Learning on-Demand & in the Work-flow with Digital Assistants
Even though concepts such as EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems) are more than 20 years old, the topic has not really reached the breadth yet. Therefore, I would like to give a short intro to the topic in the context of the #NextLearning Blogparade.
Why Performance Support?
More and faster change in jobs and tasks leads to new learning requirements in the job and corresponding tasks. Employees are increasingly distracted by many learning and information sources and channels.
Still knowledge transfer is often done through formal training. However, we know that formal training – whether face-to-face or digital – has the problem of transfer and forgetting.
From a systems thinking point of view, it is always important to reflect: what is the best way to reach a goal? Thus, for a performance increase of a dedicated target group (usually a desired output of training), for example, a redesign of the work process make sense, instead of reacting with training. Concepts like “Performance Consulting” or Human Performance Technology describe this in detail.
Another framework model is the so-called 5 Moments of Need creaded by Bob Mosher, which describe 5 learning needs at work:
- Learning something the first time (New)
- Deepen the existing (More)
- Execute and apply the learned including planning and reflection (Apply)
- Dealing with problems and obstacles (solve)
- Learning to do something different i.S. of relearning (change).
We can already see that formal learning approaches are more appropriate for need 1-2, but not for 3-5. Therefore, it makes sense, especially in the transfer of practical knowledge, to integrate learning directly into the work context. Thus, it can be learned in the moment of need and in the context. So the work or the performance is supported – the separation of work and training is eliminated.
Thus, there are the following goals of Performance Support:
- Support performance
- Provide access to information required to complete a task
- Merge learning and working to enable immediate performance with minimal external support
- Institutionalize best practices
- Doing the job as fast as possible
The following table represents an attempt to delineate the disciplines Training, Knowledge/ Information Management & Performance Support – which, however, can certainly be presented differently.
|Training||Information Management||Performance Support|
|Aim||Build knowledge and skills||Find and share information||Perform tasks|
|Relation to work||Seperated||Parallel||Integrated|
|Learning structure||Structured and formal||self-directed and unstructured||Part of the work-flow, casually|
By using performance support you can expect less time for instruction and training, less support from others – but also more quality.
There are different types or variants of performance support – some are already well known:
- Floor walking / coaching at the workplace e.g. via key users
- Hotline / Help Desk
- Social Learning / Peer Learning e.g. via communities, WOL, coaching, mentoring, shadowing
- Electronic Performance Support (EPSS), e.g. via digital assistants, wizards, chatbots
In the following, I would like to focus on the EPSS approach.
Where should it be used?
- Knowledge-intensive, rare or changing actions
- Complex actions
- High consequences of mistakes
- Establishment of standards
- High personnel turnover with simple tasks
- Interruption is not an issue
- Assistance systems must be technically possible
Performance support can be integrated to different levels in the work-process:
- External: Systems are disconnected, or help is not digital, such as Checklists, post-its, job-aids
- Extrinsic: integrated in the system, but not in the primary user-interface, e.g. help-functions, self-service terminals
- Intrinsic: integrated in the task context and in the user-interface, such as call lists in the mobile phone or software wizards or digital assistents
- Intuitive: seamlessly integrated into the workflow, such as the spelling and grammar check (red underscores)
- Intelligent: task and assistant are fully integrated, invisibly invasive, such as Machines and tools only work with controllers or safety devices
Probably each of us already uses performance support: from post-it on screen, navigation system in the car to wizards like Siri or Alexa.
What are tips for implementation?
- Highest possible automation of content creation & updates – since a lot of effort is required here
- Take the opportunity to implement best practices
- Focus on – e.g. important, often used or error-prone processes
- Set-up projects directly interdisciplinary: IT, training, communication, knowledge management, department, works council, data protection
- After scoping a project start with a job-task analysis and then priorize on which critical skills you want to focus to support critical tasks in the flow of work
To make it clearer how Performance Support actually could like please find here some examples:
- SAP Web Assistant in SAP S / 4HANA or SuccessFactors: Integrated Guided Tours & Tutorials for End Users & Administrators
- AR-based Warehouse-Picker with Smart Glass
- Ed-the-Bot: Chatbot, which supports moderators and learners in SAP learning communities.
SAP Enable Now – the SAP knowledge management tool that can be used to create not only e-learning but also performance support assistants or edit embedded SAP user assistance. There are different options to design performance support: This could be guided tours (step-by-step instructions directly in an application), contextual help (process-independent instructions to indicat e.g. new or changed functions) or reference materials (provision of training and other materials directly in the context of the work process).
Trends in Performance Support
To summarize, it is safe to say that technology can be more and more seamlessly be integrated into the work process. Through augmented reality, task-related chatbots, assistants or robotics.
For example, SAP plans to include Web Assistants in other solutions. The advantage for users is that standard learning content is available and only needs to be adapted (for example, with SAP Enable Now) and thus much effort is eliminated.
In the field of Machine Learning & Chatbots, platforms such as Recast.ai will increasingly be seen, making it easy to create and enhance chatbots that learn from data.
Internet of things and immersive technology is another trend to bring relevant knowledge to the work-process. In the areas of production or services, AR technology like smart glasses or mobile devices help to make information available where its needed. Approaches there are more and more moving away from what we know as classical formal learning. Interesting examples can e.g. found in the Fraunhofer Future work-lab.
These technologies are increasingly being used to further automate human actions where it is possible. On the other hand, this means that performance support as described above might no longer be necessary – rather the “exception handling” and monitoring or tasks. Or we see mixed scenarios – like: Hey xy assistant, explain this business process to me.
The article has a focus on digital performance support (EPSS). Of course, based on the 10/20/70 model also coaching / mentoring, shadowing, learning projects, job rotations can improve performance. The name of performance support might be too abstract, so you might also call it workplace learning, augmented work or what suits your context.
Check out which formal training measures you can replace with performance support (or other approaches). Use formal training and workshops where it really makes sense, e.g. where relationship building is important, secure space, personal feedback, reflection or exercises. Bear in mind that factual knowledge is also important in supporting the development of soft skills. Thus, e.g. job-aids for communication, negotiation or leadership tasks are much more helpful than “just” formal training.
On the NextLearning page you will also find german speaking events and infos to exchange on the subject of performance support as well as other learning approaches.
I am also happy to discuss your feedback here in the comments.