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Performance Support 101

Performance support. You may have heard the term before, but what does it mean, exactly? How does it differ from other training strategies? And, more importantly, why is it critical for your business to implement now?

In this post, I’ll give a brief introduction to performance support and how it can be incorporated into your broader learning and training programs. But before we dive in, let’s be clear that performance support does not simply mean “more content”–rather, it’s a new framework for providing continuous resources and training tools to your employees. While your employees might engage with traditional courses and onboarding content for a few weeks or even days, performance support is meant to span the duration of their employment with your company, making it a potentially very valuable investment.

What is performance support?

First, let’s start with what performance support is not: instructor-led training, workshops, webinars and eLearning. These options fall within the camp of formal learning, and, while they are still part of a strong learning program’s portfolio, they do not qualify as performance support. On the flip side, performance support is just-in-time, just-enough, and contextually-embedded content or tools. It’s handy and bite-sized, and it doesn’t require your employees to scan through pages of notes or a long slide-deck for a nugget of information.

While performance support can be as simple as a handwritten check-list, the revolution in technology and digital devices has led to the rise of mobile-optimized performance support content. For example, for a sales rep on the go, taking out his phone to quickly reference new product specs or double-check the days’s meetings can mean the difference between a successful pitch and a lost sale. The key for performance support success is to pinpoint exactly where and when your employees need extra help or will get stuck, and use performance support content to fulfill that moment of need.

Why is it important?

Performance support isn’t just a “nice-to-have”; in many cases, actually, it’s a must-have. With continued support for your employees, they’ll be less likely to 1) waste time skimming manuals or Googling for answers and 2) make mistakes because they were underprepared–both of which can add up to a lot of money on your end.

What’s more, according to Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, people forget 40% of what they’ve learned in 20 minutes and 77% of what they’ve learned in six days. Of course, this is contingent on both the material and the individual, but the bottom line is that, without continued reference, you may not be maximizing your initial training efforts. Performance support allows employees to review and reinforce material daily, applying specific chunks when it’s actually needed.

Finally, a less measurable though incredibly important benefit of performance support is that it empowers your employees and encourages resourcefulness and confidence. With the right tools, your employees won’t feel paralyzed to act or inadequate for not recalling the necessary information. Instead, they’ll have the answer in the palm of their hand.

What can I do about it?

Getting started, it’s important to evaluate your current training program and what pain points your employees have that are not easily addressed by formal training. What do they ask their managers about most on the job? How could you ease their day-to-day tasks to boost performance? Where are they already creating their own “performance support”, such as common Google searches or homegrown memory aids? Pick out common challenges and complex, dense information that may not be worth memorizing, but is still important.

Next, consider the context in which your employees will access performance support materials, whether at their desk or in the field, and what type of tools would best serve them. Will a simple check-list suffice, or do you need to go mobile? Asking these big questions upfront will get you on your way to a successful performance support program, but stay tuned for our later posts!

The bottom line:

At first, performance support might seem like an arbitrary addition to your learning and training program, but these bite-sized resources will help arm your team for success once they’ve left your classroom. Whether saving time or helping close an important deal, performance support drives real business results and has a lasting impact for all of your learners.

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