The vast majority of managers and human resources professionals I have known over 25 years in business were (and may still be) functionally illiterate regarding Human Performance Technology (HPT). They are by and large capable of executing their corporate hiring processes; they participate in employee performance evaluation process and compensation planning. They dutifully track and report their business metrics and communicate messages coming down from headquarters. And when challenged by leadership to improve business performance they immediate request training for their employees. Therein lies the symptom of a serious problem.
It has been my experience that most managers and HR professionals, almost reflexively, turn to training to solve any perceived performance challenge. “Do more training!” – who can argue with that? It makes the managers feel good and makes employees feel good. The typical training manager is happy to have support of management, salutes smartly, and sets about to develop and implement the training, confident that management won’t require any meaningful training evaluation. The resulting training may be excellent, but ultimately ineffective, i.e., the original performance challenge remains. The problem was not with the training design or delivery, but with the original problem diagnosis, or lack thereof.
Mager and Pike, put forward the insightful, if politically incorrect, training needs analysis question, “If I put a gun to their heads could they do it?” It certainly does cut to the chase. If your job incumbents already know how to do something you can safely draw two conclusions: 1. Training has little or no chance of improving the situation, 2. The underlying business systems and structures are at the root cause.
HPT is a systems approach to performance improvement; it looks at all the potential factors, at all levels of an organization that may influence employee behavior, such as; incentives and rewards, organization structure, processes and tools, expectations and motivation. When you start with the question, “what do they need to know?” you are always led to a training solution. It presumes that there is a knowledge/skill deficit at root of problem/ opportunity. By asking, “What do we want/need them to do” you are faced with a much broader range of potential root causes – not coincidentally, identical to the range of interventions encompassed in HPT.
Every HR professional and every manager should be fluent in HPT. As soon as your business challenges go beyond inanimate machines and materials and include one human being, you need HPT.