What is Human Performance Technology?
Human Performance Technology (HPT), a systematic approach to improving productivity and competence, uses a set of methods and procedures -- and a strategy for solving problems -- for realizing opportunities related to the performance of people.
HPT uses a wide range of interventions that are drawn from many other disciplines including behavioral psychology, instructional systems design, organizational development, and human resources management. It stresses a rigorous analysis of present and desired levels of performance, identifies the causes for the performance gap, and offers a wide range of interventions to improve performance, guide the change management process, and evaluate the results.
Taken one word at a time, a description of this performance improvement strategy emerges.
Human: the individuals and groups that make up our organizations
Performance: activities and measurable outcomes
Technology: a systematic and systemic approach to solve practical problems
More specifically, HPT is a process of selection, analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs to most cost-effectively influence human behavior and accomplishment. HPT sytematically combines three fundamental processes: performance analysis, cause analysis, and intervention selection, and can be applied to individuals, small groups, and large organizations. For an overview of the HPT process click here.
What is Performance Analysis?
Performance analysis examines an organization's performance requirements in light of its objectives and its capabilities. It identifies the current or anticipated deficiencies in workforce performance or competence.
Central to this process is the comparison of two specific descriptions of the workforce. The first -- the "desired state" -- describes the competencies and abilities of the workforce that are necessary to carry out the organization's strategy and achieve its mission.
The second -- the "actual state" -- describes the level of workforce competence and ability as it currently exists.
The difference between these two states is called the "performance gap." This represents a current or anticipated performance problem to be solved, or an opportunity for performance improvement. The ultimate goal of performance technology is to close or eliminate this gap in the most cost-effective manner.
What is Cause Analysis?
Cause analysis identifies specific factors that contribute to a performance gap.
Solutions to performance problems can fail when they are selected to treat only visible symptoms rather than underlying causes. When the root causes of a problem are uncovered and eliminated, the likelihood of significantly reducing or eliminating problems is greatly enhanced.
Cause analysis is the critical link between identified performance gaps and their appropriate interventions. It is a major strength of the performance technology approach.
What is Intervention Selection?
Intervention selection applies a systematic, comprehensive, and integrated response to performance problems and their causes as well as to performance improvement opportunities.
More often than not, the selected response is a combination of interventions, representing a multifaceted approach to improving performance. How a response is constructed is based on its cost-effectiveness and the overall benefit to the organization. The evaluation of its success is directly tied to the reduction of the original performance gap, which is measured in terms of performance improvement and organizational results.
Comprehensive interventions often result in significant changes throughout the organization. The implementation of any performance intervention thus must pay careful consideration to changing management issues to ensure acceptance at all organizational levels.
Finally, evaluation of those changes provides new data for the ongoing performance analysis process.