Performance Support Basics: How to Help at the Moment of Need

We met a fictitious target learner in a previous post. Her name is Kate. She’s a new sales rep just starting out in her territory. Kate has completed her onboarding and she is now out in the field visiting with customers every day. When Kate needs to reference or practice something, she is likely using her phone or tablet. She’s probably already sitting in her car in a prospective customer’s parking lot.

Unfortunately, the information Kate is looking for is probably not easy to find. At least, if Kate’s organization is like most. Oftentimes, organizations have hundreds (or even thousands) of sales aids and reference materials scattered across LMS’s, Sharepoint sites, and other locations. Many of these resources are likely out of date. And most of them are probably not available to Kate when she is sitting in a customer’s parking lot trying to look something up.

This challenge is not unique to sales reps. For example, lab technicians may need to quickly reference how to complete a certain process. Or a construction site worker may need to check the safety information for a specific machine.

To provide adequate support for these learners, trainers need strategies that help them commit knowledge and skills to memory, as well as find and locate key information at the moment of need.

When to Provide Performance Support

Sometimes, we simply need employees to know something cold. For example, if Kate needs to always follow XYZ sales process when working with customers, it would not be practical for her to look the process up every time she is about to talk to a customer.

In other cases, knowledge is used infrequently enough that memorization would not be practical or even possible. This is where performance support comes into play. Performance support is a critical piece of a learning strategy, but only if it is used to support important, not frequently accessed knowledge and skills.

Homeowners, this analogy is for you: ever need to figure out how to fix an appliance or do a simple DIY project in your home? I’m guessing you didn’t sign up for a 6-week course to learn how… you didn’t have time! You probably went to YouTube, found a relevant video, learned on the fly, and got the job done. If you’re like me, you have probably since forgotten quite how to do whatever it is you learned. But you know where to find it if you need to perform the task again.

Many of our learner’s most pressing (and frustrating) “training needs” are exactly like this. They need to know something now, and it needs to be easy to find and locate.

Key Aspects of Performance Support

Regardless of the type of performance support you provide, your goal should be for learners to be able to easily find accurate and complete information whenever they need it. If your performance support is much harder to use than typing a search into Google, it is probably too cumbersome.

Essentially, your performance support should be:

  • Available on learner’s device of choice: for example, if they are always on the go, performance support should be mobile.
  • Easy for trainers to update: Your performance support tool’s back-end should make it easy to update content and quickly make it available to learners.
  • Complete and not full of duplicate content: You should conduct a sound content analysis to identify the key performance support pieces. This will help you identify learning paths and get rid of all the extraneous stuff.
  • Curated and learner-driven: in some cases, a platform that allows learners to upload their own tutorials and content for other users to learn from can be highly effective.
  • Easy for learners to rate: you can identify high and low-performing content by giving learners the ability to rate the value of the performance support content.

The right form of performance support for your learners completely depends on your target learners. For our sales rep, Kate, her mobile phone is an obvious choice. For a lab technician who may not be able to use a phone for safety reasons in the lab, a pocket-sized notebook might be a better choice.

Take the time to observe your target learners. Once you understand their world, you’ll be able to provide them the right tools to help them find and locate information when they need it most.


Did you know? Knowledge Guru games allow you to include performance support and reference materials within its mobile apps.