How to Create Performance Support Your Team Will Thank You For

If you’ve already decided to add a performance support component to your learning and training program, then you know exactly why you need it. Performance support, or contextually-embedded tools and content, will provide your employees with the right information, available when they need it most. You’ve probably even envisioned what your performance support might look like in action and the boost in performance that you’ll see across the board. What’s less clear, however, is knowing whether this performance support will actually align with your vision–will employees find your content relevant and helpful?

For starters, you should use a flexible, lightweight process to create effective performance support; don’t replicate the typical, linear steps for creating training content. Instead of building it at all once, like you would a slide deck or printed training binders, creating performance support requires an iterative, inquisitive mindset. Below, we’ve listed four steps to guide you along the process, so you can create performance support that actually supports your employees.

1. Define your goals–and share them with stakeholders

Before diving in, ask yourself, “What should my performance support materials accomplish?” Explicitly stating your goals allows you to better assess your outcomes. For example, here are two straightforward outcomes that you might expect from your performance support:

  • Sales: Improve your sales team’s knowledge of new products, so they can identify the solution that’s right for each prospective customer more efficiently.
  • Customer Support: Make troubleshooting information more accessible to your support team, so they can close support tickets faster.

Once you’ve defined your goals, share them with your stakeholders. Get their buy-in; tweak your goals if necessary. When everyone agrees on the destination, it’s easy to move in the right direction.

2. Ride along to learn exactly what your employees need

You may think you know what your sales team needs–heck, they might even tell you. But you need to observe your employees in their natural environment so you can truly understand the context where they’ll use these materials. Let’s walk through our two examples:

  • Sales: You learn that the Sales team tends to check for information when they’re traveling between prospective customers–so your solution needs to be available on mobile devices, and it needs to be bite-sized.
  • Customer Support: You learn that this team is most often using desktop computers, but they’re operating at warp speed–so everything needs to be super-searchable and easy to parse.

Spend an afternoon with your team’s top salesperson to see what makes her so successful, and you’ll better understand the functionality that your performance support needs. More often than not, you’ll uncover insights that you’d never realize had you just sat at your desk by yourself.

3. Work like a software developer: build, test, refine, and repeat

Today’s most successful software companies ship new features every week or two–and you can, too. Don’t wait until you’ve created an entire curriculum before you show it to anyone. Instead, practice rapid prototyping. Create a bit of content, test it out on a few people (here’s why talking to just 4-5 users will tell you almost everything you need to know), revise as needed, and repeat. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. Sometimes, you have to get it wrong before you figure out what’s right.

It’s easy to make those changes quickly when you choose a mobile performance support solution that updates in real time. Not only does this allow for quick iteration, but it also accounts for changes beyond your control. New product releases, updated regulations, or revised company policies happen frequently, and it’s best to keep your performance support updated to ensure its effectiveness.

4. Use content analytics to see how employees are using your material–and learn from your mistakes

To see how your employees use your content, a survey may seem like a good solution. But, as you’ve probably experienced, most people ignore surveys or, worse, provide inaccurate information.

Content analytics offers you an insider view into how your content is really being used. How many page views does the troubleshooting guide get each week? Is anyone is looking at those new flashcards? What about the quizzes–do people get the questions right? And that video that was so expensive to produce–should you make more of them? With content analytics, you’re armed with the information you need to make good decisions, allowing you to revise, update, and plan your next project.

The bottom line

Clear goals, user context, quick iteration, and good user data are the key ingredients for great software, but they also make for great performance support. When you’re less focused on assembling a finished project, like you would a training binder, you can create small snippets of performance support content to test, evaluate, and repeat. Add a performance support solution that allows for quick updates in real-time, and you’ll know that you’ve equipped your team with the best possible support.

To learn how cloud software can help achieve your learning and development goals, read The Executive’s Field Guide to Cloud-Based Learning Technologies