Tailored for Success: Personalised Performance Support and Engagement

Sean Pearce looks at engagement from the employee’s perspective and considers how a disengaged workforce composed of individuals needs smart, convenient engagement solutions that speak to who they are and what they’re doing.

I work better when I feel valued. I think that we all do. When I know that the work I do is being noticed, when I can play to my strengths and be given opportunities to grow, when I’m being treated as a person and not merely as a tool – I work better. This is the simple truth at the heart of our debates around employee engagement: engaged employees are better employees. They work harder and smarter. They produce more value for their organisation and themselves.

How can an employer help bring this out?

There’s no easy fix, unfortunately. A lot of the problems with employee engagement are arguably inherent in the nature of the modern workplace itself – sacrificing one’s time, making concessions in ambition etc. – but there are some things we can do from an organisational perspective, namely regarding performance support and personalisation.

It’s worth pausing a moment to actually address what we mean by ‘performance support’ and ‘personalisation’:
‘Performance support’ means deploying learning solutions that are available when and where the learner needs them.

Rather than only locating them in a specific time and place (harking back to the all-too-familiar traditional classroom model of learning), the resources that we need are available to us right now, e.g. keeping a ready raft of resources in a central, searchable and shareable place via a next-gen LMS or learning platform.

This means that instead of having to recall details from a training course taken months before, or trying to muddle our way through a task we haven’t been trained for yet, we can access the learning we need right now. The importance of mobile technology to this kind of deployment is obvious – it can maximise access and allow the learner to make use of the already familiar technology they’re likely to have immediately to hand.

By ‘personalisation’ we mean learning solutions that have a capacity for tailoring, as opposed to learning solutions designed for a mythical, ideal user who is just an aggregation of averages that no-one really resembles. Thanks to personalisation, the learner can instead interact with the technology in a way that suits them, personally.

This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as the use of role diagnostics to ensure the learner is only exposed to relevant and precisely targeted information, or adaptive learning systems and content, which regularly check performance to monitor and give feedback to the learner. This can help them understand their strengths and overcome their apparent weaknesses.

There is an obvious link between performance support and personalisation. Performance support’s very nature means that is has to be adaptable to the learner’s immediate conditions and needs. The learner must be able to access exactly what they need with ease. Wading through screen after screen of irrelevant content is not going to support their performance! However, a tailored precis designed to update them with the information they’re looking for is going to support them.

Personalisation, even something as simple as having a list of favourite resources, is intimately connected to effective performance support. In this situation it’s the L&D’s role to look ahead, find out what the learner doesn’t yet know and needs to know soon, and place this at an appropriate point of the workflow. What is needed here is the right kind of learning platform.

Ideally, this platform must be searchable (properly indexed), and formatted to stop it becoming too big to use. A good performance support platform requires some form of live, dynamic intelligence to make sure the most important materials are the easiest to find. This can come from artificial intelligence, or it can be social – crowd-sourced, in other words. This involves harnessing the wisdom of the crowd – your population of learners – to validate, share and recommend the tools that were most useful to them to their colleagues.

But what does all this have to do with employee engagement?

A key element of maintaining engagement is helping the employee feel valued, and a good way of doing this is to not treat them as an anonymous and replaceable component in a machine. Rather, they should be treated as what they are: a unique individual who brings their own insights and talents with them to the office every day. Getting this right is key if you want to retain vital wealth-creators in your organisation.

This is where personalised performance support comes into it.

Rather than handing out one-size-fits-all learning, if you deploy learning solutions that are able to target each individual employee’s training needs, you’re already starting to treat them less as tools and more as people. One person’s learning needs won’t necessarily resemble those of someone else. Why would you expect them to both react the same way to the same learning? Allowing them to learn in the way that works for them will make them feel more valued, better equipped, and ultimately more prepared to effectively tackle the challenges they meet.

Ensuring that your employees have what they need when, and where, they need it is a sure-fire way of boosting employee engagement, and reaping the big associated benefit: a committed, innovating and productive organisation.

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