Performance Guidance Software: The Key to Greater Employee Competency

Scott Baran | May 17, 2018

Getting employees up to speed on new work processes takes time. In the case of onboarding new hires, it typically takes up to eight months before an employee is competent enough to reach full productivity, according to Harvard Business Review.

While teaching employees how to use a new application shouldn’t take as long as learning a new job, it’s still important to help employees reach competency as quickly as possible. Performance guidance software, which guides users through the process of learning a software application at the point of work, can speed employee competency by delivering the right guidance at the right time and in the right place.

Employees who are competent in your processes are not only more productive and consistent in their work, they also have greater job satisfaction and higher rates of retention. Additionally, helping employees reach competency faster will also help you to realize the full value of your software investment sooner.

Here’s a look at how performance guidance software can speed competency over other employee training options:

Employees Learn by Doing

There are several accepted and researched learning models that support the idea that learning at the point of work is the most effective way to gain competency. According to the 70:20:10 framework created by Morgan McCall and the Center for Creative Leadership, learning occurs through a range of approaches that roughly break out to:

  • 70% from real life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving
  • 20% from feedback and from observing and working with others
  • 10% from formal training such as classes or courses (both face-to-face and online) and reading

Similarly, the Edgar Dale Cone of Learning states that when learning occurs while doing “the real thing,” retention rates are around 90%, but only 10-20% when learning occurs through reading, hearing, or seeing.

Performance guidance software, which employees can use in the application at the point of work, enables greater competency because the act of learning is connected directly with the real task. In online or classroom training, however, learning is distanced from on-the-job experiences. Simulations outside of the point of work and feedback from others do help the learning process, but can never fully replicate the experience of learning at the moment there is a real need to complete the task.

With performance guidance software, when employees are trying to complete a task or process in an application and don’t know how, they are guided through the task in a step-by-step process right in that moment, right in the application. This not only increases their retention of the learning, but provides immediate feedback on what they were doing incorrectly and helps correct it. And, as you’ll see, that’s important to increasing competency too.

Employees Gain Immediate Feedback

One of the most important aspects of gaining competency in a subject is getting immediate feedback on what you are doing right or wrong. In one study, which required subjects to move a cursor across a computer screen while trying to get to the center of hidden targets, performance of participants who received immediate feedback was much higher than those who were given feedback after a short delay. Similarly, third and fifth grade students who received immediate feedback on their reading performance did significantly better on passage and composite comprehension than those who did not. While these studies may have been done outside of a work environment, the concept they underscore is easy to understand and can be applied in any organization – immediate feedback means higher competency.

Performance guidance software provides this same kind of real-time feedback. Unlike a help menu or asking a colleague for assistance—two of the  most common ways employees seek help when they don’t know how to complete a task—performance guidance software immediately provides guidance right in the application. This guidance on what employees need to do to complete the task or process is immediate and accurate, and only takes a few clicks to access.

Additionally, performance guidance software is designed to use language and cues that are familiar to the employee and align with what they need to do within the application to complete the task or process. This type of contextual guidance eliminates confusion and helps employees gain competency faster.

Measure Competency to Achieve Competency

Another key benefit of using performance guidance software is the ability to measure and evaluate how many employees are truly competent and how long it is taking them to get there. This can be done by examining the data collected via a performance support system that shows how often users are in the application, what tasks they are completing, and how long it is taking them to complete each task.

By measuring competency, you gain insight into learning and development processes, which enables you to identify roadblocks to competency and course correct to help more employees achieve competency faster. This, in turn, will speed your time to full productivity for employees using the software, and reduce the time it takes for your organization to reach its full return on investment from the application.

When onboarding employees to a new application or functionality, we’d love to hear how you measure employee competency and what tactics you’ve found help you achieve it at scale.

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