The key outcome of the current transition from the “old economy” to the “new economy” is the dramatic shift from investments in physical capital to investments in intellectual capital. Today, approximately 70% of a country’s wealth is in human capital as opposed to physical capital, as estimated by Gary S. Becker, Nobel laureate and professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago (Ruttenbur, Spickler, & Lurie, 2000). In the knowledge-based economy, organizations as well as individuals need to focus on protecting and enhancing their biggest asset: their knowledge capital. The increasing economic importance of knowledge is blurring the boundary lines for work arrangements and the links between education, work, and learning. Today, business needs workers who can perform, but to perform well they need timely, relevant, and task-specific knowledge, learning opportunities, and guidance. Traditional means of knowledge support ranging from conventional classroom training to computer-based training are becoming severely limited. At the same time, managers are voicing dissatisfaction with the IT investments in the workplaces because of unrealized productivity gains. Most often it is because of the fact that IT is adopted but not exploited properly.
Supporting The Knowledge Worker
Within modern organizations, much of the job tasks that the workers have to perform involve information processing in which change is the only certainty. Therefore, there is a need for new ways to equip the employees with knowledge and skills that will enable them to perform effectively in a flexible work environment.
As a result, managers are seeking innovative ways to decrease the time required to reach competency as well as new ways for improving performance without disrupting the workflow. This gave rise to a concept called electronic performance support systems (EPSS).
The main purpose for an EPSS is to help businesses perform better by helping the employee work “smarter,” and, as a result, perform consistently well. One goal of electronic performance support intervention is to decrease the time an employee needs for learning and reduce the time spent in acquiring information required for job performance. Figure 1 describes the context and drivers for incorporating electronic performance support interventions.
Model: Context and drivers for performance support
This model suggests the broad role of EPSS. It is an intervention that provides several types of solutions for the employees’ performance dilemmas in the modern workplace. A wide range of tools are included in an EPSS environment to create learning opportunities and knowledge support. Amongst these, e-learning and knowledge management constitute the two critical components for developing an electronic performance support environment.Top
Gloria Gery first coined the term electronic performance support system when working on a strategy for delivering electronic training to AT&T (Gery, 1991). The concept grew out of a comparison that was made between conventional training and a new strategy that she was attempting to apply initially called knowledge-support systems. The software she and her team supplied to AT&T could be accessed from any workstation, and on demand it coached employees upon the process of testing complex material. It was difficult to teach via more traditional methods. At this early venture EPSS referred to intersecting technology that offered “just in time” learning tools to a person with a task or job to do.
Key Terms in this Chapter
HPT (Human Performance Technology): It is defined as the systematic and systemic identification and removal of barriers to individual and organizational performance.
EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems): The definitions as to what constitutes an EPSS have evolved from the concept outlined by Gloria Gery. She defined an EPSS as an electronic system that provides integrated, on-demand access to information, tools, and methodology to enable a high level of job performance with a minimum amount of support from others (Gery, 1991). Stevens and Stevens (1995) provided a more detailed definition: An EPSS is a computer application that can provide on-demand, task-specific skills training; task- and situation-specific information access; expert advice needed to solve unusually difficult or nonroutine work problems; customized tools for job-task automation; and embedded coaching, help, and validation tools; which together can improve human performance in the workplace by improving productivity, quality, and customer service. From a systems perspective, it is defined as thus: An EPSS is essentially a custom-built interactive guidance-, learning-, and information-support facility that is integrated into a normal working environment. Such systems are concerned with effective human-task interactions in which the computer provides an interface to various job tasks and becomes an aid in achieving efficient task performance (Banerji, 1999).
E-Learning: The term e-learning means any technologically mediated learning using computers, whether from a distance or in a face-to-face classroom setting (computer-assisted learning; http://www.usd.edu/library/instruction/glossary.shtml).
KM (Knowledge Management): This is a term that has many meanings. It includes deliberate efforts to maximize an organization’s performance through creating, sharing, and leveraging knowledge and experience from internal and external sources (http://www.upstreamcio.com/glossary.asp). A fundamental concept of knowledge management is that it is a vital resource that can determine the competitive advantage for a company in today’s economy. One aspect of knowledge management is to focus on the diffusion of tacit institutional knowledge, which refers to cognition or internal knowledge that resides inside the heads of workers. For example, the use of knowledge management is a way an organization can capture the best practices from key employees with long institutional knowledge about processes and procedures within a company