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Performance Support: More Than Just Training

Learning and Development managers often make the mistake of just focusing on either training or performance support when there is a difference between the two. This article underlines the key differences and zooms in on the features that performance support tools should have in order for them to be effective.
Performance Support: More Than Just Training

Imagine going for training on how to use a piece of new machinery that your company has decided to invest in. 2 months later, the first shipment comes in. You try your hand at it... and you don't remember how to operate it. Well, according to research, chances are, you would already have forgotten 70% of the content within 48 hours of your training. So what do you do?

You end up googling, asking your colleagues, people at the support desk, etc. Even though these forms of informal learning eventually lead to a solution, but they are not consistent and amount to a huge waste in resources coupled with low time-to-productivity.

Training and Performance Support - Is there any Difference?

There are many L&D departments that focus on instructional design and measurement of learning. They provide workers with training services that focus a lot on learning skills. However, training alone is not enough for you to do your work well. You need Performance Support to complement training, and this is the part where the focus is on the application of a skill, where this kind of support allows workers to improve their skill efficiency. To better illustrate this, below is a summary of the differences between training and performance support.

Training Performance Support
Purpose Learning a new skills or expand upon a previous skill Applying a skill, solving problems or changing performance practices
Whet it is needed When one has to learn a new skill or brush up on a skill, usually as a result of a new job scope When one is at his job and needs to apply a skill, and refers to materials to help him
Availability for worker A fixed amount of time is taken off work - usually an hour long each session, to be trainedTime needed: 1 hour or more At the point of need, only a short amount of time is available for him/her to refer to materials as he/she needs to focus on getting his/her work doneTime available: Less than 10 minutes
Goal Gian skill and knowledge Finish work tasks


We Already Make Use Of Performance Support Everyday

To better illustrate performance support in an everyday life example, usually when we need to learn something on the fly- how to open a bottle of wine or how to dice carrots, we tend to search for information either on our mobile phones or electronic devices. Such information is usually presented to us in small chunks of written information (eg. in wikihow - short, succinct, Step-By-Step guides with some photos) or a short video (usually a direct and to-the-point demonstration of how to do something in less than 2 minutes).

Apply This in Your Company and See the Difference

We use these resources to help us everyday because they are convenient, require little time as they are easily digestible and effective. What we need, we get- available right at our fingertips. Now, that is definitely a leaf that companies can take from what we are already doing in our everyday lives unknowingly. Imagine if you were able to get access to videos of how to operate, troubleshoot and change parts of that new piece of machinery in your company. That would make things so much more efficient!

I recently read an article about how the oil and gas industry is making use of mobile learning in Qatar as a means of performance support. Workers who are often on the field need to get access to some technical terms in English that are specific to the industry. They make use of an app which provides them with Just-In-Time information whenever they need it. All 30 of the employees at Qatar Petroleum gave good feedback about how it has allowed them to improve in their communication skills. These are the kind of benefits that performance support can give to workers.

3 Important Features of Performance Support Tools

With that, here are 3 important features that performance support tools need to have in order for them to be effective: Convenient, User-Friendly and Relevant.

  1. Convenient
    How easy is it to luge around these resources? Do your workers have to carry a stack of papers around to refer to them when they are off-site? If they do, chances are, you will not get very favourable responses from your workers. "Electronic Performance Support Systems" (EPSSs), usually available on mobile devices, have been known to be real convenient with amazing take-up rates for the sole reason that workers already have their own personal mobile device to begin with.
  2. User-Friendly
    If your workers are going to have to navigate through tons of information before finding the one that best suits his needs, chances are, they are  not going to use them very often. With that, easy search functions and organization of these resources are crucial to Just-In-Time Learning.
  3. Relevant
    Workers do not want to refer to information that has already been outdated for 2 years, or read 2 whole pages of resources only to find what they need in the 2nd last paragraph. The need for resources to be updated and to-the-point is extremely crucial in performance support. EPSSs are particularly useful for easy version control where resources could be quickly updated and disseminated to workers without the need to send another email attachment.

With that, I hope you are able to see how performance support differs very much from training and how this also affects the way companies should go about picking the right tools for support. And since performance support relates directly to how well a worker is able to perform his job there and then, it is really crucial that corporations see it as an integral part of their Learning and Development strategy. What other features do you think is important for performance support tools to have in order to be effective? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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