supporting workplace performance

Many workplace performance issues cannot be solved through training, such as:

  • Poor communications
  • Unclear expectations (such as policies & guidelines)
  • Inadequate resources
  • Unclear performance measures
  • Rewards and consequences are not directly linked to the desired performance

The barriers above can be addressed without training. Only when there is a genuine lack of skills and knowledge is training required. Even a trained worker, without the right resources and with unclear expectations, may still not perform up to the desired standard. Allison Rossett states that “… performance support is a repository for information, processes, and perspectives that inform and guide planning and action.” There are many cases where performance support is needed to help workers, even if they are trained.

  • When performance is infrequent
  • When the situation is complex
  • When the consequence of errors is intolerable
  • When performance depends on a large body of information
  • When performance is dependent on knowledge or information that changes frequently
  • When performance can be improved through self-assessment
  • When there is a high turnover rate
  • When there is little time or money for training

Even trained workers need an effective performance support system.

Promoting self-directed learning, supporting social learning, and removing barriers to learning should replace much of course and content development and delivery. Training as knowledge delivery is dead. When training is needed, such as learning how to do a procedural task, it can often be automated through simulation. Training for observable skills, like flying an aircraft, is its sweet spot. Training to change beliefs and attitudes is not.

We can embed learning with work. Social technologies can provide up-to-date job aids. Enterprise social networks can provide coaching and mentoring so that new staff arrive with a support network and they can continue to learn as they work. Digital media and powerful software can create simulations to prepare for different scenarios.

We have known this for a long, as these insights from Brigitte Jordan in the mid-1990’s show.

We need to shift from an emphasis on training and all that implies, to an emphasis on learning (and all that implies).

Learning is inherent in human nature
Learning is fundamentally social
Learning shapes identity
Informal learning is crucial in the workplace
Brigitte Jordan (1937-2016)

One approach to supporting workplace learning, based on the 70:20:10 model, is for the organization to provide three types of enablers.

  1. Tools — that workers are dependent upon to do their work
  2. Skills — competencies to work independently
  3. People — social structures to work interdependently with others, inside & outside the organization

Supporting work is much more than driving content or creating courses.

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