Implementing the Five Moments of Need Model

Implementing the Five Moments of Need Model Using Performance Support Platforms

I have been following the work of Bob Mosher & Conrad Gottfredson (better known as Bob&Con) for several years now. They made a significant contribution to workplace learning studies by introducing the "Five Moments of Need" model (Mosher & Gottfredson, 2011). The model captures both formal and informal learning tracks and needs. In recent years I researched and implemented real- time learning strategies in corporate settings, using performance support platforms.

Real-time learning occurs when the work situation contains within it the knowledge needed to complete the task at hand, thus allowing learning while working. In this short paper I would like to share my view and experience regarding the implementation of the Five Moments of Need model, using support platforms and KM (knowledge management) tools that are widely available today, especially in service providing ventures.

Quick recap – the Five Moments of Need

In a nutshell, the model describes five daily routine occurrences in which a worker requires information in order to accomplish the task at hand. The first two occurrences refer to formal learning procedures, whereas the other three refer to informal learning opportunities in the workplace.

The Five Moments of Need are:

  1. Learning for the first time
  2. Learning More
  3. Applying what you've learned
  4. When things go wrong
  5. When things change

I believe one of the model's most brilliant points is its holistic approach to the various learning occurrences it identifies. As opposed to the declared aim of formal learning, which is specific learning achievements or certification, the goal of learning in the workplace is proficiency. In order to achieve proficiency, as demonstrated by the model, one is required to combine formal, informal, social and real-time learning strategies. Corresponding with our research conclusions, the specified model indicates that real-time effective learning should be applied in all stages and forms of learning in the organization (Gal & Nachmias, 2011).

Performance Support platforms: In this paper I use the term Performance Support Platforms in its broad definition, namely, any IT system that supports task performance in real-time, including what are known as KMS (Knowledge Management Systems) or EPSSs (Electronic Performance Support Systems).

Following is a short description of how the organization can implement each of the above mentioned five moments, using performance support platforms. To better demonstrate this I will be using scenarios from a call center focusing on customer service issues.

Learning for the first time (new hire training)

This initial stage is grounded in the implementation of performance based learning methods based on integrative scenarios performed using live systems (training environment production). Support/knowledge systems will supply the procedure, data and regulations during practice. Two goals are achieved as a result: a. Effective learning of core scenarios, soft and IT skills; b. Experience in task completion while aided by a support system will encourage the re use of the support mechanism.

Case: Learning a complex customer service scenario by practicing it with the aid of the performance support system. Learning time is reduced due to the integration between theory (regulations, best practice, procedure, and data) and practice. Trainees develop work habits that correspond with the support system.

Learning More (Workplace Learning)

This occurrence deals with self paced learning based on an existing support/knowledge system. Sophisticated and expensive e-learning production might be unnecessary when all professional information is stored in the support system. The learner can use pre-designed simple exercises (even paper based, if required). These exercises present scenarios (tasks) that require him to complete his or her gaps of information via independent investigations. These investigations are conducted using the support system.

Case: A simple e-learning track (text based, LMS authoring tools or HTML) comprised of multiple choice and open-text questions. Feedback ensures that the learner is referred to the best suited pre-designated support item. SCORM can be applied to manage the track (when available).

Applying what you've learned (real time)

Real-time performance support is the original and most fitting setting for performance/knowledge tools. These systems should be able to allow effective transfer of knowledge and skills from the learning environment to the work environment. GUI design should be considered carefully. It must allow the user quick access to desired items, as well as a simple and intuitive presentation of knowledge, which should make it easy to convert text to action in real time. Research has shown that real-time interaction that is supported by knowledge improves user's understanding of procedures, and supports knowledge retention (Gal & Nachmias, 2011).

Case: Support system knowledge items support customer-agent interaction in real time by presenting corresponding best practice scenario flow. Direct links to support tools, such as calculators, customer info and others, are offered to the agent. Information is presented on screen using an embedded solution (EPSS) or is presented in an off screen solution (KMS) using screen shots with pinpoint directions, which requires less cognitive effort to process.

When things go wrong

This is a typical situation considering performance support. Two usage profiles should be considered when designing a support item: routine and malfunction. The item must guide the user step by step through the solution of common problems, allowing him or her to maintain high performance level even in such occurrences.

Case: When a scenario requires the user to solve a problem ("I can't access my e-mail account') the support item should portray the pre-defined methodology for this specific case, and allow the user to implement it with no prior training. When typical technical problems can be predicted (for example, invoice image cannot be displayed) the item should allow direct access to an interior designated item that allows the user to cope with the situation quickly.

When things change

Coping with change is a major challenge for the organization in general and for the learning function in particular. Support systems are very effective in IT-related changes as real-time guidance mechanisms and as means of notifying users of the changes made. In regards to this it is important to note how many times a user is exposed to the news that there have been changes (which very quickly becomes old news) and the synchronization with all other change agents operating in the user's vicinity (mails, meetings, training, organizational portal and so on).

Case: "Read & sign" items in the support portal home page, displayed according to user affiliation in the organization.  Changes are indicated clearly in existing items in a specified period of time or for a limited number of times per user access. Also, conducting quizzes on a regular basis regarding changes made in work procedures.

In conclusion I would like to quote Prof. Seymour Papert (MIT) who has noted the great potential that lies in integrating support/knowledge strategies with learning strategies: "You can't teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it."


  • B. Mosher & C. Gottfredson. (2011) Innovative Performance Support: Strategies and Practices for Learning in the Workflow.  MacGraw-Hill Companies.
  • Gal, E. & Nachmias, R. (2011). On-Line Learning and Performance Support Using Performance Support Platforms. Performance Improvement Journal, 50(8), 25-32.