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A Match Made in Heaven: Performance Support and Mobile

by James Rasmussen

August 18, 2014

Feature

by James Rasmussen

August 18, 2014

“The need for performance support has definitely not been the driving force behind the ascent of mobile- learning technology. It has been the other way around—a kind of silver lining if you will. The capabilities of mobile devices are definitely ensuring that providing performance support to employees when they need it and in real-time is easily possible and affordable.

Implementing training that actually drives skill and performance gains is a daunting challenge for any manager. Yet even if you do that initial dose of training well, it is the period after the training when employees are most in need of support. This is borne out by myriad research studies, which tell us that learners will not retain anywhere near all of that first dose of training.

Supporting application where it counts

Much of the challenge to refreshing training concepts has to do with logistical constraints and the vast amount of time required to make this happen. One way that some companies approach this refresher problem is to have their managers go through training that enables them to serve as in-the-field coaches who reinforce core training principles.

And while this approach certainly has its uses, it cannot directly support employees at the very moment of need, such as when a salesperson needs to recall a key part of their sales process or the details of a product offering.

So what cannot be done by training is, at that point, made possible by performance support (PS) embedded in the learner’s workflow. In other words, well-developed PS tools should facilitate or streamline completion of a task or procedure, while also elevating the quality of task execution. As the term suggests, performance support helps the employee perform at the very moment he or she needs it. That said, well-designed PS enables organizations to literally drive higher performance every day.

The five key moments of need

So when and where should companies implement PS? What are those key moments of need? Well-known performance support expert Conrad Gottfredson has developed a framework that delineates five key moments of need.

1. When learning something for the first time

2. When seeking to learn more about something

3. When trying to apply or remember something or adapt performance to a unique situation

4. When attempting to solve a problem or deal with something that has gone wrong

5. When something changes that requires a change in how work gets done

So while it’s become a given that well-crafted performance support is central to honing the quality of skills and execution, what’s the best way to embed it into the employee workflow? More and more frequently, the answer is mobile-learning technology. With escalating adoption rates for mobile-learning technology in the corporate world, we may well have an important mechanism for resolving learning and skill-mastery challenges.

Mobile devices + performance support

With that as a backdrop, allow me to make a case that performance support and mobile devices may truly be a match made in heaven.

Here are five reasons to support my claim.

1. Moment of need

Mobile devices may have become the first devices or tools (maybe other than a watch and a pen) that nearly everyone owns and carries virtually all of the time (awake and at work). The ubiquity of mobile devices in itself addresses much of the challenge, as it ensures a delivery channel whenever and wherever performance support is needed.

2. Real-time

While having a device with the capacity to deliver PS is critical, the device itself doesn't do enough. The actual value is in the ability of the device to access information or people that can provide help at that moment of need.

Of course, the limiting factor here can be connectivity. While access to key data clearly has value, there may be times when Internet access to a central Internet server is not available. If the data is only available online, and the mobile device cannot connect to the Internet, then the device is worthless. There needs to be a Help function in place for such situations—a way to bridge the PS gap. This brings us to the third reason.

3. Offline storage

Mobile devices are not just channels to access information; they are, in their own way, powerful computing devices and their power seems to be increasing daily. This means that it is possible to store information on the device for use even when the device is not connected to the Internet. So, theoretically speaking, someone on a field-service call at three AM in a remote area would still be able to fix a customer’s problem by accessing a short video or trouble-shooting guide stored on the technician’s mobile device. This is a rather mind-blowing concept. It’s the very essence of true performance support—enabling the employee to solve a problem quickly and effectively. Not to mention the resulting boost to customer retention and reputation.

4. Videos

A post published on the Upside Learning blog in late 2012 (“The Return Of Video To eLearning”) highlights the reality of a sharp increase in popularity and use of videos in eLearning and mLearning for performance support. The power of video (typically two-to-three minutes in duration) provides benefit whether the user is online or offline, which clearly provides a nice value added in scenarios where connectivity is a big concern. Plus it is an excellent way to leverage mobile devices for performance support.

5. Responsive design

In a way, responsive design, where the software automatically senses and adapts to the display device, is the savior in all of this. The other method of developing performance support tools for mobile devices is to develop native apps for a mobile platform. The presence in the user pool of three to four such platforms, and the uncertainty created by the bring-your-own-device (B.Y.O.D.) trend, makes the conversion of content to native mobile apps potentially costly and time consuming. In addition, in the long run it can also be a challenge to maintain and update content. Responsive design saves the day by removing the need to repeatedly develop content in support of yet another mobile device type, while retaining the benefits of mobile device delivery. It also gives companies a relatively cost-effective way to quickly adapt existing tools and informational material for mobile performance support without reinventing the wheel for each and every mobile device.

The “perfect couple”

The need for performance support has definitely not been the driving force behind the ascent of mobile-learning technology. It has been the other way around—a kind of silver lining if you will. The capabilities of mobile devices are definitely ensuring that providing performance support to employees when they need it and in real-time (rapid response time) is easily possible and affordable.

Performance support and mobile certainly seem like the perfect couple…wouldn’t you agree?

Reference

Garg, Amit. “The Return Of Video to eLearning.” Upside Learning blog. 18 October 2012. http://www.upsidelearning.com/blog/index.php/2012/10/18/the-return-of-video-to-elearning/

Note from the Editor: Want more?

 

Would you like to learn more about performance support—how to design, deliver, and use it to obtain the on-the-job results your training was intended to deliver? Come to The eLearning Guild’s Performance Support Symposium 2014 in Boston, September 8 & 9. Meet Conrad Gottfredson, Allison Rossett, Frank Nguyen, and performance support experts from organizations ranging from IBM and the US Postal Service to healthcare providers, utilities, manufacturing firms, financial institutions, consulting organizations, and vendors of performance-support tools and services. Network with colleagues from around the world who may be wrestling with the same problems you are—some of whom will have ideas you can use!


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