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Essay: "Understanding Human Performance Technology" (redirected from Essay - Understanding Human Performance Technology)

Page history last edited by bbraine1@gsu.student.edu 11 years, 10 months ago

Human Performance Technology (HPT) encompasses a systemic and systematic approach for understanding organizational and human potential and performance while analyzing the root causes of performance problems. HPT seeks to find solutions that inhibit or excel performance by searching for process improvement strategies, organizational development, and motivation. It consists of problem-based analysis with the measurement of data from observation, cost effectiveness, feedback, and communication with the focus of achieving attainable goals, outcomes, and accomplishments. Further, human performance technology looks not only at performance problems, but specifically at the behaviors and activities of others that lead to positive results. HPT can become the leverage that organizations need to increase improved performance using a variety of means and methods.


Human Performance Technology also consists of using various models and measures to analyze human performance, outcomes, behavior, and accomplishments. There are models to assist in discovering different points of view at a policy level, management level, and operating level. HPT consists of ways to evaluate human potential and behavior for the maximum benefit of an institution. When an organization looks at operating procedures routinely and makes changes based on the most current data available, HPT measures help determine if making possible “upgrades” or “downgrades” are needed. It is the realization of the need to constantly be evaluating in a structured format to match needs and objectives. It’s a humanistic approach which incorporates human behavior, performance, culture, values, and competency. Electronic technology can aide in calculating statistics, making easy to communicate graphs and charts making data easy to communicate. It is a first step to possibly incorporating Instructional Design and training as a solution. Human performance needs are constantly changing and evolving, like electronic technology does for the goal to be user friendly producing the most efficient measures or a desired goal.


The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) defines Performance Improvement as "the process of identifying and analyzing important organizational and individual performance gaps, planning for future performance improvement, designing and developing cost-effective and ethically justifiable interventions to close performance gaps, implementing the interventions, and evaluating the financial and non-financial results."


HPT is focused on scientific research-based evidence that guides decision making for optimal outcomes. It considers the larger system by looking at different perspectives, departmental interconnectedness, and the system as a whole. It provides valid and reliable measures of the effectiveness of interventions. It is repeatable, measurable, and considers ethical means to improve or sustain performance.


Human Performance Technology brings in a wide range of subject matter experts who have used their backgrounds in various disciplines to create the collage of what has become the field of HPT today. The HPT basic framework includes social theory, behavioral psychology, economics, total quality management, process improvement, instructional systems design, organizational development, and human resources management.


The study of human behavior has its roots in psychological studies dating back to the turn of the 20th century such as by the work of Gestalt in terms of behavior, to Frederick Taylor’s study of management and task analysis in the first decades of the 1900’s. The works of B.F. Skinner on human behavior and conditioning, Elton Mayo's Hawthorne experiments on the impact of working conditions on performance were all precursors to the field of Human Performance Technology. Pioneers and theorists of the field of HPT would include Thomas Gilbert with his Behavioral Engineering Model and the work of Joe Harless and Front End Analysis and Performance Improvement Process. These individuals have all led to the expansion of the field of HPT. This would include the work of Geary Rummler, Karen Brethower, Roger Kaufman, and Joe Harless.


The U.S. military with its multiple levels of training and instruction for personnel and equipment led the way for human performance technology and became an early adopter of HPT theory. The military’s use of the Instructional System Development Model in the 1950-1970s led to the transference of Instructional Technology’s use in the private sector to the public sector. This along with the rise of computer systems in the 1960-1970s aided the development of HPT. The systematic approach to computer programming and code is inexplicably related to HPT in causal analysis and root causation problem solving. As code becomes more complex, the need for troubleshooting and causal analysis of problems becomes not only a necessity aspect for programing, but has found its usefulness for measuring performance.


In the new millennium, Human Performance Technology has melded with the field of Instructional Technology by overlapping in terms and of its systematic approach. Human performance technology also uses project management skills. HPT grew out of the fields of educational technology and instructional technology. The word “technology” refers to an applied science improving functionality to yield more information and results in a shorter amount time. A common misunderstanding is to define technology as any type of media such as computers or electronic devices.


The analysis of trends in the market place for supply and demand of innovative products and services is an area that the human performance professional can help foster. This would include recognizing the value of employee input for the development of new ideas and products and looking for faster ways to market and produce products and services. This innovation consists of creating ways to reduce time-to-market, reduce cost-to-produce; along with reducing customer service inquires for user friendly products and services. The ideology is to do things cheaper, faster, and smarter while expanding profit margins by providing quality customer service. Human performance professionals can embark on the development of more creative working environments, incorporating risk taking, teamwork, and collaboration by encouraging open communication at all levels of the organization (Rothwell et al., 2007, pp. 175-177).


Recent security and ethical issues in the nation and beyond have become a focus for companies to be able to stay afloat in the marketplace. This is necessary as without having proper guidelines and measures in place to assure personal and customer confidentiality and privacy, can lead to establishing a media sensation thus creating consumer disloyalty and company downfall. This would include establishing proper safety measures to prevent security breaches, beginning with the proper screening of employees for background checks and references. Incorporating routine education of staff on company policy, employee code of conduct, and consequences of violations of procedures will be a requirement that may even be enforced by governmental standards. For example, creating disaster recovery plans as mandatory, and for employees to be cognizant of “social engineering” which is the manipulation to excrete sensitive information by telephone or the internet. Employees who have access to confidential data are responsible for the security of that information and by creating such standards, assists in establishing personal accountability measures (Rothwell et al., 2007, pp. 177-179).


Organizations are growing with increased mergers and acquisitions creating a need for determining a new corporate culture and for establishing norms.  These mergers will have a need to retain skilled employees and leaders.  Recent growth has been experienced in the banking industry, energy and power companies, in the financial sector, and with telecommunications.  Non-profit organizations are growing annually needing assistance with developing protocol and policies.  The airline industry has grown significantly with international partnerships with other airlines and using various airport gates and commuter airlines.  The media and entertainment fields have grown to work outside of Hollywood into new locations all across the United States and to other countries.


Governmental agencies are becoming more high-performing and results-orientated creating a need for transformation.  They need assistance in establishing clear missions and strategic goals.  This would include streamlining the hiring process, leveraging technology, and learning how to manage risks. 


Global interdependence has become increasingly more important for companies to learn how to play in the “global sandbox.”  A human performance improvement specialist can help create “cultural bootcamps” to help their employees to learn the customs and traditions of foreign nations. 


Outsourcing has become popular to help cut costs and overhead and to free up the local labor force to do other tasks.  Examples of outsourcing venders would include hiring human resource specialists, benefits, payroll, security, travel functions, and record storage.  Human performance practitioners can help organizations successfully identify outsourcing contractors that are certified and bonded.


Workforce trends would include an ever increasing knowledge based-economy with higher levels of education driving skill requirements up and causing people to make more frequent job changes to have higher levels of job satisfaction.  The need to retain employees will become more and more critical. Ways of offering incentives will need to be established such as flex-time, quarterly bonuses, telecommuting/electronic cottages, compensation, and opportunities for advancement. There will be an aging workforce and a four generation workforce creating a need to develop curriculum to capture the subject matter of experts and standard operation procedures (SOP) as they leave the work place.  This would include the need to establish a generation–friendly climate.  Offshore management is a recent trend when the relocation of business creates a remote workforce overseas and bilingual skills.  


Human resource trends for learning and performance is creating an increase in technology-based learning, video conferencing, teleconferencing, satellite broadcasts, internet based training, groupware, knowledge management systems and fingertip learning.  "Fingertip learning" otherwise termed, "learning-on-demand" has now made learning on wireless mobile devices and the quest for information by meta-search engines such as Google more and more prevalent in the work place and beyond.  Elliot Masie introduced the concept calling it "fingertip knowledge."  It is defined as  interval learning that is just in time, just the right amount, just for me, and workflow related.  It is a new medium through which people can inform, communicate, interact, empower, and enlighten.  Fingertip learning is impacting learning and education today and is changing the approach to interactive design and production techniques. Social learning and networking has increased and is a great way to incorporate soft sills into an organization for global alliances and global networking.  Companies are also making a good practice of technologies such as Wikis, blogs, epicenter testing suites, and other collaborative tools and websites.  HPI practitioners must be ready to manage, design, develop, select, and use technologies that support learning and development.  They must also study the circumstances and challenges and make appropriate recommendations for the most appropriate approach to learning, design, managing, or facilitating training.


Organizations are making demands to demonstrate measurable results and rate-of-investment (ROI).  They want the HPI practitioners to prove their services by five levels: Did they like it?  Did they learn it?  Did they use it? Did they make a difference?  Did the outcome justify the cost?


HPT has become an integral part of the modern era in both the public and private sectors. This creates for an even larger arena for the systematic analysis of performance not only for governmental use, but in the corporate world and in education using action research methods. Human performance technology actually has existed since the iron age with the invention of the tool to make their job easier and will constantly change and evolve depending on the resources at the time to make any job easier that is measureable, observable, and most importantly humanistic.



  1. Rothwell, W. J., Hohne, C.K., King, S. B. (2007) Human Performance Improvement (pp. 1-208). Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
  2. http://www.ispi.org/content.aspx?id=54
  3. www.missionfacilitators.com/.../human_performance_trends
  4. Chyung, Seung Youn. Foundations of Instructional and Performance Technology. Amherst, MA: HRD, 2008.
  5. "Elton Mayo and the Hidden Hawthorne - Work, Employment & Society" March 1987 1: 107-120, JH Smith.
  6. "Human Performance Technology and the USA Military." Graduate Program in Training and Development @ Roosevelt University. Mark Dungee, 15 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. 
  7. http://rutraining.org/2009/12/15/human-performance-technology-and-the-us-military/.
  8. http://websupportblog.wordpress.com/2006/09/22/fingertip-knowledge-learning-on-demand/
  9. http://www.eife-l.org/publications/proceedings/ilf07/ppt/EpiciLearnIssue1.ppt.pdf 
  10. http://masie.com/MASIE-Information/subscribe-to-trends.html    

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