When I was a 4th grade school teacher a wonderful mentor of mine introduced me to one of the most powerful teaching approaches I had ever seen – having my kids grade their own papers and then research and EXPLAIN why they had gotten the problem wrong. It was with this exercise that I witnessed the power of self-evaluation. It was one thing to simply look at the “key” and mark the answer to a math problem wrong, it was an entirely different thing to research WHY their answer had fallen short and describe the gap.

Self-evaluation is one of the most powerful learning experiences a learner can have.

Ok, nice lesson, BUT how does that apply to Performance Support (PS) and our collective efforts to do it well? One of the greatest challenges we hear from PS community members is how to understand where they fall in the PS journey, AND how to gain the insights and evidence needed to improve it, or to even get started in the first place! In a time when “learning” dollars are tighter than ever, gaining buy-in and resources to do PS well can take a lot. All the more reason to better understand what makes an electronic performance support solution(EPSS) so much more than just a job aid or a SharePoint site.

To help fight this all too important fight this month’s blog articles, website discussions, and webinar will focus on how we can better evaluate and defend our ability to build effective and impactful PS solutions. This month we will go into much greater detail around evaluation and even share a performance support tool (now there’s a novel ideaJ) to help you evaluate your current efforts, but first let’s start with the basics.

Like good instruction, an effective EPSS is based on its ability to fundamentally map to the three core principles of PS design. The fewer of these your EPSS addresses the less utilized and effective your programs will be. You’ll end up seeing little to no business impact and any momentum around PS will come to a screeching halt. One of our favorite things about PS is that the proof is in the pudding, or should we say in the “eating of” the puddingJ Unlike training, which can be mandated or even attended with little uptake or transfer, an EPSS lives in the workflow and directly supports performance – it is either used or it isn’t. It’s that simple!! Bad EPSS’ are not used… at all!!! Good EPSS’ are used all the time! You want ROI? Track usage – how often it’s used, when it’s used, and by whom. Marry these three things together and you have a pretty strong first indicator of its effectiveness.

So the three principles – these may sound familiar, BUT we can’t tell you how many times we see these being overlooked or misunderstood:

1. Embedded: This is an accessibility thing – it combines ease with proximity. Something can be easy to get to, but it’s just too “far” from the problem. Other things are right in front of the performer, but nothing that is easy to navigate and use. If something is not accessible it doesn’t matter how wonderful it is!! At the moment of apply, when a performer has the need to access an EPSS they are in the workflow – trying to apply something, keep up, or solve a problem. ALL of these things have an immediacy to them. Understandably learners are very impatient when they find themselves in these circumstances. The stakes are high! We’ve always described these times as almost “selfish” moments. During these critical times our performers are very self-centered and focused. It’s all about them! Anything viewed as remote or difficult just won’t be used. Our mantra is “2 clicks and/or 10 seconds”. If it’s not that simple, it’s typically dead in the water.

2. Context: Ok, let’s say you’ve solved the “embedded” problem. Now that you’ve got their attention you better give them what they need based on who they are, where they are in a process, the circumstance they’re trying to solve,,, the list goes on, AND sometimes is a combination of these. Context is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the performer; the more we know about their context the better. It will help us create environments that just feel like they are helpful. That’s because they fit into context. It’s a square-peg, square-hole feeling. No rough edges! No uncomfortable angles. The answer is apparent. When context is right, there is no need to “search”. The answer “presents” itself as the EPSS appears and guides the performer through the problem.

3. Just enough: Now, let’s finish this story – we get them there without leaving the workflow. We present them with what makes sense based on their context. NOW we need to give them JUST what they need to get back to work. This is not a discipline of abundance, it’s one of specificity. More is NOT better! It’s one of need to know, not nice to know! Now, that doesn’t mean the EPSS can’t offer options to dig deeper (See the PS design methodology). The key here is that everything is not presented at one time! It’s a graduated journey based on need, aptitude, and circumstance – in other words: CONTEXT (See principle 2). When designed well, the performers learn how to navigate the framework quickly and naturally move in and out of it as needed. They go deep when appropriate. They use the steps when that’s all they need. Our job is to supply the framework. They’ll own the “customization” of the experience based on what they need.

For now if these fundamental principles aren’t understood, evaluated, and applied to your EPSS you are destined to struggle to gain traction and ultimately struggle to achieve those all-important utilization measures mentioned above! The more we can self-evaluate our current state against these principles the better we’ll be at moving forward and creating the optimum EPSS for our performers!

Read more: How to Get Centered and Focused