by Thada Bornstein, MEd, Deputy Training Director, Quality Assurance Project
Performance Improvement (PI) is a methodology for improving the quality of institutional and individual performance. Performance improvement is helping to change the widespread notion that all performance problems are best addressed by training. Traditionally, management viewed poor performance as a lack of knowledge or skills, without regard for a variety of internal and external determinants of performance, such as motivation, incentives, environmental factors, resources, feedback, coaching, supervisory support, and others. This mentality leads managers to think that workplace performance problems can be “fixed” by training, so training became a panacea for those problems but rarely solves them. Even when training is required, it alone is often insufficient to improve job performance (“training transfer”). Without certain supports present in the workplace, performance may improve for a short period following training, and then erode.
PI addresses human performance within organizations at the individual, process, and organizational levels. It uses a systematic method that has five stages: (a) getting agreement on the project goal from the clients, stakeholders, and PI practitioner; (b) conducting a performance needs assessment (identifying performance gaps and their root causes); (c) designing the interventions to close the gap; (d) implementing the interventions, and (e) evaluating the change in the performance gap.
U.S. industrial models of performance factors differ from these and include categories such as Capacity, which refers to individual capability and aptitude for the job, as well as selection of the right person for the job, and Incentives, which encompasses adequate pay and non-pay incentives made contingent upon performance, clear consequences for performance, and absence of disincentives, such as rewarding poor performance or negatively rewarding good performance.