Int. J. Learning Technology, Vol. X, No. Y, xxxx
Copyright © 200x Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.
Job aids and performance support: the convergence
of learning and work
San Diego State University
Room 283, 5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182, USA
Collet and Schafer Inc.
San Diego, CA, USA
Abstract: Performance support is happening where we work and live. Under a
tree and at a park bench, in a submarine, at a parent-teacher meeting, in a
cubicle, or on the manufacturing floor, people reach beyond themselves for
help in doing what needs to be done. The support comes as extensive computer
systems, reminders on cellphones, and notes scribbled on old envelopes.
Annual studies by ASTD and Training magazine confirm the slow, steady trend
away from classroom delivery and towards more technological approaches.
This shift to knowledge everywhere suggests the beginnings of a revolution in
workplace learning, a revolution that brings messages and meaning closer to
where it is needed. What is performance support? Where did it come from?
And what are the possibilities suggested by planner and sidekick support?
Those questions are addressed here.
Keywords: performance; performance support; job aids; on demand learning.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Rossett, A. and Schafer, L.
(xxxx) ‘Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and
work’, Int. J. Learning Technology, Vol. X, No. Y, pp.000–000.
Biographical notes: Allison Rossett, a Professor of Educational Technology at
San Diego State University, is fascinated by what, in addition to classes and
instructional materials, influences performance. This enthusiasm began decades
ago with her book, Handbook of Job Aids, and continues today. She has been
inducted into the Training magazine HRD Hall of Fame, recognised by ASTD
for a career of contributions to workplace learning and performance, and is
currently a member of ASTD’s International Board. She has received best book
awards for Training Needs Assessment, A Handbook of Job Aids, First Things
Fast: A Handbook for Performance Analysis, and Beyond the Podium:
Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital World (2001). Rossett also
edited The ASTD e-Learning Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case
Studies for an Emerging Field. Rossett’s career has taken her many places,
including Taipei, Singapore, India, Australia, Brazil, and all over North
America. She lives happily and works excessively in San Diego, California.
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
Lisa Schafer is a co-founder of Collet and Schafer, Incorporated. She has
conducted performance analyses, delivered training solutions, developed
systems, and administered industry benchmarking surveys for Fortune 100
clients. Schafer developed an award-winning financial system for a global
pharmaceutical company which successfully reduced employee workload while
improving deliverables. Schafer started her career in human resources, focusing
on organisation analysis, staffing, process improvement, and employee
recruiting and retention. Her business acumen, combined with her experience in
data analysis and presentation, human capital, and the appropriate use of
technology, enable her to see to the root of a problem and develop effective
solutions. Schafer graduated with Highest Distinction from Purdue University
with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management. She earned a Master’s Degree in
Educational Technology from San Diego State University. She is a member of
ASTD, ISPI, and WorldAtWork. Schafer lives in California with her two
terrific teenagers, Julie and Gregory.
This article is adapted from their forthcoming book, Job Aids and Performance
Support in the Workplace: Moving from Knowledge in the Classroom to
Knowledge Everywhere, San Francisco: Pfeiffer/Wiley Inc.
The forces align. To heightened expectations about performance and results add
computers, software, and mobile devices like cellphones, IPods and personal digital
assistants. Impatience factors in as well. Where do executives want their sales force,
teachers, customer service representatives and assemblers? They want them with
customers, students, clients, and equipment – in the context of the workplace.
The message is clear. No longer satisfied to mount a great event, rule a classroom or
command curriculum enshrined in 3-ring binders, ‘trainers’ and ‘instructional designer’
are growing into workforce learning professionals, performance consultants, and blended
and e-learning specialists with responsibility for solution systems and strategic
accomplishments. Their work extends beyond moments in time and place to influence,
information and even lessons that go where the challenges of work and life are. They
must provide support when and where required, by people or by systems that deliver the
smarts to those with needs. That’s right – via job aids and performance support. Welcome
to the era of convergence!
2 Job aids
Job aids are not new. People have relied on job aids since prehistoric times, when the
details of fire tending, skinning, and cooking adorned cave walls.
There are good reasons to appreciate job aids. For example, Duncan’s (1985) review
of military reliance on job aids between 1958 and 1972 documents their significant and
positive contributions to military performance. The military’s use of systematic
approaches in the design of training (then called the Interservice Procedures for
Instructional Systems Development) and reliance on job aids influenced civilian business
practices in companies like AT&T and GTE.
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work
Harless (1986), often acknowledged as the father of job aids, stated that job aids can
be developed in three to five times less time than it takes to develop equivalent
training programmes. He also described instances in which the use of job aids diminished
the need for training and thus shortened the amount of time that employees were away
from their jobs.
Harless was not alone in his certainty that job aids made positive contributions to
the bottom line. Duncan (1985) concurred, citing the results of military analyses
demonstrating that job aids saved money without jeopardising work performance.
2.1 More than money
Job aids, like their automated siblings, relieve individuals of responsibility for storing
information in long-term memory. Consider the value of the shopping list that staves off
impulse purchases. Reliance on a job aid shifts the individual’s obligation from repetition
over time to ensure memory, to searching for external information as it is needed.
That reliance on external resources also creates new responsibilities for the
organisation. First, they must build or acquire and then update useful resources and
systems. Second, they must invest in developing their people to know how to
productively search and find the answers and advice they need.
The third organisational responsibility is to create a culture where reference is
encouraged, even honoured. Several years ago, a bank teller said she was going to see if
she could find her ‘cheat sheet’ in order to be able to answer a question. She was not
sheepish about her reliance on a job aid, but neither was she proud. Organisations must
move to make it a badge of honour when employees endeavour to find what they need.
Schools are beginning to advance that notion. In 1994, Scholastic Aptitude Test
(SAT) takers in the USA were permitted to bring along their calculators for the big test.
And now, according to Gamerman (2006), some middle and high schools are permitting
students to look things up online as they take tests and create papers.
Do you want your teller, auditor, auto repair person, dentist, and accountant to look
things up, when in doubt? Do you want your 12-year-old to check out the spelling of a
word or the location of a place? Of course.
2.2 Job aids to support procedures and information
In the early 1970s, job aids were influenced by behaviourism. According to Pipe (1986),
individuals often turned to job aids to support them in carrying out a procedure, such as
securing data in a computer, putting in a new printer cartridge, or mixing a Cosmopolitan.
A procedure in this context is a prescribed way of doing something. Procedures mandate
a particular course of action in a particular sequence. Job aids that support procedures
tell and show actions, order, and results. In the old days, job aids helped people to hook
up the cables and components of a 1/2-inch videotape system; they assisted people
in all kinds of chores, such as changing the oil in a car, loading a dishwasher, and
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
Job aids also have a role to play in helping people deal with the challenges associated
with the information that surrounds them. Carr (1992) wrote of a 1945 article in the
Atlantic Monthly in which Vannevar Bush, then director of the US Office of Research
and Development, noted an ‘information explosion’. His response was to suggest a
‘memex’, an automated desk that would provide information as it was needed.
Everyone experiences ‘information overload’, ‘information dump’, ‘information
anxiety’, and even ‘information bulimia’. What these phrases share is recognition
of the profusion of information, the negative effects of being awash in information,
the complexity of products and options, and the human need to make sense of it all.
People and organisations need systems that diminish chaos, provide order, and support
results-oriented interactions with data. Yahoo’s attempt to make the blogosphere
understandable and accessible is a good example.
Wurman (1989) claimed that data are not information until they have form and enable
knowledge and understanding. A job aid that informs is one that supports people at work
by diminishing the uncertainty they experience when trying to do something.
Informational job aids make data useful and become useful themselves when they are
form a stable repository for facts and concepts that answers the question of who,
what, which, when, or where
are organised by user frame of reference, function, or content structure.
2.3 Thought-provoking job aids
No longer are job aids perceived only as simple stimuli that evoke a response during a
task or point to or deliver information. Job aids also have potential to influence the way
people think and feel about themselves, their work, their co-workers, their managers,
their clients, their products, and their problems. They can be thought-provoking, as they
coach for better performance. How do we approach an employee who has recently lost a
loved one? What about an employee who is chronically tardy? What does the new teacher
think about as he reflects on how he taught a language arts lesson?
The combination of cognitive science and information technology thus propel
expanded definitions for job aids. These perspectives dominate:
recognition of the importance of how people think about the work
concern with the individual’s self-perception, readiness and confidence
eagerness for the individual to consciously organise information
belief that performance has roots in thoughts and speech.
Not surprisingly, there is growing interest in using coaching job aids to increase
reflection and elevate attention and activity – even for little ones. Figure 1 shows the
United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency’s checklist1 to coach children in
how to prepare to endure the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Figure 1 What children should gather in preparation for a disaster
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work
Rossett and Gautier-Downes (1991) called them coaching job aids. Coaching job aids are
not limited to deployment at the moment of challenge. An example of this wider window
of influence is the job aid that helps managers plan to manifest sensitivity to and
congruence with equity guidelines while interviewing potential employees. An hour
before the interview, a manager might review company policy, quotes from experts, and a
checklist of things to keep in mind during the different phases of the selection interview.
Although the planning job aid might not be in sight during the interview, its influence is
felt just before and throughout.
Figure 2 provides kids with materials that help them nudge their families to collect
provisions in advance of a natural disaster.
Coaching job aids have the following characteristics:
They answer the question ‘how’, but in a different way than procedural aids do. They
tell us ‘How might I think about or approach that?’ They answer the question: what
should I keep in mind?
They also answer the question ‘why’, as in ‘Why would I include those questions in
They articulate quality standards.
They encourage a dialogue with the user, especially a dialogue about reasons,
feelings, and approaches.
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
Figure 2 A coaching aid to help children urge parents towards preparedness
3 Performance support
Performance support is job aids on steroids.
Revisit Figures 1 and 2. Job aids or performance support? They are both. The
disaster preparation aids are examples of static, familiar coaching job aids that use
technology for distribution and update. They illustrate how job aids are one form of
There you see just a sliver of what happens when technology is added to job aids. In
its most basic form, technology enables desirable, canned information to be readily
sought, found, used and tended. And the many people who need it can reach for it
simultaneously, across the continent and world. Update can be a snap.
There is, however, much more that technology brings to performance centred
approaches. When technology is combined with information, lots of information about
the user and the context, guidance can be delivered when and where it is needed in
tailored ways. Treasured benefits derive from the ability of the system to deliver
instantaneously, to reside within the context and workflow, to sense needs and
personalise information and advice, and to give just what is required.
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work
Familiar print job aids must be ‘pulled’ by users, when they worry about how to
assemble provisions in preparation for a natural disaster, for example. What technology
does is to add a targeted ‘push’. Tailored guidance, directions and advice about wildfires
are targeted and delivered to you because you live in California, not Louisiana or
The Netherlands, because you are 18 months from retirement, not 18 years.
Meet Gloria Gery
Gery’s classic work sketched possibilities for contemporary performance support. She
noted that Computer-Based Training (CBT) could be more than a classroom experience
delivered on the computer. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and into the new decade, Gery
(2002, p.4) made a case for performance support as faster and cheaper than training
because it delivers support where and when needed, in a real world situation. Her
example: “…rather than send a technical support person to a 1-week installation planning
course for an upgrade to a mainframe operation system, why not develop a Wizard that
guides users through the process?”.
Gery’s (2000; 2002) work encouraged support that is there when it is needed. She
touted the use of computer software to activate information and to place it next to and
within the task. She described what performance-centred tools can do: conditionally
guide performers through a process; calculate answers or transform data into a more
usable form; and allow individuals to use the tool in several formats. TurboTax was the
example she used, acknowledging two interfaces, one that interviews the user and solicits
data; and the other that readies the form for submission.
Integration with the work
Gery, according to Cavanaugh (2004), identified three ways to parse performance
1 External support – requiring that users break away from work to refer to the resource
2 Extrinsic support – available within the system, although there is a break in the
action to get the necessary information
3 Intrinsic support – support that is insider the software or system and is
indistinguishable from the workflow.
Cavanaugh (2004, p.29) acknowledged unresolved questions about the performance
support domain and then presented an expanded approach of his own. He called it a
spectrum devoted to this goal: “transparency, where there is no distinction between a task
and the technological support provided to accomplish that task.” Integration with the task
was his top priority.
His ‘spectrum of support’ approach was dubbed 2E3I: external; extrinsic; intrinsic;
intuitive; and intelligent. The ‘E’ words represent, in his view, a lesser form of support
because they are distinct from work, what Raybould (2000) called stand-alone.
Cavanaugh (2004) writes in favour of integration.
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
Table 1 Cavanaugh’s 2E3I Spectrum of Performance Support
Thomas Cavanaugh’s 2E3I model
for performance support
External: disconnected and apart from
Examples: manuals, documentation,
support call centres
In Cavanaugh’s view, this is the “lowest level
In ours, while it is distinct from the work, it provides
opportunity to plan, evaluate, reflect, and prepare to
do better next time. Integration is one important
variable, but not the only one.
Cavanaugh described this support as embedded but
not fully integrated because it must be selected and
directed by the user.
He sniffs at the lack of integration. We see it as
different but valuable.
Extrinsic: part of the work context, but
necessitating a break from the flow of
Examples: software’s traditional HELP
function; interactive map kiosk in a mall;
hand-washing directions and exhortations
on a bathroom wall
Intrinsic: When needed, the user triggers
the support which is provided in a way
that is within the flow of work.
Examples: Microsoft Word’s paper clip
assistants, Braille characters on ATM,
one-number speed dialing
Intuitive: support is more seamlessly
integrated into the work and task
Example: Microsoft Word automatically
corrects ‘teh’ and turns it into ‘the’.
Intelligent: the support is anticipatory and
transparent. It knows when you need it
and is there, fully integrated into the task.
It does not jump up and down and point
Examples: Self launching and self
targeting ordnance, mechanical equipment
that will not function unless properly held.
In Cavanaugh’s view, this is “dramatically more
useful than extrinsic support”.
Useful indeed. And we concur with Cavanaugh when
he notes that it can be inappropriate and intrusive, as
in the paper clip assistant that want to help when help
is not needed.
Cavanaugh favours this form because it compensates
for human errors and does so in a less obtrusive
We concur. Who would not love it when Microsoft or
TiVO make us look smarter than we are?
Imagine a physician approaching a patient’s bedside.
She looks at the chart and chats with the patient, and
eventually prescribes a new medication. As she does
this, the system responds and reminds her about a
possible negative interaction between the new
medication and current meds.
Who would not like support that is there, knowing it
is needed before you know you need it? Great stuff,
expensive, definitely a high value application that is
particularly appealing as we move to mobile delivery
of performance support.
3.1 Support for planning too
There is obvious appeal to resources that are integrated into the task, support Cavanaugh
dubbed intrinsic, intuitive and intelligent. Surely it is better to know immediately if the
medication is contraindicated, rather than later, after the patient has suffered a grave
outcome. Surely it is better to have spelling corrected on the fly, rather than returned a
week later by an editor or teacher with a red circle.
But integration, though receiving most of the attention in the published literature, is
only one worthy criterion.
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work
In fact, value can come from the absence of integration, from an opportunity to pause
and reflect, inspired by expert advice and pithy guidance surrounding the task. An
anecdote about Albert Einstein (Schramm and Porter, 1982) is appropriate here. When
asked a question about the single event most helpful in developing the theory of
relativity, Einstein reportedly responded, “Figuring out how to think about the problem”.
Performance support can be influential here, as knowledge workers struggle to be, well,
more knowledgeable about how to approach the work. And they struggle to do it without
committing huge resources to training and memorisation. Performance support can
contribute to mindfulness.
Thurow (1992), former Dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan
School of Management, got it. He noted that standards of living rise not because people
work harder but because they work smarter and that economic progress represents the
replacement of physical exertion with brain power. Performance support, delivered
through print and emergent technologies, redefines the phrase, brain power. No longer
are workers judged competent because they ‘know it cold’. Now workers may express
their competence by knowing where and how to access appropriate external resources,
even if they know little by heart. What they know is how to find what they need and how
to take advantage of their resources. Gamerman’s 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal
documents increasing respect for students who can do this.
This brings us to an expanded model for performance support that honours both
integration and planning. We are positing two kinds of performance support: Planners
and Sidekicks. Planner performance support reminds about what to pack for international
travel, how to prepare to sell the company’s product at higher levels in the organisation
and what to consider as you look back on a presentation in order to deliver a better one
next time. Sidekicks, on the other hand, are there at the moment of need, ready to
improve our spelling as we write at the computer or fill in a form online.
Let us look at how planner tools provide support in three different situations: state
police, teachers in training, and sales professionals.
State police in Pennsylvania are enjoying the benefits of this kind of support.
According to a report by Grata (2005), the Motorola Automatic License Plate Reader
uses an infrared TV camera to scan passing license plates and compare them to a
statewide database where law enforcement agencies post stolen vehicles, fugitives,
all-points bulletins, and Amber alerts. Day or night, fog or sunshine, the camera scans
passing plates and compares them to the database. Instant information is then delivered to
the dashboard – assisting officers in identifying ‘bad guys’ and knowing when back-up
A professor of teacher education at San Diego State University described the use of
Planners for her aspiring teachers. Their challenge? They want to be able to assess and
improve on the practice lesson they just delivered, but they do not know enough to do so.
She has developed a checklist of questions for her students to ask themselves. It does not
matter if these standards are delivered in print or electronically. What matters is that the
novice teachers have access to expert perspectives on quality teaching to refer to as they
consider what they did and how they might do it better.
Gordon (2003, p.32) commenced an article in elearningmag.com with a story about a
pharmaceutical sales rep cooling his heels in a doctor’s waiting room. While waiting, the
sales rep reaches for his web-enabled Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and connects to
the internet, “Lo and behold, here is a fresh bulletin from corporate headquarters
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
explaining that the Food and Drug Administration has just changed the prescribing
requirements for a competitor’s drug…”. The salesman also turns to the PDA to review
notes from a recent course about his company’s drug. Once in front of the physician, if all
went as it should, he will display fluency and certainty. Planner performance support
helps him prepare himself for that.
Two IBMers, Rae and O’Driscoll (2004), also wrote about the value of information
that helps sales professionals plan their approaches. They told a story of a sales guy who
is readying for a meeting with a client. Such a person, they noted, wants real time
information, on demand. If the organisation does not provide it, eager sales people will
find it as they will, likely by noodling about on the internet. Does the organisation want
to shape and authenticate that message or leave each individual to figure it out
independently and idiosyncratically, perhaps augmented by Google?
3.2 Sidekicks are great too
While Planners support performance just before or after the challenge, Sidekicks are
right there with us during performance. They coax, remind, direct, and inform about what
to do at the time of need. The map in the glove box and the GPS are sidekicks that help as
we travel. The step-by-step instructions on the sign within the voting booth help cast
votes. A salesperson refers to a sticky note with product codes affixed to the side of his
computer monitor. An application programmer uses a wizard to upgrade a database.
Just type ‘wikpedia’ into a Microsoft Word document and experience Sidekick
performance support. The dictionary does not know that word. (Not yet. Soon, of course.)
The word processing program nudges consideration of an alternative.
3.3 Front and centre today
There are many reasons to favour performance support and every reason to recognise
their growing presence and influence.
Our purpose is performance and results, not education and training
Have you ever tried to talk to executives about training and development? Mostly, they
are not interested. They want to talk about business, results, accomplishments,
opportunities, and problems. Their focus is on sales, satisfaction, and operations. Few are
riveted by ice breakers, classes, e-learning or even blended learning. You might have a
chance to catch their attention with the phrase, performance support, emphasis on the
word, performance. Might. Maybe.
In an article in Training and Development, Rossett and Mohr (2004) addressed
executives who want results, not training:
“Are you willing to send employees to a class so that they can answer
customers’ detailed questions about insurance policies, cell phone features, or
the demographics of Basra or Bimini? We doubt it.”
“After a class about numerous cell phone features, for example, will your
employees remember them a week or month later, when queried by a
customer? We doubt it.”
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work 11
“Are you willing to rely on employee memory when critical, complex, or
dangerous actions are involved on an airplane or at a nuclear plant? We
“Should the organization do what it takes for employees to learn material by
heart--especially when there’s much to learn, the content changes often, a
mistake is dangerous, and they could take their expertise with them when they
leave? We doubt it.”
It is not just executives who favour performance over instruction. Employees, in Levy’s
(2004) view, are “knowledge warriors”, too busy for courses, with no need for grades,
and with far too much time spent searching for the information they need. Deloitte
Consulting executive Van Dam (2005) focused on the nature of what he calls the
self-service workplace. He said that a growing need for knowledge and skill is occurring
in an impatient context, where organisations are less willing to invest in training and
development, with concerns about training delivered too early or too late.
3.4 Support where the work gets done
Remember Gordon’s tale of the pharmaceutical sales rep using his time in the waiting
room to bone up for scant minutes with a physician? That support is close to the work,
but it can get even closer.
Information Weeks’ 2005 annual survey of 500 innovations revealed a stunning
example of information delivered to the worker and workplace, exactly where the work
gets done. JM Family Enterprises Toyota Dealership is devoted to cutting the time it
takes to repair a vehicle. According to Chabrow (2005), the company is testing a wireless
headset with a flip down screen from Microvision, Inc. Using retinal scanning display
technology, pages of an auto repair manual are cast onto the working mechanic’s retina.
The mechanic searches and changes pages using a belt mounted touchpad. The
technology VP admitted that mechanics are not initially keen on the idea, but noted that
they adjusted swiftly. He anticipated the performance support will increase technician
productivity by more than 30% because they do not have to stop work, put down tools,
and search for what they need in a manual.
Harvey Singh’s company, Instancy, develops workflow support and knowledge
management applications for web and mobile delivery environments – one example
application is Field customer service support.
Field customer service representatives must know about products, problems, services
and resources in order to deliver answers while interacting with customers and computers
or equipment. No time to return to headquarters for an answer. Reps are expected to
solve problems and answer questions where the needs are, in the field. Figure 3
provides an example of PDA-based resources provided to the reps based on Instancy’s
In addition to support for the field reps, the system does two other things. It provides
video based examples that reps can use to educate customers and helps the organisation
keep track of performance as reps record their efforts, actions and results.
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
Figure 3 Support for field customer service representatives
Source: Instancy. Used by permission.
In a personal communication in November, 2005, Gary Dickelman, steward of
EPSScentral.info, said that the challenge confronting us is to aggregate three established
disciplines in service to performance: (1) business process improvement;
(2) knowledge engineering; and (3) human factors. Business process improvement
focuses effort on outcomes, standardised processes, customer experience, and a gung-ho
commitment to measurement at first, throughout, and continuously. Knowledge
engineering engages us in collecting, organising and distributing the smarts inside an
organisation. Finally, when concerned with human factors, we are attentive to how
people interact with work, processes, tools, environments and technology.
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work 13
3.4.1 Mobile support
Just this morning in October 2005, the city of Philadelphia announced that Atlanta-based
EarthLink Inc. will fund, build and manage a 135-square-mile network to provide it with
wireless access. In addition, they will offer low-income residents service for as little as
$10 a month. Google, Inc. recently submitted a 100-page bid to provide free wireless
internet access to the city of San Francisco.
What are these companies doing? What are city leaders thinking? They are
responding to opportunity, of course. City and business leaders perceive high-speed and
mobile web access as a basic municipal service like water, electricity and trash collection.
As they look to differentiating themselves from other cities, high speed mobile access is,
they believe, something individuals and organisations cannot and will not
All this produces expanded expectations and possibilities. Road warriors have every
reason to believe that information and advice will find them, wherever they are. Now
soccer moms, too, want information immediately, on the run. Need an ATM? Your
Bluetooth connected PDA knows their location. Want to know which way to Mecca or be
reminded of prayer time? That too is available from a mobile phone handset produced by
LG of South Korea. Concerned about how the new hardware will synch with a
customer’s installed base? Connect wirelessly to the company intranet and let it provide
more certain answers.
Wildstrom (2005) described what mobile performance support now means to the
well-equipped sailor. In the past, boats relied on two-way radio and a depth sounder.
Today, the cockpit display integrates several sources of data – radar, sonar, electronic
charts, satellite imagery – into an information rich message. Not only does the system
provide protection from collisions and guidance in the fog, Google-style satellite images
allow boaters to discern what is near the dock, to find petrol or a restaurant and even to
make a reservation.
According to eTForcasts (2005), the number of PCs is projected to surpass 1 billion
in 2007, and the number of PDAs is anticipated to reach almost 60 million by 2008, with
most enjoying wireless e-mail and web-browsing capabilities. MP3 players are
omnipresent. Cellphones too, now at a whopping 1.5 billion and counting, most with
FLASH available to provide dynamic displays of information. Cellphones now enjoy
nearly universal penetration in Asia and Europe, with the United States lagging behind,
but certainly not for long.
People around the world have access to wireless performance support and are no
longer tethered to walls and desks for their jobs or for their information and guidance.
Internet browser capabilities allow employees to access web-based databases or search
engines through their cellphones, PDAs, and PCs. Short text messaging (SMS) can be
used to send coaching tips and knowledge checks, or to see if any new studies have been
published. Video clips can provide short examples of desirable performance in areas such
as negotiation, while in a cab speeding to what might be a contentious meeting.
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
3.4.2 The career self-reliant employee and the battle for talent
Brown (1996) put her finger on a significant change in the landscape:
“The emphasis on the self-management and self-development of one’s career
is a reflection of the shift in the unspoken employment agreement
between employers and employees over the last 3 decades. In the 1960s, the
employer-employee relationship was characterized as a parent-child
relationship: The organization provided employment in jobs that were narrowly
defined, status in the community, and job security in exchange for employee
hard work, loyalty, and good performance. Thirty years later, the contract
between employer and employee is a partnership. The emphasis in this new
contract is on worker employability rather than job security. In this contract,
employers provide the opportunities, tools, and support to help employees
develop their skills and maintain their employability; the employees have the
responsibility of managing their careers, taking advantage of the opportunities
they are given. Thus, the employees must be career self-reliant. They must
continually update their skills, looking ahead to the future and to market trends
as well as to the current demands of the workplace (Collard et al., 1996). They
must have a plan for “enhancing their performance and long-term
employability” (Waterman, Waterman, and Collard 1994, p.88). The new
relationship between employee and employer is described as a contract through
which individual needs and those of the organization are balanced.”
Brown (1996) speaks mostly of changing expectations for the individual. McKellar
(2005), editor of KMWorld, seconded that focus, “KM (knowledge management) is
shifting back to individuals, encouraging ‘knowledge-conscious behavior’, improving
communication and encouraging enjoyment of the work environment, which we all know
improves any organization.”
The organisation must change also. The organisation that expects career self-reliance
of employees must do it in a way that is not perceived by employees as abandonment. In
a world where organisations are concerned about attracting and retaining great people,
and compete aggressively for talent, leading organisations cannot ignore learning and
support. Quite the contrary. The successful organisation provides clear expectations for
performance, statements about career possibilities, and targeted, diverse resources to
enable growth and success.
What kind of resources? Education and training, courses and coaching, are fine
options. Performance support is another.
There are reasons for organisations to favour providing performance support
over conventional learning opportunities. With learning, the investment is in the capacity
of the individual. But an individual may elect to depart with the smarts. With support,
more of the investment is in the development and maintenance of organisational assets,
accessible by many over time and space. Not surprisingly, as ties between individuals
and companies have frayed, with individuals joining several organisations throughout
their careers, organisations grow more inclined to invest in creating and tending
reusable assets, such as performance support. They do not tire, retire, or move on to
3.5 The need to know more
Job aids and performance support: the convergence of learning and work 15
While there is some research in this area, more is needed. Intel’s Frank Nguyen noted
that there are few research studies that practitioners can rely upon to provide data-driven
guidelines to determine which performance support systems are most effective and when.
Here are Nguyen’s thoughts. “It has been almost twenty years since Gloria Gery
introduced the concept of performance support systems. Since that time authors and
experts have contributed their thoughts, experience, and advice to guide practitioners in
the development of these on-the-job support interventions”. He points to these beliefs
about performance support:
Implementing a performance support system can cut the amount of necessary
training for users (Chase, 1998).
Highly integrated performance support systems (intrinsic, extrinsic) are better than
those that are disconnected (external) from the user’s work interface (Carroll and
Rosson, 1987; Gery, 1995; Raybould, 2000).
The type and amount of performance support should vary based on the expertise of
the user (Nguyen, in press).
There are many different ways to categorise performance support systems
(Gery, 1995; Ladd, 1993; Sleight, 1993).
We have tools and methods to calculate the return-on-investment for performance
support systems (Altalib, 2002; Desmarais et al., 1997).
The field of performance support will converge with training and knowledge
management (Elsenheimer, 2000; Rosenberg, 1995; Sherry and Wilson, 1996).
Then Frank Nguyen presents what his review suggests is in fact known for sure and
certain about performance support:
Implementing any kind of performance support system, whether integrated or
non-integrated, can have a significant effect on user performance and attitudes
(Duncan, 1985; Fletcher and Johnston, 1995; Hunt et al., 1998; Nguyen et al., 2005).
There appears to be no significant difference on user performance when
implementing a paper-based job aid versus electronic performance support system,
particularly certain types of non-integrated EPSS (Morrison and Witmer, 1983).
Users often struggle using search engines to look for support content, linking to
content tends to be better (Bailey, 2003; Spool, 2001).
We can build performance support systems for many different settings: from
software applications to factories to educational settings (Brush et al., 1993; Cole
et al., 1997; Dorsey et al., 1993; Gery, 2003; Kasvi and Vartiainen, 2000; McCabe
and Leighton, 2002; McManus and Rossett, 2006; Schwen et al., 1993).
The types of performance support systems corporate employees find useful tend to
be extrinsic or external in nature (Nguyen, 2005). In particular, the most highly rated
performance support systems are those that are responsive to a user’s job role or
location in a software system, and then able to deliver appropriate information.
A. Rossett and L. Schafer
4 Moving forward
Coordinating classes presents one kind of challenge. There is much to be done, of course,
but the task is typically within the control of learning and HR people.
With performance support, the order of magnitude is different. The form is new and
demands fresh and pervasive choices by employees, managers and executives. Success
depends on influencing what is resident on the desktop or, in some cases, the precious
real estate on mobile devices. Technology is at the heart of the matter. Costs can be great
and extend beyond initial development. And efforts associated with performance support
span the white space in organisations. The effort often involves coping with what Gloria
Gery called “the law of diminishing astonishment”, as people who originally thought
performance support was a nifty idea lose their enthusiasm for it.
That the challenge is great does not mean it should not be undertaken. It must
be. Knowledge workers need access to data, information and knowledge all the time
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