The Need for Performance Support
Do you ever find yourself looking in a dictionary? I did just the other day. Ever so often, I need to check the precise meaning of a word or a variant spelling. That could lead to the question, “What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you learn vocabulary and spelling in school?” Sure, we all did, but almost all of us have references that we rely on from time to time for a variety of subjects. That may seem obvious, but it’s not necessarily the attitude carried by learning leaders in many organizations. Many carry the attitude that “people have been trained, they’re going to put it into practice, and they’re going to remember it for the rest of their lives (or at least the rest of their careers).”
If you’ve ever experienced a training program first-hand, you know that’s simply not true. Real behavior modification – the goal of any training program – requires continual reminders and the quick availability of reference information. This can take the form of job aids or checklists for training that teaches a skill, quick lookup information for subjects like corporate policies, or a variety of other things. We tend to call this group of assets, performance support.
Still, many learning leaders pour a lot of resources into creating training courses, but continually shortchange the need for performance support. In the end, everyone is unhappy. Learners are frustrated because they remember being exposed to critical procedures or information, but they can’t find it quickly. Leaders are unhappy because it appears that the training program in which they invested heavily was ineffective.
A truly effective training program is a dual-edged sword. It requires well-designed training accompanied by well-designed performance support. Many learning leaders feel they can’t afford performance support because they already sunk a lot of resources into the training course. Good performance support doesn’t have to be an expensive add-on. In many cases, it’s just a matter of taking content that was already gathered to build the training course and presenting it in a different way for performance support. It can be relatively simple, but the effect on learners’ job performance can be profound.
Let’s get back to the dictionary for a minute. Sure, I have a dictionary sitting on the bookshelf over my desk. But most often, I open the Merriam-Webster dictionary app that’s on my phone. It’s quicker to find words in, and it travels everywhere with me. Those are a couple hallmarks of well-designed performance support.
It needs to be easy to find what you’re looking for, and it needs to be available whenever (and wherever) the user needs it. Increasingly, that means making it available through a mobile app. That typically checks off the instant availability and portability requirements. There are great tools available for creating responsive, mobile-friendly performance support. If you are a learning leader, I urge you to seriously consider ongoing performance-support as part of your next learning project. We at Mastech Digital – a leading provider of digital learning services enabling digital business transformation – would love to engage you in a conversation about it.