Thursday, June 30, 2011

Human Performance Technology (HPT) Definitions & Assumptions

In 2004 a Presidential Task Force of ISPI identified Human Performance Technology (HPT) as "an integrated systems approach to improving human performance" (ISPI, 2004, p. 6).  As the editor of the third edition of The Handbook of Human Performance Technology, Pershing (2006) provided the following definition of HPT in his chapter titled "Human Performance Technology Fundamentals": "Human performance technology is the study and ethical practice of improving productivity in organizations by designing and developing effective interventions that are results-oriented, comprehensive, and systemic" (p. 6).

This improvement in performance can be either in the improvement in human performance of individual workers, the improvement of human performance through the design/operation of processes, and/or the improvement in human performance through organizational initiatives and environmental / societal endeavors.  In each case HPT provides a systematic approach to provide a comprehensive performance improvement initiative, not short-term, with a results-oriented evaluative framework.

The Presidential Task Force (2004) identified the following criteria to judge whether an initiative is an HPT initiative:
  1. Is focused on valuable, measured results;
  2. Considers the larger system context of people's performance;
  3. Provides valid and reliable measures of the effectiveness of those applications;
  4. Clearly describes applications grounded in prior research or empirical evidence (or are not discouraged by either one) so that they may be replicated under the conditions and by the means for which they were recommended (p. 6).

HPT operates on the following assumptions, as outlined in the Presidential Task Force (2004):
  1. A technology is a set of empirical and scientific principles and their application
  2. Human performance technology is the technology concerned with all variables which impact human performance
  3. All organizational processes and practices impact the production of valued results, whether positively or negatively and whether those results go measured or unmeasured, acknowledged or not.  (Everything that an organization does affects what it accomplishes, whether or not the results are acknowledged or desirable.)
  4. The purpose of all organizations is the same: to create value for their stakeholders; this is accomplished by aligning all processes, practices, and resources to maximize the production of that value.
  5. We collaborate with and value the expertise of other disciplines; human performance technology becomes the integrator and multiplier. (p. 6)

The presidential Task Force report provides great information regarding the HPT Framework and is worth downloading and adding to your files - ISPI Task Force Report.  I would like to thank Guy Wallace for forwarding this link to me via Linkedin.  Guy is the President at EPPIC, Inc. and you can view his web page at for resources relating to instructional design and performance improvement.

ISPI Presidential Initiative Task Force - Stage 1 (2004).  Retrieved from

Pershng, J. (2006).  Human Performance Technology Fundamentals.  In Pershing, J. (Ed.), Handbook of Human Performance Technology: Principles, Practices, Potential, (pp. 5-34).  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Employee Dissatisfaction

The U.S. has been battling an economic downturn for well over two years.  During this time corporations have laid off workers and have forced remaining employees to do more with less.  Those left in the work force have been meeting production, but at what cost?

A current study by MetLife Insurance indicated that even though 43% of larger employers and 38% of smaller employers have met productivity gains in 2010 (Business Wire, 2011), employees are not satisfied.  This should not be received as unexpected since workers have been doing more with less, seeing their co-workers get laid off, and (in some cases) working for less.  It should be no surprise that a large portion of the work force is not satisfied.  Results from this current study indicated that "more than one-third (36%) of employees hope to work for a different employer in the next 12 months" (Business Wire, 2011, para. 2).

As economies turn downward it is a normal trend for corporations, large and small, to focus more heavily on short-term gains as an effort to survive the current business cycle downturn.  Once the economic indicators show signs of recovery corporations need to shift their concentration from short-term gains to long-term gains AND employee satisfaction.  During survival mode employee satisfaction is often put on the back-burner.  Corporations should incorporate, as part of the recovery plan, employee-satisfaction efforts.  Anthony J. Nugent, executive vice president, U.S. Business, Metlife, replicated these thoughts by stating that: "worker loyalty has been slowly ebbing over the last several years, and it is important that employers take action to turn the tide around" (Business Wire, 2011, para. 3).

As the economy slowly recovers there will be two forces competing against one another; unemployed workers looking for a new job, and employed unsatisfied workers looking to change jobs.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out, who will have the advantage?  The former will have to highlight their accomplishments on their resume, along with having strong references who are known in the industry that they are looking for employment, in order to get the advantage.  The later will have to rely on contacts they have formed in the corporations they are looking to transfer over to in order to get the advantage.  Ultimately, though, currently employed high performers will have the ultimate upper hand as Nugent identified: "there is no doubt that the rebounding economy will bring more opportunities for employees, especially the high performers" (Business Wire, 2011, para. 3).

Corporations have the upper-hand once the economy begins to recover.  Corporations will have plenty of applications to choose from when they are ready to rebuild.  The first companies will have the greatest advantage since the number of unemployed will be at its highest.  Late comers will have to begin to add incentives to gain employees as the unemployment numbers begin to decrease - of course we still have a while before this occurs.

The Met-Life study offers some recommendations for improving the diminished employee dis-satisfaction ratings.  These range from:
  • Balancing Benefits Objectives
  • Communications with the Generations
  • Holistic Health
  • Retirement Consultation
More detailed information on these recommendations can be found in the actual report available at


Employee Loyalty Not Recession-Proof, According to MetLife Study. (2011, March 28).  Business Wire, Inc..  Retrieved from

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Team Leadership

Team leadership or self-directed and self-managed teams: What is the best way to manage teams in organizational settings in today’s complex environment?

External team leadership relates to the influence and authority that a leader has over a team, one who is responsible for the teams’ performance (Mathieu et al., 2008).  External team leaders serve as coordinators of operations, as liaisons and guides for the team (Mathieu et al., 2008).  Druskat and Wheeler (2003) identified that external leaders were a forgotten group where organizations concentrated on building teams rather than supporting external team leaders.

Coaching is another form of leadership that could be used to assist and manage teams.  According to Mathieu et al. (2008) team coaching refers to “direct interaction with a team to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of their collective resources in accomplishing the team’s work” (p. 450).  Team coaches motivate team members through encouraging process gains, they provide consultative services assisting effective task strategies, and they educate / train team members.

Shared leadership refers to the distribution of leadership duties among team members.  This distribution among team members is based on the members experience and expertise.  Mathieu et al. (2008) identified that shared leadership “emerges from members’ collective knowledge, skills, and abilities” (p. 450).

Complexity theory indicates that some systems are self-organizing without a leader (Mitchell, 2009).  The concept of self-organization is obtained through complexity theory by utilization of emergence and autocatalytic interactions (Mitchell, 2009).  Emergence refers to nonlinear change in complex systems that foster innovation and self-directed change (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007).  Autocatalytic interactions involve both internal (within team) and external (external of team) interactions required for task accomplishment.

While teams are being used by organizations to adapt to complex environments the question arises as to what type of team leadership works best?  From your experience and/or knowledge, which type of team leadership is most effective for organizations?

Druskat, V. U., & Wheeler, J. V. (2003).  Managing from the boundary: The effective leadership of self-managing work teams.  Academy of Management Journal, 46(4), 435-457. Retrieved from
Mathieu, J., Maynard, M. T., Rapp, T., & Gilson, L. (2008).  Team effectiveness 1997-2007: A review of recent advancements and a glimpse into the future.  Journal of Management, 34(3), 410-476.  doi: 10.1177/0149206308316061
Mitchel, M. (2009).  Complexity: A Guided Tour.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007).  Complexity leadership theory: Shifting from the industrial age to the knowledge era.  The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 298-318.  doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.002
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