Case Study: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Performance Support System

“Helping departmental staff adapt to a HR system upgrade”

A project to help departmental staff transition to a new HR system.

The Challenge

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) transitioned from an early version of their PeopleSoft HR system to a later version in 2017-18. They required a training system to accompany the transition for a workforce of 4,000 that had been using the old system without formal training. While business processes were mainly the same, the workflows and interfaces were significantly different under the new self-service framework.

Public sector{Workplace learning{Performance support{Learning in the flow of work

Our Approach

We worked with the implementation team and internal stakeholders to produce a Training Needs Analysis that identified the needs of different user groups. A Rapid Task Analysis confirmed user groups, user system tasks, common pain points and their effect on business processes, and the currency of existing documentation. Based on this analysis, we identified two user groups (employees and managers) as a priority for particular support leading up to and beyond this initial phase of the PeopleSoft upgrade. These user groups represented the bulk of the general user population. Supporting their use of the PeopleSoft system would enhance workforce performance and reduce errors that typically result in increased and time-consuming work for the help desk and specialist users of the system.

The focus of the training strategy was to design, develop and deliver a role-based blended training solution with a focus on performance support components to be accessed in the users’ workflow. A performance support-focused framework manifests as a set of technology-enabled services that provide on-demand access to integrated information, guidance/demonstrations and other tools to support high-level job performance. Numerous research studies have found that media-rich instructional methods may enhance learning for novice users, but they depress learning as users become more advanced (a.k.a. the expertise reversal effect). Electronic Performance support systems (EPSS) focus on delivering information (guidance, help) to users as they are doing their job, when and if they need help, rather than providing training upfront. This is ideal for those users that have prior knowledge, as described above.

The training system

Our performance support system addressed 19 key HR competencies and covered 150 tasks within the system. Components of the system included:

Before Go-Live

  1. Face-to-Face information sessions at Town Halls delivered immediately before go-live (duration less than 1.5 hours) in multiple locations.
  2. eLearning modules with equivalent content to Town Hall sessions to be available shortly before go-live by employees in Australia and some employees overseas (or as required in the future for recruits). Maximum duration of 1 hour.
  3. Training for Help Desk staff and possibly senior administration officers in each section delivered before go-live (a mix of F2F and access to system simulation learning objects)

Post Go-Live

Performance Support materials accessed from within the application (extrinsic help).

Performance Support is available within the PeopleSoft application via a context-sensitive help screen. Within the workflow, cascading levels of assistance are accessed as follows:

  • Simple stepwise explanations of the process undertaken by the user
  • Link to a system simulation demos
  • Link to a process flow charts
  • Link to QRGs and relevant policy documents
  • Links to eLearning modules (Role-base) in the LMS
  • Links to help desk contacts and a “Change website.”
  • Links to PeopleSoft standard courses.


Before Go-Live, about eight Town Halls were delivered, less than anticipated, as many opted to access the eLearning for their orientation. In the week following Go-Live, there were 1000s of queries to the context-help system and a significant reduction in calling the helpdesk, compared to the previous BAU situation. The system provided the benefit of a significant reduction in time to train and therefore cost. A US study indicated that business results using performance support result in productivity gains of 6-12%.

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