Performance support: It’s about time, Part 1 of 2

Lauren Keith asks how L&D can keep up with the pace of today’s workforce and support a time-friendly learning culture.

For the modern professional, time is always at a premium. The effort and attention we plough into our work is the first and final factor that creates value, maintains edge, drives innovation and boosts profits. However, as globalisation continues and as our data and communication channels are becoming more profuse, our pace of working is increasing and our hunger for fast information is intensifying. We are time-poor and inexorably impatient.

It’s this sense of urgency that creates problems for L&D. To take training programs (classroom sessions, online courses or otherwise) learners are allocated time out of their day-to-day jobs. Though this can be a necessary and effective way of learning (particularly for soft skills and attitude-driven change), it can also cue resistance for today’s autonomous and high-pressured professionals: Keen to meet their deadlines and stay on top of their workload, a learner may be inclined to rush through the content or approach it with contempt or scepticism. This is why engagement is always top of the training priority list, with experts continuously asking themselves ‘How do we keep our learners switched on throughout???’

Of course, workplace learning doesn’t always have to be this way. Enter performance support (PS).

Performance support – that is, tools and assets that facilitate learning at the time of need – doesn’t require allocated time. It happens inside the usual workflow. The learner is mid-task from when the learning requirement is established to when the content is accessed and consumed. It feeds into the big 70% of the 70:20:10 learning model and reflects the needs and expectations of today’s learners. So the challenge with designing PS is not how to engage the learner and motivate them to learn, but getting the content delivered and digested ASAP.

(The magic ingredient – and one of the reasons why PS strategies appeal to smart organisations today – is that it turns your learners into producers of learning content. Given the right platform, tools and crucially, cultural space to develop and share their skills and knowledge, learners can become the key locus of new learning content in the organisation. More on this in a later blog!)

Most PS providers work to the ten minute rule (with the right PS, learners should be able to solve an issue in hand within ten minutes or less). Easy? It depends on the content…

Technical and process-driven activities, though perfect for PS, can prove difficult to convey succinctly.

Here’s a scenario: a Customer Support Manager at a bank for instance, may need guidance in opening a new account, which in their computer system is a lengthy, step by step process with lots of customer details and technical specifications to digest and input.

Add the intensifier of a customer waiting on the other end of the phone, and you have an acute, urgent learning need. Waiting for a course just isn’t an option. The employee needs to locate the content they need quickly, then absorb and apply it without losing the customer’s patience. It’s not an easy scenario to navigate.

So the big question is – how do you speed up performance support based learning? We can think of it in terms of content, accessibility and delivery.

And those are the three topics I’ll be looking at in my next post – Part 2.

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