Let’s face it: Adopting new knowledge and skills on the job can be quite challenging, especially when employees are continually asked to upskill to meet the demands of the changing workplace. Training is typically made available; but too often what is lacking is the structured support to allow employees to effectively transfer what they learned into actual performance on the job.
“It is increasingly becoming very clear that even the best training, including eLearning, cannot succeed if we are constantly sending well-trained people back into work environments where they continue to experience difficulty in applying what they have learned.” (Marc J. Rosenberg, PhD, “At the Moment of Need: The Case for Performance Support”)
The idea of providing structured support is not a new concept. Think about Weight Watchers, which began in the early 1960s and is arguably the most effective sustainable weight loss program. The level of support they offer through weekly meetings and one-on-one mentoring is a testament to their success. Weight Watchers recognized early on the importance that support plays in helping people to embrace new behaviors.
There are many different forms of support that organizations can offer employees today. Whatever shape or form the support is constructed, it must be the conduit to mesh the new skill with its application on the job. Rosenberg describes training as the effective vehicle for “well-planned instruction with specifically defined objectives, structure, and activities to enable people to master specific skills and knowledge, in the classroom or online.” Following training, then, support activities should focus on using the skills directly in the job.
So how can organizations provide employees with this much-needed support? Below are a few examples of what support may look like.
Mentoring: Mentoring is an extremely effective way to provide support on the job. Depending on the situation, it can take on many forms throughout the employee’s lifecycle with the organization. For example, when an employee is trying to adopt new skills on the job, access to a mentor can help with goals, accountability, focus, and feedback.
Performance Support Systems: A great example of an innovative support system is a tool called Leo by Kryon Systems. Leo is placed over the system an employee uses, such as SalesForce.com, to be accessed whenever needed. When users forget how to perform a task, they simply type their question into Leo. Users can either ask Leo to guide them through the task literally as they complete it, or they can ask Leo to actually complete the operation. The major benefit of this kind of support is that employees have access to a real-time, in-application user guide and automation at their fingertips.
Social Learning: Social vehicles such as discussion boards provide employees with quick access to subject matter experts across their community. For instance, if help is needed around how to solve a particular issue using a new process, the employee can post the question on the discussion board or search to see if someone else had their same question. The respondent could then record a video of him/herself using the new process, suggest a video conference, or simply send back a written reply with assistance.
Follow-Up Learning Opportunities: Offering something as simple as a follow-up webinar or meeting after the initial learning occurred provides an invaluable opportunity to discuss how the application process is progressing. Learners can share their progress and get feedback, as well as discuss best practices for how to apply the learning. By informing learners of these sessions up front, it automatically establishes a level of accountability as well.
Support clearly helps employees adopt new knowledge and skills on the job more quickly and thoroughly. Regardless of the type of support provided, it is important to build it into every training program to maximize success.