Do’s and Don’ts of Performance Analysis

Have you ever encountered this situation? There’s an issue in the workplace that is affecting performance, and management immediately reacts with, “We need training!”

While all too often the knee-jerk reaction to a performance issue is to think training will solve it, the reality is that training can only solve a performance problem if the problem is caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. Often, performance problems are not caused by a lack of knowledge and skills, but by a whole host of factors, including a lack of:

  • Motivation
  • Capacity
  • Technology
  • Feedback
  • Standards

And when the problem is caused by other factors, besides a lack of knowledge and skill, the training is a waste of time and resources, because it won’t solve the business problem.

Who, then, can analyze a problem and identify which performance factors are contributing to it? That’s what a performance consultant does: analyze business problems to identify which performance factors are causing them.

A performance consultant then develops strategies to tackle the root cause of the issue. It’s important to note that a performance consultant does not start investigating a problem with the preconceived notion that training will be the solution. They are impartial to any specific solution. The solution they recommend depends on the true cause of the issue.

How does this relate to you, the instructional designer? There is a lot of overlap between performance consulting and instructional design. In fact, performance consulting has evolved from the ID discipline. If you want to prove the value of your work as an ID, you need to ensure that the training programs you design are solving real performance problems.

The way to make this happen is through performance analysis. So, here are some of the do’s and don’ts of performance analysis that you can apply to your next training project.

Don't Assume Training Is Always the Solution

As mentioned above, a performance problem in the workplace can be caused by a whole host of factors: from lack of standards to lack of capacity, and often there are even several factors at play in the same situation. Therefore, it’s important to never immediately assume that training is the solution to a problem.

When you hear of a new initiative or request for training, the first thing to do—rather than thinking of delivery methods and training schedules—is take an inquisitive approach to identify the underlying issue the training is supposed to solve. That inquisitive approach is the needs analysis!

Do a Thorough Needs Analysis

The needs analysis is a critical part of the instructional designer’s job. A needs analysis is a systematic approach used to examine current versus expected performance to identify if there is a gap—and if so, what is causing it. You should only start designing training once you’ve done the needs analysis and have identified that a lack of knowledge and skills is indeed the cause of an issue.

Want to read more about needs analysis? Check out these past articles I’ve written:

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

One of the most important parts of the performance analysis is uncovering the “why” behind a problem. You can only get the answers you need by asking them, so don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. If you’re not asking questions, you’re probably not doing your performance analysis correctly.

Don’t feel like you will be perceived as stupid, or that you should already know the answers to the questions, because part of your job is to uncover this information. You want to ask questions like:

  • Have the employees ever been trained in the problem area?
  • Are workplace standards documented and clear to employees?
  • Are employees motivated to perform the task?
  • Do employees have the appropriate time and resources to carry out their duties?
  • How will the performance improvements be measured?
  • What are the differences between high- and low-performance employees?

Do Use KPIs and Metrics

Numbers and metrics are a great way to prove the value of the problems you’re solving. Many organizations use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track and measure success and performance in a variety of areas. You should also look to access data related to the performance issue, such as records, reports, and performance appraisals, which can offer information such as goals and benchmarks. These can be a gold mine of information and you might identify trends or other important information.

Here’s more information about using KPIs to design valuable e-learning:

These are just a few of the do’s and don’ts you should apply to your next training project to ensure you’re truly providing value and helping solve performance problems at your organization. Do you have any tips about how you’ve solved a performance problem? Let me know in the comments!

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