The Importance of Performance Support

Designing Digitally


The old model of training a workforce to perform a job or task by simply sitting them in a classroom is (thankfully) fading into the past. Today’s workforce doesn’t need more training, they need more effective training. In fact, what they really need is task-specific guidance and support delivered at the exact moment it’s required. When this support combines the processes, tools and resources necessary to enable employees to perform their jobs better, businesses win.

While more L&D departments are getting the message and have built effective learning management systems, even this doesn’t address the complete issue. Today’s knowledge-based workers must have access to job performance information at the moment they need it in order to be most effective. It is our challenge to build the systems that allow for this on-demand training and performance support that today’s workforce requires.

What is Performance Support?


Simply put, the term performance support encompasses a wide variety of supplemental training and job performance tools. It can include everything from low-tech job aids to technical procedures presented in a how-to video. The single unifying characteristic that all performance support tools share is that they are available on demand and controlled by the worker performing the task.

Many of the best performance support systems involve employee portals with a library of documented processes and techniques. They are searchable and offered in a variety of media types. Performance support combines the best methods for delivering a particular job skill or task based on the need of the worker and the demands of the task.

When implemented correctly, performance support can be thought of as the mentor standing beside an employee as he or she attempts a new procedure. With the proper guidance and coaching, a worker is given the tools to perform any task confidently. Just as a qualified mentor is there to confirm the correct technique or procedure, performance support tools can answer questions, validate assumptions and confirm the details needed for proper task completion.

Performance Support Compared with Training

Performance support is not a substitute for training; rather it’s a supplement to the often technical and sometimes tedious training we frequently see. Where traditional training methods are content-based, performance support is context-based and provides workers with the tools they need to complete a task or procedure in real-time.

Within the training and development realm it is generally acknowledged that learners forget as much as 70% of the material they’re taught with 48 hours of attending a training session. That said, no one would suggest doing away with classroom or other formal job training. Training is a foundational activity, and gives workers the exposure to new concepts that allows them to continue learning on their own. In addition, the portion of formal training that is retained is often the most important and fundamental of the concepts. By combining formal training with a comprehensive performance support system workers are given the best opportunity to successfully perform their job roles.

Why Performance Support?

When looking at the amount of money spent on traditional training, many organizations may ask the question; why do we need performance support as well? The truth is that performance support systems are an investment in the continuing success of an enterprise. In fact, while the knowledge and skills acquired in classroom or other formal training resides with the employee (and departs with them as well), performance support systems stay in place for future use by all employees.

To be clear, designing and building a performance support infrastructure is a commitment and an on-going process. The maintenance and continued creation of documents, procedures, guides, video demonstrations and other tools requires both budget and manpower. However, the return on this investment can be seen in the time savings of employees performing their job duties, the satisfaction levels of customers who are better served, and a general improvement in deployed projects across the board.

How to Implement a Performance Support System

The design and implementation of a performance support system requires an understanding of the challenges your workforce faces. Are there particular tasks that cause more difficulty and struggle than others? Where are performance support offerings most urgently needed? What delivery mechanisms will be most effective for your workforce?

The answers to these questions and others are what our learning support team can help you to determine. Our Performance Support experts will identify your organizations current needs, and help to design a framework to build upon. It’s not enough to provide more information to your workers, you must give them the information they need at the time they need it. Providing support at the moment of need is what the experts here at Designing Digitally will help you to do.

To learn more about how a performance support system can help your organization, contact us.