Lauren Keith asks how L&D can keep up with the pace of today's workforce and support a time-friendly learning culture.
In Part 1 of this blog post series, I outlined the benefits of performance support (PS) for today's time-poor, information-hungry professionals. I was left wondering how L&D experts might speed up the PS process, determining that the answer may lie in the content, accessibility and delivery of the PS materials.
Unlike training or standard learning content, PS materials don't need to tell a story or immerse the learner. But they do have to be lucid and direct. Videos are an increasingly popular choice for performance support material, particularly for step-by-step processes and walkthroughs, as they can provide an identical demonstration of the processes the learner must repeat, while condensing that information down into the clearest, most digestible form. This is the reason for the rising use of YouTube as an informal learning tool, which is now home to literally millions of how-to videos, constituting one of the largest living repositories of knowledge on the planet.
Other preferred formats for performance support material include interactive PDFs, infographics or flowcharts (perhaps the best option for our hypothetical Customer Support Manager - see my earlier blog). But the material itself is only part of the picture.
Whatever content is created needs to be accessible wherever the learner might be at the point of need. This may be relatively simple for our Customer Support Manager or anyone else based at a stationary workstation, hooked in to a dynamic LMS, collaborative learning platform or other business admin system where targeted resources can be stored, searched and launched easily.
But today, almost 40% of the global workforce is mobile, and this makes PC-dependency impractical. A salesperson who wants to find out more about a product during a conversation with a client won't have time to set up their laptop - or perhaps the luxury of being able to carry one around with them. These types of learners need integrated performance support tools that are fully mobile compatible.
Delivery - how the content is located and served within the PS system - is arguably the most important part of performance support. Learners don't want to waste time trawling through complex folder structures or in and out of different software and tabs to find the content they need (on average, we spend 20-25% of our working week doing this!) We need coherent structures and easy-to-navigate systems that spare us the pain.
A learning platform with a comprehensive collection of performance support materials organised within a logical menu and UI is the simple solution. It's not rocket science. Learners are given the keys to a single one stop shop for performance support resources. Better yet, the administrators (or adaptive systems) can position the most useful content at the front of the system, saving users from having to search at all. How do the admins know what the most useful content is? It's simple: it's the material that the learners keep coming back to again and again.
Content impact is tracked via its accumulated usage and social data. Take performance support resource X. Who's been accessing it? Have they been liking it? Commenting on it? Annotating it? Sharing it with each other? Have they seen it through to completion, or did they bail out on it quickly? Are some departments more likely to access it than others? Smart admins - or smart systems - can use this data to identify knowledge gaps and spot what needs creating, deleting or moving. This dynamic, data-driven feedback loop keeps the pool of available resources fresh, relevant , and delivered at the point of need.
Integrating performance support within the workflow is also key to speeding up delivery. It shouldn't be a case of launching the system once the learning need is identified - the learners are likely to have their collaborative learning platform open anyway, using it throughout the day to access performance support resources, but also to connect with experts for help with challenging tasks, reviewing their calendar, check the news feed or contacting their manager. It can be used as a multi-functional, one-to-shop for learning, collaboration and admin, streamlining these processes and saving valuable time.
Investing in long-term performance support
Enabling effective performance support is not just about delivering to the end users quickly, but having the right materials in the first place. Ensuring the availability of adequate and up-to-date PS content is a continuous job, requiring ongoing consultancy, needs analysis and structured approach used in training, it's easily neglected.
PS materials may be uploaded onto an organisation's LMS but quickly go out of date and no longer reflect current processes, culture, people or other variable assets. More often than not, key business information is held in the heads of a few key individuals - and not always the ones responsible for L&D content. Capturing and utilising valuable knowledge from these employees is vitally important and supports innovation and performance across the business. User-generated performance support gets that essential knowledge out of the heads of the experts and into general circulation, to the benefit of the whole company.
As the hunger for information increases, so does its production and distribution, which in turn feeds the information beast and our time poverty. It's a troublesome cycle but not one without fruits to bear. With so much data universally available on the internet and through our LMSs and learning systems, discovery and innovation are at an all-time high and autonomous learning is taking off. It's time we thought more about how to optimise content and platforms to make these processes more efficient.