Performance Support System vs. Instructional System

Performance Support System vs. Instructional System

We have a tendency to solve all performance problems with training interventions, even though a majority of performance-related issues are more amenable to non-instructional interventions.

I think a performance support system or a job aid is appropriate when:

  1. The task has to be done quickly or speedily
  2. The task is infrequently performed
  3. The task is complex, involves many steps, or has many attributes
  4. The consequence of error is intolerable
  5. Performance depends on a large body of information
  6. Performance depends on knowledge, procedures, or approaches that change frequently
  7. Performance can be improved through employee self-assessment and correction with standards in mind
  8. There is high turnover and the task is perceived to be simple
  9. There is little time or few resources to devote to training

I welcome you to share your experiences where a performance support system or a simple job aid like a checklist worked very well for you.

Thank you for reading my blog.

RK Prasad


  • Holly Gaspar

    I agree with much of what you say. It seems that sometimes it is more important and valuable to provide access to ready information than to provide training on what that information is. Training time could be shortened by teaching learners where and how to find appropriate information, rather than asking them to remember it all. But as you also point, there is still a place for training in addition to the performance tools.

  • Gary A. Williams

    The first analysis that should be done is how to support performance on the job. Performance support aids/tools/etc. should always be considered first and foremost. There will need to be some level of education, training or communications how to integrate use of performance support into the workflow. So not actually an either/or. As most of the training/education provided is challenged by the learner’s long-term knowledge retention (a big, big issue), performance support should be part of the overall learning solution. So again, not an either/or situation.

  • Performance Support should act as a point of reference for those who already have knowledge of the subject and need a ‘refresher’. As Gary says above, it should be used to SUPPORT not TRAIN, and act as a gentle reminder to topics already covered Ideally training should take place prior to using PS. Think of it as a knowledge bank, a knowledge base and an extension of the SME or helpdesk, as a way to support individuals in their moment of need

  • Thank you all for sharing your views.

  • Dan Peay

    Great conversation! I like the practical list of when a PSS is appropriate. I would be very interested in other kinds of studies used in determining the appropriate solution. I worked for an organization that tried to apply the Harless study everywhere we could. We also integrated Kirkpatrick’s methodology for measurement. I found the structured analysis process very time consuming with relatively moderate impact on what was produced before the disciplined process.

    I appreciate the thought from Ms. King: “…an extension of the SME or helpdesk.” Thanks for the great thoughts! I’m going to review my Harless materials and think through this insightful conversation.

  • Deborah Exo

    My bias is performance support first and training interventions only for targeted, high-visibility change learning initiatives followed up by performance support.

    Research shows that we learn through repetition. Performance support provides immediate learning support we need while we are actually doing the task and as we repeat the task again and again in our daily work. It is the repetition of the new learning that solidifies the learning…that cannot be accomplished in a classroom or virtual learning session.

    The value of training interventions for significant, large initiatives comes from the group…together learners develop networks of others who are on the same learning path, learning discovery dialogue provides opportunities to explore the content at a greater depth, and an accountability community can be established for practicing the new learning and cementing the learning into the DNA of the company.

  • Great headline. If your cookie has a bite-sized action and your reader completes the action, I think two things happen. Their self-confidence goes up (which feels good) and their trust in you increases.