Focus on Performance

Performance Improvement

The Learning and Development (L&D) profession continues to undergo major structural changes, one of which is to the transition away from a focus on learning as the output and toward a focus on performance improvement.

To successfully focus on performance, L&D must be redesigned so that its goal is to enhance human performance in support of business goals. This requires the L&D function to work with their clients to define and align four types of needs:

  • Business Needs
  • Performance Needs
  • Learning Needs
  • Work Environment Needs

There must be people in the L&D function, frequently known as performance consultants, who are responsible for partnering with their clients in order to achieve the goal of performance improvement.
The shift to a focus on performance is based on the discipline of human performance technology (HPT), which has its roots dating back as far as the 1950s. HTP is defined as “the science of improving human performance in the workplace through analysis and the design, selection, and implementation of appropriate interventions.”

Clearly the focus on performance is not new, but there are two elements that are receiving enhanced emphasis due to the globalization of business and the intense competitive pressures it produces:

  1. Need to partner with business unit managers (Client):
    The L&D functions have traditionally operated more in parallel to business unit management than in partnership with them. In today’s business world, an L&D organization that focuses on performance improvement allocates significant resources (people and time) to the formation and sustainment of partnerships with business unit managers. Typically the individuals with whom these partnerships are formed are referred to as clients.
  2. Linkage to business needs:
    The identification of human performance requirements begin with clarification of the current and future business goals of an organization. Once the business goal is defined, performance consultants work with their clients to answer the question, “What must people do more, better or differently if the business goal is to be achieved?” In this manner, the performance requirements that are defined and addressed are clearly linked to business and operational goals. Another benefit is that by focusing on business needs, the performance consultant is more assured of working in a strategic and proactive manner rather than in a tactical, reactive manner. By entering at the business-need level, the performance consultant can reduce the probability that solutions regarding how to enhance performance and skill have already been decided. The situation is solution-free with all those decisions still to come.

Table 1 summarizes the key differences between a traditional L&D focus and a performance focus.

Table 2 summarizes the key focus of a Learning Consultant versus a Performance Consultant

What is Performance Consulting?

Performance consulting is a process that:

  • Optimizes workplace performance in support of business goals
  • Looks holistically at the performance needs of your business partners
  • Seeks the best solution to improve performance and results

Why a Performance Consulting Approach is needed?

  • We want our business partners to think of our L&D organization as a primary partner for any performance improvement initiative.
  • We want to inspire confidence in our business client/partner that promotes the belief that we can work together effectively.
  • We want to add value by demonstrating our willingness to understand our business clients’/partners’ challenges and by providing innovative solutions to support operational excellence.
  • We want to equip ourselves to clearly understand the performance consulting process in order to have better, enhanced and more robust conversations and dialogue with our clients.

FKA President
Michael Nolan