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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Human Performance Technology (HPT)

Human Performance Technology

What is HPT?

Human Resource Development (HRD) consists of three orientations:

  • Organisational learning;

  • Organisational performance; and

  • Organisational change.

Each has a different focus, however when we combine these three practical domains of HRD into the one approach, it allows us to see the link between learning, performance and change.

The primary aim for most organisations is to increase performance, so this often becomes the sole reason that companies conduct training. The normal formula is:

Increased performance + increased productivity = increased profit.

Human Performance Technology (HPT) is the process taken to improve and increase performance and productivity, through a series of stages of analysis, intervention, implementation and evaluation.

The Need for HPT:

Over the last decade or two, with economic growth and tight labour markets, organisations are finally beginning to realise that people are their number one asset.

With an increasing number of people retiring and several new generations of workers coming into the marketplace who will move between jobs according to what suits them best, organisations are being left in a difficult position. It is essential for them to recruit the appropriate people and to implement training and development plans throughout their organisation so as not to be left short.

There is a need for greater awareness that human capital is a key driver of organisational success to enable an organisation to maintain their competitive edge.

Some organisations treat human resource development as a ‘tick-a-box’ system. They have a training budget and have been told from the top to implement any necessary training, so they do. However too often there is no follow up and therefore, no return on investment. They have simply ticked a box saying yes the training has been completed, and then they move on to the next project. Training will never live up to its full potential if neither employee development or performance (hence productivity) has improved. Ultimately, training needs to be invested in, not just talked about.

Another key misconception by organisations is that employees need to be fixed. The idea of training should be to develop people, not fix them. The employee should be sent on training to encourage or enhance a particular strength that they have or help them improve in an area that they are lacking on.

If an employee suddenly gets into a fight at work, one cannot send them on a Conflict Management course and call them cured. Once again, this is another example of tick-a-box training. It might be that they do need this training, however they may also need counselling, they may be going through issues at home, they may be frustrated that they were unable to do a task or it may just be a case of clashing personalities. Without taking the time to find out what went wrong, the right way to improve performance and help the employee develop will remain missing.

The basic principle of HPT is to increase the effectiveness of your organisation. Swanson (1999) explains that “performance improvement can only be manifest through outputs, and change in outputs can only be assessed through some form of measurement.”

So, to increase the effectiveness of an organisation, one must create an environment where learning, development, change and performance improvements are encouraged, accepted and valued by all, so that ultimately you end up increasing the organisations measured performance and quality, not capability.

HPT Approach:

HPT is a systematic approach to the analysis, design and implementation of interventions for an individual, group or organisation aimed at human performance improvement. Using a cyclic nature, it follows a linear pattern through a series of stages. These stages address a range of performance improvement opportunities but always start with looking at the performance gap – the distance between current performance and desired performance.

The five stages of an HPT approach are:

1. Performance Analysis: The goal of the first stage is to determine the key problem areas of an individual, group or organisation that require intervention in order to improve performance. This is an important process as many organisations waste time, money and effort on trying to fix problems, only to find that they are concentrating on the wrong issues. There are three types of performance analysis:

  1. Organisational Analysis – This looks at the history of the organisation, including determining things such as the vision, mission, goals and values of the organisation.

  2. Environmental Analysis - This looks at the organisations environment (stakeholders and competition), work environment (resources, tools, HR policies), work (work flow, procedure, responsibilities and ergonomics) and worker (knowledge, skill, motivation, expectations and capacity).

  3. Gap Analysis – This determines the desired performance of the individual or organisation and measures this against the actual performance to identify the gap.

2. Cause Analysis:

The purpose of cause analysis is to determine the reason for the performance gap identified in the previous stage, including why it exists and how it impacts the organisation.

There are two types of causes:

  1. Lack of Environmental Support - This includes deficiencies in one of the following areas; information and feedback, resources, tools, consequences, incentives and rewards.

  2. Lack of Repertory of Behaviour - This includes deficiencies in one of the following areas; skills and knowledge, individual capacity, motivation and expectation.

With a large variety of causes it is necessary to complete cause analysis to determine the correct intervention to address the performance gap. It would be a waste of time, energy and money to provide an intervention of training and development if the cause of the performance gap was a lack of resources and tools necessary to do the job.

3. Intervention Selection and Design:

After the cause has been determined during stage two, the most appropriate intervention can then be selected and designed. The only way for change to be successful and ultimately achieve performance improvement is to select the correct interventions for the issues at hand.

There are many interventions available, including but not limited to; performance support, job analysis/work design, personal development, human resource development, organisational communication or organisational design and development.

If the issue affecting performance was loss of communication between departments, and the cause had been determined as a lack of information and feedback, the interventions selected may include; job rotation, feedback, networking and collaboration. Interventions would be designed around these key ideas.

4. Intervention Implementation and Change:

The whole reason for implementing an intervention is to bring around a change in performance.

When implementing an intervention, it is important to ensure that the following areas are addressed:

  • Change management;

  • Process consulting;

  • Employee development and communication; and

  • Networking and alliance building.

5. Evaluation:

The final stage of the HPT process is evaluation. During this stage, a review of the change/performance is completed to determine the success of the intervention.

The aim of using the HPT process is to bring about a performance improvement. This process must be evaluated and measured to determine the return-on-investment of time, money and resources.

There are four types or processes of evaluation that can be used to determine ROI, these being:

  • Formative;

  • Summative;

  • Confirmative; and

  • Meta.

When these five stages are followed in order, it creates a logical flow to enable the best possible interventions to be developed, implemented and evaluated in order to enable performance improvement.

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PDI Solutions can work with organisations to develop and deliver training solutions tailored to your particular organisation around leadership, team building or any other professional development. Contact us today for a free consultation at or visit our website at

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