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Training and Performance Support Can Save Lives

May 17, 2009

OK, so we don’t all work in situations where this is true, but it always good to know that the type of work you do makes a real difference! 

In January of this year, several medical related journals released the results of what we in the learning field would call a performance support initiative.  What’s a performance support initiative, you say?  Well, they are things, like checklist, reference cards, online help, wizards, and other items that help people do their jobs.  Sometimes they reinforce training, and other times they are training tools.

The World Health Organization introduced a pre-surgical checklist and tested it in hospitals around the world and the results were substantial.  The rate of major complications fell from 11% to 7%, and the rate of inpatient deaths following surgery fell more than 40% from 1.5% to 0.8%.  You can read the story in the BBC online and see the checklist yourself, which instructs that all parties in the surgical room know each others’ names among the other medical related items:  verifying that it is the correct patient, ensuring equipment is not left inside the patient, and administering an antibiotic before making an incision – which cuts the risk of infection by half. 

I am a huge proponent of performance support, and I think this is one area where it is easier for us “trainers” to show the impact that changing behaviour (the outcome of any training program/initiative) can have and is more tangible.  For organizations that are having difficulty communicating the value of training might want to focus energy on performance support.  I tend to use the “Human Performance Improvement” (they call it Technology instead of Improvement, but I don’t) approach from ISPI, which focuses on addressing performance problems and looks systematically and systemically at the root causes.  I also wrote about it recently for BC HRMA: Focus on Performance, which suggests a strategy for engaging key stakeholders within an organization to think about focusing on performance.  Why not take an hour out of your busy workday and see whether or not performance support could make a difference in your organization.  Maybe it won’t save lives, but I’ll bet there is an area where it can show positive impact in business results.

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