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David James


Chief Learning Officer

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How are you Supporting your Learners at their Moments of Need?


Web-searching at our moment of need has changed the way we learn - both at work and at home.

That's whether we’re:

  • Looking for a tasty new Macaroni Cheese recipe;
  • Figuring out how to replace a bicycle tyre; or
  • Finding out how to prepare for that tricky Performance Review conversation

Learning at the moment of need (or even at the moment of apply) is whatGottfredson and Mosher called 'the sweet spot of performance support':

"When people are at this moment, when they need to actually perform on the job, they need instant access to tools that will intuitively help them do just that -perform." 

In most cases now, the L&D initiatives we provide see the learner removed from the workflow in order to learn, and then they’ll wait for the situation to arrive... and then apply it (perhaps months later). This is the same for training, coaching, e-learning or other formal learning events.

In contrast, performance support is ‘pulled’ by the learner at their moment of need. It will help them to bridge that gap between ‘not-knowing’ and ‘knowing’ - as efficiently as a web-search (if not more-so if it's content that you've provided for them).

How do L&D provide Performance Support?

Firstly, the technology is available right now to help you quickly and easily createtrusted performance support that replicates the way we search and learn - at ourmoments of need - on the web.

Secondly, the L&D professional needs to find ways to understand the moments of need of their learners. Nick Shackleton-Jones, Director of Learning Innovation & Technology at BP, recently described this brilliantly:

"The focus has to shift from content to context. Specifically, spending time getting to know your audience, their performance context and spotting the gaps - i.e. the points in their working day where there is an opportunity for you to help."

What this is not, and Nick makes this point in his blog post, is just slicing your existing resources into smaller chunks. 

Performance support is something different. It may require some unlearning on the part of the L&D professional. It’s not about session plans, learning styles, assessments or anything else we’ve been schooled in. It's about efficiently bridging the gap between 'not knowing' and 'knowing', perhaps in response to:

  • How do I start this performance improvement conversation?
  • How do I forecast my budget for the next year?
  • How have others successfully prepared themselves for promotion here?

Finding the answer to these questions should be as easy as a Google search or your learners will go to Google (and I'll explore why this could be causing problems for you and your organisation in a later post).

So, how close are you currently from your learners moment of need - or even apply - and what will it take to get closer?

Author Profile Picture
David James

Chief Learning Officer

Read more from David James

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