Human Performance Engineering:
What Is It and Why Is It Important to Diagnosing Workforce Capability Mysteries
I mentioned in my last article that the purpose of the Institute pillar of my organization is to share the results of my on-going performance improvement research that you can apply at your organization. I want to equip you with evidence-driven, practice-proven principles and practices that produce the workforce and organization results you expect to remain relevant today and tomorrow. I also want to help you avoid fads and canards that sound great but change nothing. We cannot afford to confuse activity with productivity. When we invest scarce resources into performance improvement initiatives, we expect worthwhile operational results. We want our investments to produce worthy performance that generates a positive financial return on our investment, or ROI.
My last article explained how big data analytics helps you discover hidden work practices that are costing your company money without you knowing it. This article explains how Human Performance Engineering helps you diagnose the big data analytics revelations from a systemic perspective to design a holistic performance improvement solution that ensures you are investing in the right solutions. The third article in this three-part series discusses how the ROI MethodologyTM helps you measure and evaluate the results of our solution up to the impact and ROI levels. Each capability allows your organization to apply three practice-proven, evidence-driven solutions to raise the performance bar in our organization that you did not realize was possible. Whether you use these internal workforce capabilities separately or as an integrated, enterprise-wide solution, you will realize that what you do not know about the daily performance of your workforce is costing your organization time, money, and resources.
What is human performance engineering?
Let’s look at each term to answer this question.
Human – Organizations are people. People decide how to structure, equip, and motivate other people to perform certain roles to meet organizational roles and objectives. An organization is only as good as its people. Decision-makers create the infrastructure to provide every employee with direction, feedback, incentives, processes, and resources. People bring behaviors, capabilities, capacities, and motives with them to the job every day. How well they perform every day within the organization infrastructure affects operational excellence and the bottom line—regardless of their status or level in an organization. Therefore, the “human” element of our definition is about the what the people and organization bring to the table to optimize workforce performance.
Performance – All performance along the individual to enterprise-wide continuum is a consequence of human behavior. People behave in a certain way to achieve something. Performance is a consequence of behaviors. An organization pays people and invests in an infrastructure for people to accomplish things. They expect everyone to demonstrate effective, efficient, and ethical behavior. They also expect people to know what to do every day and to not vary from approved practices. In addition, the performance must be considered worthy when you consider the costs involved with achieving the performance outcomes. When the human does not perform as expected, neither will the organization. We must diagnose the situation to learn why.
Engineering – To learn the why behind performance needs (a need is the gap between the “as-is” and “should-be” levels of performance), we apply a disciplined methodology to solve these practical problems. We must diagnose the situation to learn the root cause(s) of the performance needs. Our methodology is systemic. This means we consider the environmental context and constraints. It is systematic because we apply evidence-based rules, principles, and heuristics. Heuristics is an experience-based, disciplined inquiry to solve problem. Our methodology is also scientific. It involves discovery, hypothesis, data, inquiry, and validation. We use the worthy performance wheel you see to the right to diagnose root causes and go where the data takes us to close human and organizational performance gaps. No fads. Just facts.
Why is Human Performance Engineering Important to Diagnose Workforce Capability Mysteries?
The International Society for Performance Improvement has crafted 10 international standards for performance improvement from over 50 years of evidence-based and practice-proven research by this profession. These 10 Standards are divided into four principles and six practices. I’ll briefly overview each one. If you want to learn more, contact us or go to www.ispi.org. The four principles are:
- Focus on Valued, Measurable Results or Outcomes. I like to focus on three levels of results:
- Behavioral Accomplishments – Human Performance System Measures
- Impact – Business Impact Measures (Output, Quality, Cost, Time, Intangibles)
- Return on Investment – Monetary Benefits of Impact vs Program Costs
- Take Systemic We take a system perspective to align the subsystems within and outside of the organization. We consider for factors that influence human and organization performance:
- Worker, Work, Workplace, World (Market/Society)
- Add Value by Producing Results That Make a Difference. We do this upfront and throughout.
- Business Case – Needs-Driven, Feasible, Worthwhile, and Sustainable
- Evaluation – Evidence-Based, Reliable, and Worthy Results or Outcomes
- Work in Partnership to Produce Intended Results. Partnerships that produce results.
When applying these principles, we must remain solution neutral as an honest broker. We are about solving the root causes of performance gaps, not justifying any predefined solutions or products.
The six practices descript our systematic process. It begins with a need and ends with results.
- Determine a need or opportunity.
- Determine causes and requirements.
- Design solutions that are measurable and sustainable.
- Ensure solutions’ conformity and feasibility.
- Implement solutions by developing strategies to sustain change.
- Evaluate results and impact.
My final article of this series will briefly explain how to use the ROI Methodology to evaluate results.