Chasing Sustained Workforce Capability

Sustaining the capability of our workforce is a race we are all running whether we choose to describe the effort in this manner or not. Creating a workforce that is nimble, agile, and resilient are a few of the buzzwords we hear today that describe what it takes to attain things like sustainability and competitive advantage. But where does being nimble, agile, and resilient matter most? The answer to this question is simple – the Point-of-Work.

Point-of-Work Is Ground Zero

When we make the connection between measurable business value creation [or loss of it…] and workforce performance it always manifests at the point-of-work. To sustain performance at the point-of-work, resources intentionally designed to enable workforce capability should be accessible not only at the point-of-work, but at the moment of need as well. To be more specific, there are eight right things that serve as drivers to ensure the convergence of resources with the point-of-work. To accomplish these right things, the workforce should have ACCESS to point-of-work resources that will “look like” the Point-of-Work and include the following: that are continuous, seamless, frictionless, and ubiquitous…

  1. The right continuous, seamless, frictionless, ubiquitous Access
  2. To the right Learning and Performance Assets
  3. For the right Learning, Performer, & Support roles
  4. At the right Moment(s) of Need
  5. In the right Amount
  6. In the right Format
  7. To/from the right Devices
  8. To produce the right Evidence of Measurable Business Impact.

Notice that I’ve bundled Learning with Performance in the second right thing listed above. That bundle represents an essential point of convergence when you consider the need for continuity on the journey experience to competency. We should make every effort to embed actual task-level work into the formal learning experience. The framework to accommodate that continuity is best served by using a Learner-to-Performer Continuum that spans from the Point-of-Entry to the Point-of-Work. [Figure #1] Note that the point-of-entry could be new hire onboarding or simply an introduction to a new topic of learning for tenured workforce members.


Figure #1

The journey to competency is mostly linear in nature, and it begins with training in one form or another through the first two moments of need. Unfortunately, the limits of the Training Paradigm have been reached in those first two moments. Training is finished. Graduates are then released to their respective points of work. The additional three Moments of Need – APPLYCHANGESOLVE are all confronted by Performers in the downstream, post-training realm of the ecosystem at the point-of-work where evidence of sustained workforce capability is measured as tangible business results.

All three of these Moments form the nucleus of what constitutes a shift to a Performance Paradigm. In order to address the continuum in a holistic manner, adopting the point-of-work as ground zero is found at the core of an agile, holistic, new discipline – Embedded Performance Support (EPS). [See Figure #2] The same five Moments of Need are addressed; however, the priority and emphasis is place on ground zero – the point-of-work – where Performance Support (PS) assets are developed intentionally for the purpose of addressing those three post-training Moments of Need.


Figure #2

A Short Story to Make a Point

A few years ago, I attended an AIIM conference – Association for Image and Information Management – a professional community aligned with the Enterprise Information Management (EIM) industry. As a long time L&D professional I choose to attend this conference with a very focused mission – how to leverage training content along with all of the diverse content managed so well in the EIM discipline to optimize use of enterprise-wide business application deployments like:

  • Enterprise Resource Programs (ERP)
  • Client Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Content Management Systems (CMS)
  • Knowledge Management (KM) and Knowledge Bases
  • Policy Management Systems
  • Talent Management (TM), etc.

At the time, I had just joined an organization in the mid-point of a SAP deployment after several of the ERP modules had already deployed successfully, but discovered implementation was abysmal at best. Avoiding abysmal implementations during the next phases of deployment drove my attendance. As Director of Learning Methods and Technology, my role tasked me with creating readiness in the workforce through whatever blend of training was most effective.

We trained all staff roles, and we trained very well with some truly top drawer training content, but the knowledge retained had such a short shelf life, performance results were not realized in a sustainable way. Our training effort did not match the actual work. We needed to converge training with work, so my logic was to utilize the EIM technology as part of the readiness creation effort during formal training. Surely with the power of robust content management inherent in the EIM discipline, there had to be hooks into the training function, right? Wrong!

I queried many of the vendors at the conference expo about how they tied into training content and was blown away by their responses. In one way or another they all basically revealed, “We are not in that space.” Why would the most capable vendors handling business assets used to drive business results via core enterprise technology, content/document management expertise, and knowledge management resources used by the workforce not be “in that space?”

All the vendors and attendees at that conference were living in an EIM world and had a content orientation that ran parallel to the L&D world versus leveraging synergies that seemingly had gone unnoticed. The disconnect between core business technology content related to EIM and the content needed for creating/sustaining a capable workforce was astonishing. The vendors at AIIM unanimously made an assumption that training, as separate functional solution, would step up and build user readiness.

Why would training content be generated and applied outside the EIM bubble? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is nuts, but there needs to better a way to facilitate the convergence of these two content tracts, and there is – adopting an Embedded Performance Support as the core discipline in a Workforce Capability Architecture.

Workforce Capability Architecture -WCA

Having felt the excitement of a successful ERP deployment and then the disheartening sting of an ugly implementation, I can say that there needs to be a bridge of continuity between deployment of any EIM architecture and the implementation that follows…especially if full adoption is desired. Training is not enough. The ugly implementation experience was plenty of proof that something more had to happen.

There needed to be a convergence of the content those EIM systems utilized with the Learning AND Performance functions relied upon to create sustainable workforce capability when operating the EIM systems at the point-of-work. Convergence is facilitated by adopting the Embedded PS discipline, and is at the core of Workforce Capability Architecture.

To use a current example of how WCA might integrate with an EIM configuration, I will use OpenText, an EIM solutions provider, as an example. OpenText just announced a new EIM offering called Suite16. [See Figure #3]

WCA Overlay

Figure #3

With EPS at the core there exists a dynamic bridge between the content commonality of the EIM world and what is utilized for both training and PS. This addresses the continuity requirement that otherwise exists as under-utilized task-level work details and lead to significant redundant effort by training to recreate what already exists.

Single-source documentation (SSD) authoring capability of some EPSS platforms can bridge the gap by equipping IT users with a documentation tool for system integration testing as well as user acceptance testing. The same SSD content rapidly created by IT is instantly available to L&D as source content for a variety of simulations and other training content development.

Why build it twice when training source documentation is built by IT before training ever gets involved?

That’s just one example of the synergies that exist that we currently do not leverage. As a result, IT endures a painful documentation process and L&D endures redundant efforts, extended development time, and wasted resources as a result of missed synergies across disconnected functions.

Here’s another thought or two to consider –

Why not leverage “intentionally” designed content directly within the workflows of the EIM applications in a contextual manner? Refer back to those “right things” I mentioned earlier.

Why not have the right contextual PS assets visible on the screen at the same time the EIM application is active?

Why not minimize, if not eliminate, the need to search for support at discrete moments of need.

Here’s one more.

Why not provide a robust ACCESS method that enables connectivity across relevant content for training and contextual PS that can be utilized by the internal workforce AND support staff AND members of your client’s workforce AND their support staff?

There may be more synergies depending on the nature of your ecosystem, but you should be able to recognize this bridging capability that EPS enables when placed at the core of WCA.

WCA, as illustrated in the graphic above, is the missing link we have been waiting for and easily missed if the synergies between parallel content tracks are never converged.

Easily missed?

Whatever EIM technology blend your organization utilizes, a WCA solution can be a key strategy to sustaining workforce capability from the Point-of-Entry (training) to the Point-of-Work (competency).

I’ve just described a lot of moving parts in the EIM domain and the L&D side of the equation. What I did not spend time addressing are the process-related tasks and related roles. Nor have I addressed the impact measures unlocked by converging these two worlds. That said, I recommend assessing your organization’s readiness to take advantage of the tangible benefits to adopting the EPS discipline wrapped in a custom designed Workforce Capability Architecture.

I welcome you to stop by Workforce Capability for a closer look at what the WCA adoption journey looks like.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Capability Architect
(317) 437-2555

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  1. Larry Slater
    April 18, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Hey Gary!

    As I’ve said previously, I look at things through the eyes of an Educator not a Trainer. Big difference. One sees humans, the other tools. I just scanned The Third Wave by Steve Case. Good history. Worthless futuristic speculation. Forget the old paradigms. They will be blown up. Nimble. Agile. Resilient. These will mean people with the mind of an entrepreneur, hacking the status quo to make it work as THEY think it should work. Corporations want cogs not humans. But as corps implode or move to Asia, what will be left?

    Entrepreneurs in need of nimble, agile, resilient tools that give them what they need when they need it. No dinosaurs allowed. They died when they stepped in the tar pits of millennial politics ala Feel The Bern. Case thought only of building new corps only in a different market. But in the next wave will be no corps. 3D printing. Smart phones. EPS. Who needs corporate bloat? Give me a computer, an idea and I’ll connect with enough people online to make it happen. No corp required.

    Now maybe there won’t be anymore billionaires like Gates and Case, other then media darlings. But maybe we will re-discover the true American Dream: to own our own business, not work for a mega corp.

    Of course I could be wrong. But then I still remember my burning question when looking at all those large housing developments going up in the late 90’s; where are all the jobs so people can pay for these houses. To much faith the in “old” ways and in “build it and they will pay for it.” But we are going down that same road again with fewer well paying jobs and what will be the result? Just can’t stop going to the where the cheese was, only now it is rancid cheese.

    Yea, I might just be high on Spring but then again maybe just free of corporate blinders.

    Now let’s go root for Larry Bird and the Pacers because like us they need all the help they can get. 🙂

    P.S. Go hiking in Brown County State Park and discover the Hoosier experience once again.

    • April 18, 2016 at 3:58 pm

      I hear what you’re saying about the entrepreneurial spirit at the core of the coming workforce. The Millennials are already there, and the old school methods of bringing them to readiness require less and less leading and more providing access to tools to figure it out if and when actions need to be figured out. In other words, they’re saying if I don;t need it, don’t bother me with it.
      Thanks as always for reading…and have been to Brown County many times. We hit Nashville every Christmas season too. Take good care!

  2. April 25, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Gary, the question I think that all L&D professionals charged with supporting their workforce through a major change such as an ERP implementation should ask themselves is ‘what if there was no training at all. Period. What would we do instead?’

    My response is ‘if you can’t teach them, get them doing as soon as possible’. That’s where EPS comes in.

    My advice is to start from the position that in the beginning there will be EPS and that’s what our first focus must be. Then, with EPS in place, ask ‘how much (or little) training must we do?’ What you find is that if you focus first on the EPS then the bare minimum training you need to do is on how to use the EPS. That tends to make business leaders happy even if it is challenging for many L&D professionals.

    EPS gives L&D a new and sustainable career and at the same time answers many of the capability questions being asked by the business.

    So I agree with you – focus first on ‘ground zero’ and the rest become obvious.

    • April 25, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Thanks for reading, Ted! I agree totally that the amount of training required shrinks…and what is actually trained changes to more of how to use the support technology and when…which totally supports the “70” in the 70:20:10 model. Who knows it might become 80:15:5! I appreciate the comments, sir!

  1. June 6, 2016 at 1:40 pm
  2. October 23, 2016 at 1:21 pm

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