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Article No.: 11-4

Article Title: A Recipe for Performance Support

Author: Michelle Litmer, M.A., PHR
Guest Columnist

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If you need to find a recipe for a special occasion, you may pull out a family favorite, look through a cookbook, or search the Internet.  Most recipes give directions on how to prepare one particular dish.  Similarly, the majority of training courses (classroom, eLearning, etc.) give our employees instructions for completing a task, using a system, or improving a soft skill.  If you choose a recipe from Rachel Ray, you will learn more than instructions for preparing one certain dish.  Ideally, your employees should learn more than how to complete one task; in a training event, your employees should learn tools that can help them once they leave training and return to the job.     
Rachel Ray includes performance support in her cooking.  She provides simple, practical tips that you can use as you prepare other meals in the future.  For example, Rachel Ray explains that a palm full is roughly equivalent to 1 tablespoon.  This trick can save you time measuring precisely for the rest of your cooking life.  Rachel Ray describes how you can effectively use “pockets of time.”  If part of the meal has to sauté for 15 minutes, she suggests you prepare that part first, so you can work on something else while it is sautéing. 
In her January article, Dr. Linda Gravett recommended that we, HR professionals, focus on human resources development.  “Think about how you can leverage the skills, knowledge and abilities of your workforce to meet the needs of customers and potential customers.”  Dr. Gravett did not merely suggest that we teach our employees a new skill but suggested that we help our employees leverage their skills to meet customer needs.  We need to ensure that our employees apply the skills that they learn.
Often, we perform an analysis and determine that our employees have a particular need.  We consult with Subject Matter Experts and employees in question.  We develop a training class to teach a particular skill.  We invite the employees to the course, send them out into the world, and wait to observe the results of our successful training.      
The missing link is performance support.  If employees are given tools that they can easily remember (e.g. a palm full = a tablespoon), they are more likely to successfully apply the knowledge or skills they learned in training.   We want to make sure our employees can appropriately handle the scenario we taught in class.  We also want to know that they can successfully handle other related scenarios.  Rachel Ray gives us tricks to prepare a variety of recipes in the future.  For us to give our employees tricks to handle a variety of situations in the future, we need to give them tools.  Here are a few examples of performance support:   

  • New Employee Orientation: A one page job aid that reminds an employee of all the tasks s/he must complete within the first 6 months of employment. 
  • Financial System: A one page sheet that lists the top 5 most commonly performed tasks and a web address of where to find more detailed information about the financial system.
  • Public Speaking: A card that can be linked to your employee badge that includes the top 3 points to include in a speech.

You may think performance support sounds old school.  It’s true, people have used performance support in their everyday lives for years.  My friend’s Mom always carried a tip card since she could not quickly determine a certain percent of a total.  With today’s technology performance support can be used in a variety of ways.  Any of the examples I discussed could be put in an electronic format so they could be accessed via a portable device.  The key for performance support is for it to be easily accessible. 
The next time you determine how to help your employees best leverage their skills, think long term. If you decide on developing a training course, take a little time to think about what follow-up performance support tools you will include in the course.  Think about how you can help employees use the knowledge that they learn in the future.  Instead of teaching employees how to handle one specific situation, cook one recipe, give them the tools to handle a variety of situations.


If you have questions about this article, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Gravett at lsg@justthebasics.com.  Or, use our contact form by clicking here

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