The Future of HPT

We know our history. We have professional organizations and a code of standards and ethics. We have a huge body of shared knowledge, theories, models, and interventions targeted at improving performance anywhere they are applied. We know where we’ve been, but do we know where we’re going in the practice of HPT? Is our own performance as practitioners at the most desirable level for future success?

Opportunities for Improvement in HPT

The disciplines of instructional technology and performance technology began to merge in the 1970’s, joining theoretical forces and beginning the relationship of learning and performance. However, that marriage may not have the balance and harmony that we might think it should. Despite our collective knowledge of the benefits of shifting our primary focus from training to performance, Gayeski (1999) reports that many practitioners are still functioning in traditional training roles within organizations. In these roles, they generally do not have the influence, ability, or time to shift the focus in the direction they know is more beneficial.

This limitation is further compounded by the difficulty for practitioners have demonstrating the value of HPT as it relates to business results. Many lack a working knowledge of the financial aspects of business or the ability to effectively negotiate with clients. We often have difficulty relating instruction to performance, let alone communicating the impact of interventions on organizational goals.

Another weakness in HPT as it currently exists is a failure to “practice what we preach” when it comes to applying sound, scientific principles to our own profession. While our models and interventions are often based on scientifically tested theory, our application of these models is rarely supported by similar evidence. It seems many in the profession rely more heavily on anecdotal reports of successful interventions, preferring to apply those practices that they like best or clients decide are useful solutions.

Finally, HPT may not only tend to limit its interventional focus on traditional instruction or trends without scientific evidence of success, its claims of systemic change may fall short of its potential. Kaufman and Watkins (2000) point out that many performance improvement initiatives focus only on smaller subsystems within larger organizational systems, limiting the influence improvements could have on an organization. Further, even when impact is organizational in scope, we often fall short of demonstrating value at a higher, societal level.

What can individuals and professional groups do to move out of the constraints of our past and current practice?

Proposed Solutions

Further develop practitioner competencies that improve the ability to link interventions to performance. Insist upon the critical evaluation phase of any intervention, if only on within the limited scope of training interventions. Move beyond smile sheets toward ROI and beyond.

Build practitioner knowledge of the financial aspects of business through coursework, experience, and practice, if only on within the limited scope of training interventions. Include traditional business courses in certification and academic programs. Encourage the formation of relationships, with financial leaders within business and professional organizations (i.e. conference presentations, individual mentor relationships, job shadowing experiences, etc.)

To fully evaluate any intervention, someone needs to connect the dots between the intervention and overall organizational performance. The critical linkage is the one between the intervention and the next level up organizational performance measure.
(Esque, 2003, p. 26)

Encourage practice in communicating results of interventions to customers/clients whenever possible. Applying Success Case Method is an example of a simple yet effective first step in this direction.

Why not draw on the huge body of existing performance research and reputable reviews of that research and translate it into new solutions for our members? Why not let the chips fall where they will, even if we learn that some of our most cherished HPT products are snake oil and sometimes make performance worse? Why not become the industry standard for research and evaluation about what works and what does not work to improve performance?
(Clark, 2003, p.22)

Add credibility within the profession, as well as to the customers we serve, by applying scientific research to the models and interventions we use. Refine the tools and practices to reflect valid results of effectiveness. Improve methods that can be improved to expand the possibilities of HPT. Retire those methods that do not stand up to scientific testing. Approach any methodology or trend with “appropriate disrespect”:

Value is something that contributes…
Society is always central to the value equation. No matter how well individual employees do their job, how high we get production, how fast we ship, everything has to end up adding value to both an organization and all of its external clients.
(Kaufman, 2003, p. 37)

Go beyond limited approaches to performance by examining the benefit of interventions to the broader organizational system and the larger society. Kaufman suggests that we take a proactive approach to performance by first planning mega-level, external or societal outcomes before considering the macro-level outputs of the organization (2003; Kaufman & Watkins, 2000). Only after this higher level consideration should the practitioner begin to examine the smaller units of performance, the efficiency of individual workers and groups and the products that result from work. Only then can we fully describe the impact of what we do in terms that are meaningful to all involved.

Some practitioners suggest certification (Hale, 2003) or specialization (Gayeski, 1999) to strengthen to profession of HPT. Others add taking a more global perspective that reflects the changing face of business (Rojas & Zintel, 1999). All of these are valid concerns for today's practitioners who are interested in sustaining the evolution and value of HPT into the future.



Brethower, D. (2004). IPT 564: Dale's rant appropriate disrespect, 8/27/04. Lotus Notes database via Boise State University. Retrieved December 9, 2004.

Clark, R. E. (2003). Turning research and evaluation into results for ISPI. Performance improvement (42)2, 21-22.

Esque, T. J. (2003). The HPT razor. Performance improvement (42)2, 23-28.

Gayeski, D. (1999). Frontiers for human performance technology in contemporary organizations. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 936-949). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Hale, J. (2003). Certification and how it can add value. Performance improvement (42)2, 30-31.

Kaufman, R. (2003). Value, value, where is the value? Performance improvement (42)2, 36-38.

Kaufman, R. & Watkins, R. (2000). Getting serious about results and payoffs: We are what we say, do, and deliver. Performance improvement (39) 4, 23-32.

Rojas, A. M. & Zintel, D. E. (1999). Practicing human performance technology in a global business environment. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 916-935). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.