What is Performance Support?
What is Performance Support?
WorkClout News
What is Performance Support?
The history and trends that led to performance support software, its use cases in manufacturing & industry, and what the future looks like with performance support software. 
December 30, 2019

Performance Support is a relatively new concept, but its application is familiar, and it all has to do with memory. In this article, we'll go through what performance support is, the history and trends that led to performance support software, its use cases in manufacturing & industry, and what the future looks like with performance support software. 


Performance Support: a mechanism or resource that helps employees improve their skills and use collective knowledge while they're on the job to maximize their productive output. 

The definition is purposely broad and also a bit vague because performance support doesn't necessarily fit neatly in a metaphorical box. It is a process and people improvement enabled by a whole set of tools. This concept will be clarified in more detail when we get to use cases. 

The purpose of performance support is to close tribal knowledge gaps by allowing employees to:

1) Retain or refresh information learned when training. 

2) Acquire additional information to complete an operation through knowledge building or people. 

3) To get better at troubleshooting and continuous improvement. 

How did we get here?

How did we get here? Why is there a need for performance support in the first place if there is an adequate amount of training that happens before employees start their job? To answer this question, we have to investigate how humans learn. 

A recent 2019 study analyzed training delivery methods for operators at different manufacturing companies across the US and Europe and then measured how effective that training delivery method was. The study results were polarized yet unsurprising. 

Around 81% of the operators had shown improvement when the training delivery method was on the job by shadowing and immediately doing the task or operation afterward. 

Around 15% of the operators had shown improvement when the training delivery method was a classroom setting. 

Around 3% of the operators had shown improvement when the training was an online classroom.  

And the remaining 1% of the operators in the sample size had shown improvement in another assortment of ways; written instruction, consultant guidance, and formal training in college. 

This study presents something obvious: human memory has limits. 

The rise of performance support tools is rising in demand because it helps overcome the limits of human memory and improves operational instructions learned in a formal training regime by meeting the employee at the very point they need to learn the skill. 

Performance support is most useful when the trade, task, or operation is technical in nature and has various nuances that human memory cannot retain. 

Examples of this would be:

A software engineer can't figure out a specific algorithm, so they utilize Stack Overflow (a free online performance support community for software engineers) to help find the answer in the exact moment they need it.

Someone needing to edit a picture online needs to learn photoshop, so they go to Youtube to learn how to do it as they're working on that project. 

The overall theme performance support is trying to promote learning with a goal or project in mind where the learning immediate and actionable. 

Use Cases for Manufacturing & Other Industrial Sectors

Performance Support has dramatically improved desk workers' jobs for the past 20 years with software. However, performance support tools for the deskless workforce has been largely underdeveloped. 

WorkClout conducted interviews with over 124 manufacturers and industrial companies, and the most challenging problems that faced these companies were: 

  • Employee's performance hinders productivity.
  • Employees motivating is lacking, which can result in a turnover and lack of concentration. 
  • Safety hazards & mistakes from inadequate training
  • Vital training information is not available at the appropriate time
  • Cross-training for operators to ramp up on new skills can be slow
  • Solving problems and issues take time to resolve or even identify

With performance support, every one of these issues is resolvable. Performance support isn't just about getting on-the-job work instructions and offering training; it is enabling employees to perform to the best of their ability. Performance support software can benefit an organization to 10x its efficiency. To showcase what else performance support can offer, let's take a look at two functions, a performance tool aims to achieve:

  1. Operations 
  2. HR & Career Development

Let's look into the first function: Operations.

An industrial operation leader has to make sure operations are running at max capacity. The inputs to maximum output are aiming to prevent their operations from experiencing downtime, safety incidents, lousy quality, and low productivity. 

In the second function: HR & Career Development

An HR leader wants to hire the best employees and give them the tools to hit the ground running to develop their skills and career progression. 

Performance support enables a continuous improvement loop in both use cases that can apply to any organization, especially the deskless workforce. 

HR Manager's Loop

Not only does Performance Support help improve HR and Operations, but it also simplifies lean implementation. In another post, we'll go over how an organization can accomplish this in greater detail. 

The Future of Performance Support:

Before we can talk about the future of performance support, we have to talk about how organizations are practicing performance support now. 

Currently, performance support delivery methods for the industrial sector are primarily written manuals/instructions, powerpoint presentations, and bold signs. 

With new performance support tools, this is drastically changing to primarily video and picture communication accessible through QR codes and barcodes for quick reference. Rich multimedia offers a massive improvement than written word because it provides more context and can and operators can consume the information more effectively. 

How do you match information at the precise point of application, while getting consistently better?

Performance support tools are static; it shows you the information an operator needs to consume to operate a task, but the thing that it lacks is data. Again, the whole purpose of performance support is to improve continuously, but that is virtually impossible if there is no feedback loop on the effectiveness of individual performance. 

What the future of performance support will look like and what it will enable:

Delivery method: video, image, and even virtual reality 

Information: Consuming data, tracking data, and reporting data

Enables: Metric tracking powered by an individual feedback loop from operators.

When choosing a software tool for performance support, you must make sure there is the capability to track and report data to utilize the real value of what Performance support aims to accomplish. 

In conclusion, performance support is the best way to enable your employees to make your employees better. It helps bridge the gap and digitizes tribal knowledge while offering a platform to implement a culture of continuous improvement. In future posts, we will be covering performance support in more detail and tackling every angle to help your organization with helpful advice to improve.

If you're considering a performance support software, check out what WorkClout has to offer here.
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