Performance Support for Workflow: Training on the Go

By Holly MacDonald

I’m working with a client who is rolling out a system to a global group of employees/managers and they have requested training.  I have suggested that we invest more in performance support rather than training.  Is there a difference?  Well, not really. It’s situational.  Performance support places the emphasis on helping in the workflow at the “moment of need”. You can read more about it by the authors of the book: Innovative Performance Support.

Performance support used to be just the lowly “job-aid”, but it’s much more than that. It’s:

There are always going to be things that you should provide formal training for. Do you have a good sense of this in your organization?  Where do you use formal training when you could be using performance support or informal learning?

New system rolling out? Don’t spend a ton of energy or money on “go live” training, but instead figure out what people are going to do with the system and think about how to support them. Anecdotally we know that if you learn something and then don’t do anything with it, you’ll forget, so don’t try to teach people everything about the new system when it rolls out, limit it to three key aspects and then find ways to support them as they use it.

If you are looking at training on something more conceptual, then you might want to read Why Clear and Easy to Learn isn’t a good thing a very interesting post on how spoon feeding (my words) actually does a disservice when people need to learn.  If it’s too easy, then people don’t need to make the effort and don’t actually learn.  Perhaps performance support in this area would focus on redirecting or course corrections rather than procedural instruction.

What if you are doing operational training? You should probably read Ubiquity of Informal learning which suggests that the lure of informal learning is a bit of a siren call and we shouldn’t throw out formal training for everything.  Common sense tells us this is true.

In reality, training, performance support and informal learning need to be calibrated for every situation. The good news in all this is that you have so many more options to provide formal and informal training to employees than ever before. The most important thing is that you look for ways that your training will be applied and ensure that you have support available. Use discretion about the context of your “learning” need and if you need help, well, ask someone on Twitter or Google+!

I’d love to hear examples of how you are using performance support in your organizations.

Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

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