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How can Performance support prevent the "forgetting curve"?

Most organizations do little or nothing to support this "informal" learning. In this article, we describe how Performance support tools can enhance learning.

We know that a large part of workplace knowledge comes from courses. However, the participants will forget the content of formal education, which only occurs for a few days a year. So why is it the part of learning in which, by far, the most time and money are invested?

Performance support tools (PSTs) are instructional materials, resources, and tools designed to assist employees in their daily work. They serve as a guide to solving problems, performing tasks more efficiently, and reducing the time required to learn a new skill.

The format can vary; it could be an instructional video, a FAQ, a manual, or a checklist. The key is that it is easy to find and understand the information you seek. PSTs are typically integrated into workflows to be available with the best possible support when needed.

What are PSTs best suited for?

  • Informal learning. PSTs are a good foundation for learning something new independently.
  • As support for formal learning to better retain the knowledge taught.
  • To enhance employees' performance and efficiency.

Additional read: Why You Should Start With Performance Support

Why should businesses invest in Performance support tools?

We humans are more forgetful than we might want to believe. Remembering what one wore or ate for lunch the day before is significantly easier than recalling the same thing just a week later. Below is a diagram showing Hermann Ebbinghaus's groundbreaking forgetting curve from 1885. According to his theory, we forget as much as 80% of what we learn within 30 days - unless the knowledge is maintained.

In most workplaces, new knowledge is acquired through courses. It often involves a lot of information over a few days, and if we are to believe Ebbinghaus's forgetting curve, most of it is forgotten within a month.

In addition to forgetting what is not maintained, there is another problem: we distort our memories. Every time we try to remember something, we build a new conclusion about exactly how it was. When we need to solve problems or tasks and remember what we've learned, we quickly forget the details and project new ones. The consequence may be that employees' ways of working change and eventually differ significantly from what is intended within the organization.

How do we create the best conditions with Performance support?

To address the challenge of the forgetting curve and distorted memories, one can blend formal and informal learning and offer a solution that treats learning as something continuous. It is also essential to be open to new ways of learning and to make it easier for new employees to get started in the new business quickly. Consider how we seek knowledge in our free time, with Google as our best friend, contrasted with how it's done in your workplace.

Here's what you can do:

  • Identify the parts of formal learning that employees need to remember details from and use Performance support tools to reinforce learning.
  • Reuse parts of formal learning and make them available after the end of the training. Thus, what was learned in the classroom or on the course is available when faced with a question during the workday.
  • Design your Performance support to work independently - without needing to put the knowledge into a larger context, as a course often does.
  • Make the support available in short, manageable pieces to make it easier to absorb.
  • Ensure that the support is available to provide the fastest possible assistance: built into the software, in places with machinery, in a process map, or a search function.
  • Build process maps that describe both flows and how to perform activities.
  • Prepare for the learning content to be adjusted. Make the information easy to edit and update as needed so that the content is always relevant and high-quality.

You can reduce formal learning costs with Performance support while increasing productivity and work quality. With the help of good Performance support solutions, several hundred organizations in Scandinavia have achieved a more efficient workday.


Would you like to see what a Performance support tool could look like? Request a video demo of InfoCaption.

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The Author

At the blog, we share inspiration and knowledge about digital learning and Performance Support, and inspiring cases from our customers.

Feel free to contact the author if you have questions or want to discuss the article.

Morten Spaniland InfoCaption

Morten Spaniland