Shirley J. Caruso, Ed.D.
Two types of performance support tools are Planners and Sidekicks (Rossett & Schafer, 2007). Performance support tools benefit organizations in that they are there “just in time” to allow a task or skill to be self-performed. Planners are there when preparing to perform a task and afterwards, and sidekicks are right by our side as we are performing the task.
Where might planners and sidekicks fit in to the organization for which you are employed or other aspects of your day-to-day activities? Where are there discrepancies? What subjects or tasks do you or your colleagues avoid because you don’t really understand them and need to learn more about them? Are there customer complaints? What processes can be put in place to “prompt” individuals to think more enthusiastically about their work? You may want to talk to your employer or client about examples of performance support and how they can benefit employees, customers, and the organization. Look for opportunities.
Sidekicks are right at your side, as the work or task is being performed Think about opportunities where guidance would add value (save time, save costs, change attitude about the task itself) to the way the task is performed. What knowledge would enhance the ability to perform the task?
As a task is approached, what things should be taken into consideration? What is often forgotten? What do the SMEs (subject matter experts) do to prepare for this task? After the task is performed, what should be reflected upon to make the next attempt even better? What can a customized planner help with that most individuals forget to do? What can be put in place to better direct an understanding of the task?
Neither Sidekicks nor Planners should be used when a task demands masterful performance. For example, if you were at the dentists’ office undergoing a procedure to extract your wisdom teeth, would you feel confident that the dentist knows what he/she is doing if he/she is referring to a Planner before the procedure or a Sidekick during the procedure? I, for one, definitely would not!
Some guidelines for the use of performance support are as follows:
• Use performance support when performance is infrequent (we tend to forget how to do something if it is not performed on a day-to-day or frequent basis-do you s forget how to change the time on the clock in your car for Day Light Savings Time, a task that is performed twice per year? You may find yourself referring to the manual (performance support). Or you may remember to “fall back” (set your clock back one hour) in the fall and “spring ahead” (set your clock ahead one hour) in the spring. “Fall back” and “Spring ahead”……hmmm, sounds like performance support, doesn’t it?
• Use performance support when the task is complex. Some tasks involve too many steps many to remember.
• Use performance support when performing the task is subject to a high degree of error.
• Use performance support when there is no budget or resources to support training.
• Don’t use performance support when masterful performance is needed. If a dentist were to use performance support while performing a tooth extraction, his/her credibility would be damaged. Not to mention the damage he/she may cause to the patient!
• Don’t use performance support when credibility may be damaged. Suppose you consulted a realtor to buy or sell a home and you found him/her consulting a reference every time you asked a question. Would you feel comfortable that the realtor is competent?
• Don’t use performance support when consulting references does not fit within the culture of the organization.
Just like training, you must conduct a front end analysis. Find out about the learners, the context, and the task itself. Performance support is a poor fit in some job situations.
Rossett, A., & Schafer, L. (2007). Job aids & performance support: Moving from knowledge in the classroom to knowledge everywhere. San Francisco: Pfeiffer-John Wiley & Sons, Inc.