A worker at a drilling company is told to use a bulldozer, but panics when he realizes that he has forgotten how to use the machine. The training course in which he learned to operate most of the machinery was months ago, but he never had to use a bulldozer in his daily routine. He approaches the training manager and asks to retake the course. The manager realizes that this is a recurring trend – employees forgetting how to do something someone had taught them back in training.
The company gets help from an outside party, resulting in a mobile app being developed that would help employees learn and review operation and safety procedures. Productivity improved shortly after this application was implemented. An advantage of this was that employees could now get help without feeling a sense of overwhelming panic or anxiety.
This was a real example of performance support being used to improve performance and ease stress.
The MASIE center defines performance support as anything used for learning that is accessible and applicable at the moment of need. What this definition leaves out is how performance support can combat the feeling of being overwhelmed in the workplace.
In his article for Harvard Business Review, David DeLong explains how some employees, like hospital nurses, must learn about clinical practice, patient experience, finance, safety, employee relations, process improvement, leadership development, and managing interdisciplinary teams. If you combine these with the wild nature of hospitals and 50-hour work weeks, you get nurses who cannot perform tasks and they should. DeLong suggests that managers should set realistic expectations and make learning requirements negotiable.
Companies usually have a training system in a place that uses technology. Sadly, companies separate training from performance support. However, they should think of these technologies as a learning ecosystem with several parts working together. When training is too stressful, the information can go into one ear and out of the other, leaving employees unable to learn new skills or develop confidence in what they already know.
One reason performance support works are because it can tackle the feeling of being overwhelmed and allows both new and seasoned employees to handle the stress that comes from a heavy workload. Blogger Cathy Moore mentions a few more examples, such as recording whiteboard sketches, storing boilerplate code and text, and detailing procedures you need not memorize. All of these can help to stimulate learning, without employees feeling like they cannot keep up.
Acknowledging a stressful workload can be challenging. But doing so with performance support in your toolkit can make all the difference in morale and productivity, reinforcing the notion that a productive employee is an engaged employee. And that is a result that every successful company should try to achieve.
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