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How to Drive Just-in-time Learning with Performance Support Tools

October 7, 2020 | By Asha Pandey


How to Drive Just-in-time Learning with Performance Support Tools

Business is accelerating. The amount of information employees need is expanding, and they’re often remote. This article explores the role of performance support tools in driving just-in-time learning, especially for remote workforces.

Just-in-Time Learning Theory

The Just-In-Time Learning Theory centers on delivering learning resources exactly when they are needed. This theory aligns closely with adult learning principles, recognizing that adults are more likely to engage in learning that is immediately relevant and applicable to their current tasks or challenges.

What Is Just-In-Time Learning?

Just-In-Time Learning is an educational approach that provides learners with the information they need precisely when they need it. This method contrasts with traditional, scheduled training by offering learning content in response to immediate requirements. Key aspects of Just-In-Time Learning include:

  • Flexibility: Learners access information as and when required, without adhering to a fixed schedule.
  • Efficiency: It reduces time spent on unnecessary or irrelevant content, focusing on the current needs.
  • Accessibility: Often delivered through digital platforms, allowing learners to access information from anywhere.
  • Customization: Tailored to individual learner’s needs, based on their specific tasks or challenges.
  • Microlearning: Content is typically concise and focused, facilitating quick consumption and application.

What Is Just-in-time Learning in the Workplace?

Traditional training often involves employees attending formal synchronous instructor-led classes or completing asynchronous extended online courses.

While both modalities have value, just-in-time learning in the workplace can be used to enhance employee performance so that they have the information they need when they need it. Consider this situation: A lab technician needs to run a diagnostic test with a recently upgraded piece of hardware. She was trained on the older model but notices that the user interface has changed. Her employer could ask her to attend a class designed to instruct her on the new interface. Or, using just-in-time training, her employer could provide a quick interactive walkthrough in a performance support tool (app) on the employee’s tablet, saving time and money as she learns in the flow of her normal work.

What Are The Benefits of Just in Time Learning

The benefits of Just-In-Time Learning for companies and learners are multifaceted, enhancing both organizational efficiency and individual performance:

  • Assist remote workers: They can help remote learners get access to the required support any time and within their workflow.
  • Provide learning on demand: Using a performance support tool to deliver just-in-time training, learning on demand, means that employers can provide the exact information employees need. They won’t waste time sitting through long classes or scrubbing through online courses.
  • Empower employees: Employees are empowered to leverage just-in-time learning in the workplace exactly when they need it.
  • Just-in-time learning: The use of just-in-time learning in performance support tools means that employees must no longer remember how to do infrequently performed tasks.
  • Appeals to learners who seek specific support in quick time: Several learners prefer experimentation and information seeking to traditional training. They can be more selective as they seek knowledge, and performance support tools resonate well with them.
  • Enables capturing SME knowledge: As the SME knowledge is captured in performance support tools, it enables others to tap into their knowledge asynchronously, exactly when they need it.
  • Current and relevant information: Implementing performance support tools allows organizations to control the source of information employees access and keep it current and relevant.

Disadvantages of Just in Time Learning

Despite offering several benefits, Just-In-Time Learning also has its share of disadvantages that organizations and learners should consider:

  • Lack of Comprehensive Understanding: Focusing on immediate needs may lead to a narrow understanding of broader concepts or skills.
  • Over-Reliance on Technology: Dependence on digital tools can be problematic if there are technical issues or if not, all learners are tech-savvy.
  • Planning Challenges: Anticipating and preparing content for every possible immediate learning need can be challenging.
  • Limited Scope for Deep Learning: The quick, targeted nature of Just-In-Time Learning might not be suitable for subjects that require deep, comprehensive study.
  • Potential for Information Overload: Constantly providing new information at short notice might overwhelm learners.

What Is Just in Time Content?

Just-in-Time Content encompasses information or learning materials made available precisely at the moment they are needed. This concept aligns with the Just-in-Time Learning approach, emphasizing timely access to relevant information to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in learning or task execution. Key characteristics of Just-in-Time Content include:

  • Relevance: Content is directly applicable to the task or problem at hand.
  • Accessibility: Easily accessible through digital platforms, often in a mobile-friendly format.
  • Brevity: Concise and to-the-point, allowing quick consumption and application.
  • Dynamic: Frequently updated to remain current and applicable to changing scenarios.
  • Customized: Often tailored to individual learner’s needs or specific situations.

 What Are Performance Support Tools, and How Can They Help Drive Just-in-time Learning in the Workplace?

Performance support tools are specific learning aids or job aids designed to assist learners exactly when they need support. They are valuable in helping learners address a specific challenge, need, or improve the application of learning. Short, focused, and action-oriented, they support formal training and are designed to be available in the learner’s workflow, rather than having to log on to the LMS and secure this specific information.

How Can You Implement Just-in-time Learning Through Performance Support Tools?

Just-in-time learning should be available in the employee’s natural workflow, creating an accessible and seamless connection between job performance and learning. Effective implementation of just-in-time learning occurs when performance support tools organize information based on specific job processes and customized audience needs.

There are many options when implementing a performance support tool, including Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) like WalkMe and Whatfix. These tools allow you to include in-app tutorials and walkthrough overlays, helping employees learn new applications and processes.

Leveraging microlearning formats: Just-in-time learning in the workplace presented through a performance support tool is most effective when delivered in microlearning formats.

Microlearning is an effective approach to offer just-in-time learning through performance support tools as it is:

  • Easy to access on demand.
  • Easy to share.
  • Searchable.
  • Made up of clear, step-by-step instructions and lists.
  • Current.
  • Linkable to longer-form learning for additional information.
  • Highly granular and broken down into small pieces.
  • Short and easy to scan text.

Examples of Just-in-time Training Content Types

The following lists some examples of microlearning formats that can be delivered as just-in-time learning in the workplace through a performance support tool:

  • Interactive PDFs.
  • Short video clips.
  • Interactive infographics.
  • eBooks.
  • HTML5 flipbooks.
  • Animated videos.
  • Whiteboard animations.
  • Explainer videos.
  • Expert videos.
  • Recorded webinars.
  • Audio books and podcasts.
  • Parallax learning paths.
  • Mobile apps.
  • Branching scenarios.

Best Practices to Create Just in Time Training Content

Developing effective Just-in-Time training content involves following several best practices to ensure its impactful and meets the immediate learning needs of users. These practices include:

  • Identify Specific Needs: Understand the specific skills or knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.
  • Keep It Concise: Develop short, focused content that is quick to digest.
  • Use Accessible Formats: Make sure the content is easily accessible, preferably on multiple devices.
  • Engaging and Interactive: Incorporate elements that engage the learner, like interactive modules or quizzes.
  • Regular Updates: Keep the content up-to-date to ensure continued relevance.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Include a way for learners to provide feedback for continuous improvement.

Where Does Just-in-time Training Fit into the Training Strategy?

Like any solution, just-in-time training is not a silver bullet. Alone, it provides concise information but may be too decontextualized for employees to use effectively. However, coupled with effective traditional training solutions, a performance support tool that provides just-in-time training for employees can greatly enhance their job performance. It gives employees the opportunity to find what they need to know, when they need to know it, creating room for innovation and creativity. Just-in-time training must be a key piece of an organization’s overall learning and performance support strategy.

5 Examples of Just-In-Time Learning In The Workplace

  1. Onboarding and Orientation:

  • Use Case: In many organizations, new employees face the challenge of getting up to speed quickly. They need to grasp their roles, understand company culture, and familiarize themselves with various policies.
  • How Just-in-Time Learning Helps: Just-in-Time Learning is invaluable in this context. It allows new hires to access essential information as they embark on their new job journey. By providing immediate access to onboarding content, it significantly reduces the learning curve and helps new employees become productive more rapidly.
  • Content Types: The content used in this scenario may include interactive e-modules that introduce the company’s culture and values. Quick reference guides can be provided for common procedures, while video introductions to team members and their roles can help new hires feel connected. Additionally, online quizzes can be utilized to assess and reinforce their understanding of company policies.
  1. Software Training:

  • Use Case: In today’s digital workplace, employees often encounter new software or tools that require training. Whether it’s a new CRM system or productivity software, the need for efficient training is paramount.
  • How Just-in-Time Learning Helps: Just-in-Time Learning is instrumental in this scenario by offering immediate guidance when users need it most. This approach reduces frustration and accelerates the user’s proficiency with the software, leading to increased productivity and better user experiences.
  • Content Types: Content types for software training may include interactive software simulations that allow users to practice in a safe environment. Video tutorials can be created for specific software features, while infographics can illustrate shortcuts and tips. Additionally, an accessible knowledge base with articles can serve as a valuable resource for users seeking answers and guidance.
  1. Customer Support:

  • Use Case: Customer service representatives are often the frontline of a company, dealing with customer inquiries. To provide excellent support, they require quick access to product or service information.
  • How Just-in-Time Learning Helps: Just-in-Time Learning ensures that support staff can address customer inquiries promptly and accurately, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Content Types: Content types for customer support may include frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a knowledge base filled with articles that cover common customer inquiries. Scenarios with suggested responses can help representatives practice handling different customer interactions effectively. Additionally, quick reference guides for troubleshooting common issues can be handy, along with interactive training modules that focus on communication skills.
  1. Sales Training:

  • Use Case: Sales teams are tasked with presenting products or services persuasively to clients. To excel in their roles, they require immediate access to product information and effective sales strategies.
  • How Just-in-Time Learning Helps: Just-in-Time Learning equips sales professionals with the latest product knowledge, competitive analysis, and sales techniques before client meetings, increasing their confidence and effectiveness.
  • Content Types: Content types for sales training may encompass product brochures and specification sheets that provide in-depth product information. Sales playbooks can be created, offering objection handling strategies and tips for persuasive selling. Interactive scenarios can be developed for practicing sales pitches, and access to market research reports can assist sales teams in understanding market trends and client needs.
  1. Emergency Response:

  • Use Case: In environments where safety or security incidents can occur, employees need to respond swiftly and effectively. Training for emergency response is crucial.
  • How Just-in-Time Learning Helps: Just-in-Time Learning ensures that employees are well-prepared to react in critical situations. It enhances workplace safety by providing immediate access to emergency response procedures and training materials.
  • Content Types: Content types for emergency response training may include detailed emergency response procedures and checklists. Simulated emergency scenarios can be developed for training, allowing employees to practice their response in a controlled environment. Videos demonstrating proper safety protocols can be invaluable, and access to contact information for emergency response teams ensures quick and effective communication during emergencies.

In all these use cases, Just-in-Time Learning empowers employees by providing them with immediate access to relevant information, reducing errors, improving job performance, and ultimately contributing to a more efficient and effective workplace. The choice of content types depends on the specific learning needs and preferences of the target audience.

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