 re-format or print. Add simple yet powerful navigation, search, and browsing tools so they can find what they’re looking for in seconds.
- Automate repetitive tasks. Example: What better way to ease adoption to a new reporting system than to launch it with an accompanying app that reduces input time while improving the speed and accuracy of output?
If you’re lucky, you may discover your best and brightest employees have improvised workable solutions on their own, either by adapting your existing enterprise software to suite to their needs or by finding free or low-cost mobile apps. Your first reaction might be to reprimand them for “playing outside the sandbox.” 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. You’ll find that the more you involve your target audience in design and development, the more successful and widely adopted your performance support solutions will be.
Remember: Simply calling something “performance support” doesn’t make it that. It’s what your learners 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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