Last month we focused in on the Performance Zone–the place where the work of the organization actually gets done. When it comes to formal learning, we’ve spent billions on learning management systems and on a robust authoring toolkit to develop interactive simulations, eLearning, virtual instruction and much more. However, when it comes to the Performance Zone, there’s a vital tool that also merits investment—Embedded Performance Support System (EPSS) authoring software.

Here’s what the current spend on the Performance Zone looks like for most organizations. They have the longstanding services of help desks. Although these can and should play a vital role, it is costly and inefficient to expect help desks to go it alone in the Performance Zone. Job aids can provide targeted performance support. They are a vital component part of what needs to be a much more comprehensive solution. Websites abound as the performance support solution of choice. But, for the most part, they are functionally limited when compared to an EPSS. And all too often, websites spiral into information chaos and a maintenance nightmare.

Many PS websites are powered by SharePoint. And, although SharePoint has much to offer in other areas, authoring an EPSS using SharePoint is like using PowerPoint to develop eLearning! You wrap it with an “eLearning” label, but it will be functionally limited in what eLearning can and should do. SharePoint doesn’t deliver EPSS capability out of the box. It takes significant effort to get SharePoint to deliver EPSS-like capability. The approach doesn’t scale well. And, it requires a level of IT dependency that simply doesn’t make sense long-term. And if it’s used to support an IT application it is next to impossible to truly embed, contextualize, and offer “just enough” information. All fundamental principles to effective PS we have shared in the past.

We’re not suggesting that help desks, job aids, and SharePoint don’t have a role to play in your overarching performance support strategy. They do. But all together, they fall short in delivering the comprehensive coverage needed in the Performance Zone. What’s missing? Gloria Gery described it this way: “on-demand access to integrated information, guidance, advice, assistance, training, and tools.” This capability of integrating and making available the specific resources and information a performer needs at the moment of Apply is called brokering (read Ten Seconds: Performance Support in 2 Clicks). When brokering is governed by the right methodology and powered by technology, it becomes an EPSS with the capacity to, in Gery’s words, “enable high-level job performance with a minimum of support from other people”.

Consider your current learning and performance support tool chests in light of this question: Do we have the capacity to readily author, deploy, and maintain EPSS’ that will:

  • Simultaneously deliver the same EPSS content and functionality within software, at the desktop, and on mobile devices
  • Keep track of where performers are as they move in and out and across software applications and proactively offer up “just-what-is-needed”
  • Provide contextual access to information regardless of where it is located (e.g., brokering)
  • Support job-tasks with cascading levels of support (e.g., employ the PS pyramid)
  • Facilitate and integrate with the overarching learning and performance support requirements of the organization?

Organizations today have three choices when it comes to Performance Support. They can:

1. Ignore the Performance Zone and delude themselves by thinking that their investment in formal learning is sufficient.

2. Take a haphazard approach with disconnected performance support resources (help desk, job aids, websites, etc.)

3. Invest in their capacity to create, deploy, maintain, and integrate Embedded Performance Support Systems (EPSS.)

Option 3, of course, is where you should be or on your way to getting there. If you’re still hesitant, consider why organizations invest in software like Electora or Captivate. They recognized the need for software that would give them efficient control over how they author eLearning and simulations. Certainly the Performance Zone merits the same consideration.

The promise of performance support is compelling. An EPSS ensures that whatever was learned in training is remembered and efficiently integrated into the workflow. It compensates for whatever wasn’t learned in training and provides just what’s needed to ensure effective performance at every changing moment. Because the EPSS is right there in the Performance Zone, it also gathers ongoing performance data to help optimize future work and measure business impact.

These are benefits worth pursuing. The return MORE than pays for the investment in a PS authoring tool. They are vital to our relevancy in the organizations where we work. Our professional survival depends on our making sure what we do overtly impacts the Performance Zone—for the better. It will take EPSS authoring software to make that happen.