The following is a guest post authored by Gary Wise, Workforce Performance Strategist, Coach, Speaker & Storyteller, of Human Performance Outfitters. View more of his work at https://livinginlearning.com/.
There are four phases all organizations must transition through successfully when launching “anything” if the end-game is sustained productivity at Point-of-Work. The four phases are:
All four phases are required when the “anything” launch takes place within a dynamic Learning Performance Ecosystem…and optimized or not, we all own an ecosystem. Solution? A strategic re-think that embraces evolved tactics, methods, skills, and technology that are agile enough to address the diverse performance requirements and dynamics that manifest at Point-of-Work.
What is Anything?
Any intentional efforts an organization takes to launch, improve, correct, upgrade, protect, avoid, or whatever…fall into the bucket described as “anything.” This includes things like:
- Corporate Change Initiatives
- Digital transformation technology integration
- New product/service launches
- Response to new regulatory mandates
- Protection of competitive advantage
- Process improvement projects
- Onboarding programs
- Mergers & acquisitions
- …and you can keep adding “anything” else that matters here
Whatever the “anything” event is, the act of training will always be an essential component primarily based within the Deploy phase of the launch. Unfortunately, the only real output Training produces is potential…not competent performance.
Competent performance only happens at Point-of-Work
The logical question we must then confront becomes, “Is potential enough?” Methinks not, but it can be…if the ultimate strategic objective is only to transfer knowledge into the heads and hearts of the workforce. And that might work if human memory was non-perishable. But it’s not; hence it’s time for a strategic re-think.
The ecosystem we all own contains a learning performance continuum that road maps the path our workforce navigates to reach competency. Everyone enters the continuum at Point-of-Entry where first-time learning takes place. This could be during onboarding for new hires but could also be new learning for incumbent workers. In either case, no one leaves Training totally competent to do their job. Point-of-Work, on the other hand, is found at the opposite end of the continuum where we strive to sustain competent performance. However, competent performance is not achieved immediately since it is an earned by-product of
- time-on-task, and
- experience gained through actual work.
While tangible business outcomes are generated by the workforce only at Point-of-Work, it is also the moment when outcomes are compromised or lost outright due to errors, bad decisions, redundant work, delays, etc. Why? In many cases knowledge gained about “anything” during Deploy cannot be retained long enough for an employee to apply it effectively at Point-of-Work. Certainly, competency is eventually reached…but at what cost?
Our call-to-action – the brass ring for our strategic re-think – is to find the secret sauce made up of the right skills, the right methodologies, and the right technologies that enable what should be the ultimate strategic objective – reducing time-to-sustained-competency.
The Ecosystem Role of Digital Performance Support (DPS) Technology
In our current strategy, based upon a Training paradigm, the Learning Management System (LMS) typically represents the technology of choice to accomplish knowledge transfer during Deploy. It does this, and it does it very well, but it’s not enough. The post-training, post Point-of-Entry phases of Implement, Adopt, and Sustain are critical in support of the continuum and are all out-of-scope based on our existing Training paradigm, placing them beyond the reach of the favored LMS technology. (See Figure 2)
Cloud-based Digital Performance Support (DPS) technology is a versatile solution that extends across the four “launch anything” phases. DPS does not replace LMS; instead, DPS supplements LMS by embedding where LMS was never designed to go – Point-of-Work. In fact, DPS converges learning with work by delivering learning and support within workflows, within applications, across multiple systems, all without adding work delay. That said, relegating Performance Support to a limited role as a tactical post-training tool is a mistake; it provides much more than simply job aids and checklists, as you can see in Figure 2. A modern, cloud-based digital performance support system can truly become a “post-launch success platform” for your organization.
Counting Productivity Boosting Benefits of DPS
In previous consulting engagements, several being in call centers, I’ve seen the benefits of Performance Support adoption first-hand. I’ve also seen the importance of addressing the four phases of an “anything” launch as it applies to a new product, promotion, policy change, regulatory mandate, new system launch, etc. – take your pick. There are usually one or more of these events happening at all times in call centers, particularly when they are part of a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) environment. Figure 3 shows some of the measurable benefits a digital performance support system can provide in a call center environment:
What Level of Productivity Boost Can Your Organization Expect?
Complexity implies time, resources, and process; certainly not a simple transaction. Even before the project management gears begin to grind, a strategic road map to gain successful completion should be identified. And as with any road map or GPS, the secret is not only knowing where you want to go, but putting a stake in the ground that defines where you are right now. That means assessing your Learning Performance Ecosystem’s Current State of Readiness to pursue DPS adoption.
Along with identifying current state of readiness, it is best practice to define the metrics and analytics by which success and business impact can be measured. While the productivity boosting benefits shown in Figure 3 are based on a Call Center environment, many are common, measurable performance attributes present across any business discipline that either drive or restrain productivity. Every work discipline has unique learning performance ecosystem requirements but they all fall into the same six categories:
- Environment – What internal/external work conditions exist? Risk/Urgency/Culture?
- People/Capability – Who does the work? What skills are required? Who supports?
- Process/Workflow – What is the work? Where is it failing? Why is it failing?
- Content/Resources – What assets are consumed/required to execute the work?
- Technology/Systems – What technologies are/should be used to execute the work?
- Impact/Analytics – What are success metrics? Are analytics accessible & actionable?
When you step back to consider the complexity of an “anything” launch and the four phases necessary to ensure sustainability, the only reasonable answer to the question “What kind of Productivity Boost Can We Expect?” can only be answered with a noncommittal “It depends!”
That answer is not a dodge. Seriously, it’s not! No performance consultant alive should ever answer differently. The road to sustainability truly does depend on a combination of knowns and unknowns, including:
- Where you are starting from?
- What shape are you in?
- Is the org ready or at readiness?
- Where are you going?
- Why are you going?
- What does “getting there” look like?
- What baggage are you carrying?
- Does everybody want to go?
- Can we afford to make the trip?
“Can we afford to make the trip?” Now THAT’s a good one. From what I’ve experienced with the evolution of DPS over the last dozen years, the more relevant question is, “Can we afford NOT to make the trip?”
Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Strategist, Coach, Speaker & Storyteller