Business results in organizations do not improve because of what people know; they improve because of what people do with what they know. It is time we in the Learning & Development (L&D) profession get serious about making performance our business.
A survey by Forum in 2012 found that learning organizations focus more on training delivery than on upfront and follow-up activities needed to sustain results. Another finding: Only 20 percent of organizations can demonstrate behavior change results to management ( “Three Lessonsfor Sustaining Business Behavior Change” posted by Chad O’Connor at www.boston.com/business/blogs/global-business-hub/2012/09/three_lessons_f.html).
In other words, we are working tactically (building capability) rather than strategically (enhancing on-the-job performance of people and achieving business results). And too few of us are measuring the results from the learning solutions we implement.
Work strategically and achieve results by utilizing a performance consulting process, which I define as a strategic process that produces business results by maximizing performance of people and organizations. This process requires that you partner with managers to:
- Translate business strategy into talent requirements.
- Identify skill gaps—both current and future—that have an impact on business results.
- Determine root causes for gaps in business and performance results.
- Form strategic plans and, yes, tactical solutions to address those causes.
- Implement solutions that yield measurable, and sustainable, results.
- Measure the results that are obtained, determining with management any future actions that may be required.
Results to the business and organization are the end goal we share with our clients—the managers with whom we partner. It is a strategic goal because the focus is on business impact. Translating business needs into human performance requirements is integral to the work of a performance consultant. And our work must be done in a solution-neutral manner. We do not have preconceived ideas as to what the solutions will be; rather, we are data driven and evidence based.
Performance consulting requires that we measure and sustain results. Sharing accountability with our clients for results is integral to the performance consulting process. This means we step up to the plate and measure results. If we have achieved the goals, the question becomes how to maintain, or sustain, those results. If we have not achieved our goals, the question turns to deciding what future actions are needed to continue forward progress.
Want proof that performance consulting works? Josh Bersin noted: “High- Impact Learning Organizations (HLOs) grow their profits three times faster than their peers. Excellence in performance consulting is one of the top capabilities distinguishing HLOs (www.bersin.com/practice/subject/aspx?s=Performance-Consulting accessed on May 12, 2014).
And Corp U concluded in its 2010 benchmarking study: “Organizations that use a performance consulting process have found a consistent, structured way to develop trust and build strong relationships with leaders. Over time, this will result in the learning organization becoming a highly aligned and strategic partner with the business, thus increasing the learning organization’s ability to deliver value and contribute to the business, its goals, and ultimately its profitability (Performance Consulting: A Critical Strategy to Building Relationships, Research Brief. Findings from CorpU 10th Annual Learning Excellence and Innovation Benchmarking Study, 2010,p. 7).
Knowing is a precursor to doing. We know that working strategically and measuring impact yields greater results. Now we must commit to do just that. I invite you to join me in a session I will cofacilitate with Jim Robinson at the Training 2015 Conference & Expo, where we will discuss the performance consulting process in more depth.
Dana Gaines Robinson is a consultant, speaker, and author of several books. She considers herself “semi-retired” and lives in Raleigh, NC. This column is adapted from the introduction to the third edition of “ Performance Consulting,” coauthored with Jim Robinson, Jack and Patti Phillips, and Dick Handshaw. This book will be released by Berrett- Koehler in May 2015.