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What Is HPT?

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. More specific, it is a process of selection, analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs to most cost-effectively influence human behavior and accomplishment. It is a systematic combination of three fundamental processes: performance analysis, cause analysis, and intervention selection, and can be applied to individuals, small groups, and large organizations.

How Does HPT Work?

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. As such, it stresses a rigorous analysis of present and desired levels of performance, identifies the causes for the performance gap, offers a wide range of interventions with which to improve performance, guides the change management process, and evaluates 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

Principles of Human Performance Technology

Human Performance Technology (HPT) has been described as the systematic and systemic identification and removal of barriers to individual and organizational performance. As such, HPT is governed by a set of underlying principles that serve to differentiate it from other disciplines and to guide practitioners in its use.

  1. HPT Focuses on Results or Outcomes
    Competent practitioners are focused on results throughout their assignments. They are not predisposed to a set of solutions. They apply their knowledge of what is required for performance at all levels and their consulting and communication skills to:
    • Help clients and stakeholders define what they want to accomplish.
    • Guide clients in how to convert results into measurable terms.
    • Help clients stay focused when unrelated information and needs surface.
    • Challenge assumptions to uncover important priorities.
    • Facilitate discussions about the worth of a problem in terms of costs, human energy, or risk.
    • Help clients weigh the risk of unanticipated outcomes. 
  2. HPT Takes a Systemic View
    Competent practitioners take a systemic view of their work. This requires them to identify the subsystems that make up the total organization. They look for and recognize that a change in one area will affect other areas. They consider how the dynamics in society, the marketplace, workplace, work, and workers affect the desired outcomes. They use their knowledge of systems theory and their consulting and communication skills to help clients recognize:
    • How functions are interdependent.
    • That a change in one area or system will affect other systems.
    • The relationship between internal practices and the marketplace and society.
    • The difference between symptoms and causes.
    • The impact of misalignment of goals and practices.
    • How decisions and misalignment affect the ability to be competitive in the marketplace. 
  3. HPT Adds Value
    This Competent practitioners add value by using their expertise to facilitate the process in ways that result in better decisions, higher quality work by their team, and a higher quality end product. They:
    • Ensure that the project team considers an appropriate range of solutions and the implications before taking action.
    • Help clients and stakeholders compare factors such as:
      • Cost to design, develop, implement, and maintain or sustain each solution
      • Risks and costs associated with the proposed solutions
    • Help clients to discuss and understand the:
      • Likelihood of adoption of new behaviors
      • Probability of achieving the desired goals
      • Implication or possible impact on stakeholders
      • Ability of the organization to sustain the solution
    • Display honesty; respectfully push back, challenge assumptions.
    • Represent themselves honestly, not as having expertise beyond their capabilities.
    • Effectively manage time and resources in their area(s) of responsibility.   
  4. HPT Establishes Partnerships with Clients and Stakeholders
    Competent practitioners collaborate with clients and stakeholders. They:
    • Involve the client and all stakeholders in the decision making around every phase of the process.
    • Engage specialists as needed.
    • Listen closely to their client.
    • Gain their client's trust and respect.
    • Are honest with clients.
    • Build partnerships.
    • Ensure the voices of all vested stakeholders are sought and integrated into the design of the solution.
    • Give credit to everyone who contributes to the project.
    • Foster open communication within and between groups. 
  5. Determine Need or Opportunity
    Competent practitioners design and conduct investigations to find out the difference between the current and the desired performances (the performance gap). They:
    • Facilitate discussions with clients to clarify intent of the investigation.
    • Determine the scope of the investigation.
    • Choose the appropriate method of analysis.
    • Decide on how to best get the data.
    • Gather the data.
    • Analyze the data.
    • Determine the magnitude of the gap.
    • Report the finding with recommendations.
    • Interpret the findings for the client. 
  6. Determine Cause
    Competent practitioners design and conduct investigations to find out why a gap exists between the current and desired performances. They look for the underlying causes. They:
    • Consider at least three of the following factors in their investigation:
      • Social and cultural (World) factors
      • Marketplace (World) factors
      • Workplace factors
      • Work factors
      • Worker factors
    • Choose the appropriate method of analysis.
    • Decide on how to best get the data.
    • Gather the data.
    • Analyze the data.
    • Determine the underlying causes.
    • Report the findings with recommendations.
    • Facilitate discussions with clients to understand the contributing causes.
    • Interpret the findings for the client. 
  7. Design Solutions including Implementation and Evaluation
    Competent practitioners design solutions and the plan to implement them. Their designs describe each solution's:
    • Features, attributes, and elements.
    • Feasibility.
    • Alignment to the identified factors.
    • Expected improvements to performance.

      Their plans include:
    • Timing and schedules.
    • Resources required.
    • Recommendations on how to sustain the improvements.
    • Methods to monitor improvements. 
  8. Ensure Solutions' Conformity and Feasibility
    Competent practitioners oversee the development of the solutions. They may develop some or all of the solutions or be a member of the development team. They:
    • Compare the solution elements to the design specifications.
    • Make sure solution elements are developmentally tested.
    • Make sure the solutions are feasible and work as intended.
    • Arrange to pilot test the overall solution.
    • Oversee improvements and changes based on the results of the tests. 
  9. Implement Solutions
    Competent practitioners develop strategies that allow clients to sustain change. They:
    • Develop messages that clients can use to communicate what is being done, why, and when.
    • Develop tools and feedback mechanisms so people can monitor their own progress.
    • Draft messages clients can use to report progress.
    • Facilitate discussion on how to address deviations from the plan.
    • Advise clients how to manage changes in practices so gains are sustained. 
  10. Evaluate Results and Impact
    Competent practitioners help clients measure the impact of the solutions. They:
    • Help the clients select the appropriate measures.
    • Develop a measurement strategy that includes ways to:
      • Leverage data already being collected
      • Collect data
      • Analyze the data
      • Summarize and report data
    • Help develop measurement tools and methods.
    • Explain the implications of the data.
    • Facilitate discussions on what the data mean and how to best use the data. 

View the Complete Standards (PDF)

The HPT Model

The HPT process begins with a comparison of the present and the desired levels of individual and organizational performance to identify the performance gap. A cause analysis is then done to determine what impact the work environment (information, resources, and incentives) and the people (motives, individual capacity, and skills) are having on performance.

Once the performance gap and the causes have been determined, the appropriate interventions are designed and developed. These may include measurement and feedback systems, new tools and equipment, compensation and reward systems, selection and placement of employees, and training and development. The interventions are then implemented and the change process managed.

Evaluation is done after each phase of the process. Initially, formative evaluation assesses the performance analysis, cause analysis, intervention selection and design, and intervention and change phases. Then evaluation focuses on the immediate response of employees and their ability and willingness to do the desired behaviors. The final evaluations are centered on improvement of business outcomes (such as quality, productivity, sales, customer retention, profitability, and market share) as well as determining return on investment for the intervention.

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