Human Performance Improvement

In an ever-changing business landscape, the belief that "if you're not growing, you're dying" has never been more astute. The cost of not improving your business operations not just being left behind by your competition, but opening your business and you personally up to fines and civil suits for non-compliance with the increasingly stringent regulators.

Industrial business setting used to be about having robust, cutting edge and redundant technology, but the barriers to entry in just about every industry are coming down, almost on a daily basis. Nowadays these industries are, like just about every other industry, all about people.

The people that make your products, service your customers, maintain your equipment will make or break your business. As scary as this may sound, it is actually a competitive advantage for any business that understands how to cultivate their employees, develop leaders and close the gap between managements' performance expectations and employee understanding and execution: In a nutshell Human Performance Improvement.

Human Performance Improvement Goals

Before jumping right into how your business, and you as a manager can elevate your employees to the next level using human performance improvement tactics, we must first identify your goals, and what you consider success in your particular industry sector.

Now ask yourself:

"What do I need to improve?"

"Where are the gaps in my business?"

"How could my employees improve?"

So as not to let you run down too many rabbit holes, and lose sight of what is really important, we'll look at our goals in a few broad categories.

Improved Quality

If your goal of implementing a human performance improvement plan is improved quality, then your true goal is a reduction in the error rate. And please don't ignore a focus on quality just because your company doesn't manufacture a physical product; errors in a service company can be just as costly as errors in a manufacturing plant.

Errors cost your business money. Any increase in your level of rework or scrap rate wastes not only the product that could have been sold to a customer, but the man and machine hours wasted making and/or correcting mistakes.

[Without getting off topic, there is a huge difference in your First Pass Yield (FPY) and Throughput Yield (TPY). If you are only looking at First Pass Yield, your measurement system needs to be addressed before we even start to talk about human performance improvements.]

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "While there is almost always a human element involved in accidents...Worker errors are generally the consequences – or last link in a causal chain..."

Addressing the human factors that attribute to human error is a great place to start when evaluating the need for a human performance improvement initiative.

"Worker errors are generally the consequences – or last link in a causal chain..."

- Bureau of Labor Statistics

Improved Efficiencies

If you manage a team, division or an entire business unit, it is likely that one of your key performance indicators measures efficiency in some way, shape or form.

While the traditional way of managing people to optimize efficiencies is goal setting and yearly or six-month performance reviews, these methods have proved to lack the substance needed to affect real change in most employees.

One of the major problems with the old way of managing people is the assumption that the intent behind every communication management sends out to their employees is understood completely, when in fact misalignment between management and their staff is a major contributor to a lack of efficiency.

According to a survey conducted by Clear Company;

"97% of employees and executives [surveyed] believe that lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of a task or project."

Improved Safety

Improvements in safety can be one of the most difficult metrics to measure let alone affect positive change.

Noone goes to work thinking that today is the day he or she might not make it home, nor do any employees go to work thinking that the decisions he makes will cause one of his coworkers to be injured or killed.

How then do you account for all of the accidents and personal injuries reported across industries reported each year? How do you address the human performance aspects of something that goes against our very survival instincts?

The first step is identifying that safety is an area your business unit needs to address, and understanding if a human performance improvement plan can address the issues at your facility.

Where does Human Performance Improvement Fit in?

While we like to blame conditions outside of our control, the fact is that the majority of incidents, defects, and loss of productivity are a result of human error.

In some industrial settings, more than 90% of all incidents can be attributed to human error, according to a study performed by the National Institue of Health.

With such a large portion of the problem holding your business back being the result of some person, either inside or outside your organization, wouldn't your first step toward improving your business be identifying where the gaps are in my organization's human performance?

Diagnosis is always the first step in the process, and if this is where you are in the process, you can take our short Organizational Alignment Diagnosis by clicking on the link below.

Organizational Alignment Diagnosis Promotion

If you are at a point in your human performance improvement life cycle where you have identified the root cause or source of your organization's misalignment, you're likely ready to implement an improvement plan to close the gaps that will make you the largest improvements.

Prioritizing Your Goals Based on Actual Gaps

Earlier we talked about three categories of goals. It is likely that you had one specific area in mind that your organization needs to improve upon; but does that goal align with the gaps identified in your diagnosis?

We perform assessments to identify gaps, which in turn tell us where to focus our efforts. It is a fool's errand to pick a goal and make efforts to improve an area of your business that doesn't give you the largest ROI for your efforts.

I don't want to belabor the point here, but it important to note that no improvement effort to be undertaken if you don't have good reliable data to support your human performance improvement plan. Any person or company that wants to start on an improvement plan without first performing a diagnostic evaluation is wasting your valuable time and money.

Developing a Human Performance Improvement Process

The most innovative and successful companies are those with a corporate culture that celebrates failure as an opportunity for improvement.

Sure there are times when failure is just failure and there is little to nothing to be gained from the experience, but the majority of employees go to work every day to do good work and advance their career.

Understanding what motivates your employees is a positive move to realizing that the vast majority of errors, mistakes and incidents are not only preventable but if given proper coaching and guidance most employees will work as hard as they can not to make the same or similar mistake in the future.

By gaining management's buy-in, and understanding that errors are actually opportunities for improvement the culture in your organization will start to shift to one of that of continuous improvement.

Although this takes time, a culture built on continuous improvement is one where a well-executed human performance improvement plan will have the most effect.