When conducted properly, job training can help an organization in the AEC industry (or any other) solve lots of problems or seize exciting opportunities. But training isn’t a cure-all, and it’s not the appropriate response for every workplace performance problem.
Human performance improvement, or HPI, provides a useful set of tools for helping to analyze workplace problems and determine if training is or is not a potentially effective solution. In this article, we’ll provide you a short introduction to HPI and some related tools.
This is the first of a series of articles focusing on training insights for the architecture, engineering & construction industry. If you like this one, keep coming back to read the following AEC training articles as well, and of course share your comments and questions in the comments section.
Why Training Is Great and Why (or when) It’s Not
Training CAN be great, if it’s designed and delivered well (see our article on evidence-based training practices) and if it’s created for a problem that training can actually solve.
But what does that mean--a problem that training can actually solve?
Well, if your company is required to provide training as a compliance requirement (like for occupational safety and health training to construction workers) then that’s one example. Compliance is necessary and folks are understandably concerned about it, so we’ll grant you that point, even if it’s not really what we’re talking about.
What we mean is if the performance problem is caused by a gap that training can close. Typically, this means there’s a knowledge gap, or a skill gap, or perhaps an attitude change is required.
Note that that leaves a lot of potential causes of workplace performance problems that training can’t solve--poorly designed work processes, dangerous machines, poor communication & feedback between workers and managers, improper tools, stress, inadequate resources, and so on.
But, if the problem is a knowledge or skill gap (or, even potentially an attitude issue, although we’re less convinced about training for attitude changes), then training very well may be the solution or part of the solution.
This is Where Human Performance Improvement (HPI) Comes In
Human Performance Improvement, or HPI, is a field that aims to improve the performance of people at the workplace and the performance of organizations in general. HPI includes training as one potential solution to workplace performance problems, but as only one.
HPI generally starts with an analysis or “front-end analysis” that identifies the actual problem, the cause(s) of the problem, and potential solutions before deciding on interventions such as training or something else. That’s one of the strengths of HPI--it’s systemic but also systematic. If you’re a trainer who’s familiar with the ADDIE model, yes, one could argue this is the same as or different than the analysis phase of the ADDIE model.
So when you’re faced with a performance problem at work, follow the example of HPI practitioners and do your front-end analysis before you jump in and create and deliver training. Below are a few quick examples and links to additional resources and help.
The HPI Model: The HPI model is a systemic and systematic method of solving workplace performance problems. As we noted earlier, it begins with a front-end analysis to better learn what the problem is, what’s the cause of the problem, and what solutions might be called for (including, possibly, training). Check out our article on the HPI model by the Association of Talent Development (ATD) here to learn more.
Thomas Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model (BEM): Thomas Gilbert is an early HPI practitioner. He created a model to help performance improvement specialists and trainers conduct the “front-end analysis” we’re talking about. Gilbert called his model the Behavior Engineering Model, and it provides a lens to analyze workplace problems through six potential causes (data or information, instruments, incentives, knowledge, capacity, and motives). Read more about the Gilbert BEM Model here.
The Rummler-Brache Nine Variables Mode: Geary Rummler is yet another early HPI practitioner. Like Gilbert’s model, the Rummler-Brache nine variables model provides another way to conduct an analysis and look for causes of performance problems at work. This model asks you to consider the organization, work processes, and individual employees, analyzing the goals, design, and management of each. Read more about the Rummler-Brache Nine Variables model here.
The Mager-Pipe Problem-Analysis Flow Chart: Mager and Pipe were yet-more-early HPI practitioners (and Bob Mager, in particular, is a biggie in the field). They created a classic, much-loved flow chart that helps determine the cause of a performance problem and an appropriate solution. Though this is very popular, it always has critics, as it may be too simple for complex problems. Nonetheless, it’s worth checking out, and we’ve provided a free infographic version of it below for you to download.
Conclusion: Your AEC Training Will be Effective--IF You Use It in Appropriate Circumstances
We hope you found this article helpful and that you keep your eyes open for additional training basics articles for training tips you can apply at your AEC workplace.
Please let us know if you have any questions and DO feel free to download the Online AEC Training Guide, below.