How Are Performance Support Tools Different From Training? 3 PST Examples Featuring Microlearning

Formal trainings are often not enough to obtain the required gains in employee performance. This article outlines the difference between training and Performance Support Tools or PSTs and why you should use them. It also features 3 examples that show you how PSTs can impact employee performance.

Are Performance Support Tools Different From Training? What Performance Support Tools Are

In simple terms, Performance Support Tools or PSTs are job aids designed to provide learners with on-the-job support just when they need it.

Some of their typical characteristics are:

  1. They are meant to provide support and guidance to employees when at work.
  2. They address a specific challenge.
  3. They can be easily accessed by employees and are usually embedded directly into their workflow or application.

Performance Support is not a new concept. It started surfacing nearly three decades ago. As Gloria Gery, a key proponent of Performance Support, points out,

“Performance Support focuses on work itself while training focuses on the learning required to do the work. Integrating resources in the workplace is inevitable, and the need is urgent. Filtering resources so people get the tools and resources they need while actively working is the goal. Work process and roles are the primary filters. The mechanisms vary: Portals, performance-centered workflow interfaces, enterprise applications, integration projects, etc, but what’s important is that performer be able to name that tune in one note, to perform in exemplary fashion.“

While the concept is over thirty years old, it is finding its spot under the sun now. With increased focus on ROI by Learning and Development teams and businesses seeking clear and demonstrable gains, the usage of PSTs is finally gaining momentum.

How Are Performance Support Tools Different From Training?

PSTs complement formal training. While the knowledge gain to acquire this skill would happen through formal training, PSTs are provided to learners as just-in-time aids to facilitate application of the acquired skill. They are highly definitive in nature typically designed to address a specific challenge or problem.

Let me showcase how this would work practically:

  • Typical approach.
    Assume that an employee needs to do a task that he is not fully familiar with (for instance, his tasks need to be done now with an application released recently). He is likely to ask a colleague or his manager or he may review online help of the software tool. Or, he may go back to the supporting training material. You can imagine the time involved in this path.
  • PST based approach.
    On the other hand, the required information can be converted to a short microlearning nugget of a few minutes run length (as a ready reckoner that addresses typical user queries). In this approach, the user now has the access to the information exactly when he needs it (within his work-flow, in his application on his smartphone) and in a format that enables him to get an immediate resolution of his query.

The word you would associate with training is “instruct” whereas the word you would associate with Performance Support is “perform“. When it comes to training, it’s just learning that’s happening and work takes a break (or is postponed) whereas with Performance Support, it’s learn and work at the same time.

We can also look at how Performance Support Tools are different from training in the following ways:

  • Learners take a training to learn a new concept or skill or obtain more knowledge about that concept or skill whereas Performance Support has more to do with application of that concept or skill and problem-solving.
  • Learners usually require training when there is an indentified gap of skills or knowledge that needs to be bridged or when something needs to be explained about a concept in detail. When it comes to Performance Support, learners need it on-the-job to make troubleshooting a snap and fix problems instantly.
  • Learners will be taking a fixed time off to take a formal training whereas with Performance Support, it’s more about getting access to the job aid whenever they need it while at work and there is no fixed time as such to go through a PST.
  • The goal of a formal training is to help learners acquire knowledge and new skills whereas PSTs are meant to help learners complete their tasks at hand.
  • With training, the learning is structured whereas learning happens incidentally with PSTs.

Do PSTs Replace Formal Training?

As we have noted, PSTs are different from training. However, it is important to note that PSTs are not a replacement for formal training. They complement formal training and can be used to make formal trainings more interesting and meaningful by helping learners not just acquire knowledge but apply it on the job.

Speaking about knowledge acquisition and its application, it is a known fact that there is a significant gap between the two and business gains come about when there is a substantial impact created by the latter.  It is here that PSTs serve as a boon for Learning and Development professionals in terms of helping learners apply the learning on the job and demonstrating a positive impact on the business.

Why Should You Use PSTs?

For learners, especially of the current generation, learning and working simultaneously is a key aspect. In addition, they like learning and working informally.

PSTs are a great tool to boost employee performance as they:

  • Help learners learn and perform tasks independently, without them having to seek external help.
  • Help avoid wastage of time in terms of senior employees guiding lesser experienced employees.
  • Equip employees to complete their tasks in a shorter time and with the desired quality even if they don’t get access to formal training.
  • Simplify tasks for employees and help them understand complex tasks easily.
  • Familiarize learners to new systems or updates in their workflow/process.

Can PSTs Impact The Bottomline?

As I had highlighted earlier, PSTs are easily available and usually embedded directly into the learners’ workflow helping organizations provide the required task support and step up the productivity quotient of their employees. They are typically designed to address a specific challenge.

On account of this, some of the gains that PSTs provide are:

  1. Increase in productivity.
  2. Increase in quality.
  3. Decrease in errors.
  4. Improved turn-around time for a task.
  5. Better service (on account of quicker resolution).

All of these have a direct impact on your bottom-line.

How Can PSTs Be Used?

PSTs can be used in various ways. Specifically:

  • They serve the purpose of informal learning really well.
  • You can use them to complement formal training and bring about greater application of that learning on the job.
  • You can use them to offer instant learning by making them available in learners’ work-flow, ensuring that they get access to them just when they need.
  • They are multi-device compatible and can be offered in mLearning or mobile learning formats helping learners access them on the device of their choice.
  • They gel well with the concept of microlearning and when done so, the impact can be higher.
  • They also have ample scope for integration of other innovative approaches such as gamification, social learning, story-based learning (storytorials), scenario-based learning, guided exploration, and so on.

What Are The Formats That Can Be Used To Design PSTs?

Today, you are spoilt for choice in the range of formats that you can use to create PSTs. I am listing PST options based on the microlearning technique and feature several high impact, rich media formats:

  1. Interactive parallax based scrolling.
  2. Mobile apps.
  3. Complex branching scenarios.
  4. Videos.
  5. Interactive videos.
  6. Whiteboard animation.
  7. Kinetic text based animation.
  8. Infographics.
  9. Interactive PDFs
  10. eBooks and flipbooks.
  11. eLearnings
  12. interaction based step by step guidance

I hope this article provides the required insights on how Performance Support is different from training and the role it plays in engaging employees.

Source: Asha Pandey


Autor: Learning

The basis of my professional, polyvalent career is mainly characterized by the following qualifications: - 20 years of experience in Sales & Marketing - 20 years of experience in the field of ICT and in particular, Learning Development, Knowledge Management (KM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - 20 years of experience in the field of human Resources Management (5 - 25 persons - recruitment, leading, training and motivation of employees) - 20 years of experience as a Project Manager in the field of ICT, chemical and industrial plant design and architecture. - 10 years of experience in 2D / 3D CAD planning - 10 years of experience in the field of Biological and Energy-Efficient Construction - 5 years of experience as a Member of the Board of two companies, with whom I've worked

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