Performance Support: The Key to Building Expertise

Performance Support Tools - Dr. Jim Guilkey - S4 NetQuest

Learning doesn’t stop at the classroom door. Even if you have the best instructional design imaginable and even if you see all your employee’s learning metrics skyrocket, if you want them to become experts, you have to support them after the course ends. What S4 NetQuest supplies after the course is what we call performance support. In a nutshell, performance support is providing learning aids to help employees with on-the-job support at the precise moment of their need. Doing so is especially important to someone learning to apply new knowledge and skills. They may use a performance support tool for a short period of time, during and after completing foundational training, but rely on it less as expertise increases. Performance support might be something as simple as an iPad loaded with an app that allows the employee to complete a check-list during a sales call. Such tools are critical to a holistic learning solution. And if you want to move your people from competent to expert, you’ve got to give them ongoing support.

Performance Support Tools: Tools for performance support are varied. Here are examples of the kinds of tools we often develop:

  • Structured Field Guides: If one of the final modules of a layered training calls for placing employees in a structured field experience, not only will we partner them with an experienced mentor, we’ll arm them with a “structured field guide”. These guides help the learner move through a real-world field experience from the simple to the complex, ensuring that they have reference materials when needed and that they have a “roadmap” for the expectations needed in the field. Just like the classroom moved them from foundational concepts to more nuanced ones, so does a structured field guide.
  • Conversation Guides: If the job requires new employees to interact with professionals outside their company, with experts in industries they support, or with individuals who need the knowledge the employee has been trained on but doesn’t know the nomenclature or the right questions to ask, something like a conversation guide is essential. For example, when S4 Netquest taught sales associates how to interact with surgeons when selling a complex robotic tool, we developed an app-based feature on an iPad that provided lists that corresponded to a number of variables the sales associate might encounter. The lists not only helped them offer responses when they encountered a doctor with specific surgical expertise, it then linked them to white papers, journal articles, and other support materials they could provide to their potential client.
  • Interactive Procedure Guides: If your industry requires employees to be highly competent in completing specific procedures, then a guide to use post-classroom is key. This is particularly true when training must include infrequently applied procedures or when encountering departures from common expectations.

More Information: There are infinitely more examples of performance support, each one adaptable to specific learning needs. You can explore several examples of performance support in my new book: M-Pact Learning: The New Competitive Advantage.