- What is the fundamental unit of job performance?
- What is the role of knowledge in enabling effective job performance?
- What is a job skill?
- How does all of this influence performance-first instructional design practices?
Focusing on tasks as the fundamental units of job performance provides the optimum framework for aligning all performance support and learning instruction. We know from cognitive research that the way performers encode skills into memory affects how efficiently and effectively they retrieve and translate those skills to action (see Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load, by Ruth Clark, Frank Nguyen, and John Sweller - 2006, Pfeiffer). In simpler words, how we train people affects how readily they can transfer what they have learned to their specific work environment. For example, when you were taught the letters of the alphabet, you were most likely taught those letters in a sequential order. You therefore encoded those letters in that order in your long-term memory. Now, if I ask you to retrieve those letters in a different order - say backwards by every third letter - you will likely struggle. This is exactly what happens when the training people receive isn’t directly aligned with how they perform their work. It’s like they are running into a brick wall. This is why after learners complete their training/learning experience and return to the workplace, they are often greeted with the comments, “Forget what you have learned in class. We’ll show you how it’s really done.”
Performers need to learn according to how they will perform in their flow of work. Job tasks are the fundamental units of that work and when task training is aligned with the workflow and supported by a Digital Coach (i.e., EPSS) transfer can happen in the blink of an eye.
What is the Role of Knowledge in Enabling Effective Job Performance?
Today’s speed of change favors an organization whose workforce is inherently adaptive. The workflow is the best schoolroom for developing this critical skill. Why? Because any object or situation experienced by an individual, in the flow of work, is unlikely to recur in exactly the same form and context. Every time performers effectively respond to a recurring but altered situation, while working, they are practicing the skill of adaptive response.
Research by Albert Bandura demonstrates that successful adaptive performance not only increases the adaptive capacity of a workforce, but also its workers’ overall self-efficacy. Increased self-efficacy fuels more effective performance. (Cognitive Therapy and Research, VoL 1, No. 4, 1977, pp. 287-310)
So how does all this address the need for knowledge enriched experience? Performance without requisite knowledge is sterile and mechanical, but when knowledge is infused into a job task, performers are better able to successfully adapt to change. Knowledge contributes to better decision making while adapting. All of this opens the door to the benefits identified by Bandura.
A performance-first approach to instructional design begins with the identification of job tasks. Then, those tasks are mapped to workflow processes. The next step is to identify the key knowledge topics (i.e., concepts) that support meaningful performance of those job tasks. In the sales leadership example shown above, we identified 65 job tasks that make up 9 workflow processes. The table below shows the supporting knowledge topics for two of those processes. These are topics that performers need to understand in the context of the specific tasks. For example, leaders need to understand what the organization means by “Bench Strength” as they perform tasks 1, 2, and 5 in the “Build Your Bench” process.
- Successfully perform the job tasks that comprise the workflow process represented in the module.
- Demonstrate understanding of the supporting knowledge associated with those tasks.
- Identify talent in the market
- Build a relationship with a potential candidate
- Justify a position
- Secure position approval
- Interview and close an offer
- Manage succession planning
- Bench strength/roles
- High performing leadership/seller behaviors
- The competitive/market landscape
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