The Noise Around Performance Support Is Deafening – Can You Hear It Yet?

It has been a long time since I could honestly point to a “training conference” and say, “Now this is one to go to!” The exciting thing is…it’s not a training conference…but anyone “in training” needs to sit up and take this new perspective seriously. Why? Because this is where learning is going at a rapidly increasing pace, and to NOT be a part of the evolution could be career limiting.

The Performance Support Symposium 2012 is the only conference I would attend if I had the choice. The Keynote speakers alone are worth the trip. Bob Mosher and Allison Rossett are both industry thought leaders in the realm of performance support.  I’ve been in the audience when these two have spoken in many break-out sessions at other conferences. Call me a borderline stalker…if they are speaking, that is a session I’m going to be in. Calling what they posture as “noise” is a truly term of endearment and music to my ears.

That must sound like a lot of hype and noise from me, right? It’s noise alright, but the sounds of learning resources heading downstream and into the work context is what you are hearing. Sadly, the parts of the business that are most tuned into the movement are not resident in the training departments. Check out this quote from Marc Rosenberg:

“Performance support is all around us, from the apps on our phone to the GPS in our car; from a demo on YouTube to that little card we all carry in our wallet that tells us how to retrieve messages from our answering machine. Performance support is a growing part of life and work. It’s time to make it a central part of our workplace learning strategy. No, better yet, it’s time to make it a central part of our business strategy.  Marc J. Rosenberg

Marc is a consultant, speaker and author of a new column at Learning Solutions Magazine Marc My Words, and I snatched this quote from a recent post The Fall and Rise of Performance Support.

Of that quote above, I want to emphasize something significant about the implications of that bold-faced statement “…it’s time to make it a central part of our business strategy.” I’ll even go so far as to repeat what I just repeated and even more narrowly draw your attention to “…business strategy.”

Not training strategy – Not learning strategy – Not workplace learning strategy

BUSINESS STRATEGY   Here that noise?

If you are standing in the middle of the training organization, there is a good chance you may miss hearing the call-to-action. Need more proof? The potential sales targets EPSS vendors are addressing are not in training. They are out in the business units where driving and sustaining business performance are key metrics of success…and…by the way…compensation for those business stakeholders who are hearing the noise and making the decisions to integrate performance support solutions AND the technology to make it so. So…you wonder where your funding for the training budget is going?

I’m excited by all the noise about performance support because it tells me that this approach is finally getting traction in corporate learning circles. Marc says, “In fact, it may now be easier to “sell” a performance support solution than a training solution. How’s that for a paradigm shift?” I would add to that…it might even be easier to sell an EPSS platform than a LMS. Who knows it might even make better business sense too. I recently wrote a piece on Calculating ROI on EPSS, and there is not a LMS on the planet that even comes close.

Marc goes on to say, “Business and technological forces are compelling major changes in how learning and performance is perceived and practiced, as well as how work itself gets done. We now know that:

  1. not all performance improvement can be achieved through training; in fact, most performance gains are not training-related; and
  2. the workplace, not the classroom, is where most performance improvement (as well as most learning) takes place.

This turns everything around.”

Marc goes on to stipulate that training does not go away, but how we use training resources are a source of change. I know the word “change” frightens a lot of folks, so I’ve chosen to use “evolution” instead in my various rants on this topic. I’ve been in corporate training too long to just turn my back on it completely. So in my downstream trek into the work context to position learning @ the point of work, I am dragging training along, kicking and screaming as it fights the new paradigm shift. Greasing the skids with low-cost-to no-cost technology, we are finally able to embrace the ability to address the convergence of learning and work.

Only a few folks know who I am, so my voice is buried beneath the increasing volume of those who have the visibility to elevate performance support to this “new paradigm” status. I’m liking what is beginning to happen, and the build of momentum is long overdue. If you are in Chicago in late October, I will be speaking at Training Magazine’s Learning 3.0 conference on the morning of October 25 in Session 502 – “Learning @ the Point of Work”.

There are so many ways to skin this performance support cat, and the really cool things is, that the technology mix is there to facilitate the evolution…IF we can focus downstream to where workflows and performance are challenged by the absence and inaccessibility of knowledge, information, collaboration, subject matter expertise, and assorted and sundry other learning assets.

This implies we are working from a new “learning map” that extends beyond training.

Paradigm shift? Methinks this evolution is going to make more noise than that made by a dramatic shift of thinking. My only hope is that training organizations hear the noise and embrace the implications of new skills and integration of learning @ the point of work before they hear another sound – the firing squad blasting away at their training budget.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning