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Focus on performance support

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The world of work is moving at an unprecedented pace. Millennials and new technologies are entering the workplace, customer expectations are rising, competition is becoming fiercer, and regulation in most industries is getting tougher, says Ivanna Granelli, founder of Can!Do Consulting.

Many companies are struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Though enterprises are investing in new technologies and processes to address these challenges, they’re often not able to effectively absorb these solutions into their organisations.
The result is fragmented customer service, inefficiencies and productivity levels that don’t meet expectations. Here, the problem often lies in a lack of connectedness between the employee and the company’s strategy, processes and systems. In their haste to put in place new enterprise applications, many companies forget that these new systems will be used by people.

It is interesting to note how people – especially young people – who use smartphones and social media everyday struggle to use business systems the way they’re meant to. Consider, for example, the relationship individuals have with Facebook in their daily lives.

They feel a connection to it that they simply don’t to their business systems – because it is engages them at a deeply individual level. Though there are a number of enterprise social platforms in the market, few of them are adopted as eagerly by their intended end-users as Facebook.
Facebook has seen the opportunity here and plans to launch “Facebook at Work” to allow businesses to create social networks for their employees that look and act like Facebook itself. This raises some interesting questions about whether we’re deploying solutions that are tailored to the way today’s workforce thinks and whether the ways we train them to use these systems are appropriate.

New technologies, old practices
Over the past decade, we have seen companies roll out a range of learning and performance support technologies that are meant to help employees use their systems and processes more effectively. Though the technology is new, the interfaces and the practices are often old.

It’s still all too common for companies to drill people with quick e-learning or classroom sessions when they join a company or get moved into a new role. Then, they’re often left to flounder with little in the way of formal performance support processes or systems besides some old-fashioned online help or dense paper manuals.

It’s an alienating and inefficient way of training people. Companies that take this approach will not get the best from their employees, systems or processes. People need to connect into the company culture, in order to learn their jobs organically, and to absorb the knowledge being thrown at them.

Organisations should rather build a culture of where learning is constant.
People should be encouraged to access information as they need it. They should also be given frequent opportunities to refresh and grow their knowledge and skills to keep pace with the accelerated rate of change in today’s world.
There must be a strong focus on on-the-job training and investment in performance support tools to enable this. Employees learn best through practice and application, so they should have access to support mechanisms that help them learn on the job. Digital learning materials can be valuable here, but some workers prefer something more tangible.

For example, learning and job aids such as summarised decision matrices, graphical business process flow diagrams, and paper-based “how do I” guides can help users to find information they need quickly when they’re struggling with a task or system.

Many people find paper reference materials easier to search than second-guessing the search terms of an online system. We are also seeing companies build performance support tools into their business applications.
Social media can be invaluable for peers to support each other – it’s another option for companies to use.
And when training and providing performance support, companies should look to tap into the technologies and behaviours that already exist in the end-user’s daily lives, for example, mobile apps and social media. This can give a friendlier face to learning about company processes and systems.