Performance support is an area that is often overlooked or under-emphasized to the detriment of productivity. Employees who receive consistent and relevant support while performing their tasks are more productive than those who lack the resources they need. Let’s look at what performance support is, how it differs from training and how you can improve it.
What is Performance Support?
30 years ago, The Center For Creative Leadership developed a formula called the 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development that’s still widely accepted today. The rule states that 70% of learning is experiential, 20% is social, while only 10% is from formal training. While this formula was specifically developed for leadership training, it really applies to any type of learning. Performance Support Tools are resources to help employees while they’re on the job.
It’s important to understand that performance support is not the same as training. Anyone learning new skills typically receives training to help them acquire new skills. A German psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered back in the 19th century that people forget the majority of the information they learn. According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, people typically only remember about 40% of what they learned only a few days ago. After that, the percentage drops even more. That’s why you can’t count on education or training to teach people everything they need to know to perform a task. Performance support, unlike training, occurs while people are performing their jobs. There are several important benefits of this.
If employees have to stop work to find solutions, it wastes valuable time. Even though they may be able to find answers online or from co-workers or managers, it’s much more efficient if there’s a dedicated support system in place.
If there’s no support available, people will sometimes make the wrong decision rather than stop work and try to find an answer. With better support, efficiency is improved and errors are reduced.
Supports or replaces training.
Performance support tools reinforce formal training. In some cases, they let you streamline formal training as employees don’t need to memorize as much information when they can get live support.
Best Ways to Upgrade Performance Support
Here are some of the most effective ways to offer the kind of support that maximizes productivity.
1. Let Your Training and Support Work Together
While training and performance support are distinct, they are both important for improving performance. The more familiar employees are with the system on which they work, the less support they’ll need on the job. Training, like performance support, should be analyzed with an eye towards making consistent improvements. While it’s true that people tend to forget quite a bit of training material, this doesn’t render training obsolete. On the contrary, quality performance support can trigger users’ memories of what they learned in training. When you identify areas where people typically get stuck, you can make adjustments to the training as well as performance support.
2. Make the Interface User-Friendly
When people commonly have trouble with a certain task or function, you need to offer support to help them get over the hurdle. You can also look into improving the training. However, it’s also advisable to see if you can simplify the task. If you make the interface simpler and more intuitive, you may find that users won’t require as much support.
3. Identify the Areas of Greatest Need
In order to provide the most helpful support, you need to be aware of where people need help. This requires you to analyze performance and identify the tasks where you see the most errors. There may be certain complicated procedures for which training is insufficient to fully prepare people. Look for those points where you notice delays, mistakes or confusion. Aside from analyzing performance, you can learn a great deal by asking people who are using the system.
4. Implement Microlearning
Microlearning is a powerful tool for both training and performance support. This is an approach where people are given small chunks of information that are helpful for a specific purpose. One of the challenges of traditional learning is that knowledge is imparted in broad strokes. Suppose, for example, that you need to learn how to use a program such as Photoshop. There are hundreds of applications to learn, each relevant to a different task. If you actually have to use Photoshop during a project, you need it for a specific purpose. What matters is that you can quickly access the chunk of information you need. Research indicates that, in the classroom, conveying information in bite-sized chunks makes learning 17% more efficient.
5. Make the Most of Mobile Learning
People are getting more and more accustomed to using their mobile devices wherever they go, whether for work, socializing, or entertainment. It, therefore, makes sense that offering support via mobile is intuitive and convenient. If employees can easily access information from their mobile devices they can find the answers they need quickly. Here are some of the options that can be integrated with mobile learning.
- Videos - Whiteboard animations and other instructional videos are an efficient way to demonstrate tasks. Interactive videos are especially useful for support.
- Audios - Webcasts, podcasts, and other audio files.
- Interactive PDFs.
- Chatting and texting. If you can provide real-time support via a mobile device, it allows users to solve problems quickly.
These and other mobile learning tools are all perfect for microlearning as well. For example, you can create short videos that users can watch on their smartphones or tablets.
6. Keep Support Timely
It’s essential that performance support tools are relevant and up-to-date. Technology, programs, and knowledge in various fields advance quickly. If you’re teaching any type of compliance training, regulations often change. Make sure your support is regularly updated to include any changes or advances.
7. Analyze Metrics
To consistently improve performance support, identify your most vital metrics and track results. Whereas learning metrics are concerned with what people have learned, performance metrics focus on actual results. You can observe which support tools improve performance and which need tweaking or replacing.
Performance Support is Good For Everyone
Providing effective performance support improves productivity, saves your organization time and money, and helps employees feel more empowered. It helps prevent situations where people feel frustrated because they have to waste time searching for answers. The tips we’ve covered to improve performance support will work even better when combined. If you want to see better results from your learning systems, make sure you pay attention to this crucial issue.
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