Feeding the Performance Zone with EPS

If workforce competency came in a can, I’d wager someplace on the label you would find Embedded Performer Support [EPS] with a mix of Performer Support [PS] assets listed as active ingredients. When EPS is not included in the effort to feed [develop and sustain] the workforce with a balanced performance diet, you’re probably only looking at a 16-ounce can of Training. Training serves as a great appetizer, but the main course may reside on a buffet where the Performer can choose from a mix of choices based upon the nature of their hunger [moment of need].

Those “choices”, including traditional training, come in an assortment of Performer Support Opportunities [See Figure #1].

Performer Support Opportunities

Figure #1

Building an EPS solution requires that we first decide what “opportunities” should be on the menu of choices that may include:

  • Contextual Guidance – in the form of a role-oriented map of a workflow…a “You are here” kind of visual, or a Chinese menu with selections from column A and column B.
  • Step-By-Step Instructions – a sequential “how to” guide of quick steps designed for quick, in-and-out usage…a “Drive-Thru” or a “To Go” approach to feeding the need.
  • Deeper Detail – when quick steps are not enough and the task is complex enough to warrant additional information to better guide the Performer.
  • Brokered References – where additional content like company policies, methods, technical specs, etc. are required to complete the task and are stored in another URL-addressable repository.
  • Structured Learning – where the Performer may choose to gain access to courses/modules in the LMS or access an application playground to practice working through simulation exercises.
  • Social/Collaborative – assets or opportunities that require live conversations or messaging with SMEs, project team members, content owners, and/or Help Desk staff.

The number and combination of choices included in an EPS solution are a function of what Performer task requirements exist, and how to best serve the Performers’ moments of need. Factor in “urgency” to resolving the need, and/or “risk” and options less time-sensitive may better serve the need. For example, accessing the LMS for a structured learning course on Fire Safety is likely not the best choice when one’s hair is on fire.

The more complex the mix of needs; the more sophisticated the EPS solution becomes. Could the EPS solution be as simple as a laminated card hanging around an employee’s neck? Surely! Simple is actually a good place to start; or the solution could be so robust it requires the sophistication of a shiny new Web 2.0 embedded performance support system [EPSS] that can serve up all or part of the whole stack you see on the right side of Figure #1.

Chances are it is somewhere in between, and given the best practice of “start small and scale”, the full-blown EPSS solution may not be the best initial choice. The choice of what’s on the solution menu boils down to the nature of the “ecosystem” we are intending to feed.

To make that determination we must take a closer look at the Performance Zone. Gloria Geary, in her book “Electronic Performance Support Systems: How and Why to Remake the Workplace Through the Strategic Application of Technology”, describes the Performance Zone as “…a metaphorical area in which things come together…the place where people get it…where the right things happen…where the employee’s response exactly matches the requirements of the situation.”[page 13]

Sounds a lot like moments of need where the emphasis is on DO exactly what’s needed…and to DO it accurately, doesn’t it? In Figure #1, I’ve highlighted the Performance Zone to show Actions, Tasks, and Activities that are executed by or engaged in by Performers; some having multiple steps; with the business intent to drive results. Successfully producing these results support individual Business Drivers…which in turn contribute to Business Goals, and ultimately corporate goals at the Strategy level.

By working backward from Results [specifically, deficient business results] through Performer work efforts toward the originally targeted Goals, we are able to define the complexity of our EPS solution. By starting with Goals that are not being met, we accomplish the discovery necessary to identify what is broken in the Performance Zone…and more importantly why [root cause(s)]. Without full knowledge of why the right things are not happening, we have the potential to treat only the symptoms of deficient performance. The chance of making the right menu choices and intentionally design the right mix of PS asserts are also compromised.

In building the EPS menu of choices, the Performance Zone is ground zero for discovery. What’s broken and why it’s broken combine to drive intentional design to help us choose the right PS ingredients to build the right menu to fully satisfy the moments of need of our Performers. Do they come in and sit down for a full Training meal, or do they hit the EPS drive-thru? With a properly-sized EPS solution matched to the needs accurately identified in the Performance Zone, we can satisfy any appetite.

Bon appétit!


Gary G. Wise
Embedded Performer Support Strategist
(317) 437-2555