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Mobile Learning mLearning


What is performance support and why is it important?

Performance support refers to any tool that helps people--in the moment of need--perform a task. Performance support is used to help employees apply newly learned skills, solve problems, and perform less routine tasks that require a knowledge or step-by-step refresher. Performance support generally comes in the form of easy-to-use Performance support tools (PSTs), also called learning aids or job aids, that are embedded in the workflow. These types of tools can be as simple as a printed cheat sheet or checklist or as complex as an online knowledge base, commonly referred to a electronic performance support (EPSS).

Performance support is an important component of learning as it helps transfer formal learning to the job and supports experiential learning. This makes sense when you consider the 70:20:10 model, which reports that:

  • People obtain 70% of their knowledge experientially.
  • They obtain 20% of their knowledge from informal learning and interacting with others.
  • They obtain only 10% from formal education and training events.

Performance support has grown in popularity as newer generations prefer to learn and work simultaneously in both formal and informal ways.

What are the benefits of performance support tools?

Performance support tools (PSTs) improve productivity, quality, accuracy, turn-around time, and service, while reducing the overall cost of training.

  • Performance support tools empower users to quickly connect to desired information when they need it, rather than rely on busy colleagues or delay completing the task at hand.
  • The practicality of performance support means that people have a learning portal available 24/7 to onboard, assimilate, and apply their knowledge and skills more quickly and effectively.
  • Performance support tools provide a single source of truth and allow for real-time content updates, helping to ensure accuracy, reduce errors, and drive adoption of change.
  • Performance support tools can be delivered in multiple formats that match the way your users conduct business, whether that is in your content management system (CMS), on smart phones, or elsewhere.
  • Depending on the software you choose, these tools may help you manage business rules, capture and map data, map, analyze, and redesign processes, and conduct simulations.

When do you use performance support? Who needs performance support?

Performance support tools are recommended for these circumstances:

  • When there is a time gap from training to application (also known as the” forgetting curve”)
  • When employees need to perform new tasks immediately
  • When accuracy is critical and the possibility of errors is high or risky
  • For tasks that are performed infrequently, so people may forget how
  • When a task contains several steps or many decision points
  • When procedures or tasks change
  • When training isn’t feasible

When should you not use performance support?

Performance support is different than formal training. They complement, but do not replace the need for formal and informal training programs. Here are examples of when you will want to consider formal or informal training, and augment learning with performance support tools:

  • To learn a new concept or skill
  • To deepen understanding of details
  • To ensure information is imparted

How do you design performance support?

To design performance support tools, clearly identify your challenge and the desired outcome. Then, do a quick task analysis of related job-specific tasks and concepts. Organize tasks and concepts by business processes and map them to the job roles where they are performed.

Since performance support tools should be intuitive for users, consider using a Design Thinking process in your development, such as:

  • Involve your audience early and often
  • Dig deep by asking why five times
  • Do fast prototyping and testing
  • Get visualUse personas and roadmaps

What are best practices for developing performance support tools?

Best practices for developing performance support tools include:

  • Define performance metrics for your support tools
  • Focus on context, not content. (Also, design for performance first, knowledge second.)
  • Performance support content should be short and concise
  • Use existing workflows and information pathways, both formal and informal, so the user will intuitively find the information they need when they need it
  • Pilot your whole performance support process
  • Use design thinking principles

What type of software are used for performance support tools? What is EPSS?

Here is a list of performance support software companies, also called electronic performance support systems (EPSS) or digital adoption platforms:

  • Appcues
  • Coachware
  • Kineo
  • Kryon Systems
  • Ontuitive
  • Userlane
  • UserIQ
  • WalkMe
  • Whatfix

How does performance support help high-performing organizations (HPO) and improve workplace effectiveness?

Markers of high-performance organizations (HPOs) include effectiveness, speed, continuous improvement, and a readiness for change. Performance support tools (and EPSS) support each of these traits and promote an environment of continuous learning.

Performance support tools provide employees with fast and easy on-the-job tools effective for decision making, microlearning, and instant learning efforts. These easily accessible tools support and guide employees as they do their work. Ideally embedded directly into the learners’ workflow, performance support tools provide active guidance that is empowering and less disruptive than other ways of getting information. In other words, performance support tools enable organizations to deliver the right amount of task guidance and support to users right when they need it.

Depending on the software you choose, you may also be able to map and analyze processes, redesign processes, and conduct simulations.

How do you measure the effectiveness and ROI of performance support?

To determine effectiveness of performance support tools, develop metrics related to the planned benefits, including productivity, quality, accuracy, turn-around time, service, and cost reduction. To figure out the return on investment (ROI) of performance support, simply subtract the costs from the gains using this type of information:

  • Costs, such as tool development, technology integration, and deployment time
  • Gains, such as reduced call volume, salary amounts saved due to reduced training time for both trainers and users, improved productivity hours, reduced error savings

Who owns performance support content once it's built? Who governs?

Generally, the content is owned by L&D or other relevant functional areas, such as Compliance or Communications. A centralized administrator, also known as a gatekeeper, actually makes updates.

Frequently Asked Questions

For the Performance Support strategy, get buy-in from your functional area as well as from general management. To ensure the tools will satisfy customer needs, involve end-users early and often to acquire valuable feedback and implement continuous improvement.


Sometimes in-the-moment information is not soon enough. Think about how some tasks require people to have knowledge beforehand, such as airline pilots, firemen, and emergency medical technicians. Generally speaking, if the work performance is high risk, then advance knowledge and practice is required and PSTs are not the right approach.

To support Talent Development, use Performance Support Tools, or EPSS, to establish benchmarks, track progress, and offer continuous feedback. In addition, the insights gained from an EPSS can help you develop better individual, team, and organizational goal-setting and development plans.

Microlearning, or Bite-Sized Learning, is any short dose of education that can be quickly comprehended with little effort. Typically, microlearning involves simple or narrow subject matter. Microlearning and Performance Support can use the same assets, with the difference being that Performance Support material is embedded in the workflow while microlearning can be done anytime.

Depending on your organization’s needs, you may require a variety of skills and functions to install an EPSS and build Performance Support tools. For example, you will likely need Subject Matter Experts to collaborate with instructional designers on content; communications and creative expertise to build story formats, videos, and animations; and technology expertise to integrate and deploy.

Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) vary widely in price and features, but most have similar pricing methods based on the number of users and features. Usually, as the number of users goes up, the price per user goes down. Most programs offer free version so you can try out the system.

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