When an employee has a question or can’t remember how to do something, many managers immediately think of training. But that’s not always the best solution.

Often, a job aid that the employee can use in the flow of work will answer their question or show them how to solve their problem within a few minutes. This type of just-in-time assistance is often called performance support or workflow learning.

Close-up of a man's hands holding a mobile phone. Above the phone is a floating search bar.

These brief, narrowly focused refreshers might consist of short videos, searchable reference guides, infographics, or other aids. It’s the kind of information that people often use a Google search to find. But, since the aim is often reminding the employee of previous training or refreshing seldom-used details and information about a work process, providing expertly developed or curated tools is generally preferable to trusting that Google will deliver the best information. 

Workflow learning is different from training

Training has formal goals or learning objectives. After completing it, learners should be able to do something or know something that they didn’t know before. Training aims to change behavior or teach a new skill.

Comprehensive training might entail one or more long courses or workshops. Learners often schedule time to do their training, whether it’s in a classroom, on a synchronous virtual learning platform, or using self-paced eLearning.

Workflow learning or performance support also has a goal: providing an immediate answer to a question, with minimal interruption to the workflow.

While the employee may well learn something during this process, they aren’t expecting to memorize it. A manager who completes annual review forms once a year might look up the process each year and seek help with the first one. Then, having remembered what to do, the manager can complete all of that year’s forms — but the process might not stick with them. That’s fine; they know they can turn to the same job aid for a refresher in the future.

Support improved performance

A 3D line graph showing improvement against a light blue background. The line is made of red string and at the end of the string is a paper airplane. There are five small bits of cotton representing clouds sitting against the background, making it appear that the line and paper airplane are flying off into a sky.

Workflow learning tools, job aids, and performance support bolster performance. By providing instant access to the information the worker needs, these tools improve the worker’s efficiency and accuracy and reduce errors. By providing robust search, performance support tools make it easy for workers to find the exact answer they need — and get back to work quickly.

Where workflow learning and microlearning overlap

On-demand access to small, focused units of information sounds a lot like microlearning, a popular and engaging form of training. Some tools, like a microlearning platform, can provide both microlearning-based training and performance support. But learners may use the training platforms differently, depending on their goals:

  • When performance support is the goal, the worker will quickly look up a specific topic and review, which provides factual information. In, out. They get the facts and get on with their work.
  • That same worker might also engage with training content during the workday to learn more about a topic. Using microlearning, a learner can complete related Activities and build their mastery without having to schedule or “go to” training. That flexibility and anytime, anywhere access is among the most compelling features of microlearning.

Whether you seek dedicated performance support tools or offer a single solution to bolster performance and increase mastery, offering employees accurate, vetted content, on demand, is a sure way to support stellar performance. 

Poor Use with
Adult Learners
Effective with
Adult Learners


Simple games layered on top of content

Scenario-based games that use the content

Leaderboards, competition

Fan excessive competition among employees or teams by offering large prizes for top performers and/or shaming those with lower scores

Challenge employees to beat their own past performance, or design a leaderboard that shows each employee only the four scorers above and below them

Points, rewards, badges

Award points or levels for completing sections of training or playing for a set number of minutes

Award levels, badges or points for recalling or applying content correctly, demonstrating mastery

  • Remember — bookmark, google, link, search
  • Understand — annotate, Boolean search, journal, tweet
  • Apply — chart, display, execute, present, upload
  • Analyze — attribute, deconstruct, illustrate, mash, mind map
  • Evaluate — comment, editorialize, moderate, network, post
  • Create — blog, film, integrate, podcast, program, publish
A smiling, mature man with short brown hair and a mustache. He sports a black suit jacket and a gray button up shirt with no tie.

As Neovation's Manitoba Territory Manager, I'm continually reminded of the resiliency, innovation, and initiative of Manitoba’s business community. Seeing these budding entrepreneurs develop and present their business plans reinforces that Manitoba is a great place to do business.

– Gord Holmes

Traditional learning
Adaptive learning
Difficult to measure results
Measurable analytics to prove ROI
One-size-fits-all training
Personalized training workflows
Facilitates skills gap between employees
Reduces skills gap between employees
Lower engagement and course abandonment
Increased engagement and user satisfaction
Time saved for the L&D department
Pamela S. Hogle

An experienced writer, editor, tech writer, and blogger, Pam helps you make sense of learning science and eLearning technology. She provides information you can use to drive improvements in your training effectiveness and ROI.

Read more articles by Pamela S. Hogle