Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS)

People don’t remember everything they learn. The same applies to training. Dell, for example, introduces about 80 new products per year, so it’s unrealistic to expect Dell’s technical support people to know everything about every product. Dell’s training therefore focuses on providing its employees with the skills they need every day, such as Dell’s rules, culture and values, and systems and work processes. Computer-based support system then delivers the rest of what they need to know, when they need it. For example, when a customer calls about a specific technical problem, a computerized job aid helps walk the customer rep through the solution, questions by question. We’ll return to this in a moment.

Employers have long used job aids of one sort or another. A job aid is a set of instructions, diagrams, or similar methods available at the job site to guide the worker. Job aids work particularly well on complex jobs that require multiple steps, or where it’s dangerous to forget a step. Airline pilots use job aids such as a checklist of things to do prior to takeoff. The General Motors Electromotive Division in Chicago gives workers job aids in the form of diagrams; these show, for example where the locomotive wiring runs and which color wires go where.

EPSS are today’s job aids. They are sets of computerized tools and displays that automate training, documentation, and phone support, integrate this automation into applications, and provide support that’s faster cheaper, and more effective than the traditional methods.

When you call a Dell service representative about a problem with your new computer, he or she is probably asking questions that are prompted by an EPSS; it takes you both, step-by-step, through an analytical sequence. Without the EPSS, Dell would have to train its service reps to memorize an unrealistically large number of solutions.

Similarly, without EPSS, a new travel agent might require months of training, rather than days. At Apollo Travel Services, in Chicago, an EPSS guides travel agents’ questions, and makes it harder to make mistakes. For example, when agents start to schedule an option that goes against customer’s established travel policies such as booking managers to fly first class instead of coach – a dialogue box reminds the agent of the policy. It also asks him or her to choose from a list of appropriate reasons, if overriding the policy.

Distance and Internet Based Training:

Firms today use various forms of distances learning methods for training. Distance learning methods include traditional paper and pencil correspondence courses, as well as Tele-training, videoconferencing, and internet-based classes.

Tele training: With Tele-training trainers in a central location teach groups of employees at remote locations via television hookups. Honda America Corp. began by using satellite television technology to train engineers and now uses it for many other types of employees training. For example, its Ohio-based subsidiary purchases seminars from the National Technological University, a provider of satellite education that uses courses from various universities and specialized teaching organization. The price per course varies, but it averages $200 to $250 per employee per seminar. It is much more cost-effective to keep workers at home and not pay for them to travel.

Firms use videoconferencing to train employees who are geographically separated from each other or from the trainer. Videoconferencing allows people in one location to communicate live via a combination of audio and visual equipment with people in another city or country or country or with groups in several cities. Keypads allow audience interactivity. For instance, in a program at Texas Instruments, the Keypad system lets instructors call on remote trainees and lets the latter respond.

There are several things to keep in mind before lecturing in front of the camera. For example, because the training is remote, it’s particularly important to prepare a training guide ahead of time, specifically, a manual the learners can use to follow the points the trainer is making and a script for the trainer to follow. A sampling of other hints would include: Avoid bright, flashy jewelry or heavily patterned clothing ; arrive at least 20 minutes early; test all equipment you will be using; have all participants introduce themselves; avoid presenting just to the video camera and not to the in-house participants; remember that excessive physical movement will cause video image distortion with compressed telephone transmission.