9 Factors of Human Performance

Excerpt from “Why Doers Do” by David E. Wile.

Many training professionals have experienced the frustration of providing an excellent learning experience, backed up by data on skills increases, only to field complaints weeks or months later that the people are not performing noticeably better back on the job. That frustration is compounded by the dollars at stake.

Human resources are amongst the biggest investments companies make. In manufacturing industries with large capital investments in equipment, workers’ costs are still at least 20 percent of company costs. In service industries such as banking, insurance, and education, the “people” cost is often around 50 percent. There is a huge potential to increase the return on that investment. But improving human performance takes work and more than training alone. Analyzing human performance to identify the needed training and non-training solutions is difficult, mainly because every organization is a little different. As Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

One solution to this problem is stepping back, taking off the training goggles, and putting on human performance lenses. This involves seeing training as just one of several important inputs to human performance, the ultimate goal of training and other interventions. What are those other interventions? Human performance can be seen as the result of nine major factors (factors that explain why doers do):

  1. Talents
  2. Skills/knowledge (training)
  3. Tools
  4. Environment
  5. Incentives
  6. Information
  7. Job aids
  8. Management
  9. Leadership

These factors have dimensions of externality and tangibility:

  • Some elements (talents, skills/knowledge) are internal to a person.
  • Other elements (tools, environment, incentives, information, and job aids) are external to a person and are tangible.
  • A third group (management and leadership) are external and intangible.

All nine elements should be present to foster great human performance. To overlook one or two is to minimize or wipe out the investment in the others. For example, if you have people with the right native talents, but management of them is terrible, overall performance likely will be subpar. Providing top-notch training to people who have poor incentives may not result in the great job performance we are expecting.

Often poor performance frustrates employee and employer alike. Perhaps we need a more adult covenant between workers and management. Employees aren’t looking for hugs; they want to be provided what’s needed for excellent performance that helps them build a great résumé and that is personally satisfying. Companies aren’t looking to treat workers as cogs in a machine that can be tossed out as soon as they are outdated; they know people are important, unique investments upon whom they depend to perform incredibly so they can meet company goals.

Utilizing the nine-point human performance model can help the trainer and other managers take a holistic assessment of the overall performance desired by a group of people and pinpoint both the training and non-training interventions needed to reach the right performance on the job.

David E. Wile has been helping organizations achieve human performance excellence for more than 20 years. He has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. His career has taken him from the U.S. to the UK, Ireland, Canada, and India. His mantra is: There are no bad people; just performers who need the right support. For more information, contact: http://whydoersdo.com/; Twitter @davidwile; wile@iagogroup.com.

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