Don’t behave like a tool – start using one

Performance support tool representation

40% of your staff could be thinking of leaving

If they’re not getting the right training, that is. If you’re not developing your team properly, they’re 12 times more likely to leave. And if they leave, good luck replacing them, as the chance to learn new skills and grow professionally is the #1 driver for talent to join an organisation.

That 40% is a frightening number. Yet it’s easy for those of us in the learning and development community to become complacent and think it couldn’t possibly apply to our organisation, given how much of our time is taken up by delivering training. However, two out of every five employers have provided no training at all within the last twelve months, and for the three out of the five that have, plenty of it isn’t hitting the mark.

This deficiency in learning provision not only reduces productivity and efficiency, it also disengages employees, leaving them feeling both stranded and uninspired. In the worst cases, they can become a drain on others’ time by requiring frequent guidance, or just stop trying to develop entirely.

How can we, as learning professionals, remedy this disengagement stemming from insufficient or inadequate learning opportunities? The truth is that for learning to be truly effective, you can’t just put your learners through a formal training session and send them off into to the workplace, to be dragged back in in another six months.

To ensure our continued relevance, we need to rethink the way we use learning technologies, and move away from delivering one-stop training, towards providing something more valuable to people’s working lives. We must understand that learning is a continuous process, and that the digital tools we use need to support it.

In Dr Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher’s Five Distinct Moments of Need, they outline the five main points of need where learners crave support:

  1. When they are learning something, or an aspect of something for the first time (New).
  2. When they are trying to learn more about something (More).
  3. When they need to apply a bit of information they already know but are unsure how, or they need to remember it (Apply).
  4. For problem solving (Solve).
  5. If something they previously knew how to do has now changed (Change).

Similarly, the 70:20:10 principle posits that as little as 10% of learning takes place during formal training, with the other 20% and 70% being covered by mentoring and on-the-job learning respectively. In essence, the question is how can we reach the learner 100% of the time, at every step of their learning journey?

The answer lies in the next generation of point-of-need guidance and performance support tools.

Performance support tools provide on-the-job training, giving your employees any extra information and support they require, when they need it. They allow more effective role performance and increased productivity, and ease friction with systems, technology, and new process adoptions. This in turn reduces strain on mentors and creates time for value add activities such as innovation, development, mentoring, and planning.

So, I hear you cry, how can I gain access to these life-saving tools? Well, the good news is that you’re probably already using them to some extent. A performance support tool can be anything you utilise to help train and better inform your employees while they’re working. This could include an interactive PDF, an appropriate YouTube video, or even a book.

The problem is that resourcing all of these tools can be difficult and time consuming, and it’s hard to know exactly which pieces of technology or work your employees are going to struggle with, let alone provide them at the point-of-need. That’s where technology steps in.

The most cutting edge digital performance support tools no longer require the user to search through reams of PDFs or endless repositories of outdated videos. Instead, they can recognise the exact system a learner is using, and the process stage they are at, to deliver targeted, point-of-need support. They can track and report analytics to highlight process chokepoints where particular support might be needed, or even suggest changes to the process itself.

If we refer back to the five Moments of Need, they can:

  1. Be used the first time an employee attempts to access a new system (New)
  2. Provide enough information to teach your employees more about anything new they wish to learn (More)
  3. Guide internally within the process on how to apply a piece of information a learner knows (Apply)
  4. Suggest how this application may allow progression to the next step in a process (Solve).
  5. Evolve alongside organisations’ systems and technology (Change).

In other words, they successfully cover all five of Gottfredson and Mosher’s Distinct Moments of Need, offering a complete learning solution.

Performance support tools thus represent a vital way that L&D departments can reinforce all stages of the learning journey and, ultimately, provide greater return on investment, due to their ease of use in the workplace, scalability, and scope. They can reach the learner 100% of the time, rather than just 10%.

At Saffron, we’ve recently developed our own digital point-of-need performance support tool, Saffron eaSe. It can train any employee as they use any application, system or process by providing context-relevant assistance in real-time, and can intuitively switch between applications for continuous support. It also evolves with the process and system, avoiding obsolescence, and uses insights from behavioural science to gauge interactions with the learner. It’s being released soon, but interested parties can register for a sneak peek.

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About the author

Freddie Drewer - Learning technologies consultant

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