Training professionals are often called upon to stretch their skills into the broader world of performance improvement consulting. Short of a certification in performance improvement, what is a practical step to take in this direction? I propose the development of blended models that emphasizes the elements that training and non-training solutions have in common rather than what distinguishes them.
My interest in a blended model was heightened by my work last year with Caterpillar University in Peoria, Illinois. In addition to instructional systems design skills, Caterpillar teaches its internal learning consultants a human performance improvement (HPI) model based on ASTD’s model.
While ASTD uses an HPI model, ISPI offers a human performance technology (HPT) model. Both are designed to attack a broad range of performance problems with either training or non-training interventions, as appropriate.
An actionable model is a project plan. So I wondered how to integrate ISD and HPI models into a single plan in Microsoft Project. First, I tried inserting the various phases and activities of an HPI model beneath the framework of an ISD model. This yielded a serviceable plan with all the necessary activities, but it seemed to violate the spirit of treating HPI as a superset of ISD. After all, learning solutions are only one galaxy of interventions within the universe of performance problems.
But most of the solutions we develop at TATA Interactive include a learning element, so I didn’t want to entirely subordinate an ISD approach to an HPI system. I reshuffled the plan so that neither the ISD nor the HPI components were a subset of the other, but both ran in parallel, sharing the same major phases. At the point where a solution set is selected, the training solutions would follow ISD approaches and other interventions would follow their appropriate tools and disciplines.
One way to use an HPI mindset in an ISD world is simply to use it to deflect requests for training when a performance problem is not amenable to a training solution. If you’ve got an employee selection problem or an incentive problem, trying to train your way out of it risks wasting resources and disappointing the sponsor.
But a blended model is too valuable to restrict its use to sending clients and sponsors elsewhere when they prematurely jump to the conclusion that they need training. It can also help to integrate the design and development of various solutions so they work together rather than ignore each other.
Some performance improvement solutions, such as the restructuring of incentives plans, may seem far removed from training solutions. But even if the training department doesn’t design the new incentive structure, wouldn’t it be natural to train the affected people on the new incentives and to take them into account in developing training? Other non-learning interventions integrate easily with learning. The most natural example is job aids, which are often developed by training organizations even though they would most often be classified as non-training solutions.
At the high end of non-training performance solutions, TATA Interactive Systems develops sophisticated solutions in the ePSS (electronic performance support systems) space. An important integration of training with an ePSS involves determining which bits of information must be recalled frequently. If the information merits being embedded in the mind for quick recall, a training solution could be the answer, and if the information is so varied that it’s not feasible to train on every conceivable aspect, a just-in-time look-up system could work very well.
A closely integrated model can keep all the toolsets handy to meet the miscellany of performance needs and can help to coordinate rather than isolate them.
(John Gibbs is an instructional design consultant with TIS.)