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To improve performance, understand nonperformance

To improve performance, understand nonperformance

Here’s a saddening fact. A lot of Human Resource practitioners still don’t know how employee learning and development is done properly.

When an internal client brings to their attention an issue with their employees’ performance, guess what. Expect that they only have one known intervention in mind, classroom training.

While I should be happy that they always think of classroom training, as this means more business for external training providers like me, I don’t worship money. I’m more concerned about companies correctly addressing workplace learning and performance so the company they serve earns more and the employees they work with earn as well in return.. I’m not selfish. After all, my mantra as a training consultant in the Philippines is to educate, equip, encourage, engage, entertain, empower, and escort people to success and not to extort money from anyone.

Just to give a few examples of proofs that some HR heads still need to learn more about arguably the most downplayed HR function, training and development or learning and development, let me share personal experiences.

There’s this one company who invited me to present my existing programs on some topics. These topics, by the way, are programs they determined themselves prior to the meeting. I went there and presented exactly the modules that they were looking for only to be interrupted in the middle of my presentation by one of the heads revealing to me that honestly, they don’t know what they need. Worse, they told me that actually, they had already undergone those programs before and were not sure if they would need to take up intermediate or advanced versions of the same programs or just go through allied interventions reinforcing the same topics.

It was disturbingly surprising to hear what they had said to think that there were also representatives from HR in the meeting. Oh my, were they clueless and speechless themselves. I ended up offering consultancy instead to thoroughly determine first what needed to be done in relation to their predetermined needs. After all, they would be investing precious company money and they wouldn’t want their funds to just go down the drain.

Another usual experience I would have is some HR managers contacting me requesting facilitation of a team building program when after going through a detailed investigation and assessment, it appears they need another solution.

Yet again, another HR manager would request a classroom training on this or that topic when the underlying challenge is attitudinal and would require sort of motivational or inspirational programs instead.

This is an increasingly alarming situation. Compensation and Benefits is important. Sourcing and Recruitment is equally significant. Organization Development is a must. Labor Relations is a requirement by law. Employee Engagement is crucial. Nonetheless, training and development, learning and development, talent development, or however else this is called in a company is no doubt on the same level. It should not be set aside. HR practitioners, regardless whether General HR and this HR function are completely separate departments, must brush up on their knowledge of this critical topic or better yet, enhance the width and depth of their understanding.

Training, online or offline, is not the ALWAYS and ONLY solution. There are times that it does not weed out the cause of the under-performance or nonperformance because the root cause of either of these predicaments can’t be addressed by this intervention to begin with.

In order to improve performance and find out whether training would do the trick or not, under-performance or nonperformance must first be studied. What causes employees to come short of their job’s expectations in the first place?

Let’s keep Holistic Growth and Development and take it to heart.

Our totality as people is made up different aspects. I call it KSA-EMJ.

K is Knowledge. It’s what we already know, what we don’t know yet, what we should know based on our job’s expectations, or what we believe we know but is, matter of fact, an incorrect understanding of what we ought to know. If we would employ a thorough needs analysis or assessment, we would find out if the under-performance or nonperformance results from any of these.

S is Skills. It’s what we can do, what we don’t know how to do yet, what we should do in order to produce the right products and offer the correct services, and what we believe we can do well but is, in reality, an incorrect way of doing what we ought to do. Once again, if correct root cause analysis is to be done, we would arrive at a conclusion that perhaps, skills need to be refined or new skills should be introduced.

A is Attitude. It refers to people’s attitude towards their work, towards what they are capable of doing, towards their company, and towards other people. Digging deep would actually reveal that probably, there is no issue with knowledge or skills. The issue most likely lies in our corporate talents’ attitude and their values just have to made positive and their attitude corrected and enhanced.

E is Environment. Maybe, we have on board capable people who know what they ought to know, can do well what they’re supposed to do right, and are self-motivated and sufficiently-inspired to give their best at work. However, do we ever look into the organization, division, department, and team they belong to? Does the group they belong to supportive of their motivation or inspiration and nurturing of their knowledge and skills? Are they given opportunities where they are actively involved and empowered to make decisions on their own with minimal to zero supervision? Are they provided the resources they need to perform their functions well and up to expectations? Do the employees in question report to and work with competent and responsible managers?

M is Motivation. Let’s add Inspiration there too. Can we confidently tell ourselves our employees are motivated to perform at their best at work and help the company realize its vision and carry out its mission? Are they inspired by the leaders they’re supposed to look up to? Are they one (aligned) with the company in practicing its core values and making true its goals and objectives? Is it really an ability issue or a motivation problem? All along, it could also be external issues with family, friends, and neighbors that are getting in the way of their performance getting up to standards.

J is Job-Person fit. How sure are we that they love what they do and what they do loves them back? Are they compatible with their chosen job? Are they really where they’re supposed to be? Maybe, it’s not us but them. This is usually already beyond the realm of what’s obvious but it doesn’t hurt to play with this idea and utilize scientific methods to pin down whether this can be factored in or not. Probably, too, the person and the job are a good match. However, their relationship just needs to be aligned in order to usher in the ideal performance.

The reason why classroom training doesn’t always work is that nonperformance or under-performance, so to speak, is not always a situation of the employee needing to review or learn more. HR practitioners, especially those in learning and development, need to look from different angles and check whether there is a need to:

  • improve
  • replace
  • add more
  • correct

If learning and development is practiced correctly, perhaps the right intervention or solution could be any of the corresponding programs below:

Training Organization Development 360-degree feedback
Team Building or Team Culture Building Career Management Coaching or Counseling
Mentorship/Apprenticeship Motivation or Empowerment Techniquees Applied Behavior Analysis
Computer-aided Learning Lateral Transfer Secondment/Job Enrichment
Job Orientation/Job Management/Job Rotation Self-directed Learning Action Learning
Community or Support System Seminars/Workshops Workplace Project

And believe me, there are more out there.

Therefore, talent development should be customized. The solution to a performance problem shouldn’t be like picking a fruit from an apple tree when the solution hides somewhere up an orange tree. It’s not like getting any book off a shelf in a library when the teacher specifically instructed the students to learn about Philippine history.

If HR leaders and practitioners are bent on improving their employees’ performance, they should expand their thinking and not limit themselves to training. They shouldn’t be squandering their company’s learning and development funds, if there’s any at all, and end up regretting they did so because training didn’t make any impact or whatsoever.

Ergo, here’s your takeaway.  Perform a relentless root cause analysis of what uniquely drives nonperformance or under-performance in and among your corporate talents and match whatever it is with the right intervention that gives justice to your expenses. Your highly-coveted return on investment wouldn’t have to be that elusive.


Do you need our help training you to design, develop, implement, and evaluate a performance management system in your company through a customized in-house corporate training program? Check out our training outline below.

Performance Management System Training in the Philippines

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