By Barbara Bucklin, PhD
bSci21 Contributing Writer
This is the first installment in a series on technology to help manage employees. We’ll start with Mobile Performance Support (think mobile job aids).
In recent years, technology has shifted into high gear; how we receive and use information has changed and is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. At the moment of need, we can have information at our fingertips in any media format. Most of us regularly use our mobile devices this way in our personal lives. When I’m at the market, I pull up my grocery list stored on my phone and I can even search online for recipe ingredients, if I forgot to put them on my list. Because of mobile technology, we don’t have to learn and retain information the way we did only a few years ago. This same concept is entering job environments both formally and informally, which is great news for Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) consultants, and for you, if you manage or supervise employees.
Why do organizations need mobile performance support?
Organizations, along with OBM consultants, have used paper-based performance support (also known as job aids) forever. Rossett and Schafer (2007), define performance support as any information repository that informs and guides planning and action. Why are these useful, and why isn’t paper still the best way to provide information? Let’s consider an example from my experience consulting with automotive dealership personnel, which can be generalized to almost any job environment.
- Lots of information. Because vehicles now come equipped with so much, many dealership employees are unable to talk intelligently about vehicle features, functions, or service requirements. When product information can be available at all times on a mobile device, there’s no longer a need to train employees to fluency on all those products. Searching on a mobile device is quick and efficient; the old-fashioned paper versions were cumbersome and took a long time to find information.
- Changing technologies. Not only is there a lot of information, as with most industries, vehicle technology changes ALL the time. It’s difficult for dealership personnel to keep up with all these changes; they don’t have the time to continuously learn new product information. Paper versions are expensive to update and reprint every time there’s a change.
- Employee Turnover. Given the benefits we just considered in the previous two bullets, when employees leave and new employees replace them, mobile performance support can provide basic on-the-job information in an easy-to-search format.
- Difficult-to-explain products. Some product features are difficult to demonstrate, or even explain, to customers. In those cases, showing a video is best. For example, sales consultants can’t feasibly demonstrate most safety technologies such as auto-braking.
How you know your organization is ready for mobile performance support?
Before we jump into creating a mobile performance tool, we ask a lot of questions. Very often people assume they need mobile performance support; that’s perhaps based on the rise of mobile apps, iPad usage on the job, and the sometimes using technology just for the sake of using technology. To avoid this pitfall, here are questions we ask and the process we follow to do this.
When you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to these questions, there are a multitude of technology questions to discuss with your organization such as: Does there need to be integration with other systems? How good is the internet connectivity and reliability? Where will it be hosted? Once you’ve answered those questions, we can consider how your organization will build the mobile tool. To start do your research to find out if there’s an existing mobile performance support tool out there that will suit your employees’ needs. If not (which is usually the case), you’ll need to build it in-house or hire an outside company to build it for you. Shop around and ask questions to find the right vendor that can build exactly what you need.
I have experience working on a team at Ardent Learning that’s built several mobile performance support tools. Please reach out to me with questions.
How do you use mobile technology in your organization? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!
Rossett, A. & Schafer, L. (2007). Job Aids & Performance Support, John Wiley & Sons.
Barbara Bucklin, PhD is a global learning and performance improvement leader with 20 years of experience who collaborates with her clients to identify performance gaps and recommend solutions that are directly aligned with their core business strategies. She oversees design and development processes for learning (live and virtual), performance-support tools, performance metrics, and a host of innovative blended solutions.
Dr. Bucklin serves as President and is on the Board of Directors for the Organizational Behavior Management Network. She has taught university courses in human performance technology, the psychology of learning, organizational behavior management, and statistical methods. Her research articles have appeared in Performance Improvement Quarterly and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. She presents her research and consulting results at international conventions such as the Association for Talent Development (ATD), International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), Training Magazine’s Conference and Expo, and the Organizational Behavior Management Network. You can contact Dr. Bucklin at [email protected]
Nice article Barbara. It made me consider how much more effective my recent car search would have been if the salesperson had a simple iPad available to answer all the questions I had about certain vehicles. I was left with the equivalent of a waiter trying to memorize a table order only to bring the wrong dishes.