Monday, December 22, 2008

2009: The YEAR for Performance Support!

With the year winding down, it's time for the classic 2009 predictions. Clearly Con and I are biased about this, but we firmly believe 2009 will be THE year that Performance Support(PS) finds its rightful place in our industry. One common question we are often asked is, "Why didn't Performance Support take off back when Gloria Gery first talked about it in the early 90's?". We both feel that it's a classic case of the right idea being discussed at the wrong time.

For a new learning modality to get traction the stars have to align just right. If we've learned anything in our years in this industry it's that change comes slowly! We really are a conservative industry even though we talk about new and innovative ideas such as social networking, mobile learning, and performance support. We do a lot of "kicking the tires", BUT are often very slow to adopt. Here are a few things we've been watching in the past year which look to finally position PS into its rightful place as an influential learning modality in 2009:

  1. Productivity is KEY to many businesses being able to survive our current economic downturn: There was an interesting article published in the Baltimore Business Journal around productivity and the current rash of mass layoffs. Here are a few compelling data points shared in that article which all organizations and learning departments need to keep in mind in the coming year:
    - 74% of employees who survived a corporate layoff say their own productivity has dipped since the cuts occurred.
    - 69 % say the quality of their company’s product or service has dropped since the layoffs.
    - 64 % say the productivity of their co-workers has also declined.
    - 81 % say the service that customers receive has dropped.
    - 77 % see more errors and mistakes being made

    Organizations are going to be looking for strategies and tools to help keep the remaining workforce productive, and HOPEFULLY begin to on-board others as the economy starts to turn around. We are already seeing traditional training budgets being cut and approaches such as classroom training not being seen as a viable option in today's economic climate. Organizations need an economical and reliable approach that helps the remaining workforce understand the information coming at them, helps them assume new responsibilities for those who have been let go, and keeps them current on the many changes going on around them. This information needs to be immediate, contextual, and integrated with their current work flow. This is a PERFECT opportunity for introducing PS into an organization! Traditional training approaches will NOT keep up with this type of demand, and quite frankly aren't designed for this type of support in the first place.
  2. E-Learning has found it's place in the learning landscape and it's NOT performance support: For years we've unfairly associated the JIT (Just in Time) acronym with e-learning and it has not served it well. We've misinterpreted availability with relevancy. E-Learning will continue to be a dominant training tool, especially in the times we live in, BUT it's not designed to be PS. As the next year plays out and the workforce is needing more that just knowledge gain, but are also looking to be supported in the context of their work and the changes described above, PS can be perfectly positioned to sit alongside E-Learning creating a cost effective and formidable total learning solution.
  3. The Tools have finally arrived that can make PS a reality: Many of us who've been around this industry a while remember the many failed efforts that came with the "Reusable Learning Object" promises of the 1990's. Now, I'm not saying that the idea wasn't a good one. The frustrations often came from the tools and design models available at the time. Those days are a thing of the past. The new single-source rapid authoring tools now available make creating not only PS tools easier and more cost effective, but also other modalities, such as print, e-Learning, and even mobile. It is now possible to get rid of many of the disparate tools we've collected in our learning departments in favor of ONE tool which will meet the needs of many of our current learning outputs, AND do it in less time, with less effort, and for less money! More on this topic in our coming blogs posting in 2009!
  4. Blended learning works so much more effectively with PS in the mix: Con and I have been involved in numerous "Blended Learning Initiatives" over the course of our professional journey. Often the intended outcome was to reduce training time and cost while increasing productivity at the desktop. Many have struggled because the blend was fundamentally flawed from the beginning. Simply put, we were using the wrong tools. We were not looking at all 5 moments of need as we've often outlined in this blog, but were only focusing on the first 2. Adding PS throughout the process can have a profound effect on your blended learning models. Conrad and I have seen 2 week classes reduced to 2 days. The irony of this approach is that not only does it present a compelling cost model, something which is incredibly important to all of us these days, BUT it ends up being an even more effective approach because we are finally supporting a learner throughout the learning process not just during certain parts.
  5. We're FINALLY letting go of the "binder" mentality: I've been waiting for this opportunity for years and it look like our current economic climate is going to push it over the top. With technologies and approaches such as EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems) so readily available we can finally stop killing trees and printing an insane number of binders which often sit on shelves or become out of date within days after being printed. A combination of the economic world we live in, the need to keep up with a staggering amount of information, and the rate at which things change can no longer be sustained by static print binders. We're often asked how one justifies the cost of a PS solution. Let's start with the printing and distribution costs for information within your organization!! Imagine no longer printing cost sheets, competitive information, technical manuals, training materials, on-boarding manuals, and standard operating procedures (SOP's)? Most PS initiatives could be justified with this cost alone. The most exciting side of this argument is that we haven't even begun to consider the productivity and revenue gains realized once this information is finally kept up to date and distributed effectively.

2009 will be the year of PS! It's time has finally come as a dominant player on the learning landscape. All it needs now is for each of us to understand the benefits outlined above. It's up to us to champion this powerful discipline when we're asked to solve the training needs laid given to us. If we fall back on traditional means, we will have done a disservice to our organizations and our ability to truly impact its success. We may impacting our own fate when we become viewed as too costly and removed from the things that are truly effecting the bottom-line.

Those whom we support will NOT come to us looking for PS. They will come to us asking to be creative and effective with our budgets and approaches. PS can be a major part of that solution. It's up to us to help make that a realty!

Conrad and I wish you all the JOY and HAPPINESS this holiday season can bring and thank you for a tremendous year of discussion and community around PS. We look forward with great optimism to the coming year and hope you will continue to join us on this very exciting journey!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob -- Great post, and I agree that PS will/should become the default mindset of professional trainers everywhere. I will continue keeping up with your blog, as well as studying previous posts.
    Couple of questions on this one: On points 3 and 5, it seems as though you're talking about a Content Management System...? At least, it sounds like the proposed capabilities of our soon-to-be CMS here at JetBlue. Just curious as to why you didn't use that terminology.
    Anyway, happy holidays to you, Conrad, and your families.