Should the Customer Always Be Right?

Possibly, hopefully, you read my previous blog post (Learning and Performance: Get Angry, Make Changes), and you’ve been waiting eagerly since last June for the promised follow-up. Today’s your lucky day!

But first, let me ask: did your organization make any progress toward performance-first learning last year? Really, I’d love to know, so please leave a comment below!

Back to my follow-up post… I’ve believed for years in the power and effectiveness of performance support as a learning solution. That’s partially due to my early career as a technical writer and exposure then to the ideas of Gloria Gery, but it’s a belief that has been validated since by gurus such as Allison Rossett, Marc Rosenberg, Conrad Gottfredson, and Bob Mosher.

For Love of Training Performance

Simply put, I believe the vast majority of all workplace learning can and should be delivered in the flow of work, when it’s needed, through performance support. Formal training (whether instructor-led or e-learning) is effective for only a small proportion of learning needs.

Do you agree? From my experience, it appears a lot of learning professionals do! The problem seems to be convincing our internal or external clients, who JUST WANT TRAINING. In their eyes, training is the answer to all performance problems, even if they don’t really know whether it is or not.

In my years as an instructional designer I’ve pushed back on this belief many times, to no avail. One day in 2017, I had an epiphany: when our clients insist on e-learning solutions, why not give them performance support disguised as e-learning instead? We can create “courses” whose primary purpose is performance support and that contain content to meet all of Gottfredson & Mosher’s five moments of need.

This Is E-Performance!

In other words, let’s create learning solutions designed to be used on the job, on an ongoing basis, rather than as one-time learning events.

Here are key features of this “e-performance” approach:

  • When designing it, start with doing. “How-to” procedures should be the primary, central content.
  • Make “what and why” content (concepts, definitions, policies, rationales, etc.) secondary, supporting the “how-to” content.
  • Include training interactions (demonstrations, practices, knowledge checks) for when employees need to learn for the first time, and information resources (documentation, FAQs, help) for when they need to learn more or solve problems.
  • Make sure the user interface supports best usability practices, clear and intuitive navigation, and quick access to the right type of content at each moment of need.
  • Don’t force or restrict navigation through the content, nor require that all content be viewed. Allow learners the freedom to choose what to access when they need it.
  • Place the solution in a location that lets learners get to it easily, quickly, any time.


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