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What is Human Performance?

What is Human Performance?

Human performance is often confused with human behaviour, but they are not the same.
Human behaviour is an important component of human performance, but it only forms part of its definition.

In the Philosophy And Practice Of Organizational Learning, Performance And Change (Gilley, Dean, Bierema, 2001), the authors describe human performance as “synonymous with outcomes, results, or accomplishments generated by people in work settings”. Thus, human performance can be described as the outcomes of human behaviour, in the context of a workplace.

Framework of Human Performance

In the early 1970s, Dr. James Reason began looking at errors from an academic and practical perspective. Based on his research, he developed a framework of guiding principles called the Generic Error Modelling System (GEMS) (Reason, 1990). His Framework gives organisations an opportunity to understand error types and use that understanding to develop strategies to prevent or reduce the occurrence of errors.

Barclayss® can help you understand our organisation’s human performance and how you can mobilise your employees to achieve the results you desire. We partner with you to identify areas of improvement in your organisation and launch a tailored hyperdrive to boost performance, using proven behavioural science approaches.

Generic Error Modelling System (GEMS)

People are fallible; even the best people make mistakes.
Error-likely situations are predictable, manageable, and preventable.​
Individual behaviour is influenced by organisational processes and values.
People achieve high performance based largely on encouragement and reinforcement from leaders, peers, and subordinates.​
Events can be avoided by understanding the reasons why mistakes occur and applying lessons learned from past events.​

Why Mistakes are Important to Human Performance

Mistakes are a crucial aspect of human performance; they allow us to adapt our behaviours and improve our performance to provide better outcomes as an individual and for the organisation.

While mistakes could potentially impact “the bottom line”, equally, they are an essential means of improving human performance.

In the Philosophy And Practice Of Organizational Learning, Performance And Change (Gilley, Dean, Bierema, 2001), the authors argue the “costs of improving performance should be regarded as investments in human capital, yielding returns in the form of increased performance potential.”

Thus, Leaders need to allow their employees to make mistakes, to provide them with an opportunity to learn, grow and improve their performance for their own benefit and that of the organisation.

Recognising Which Mistakes are Avoidable

Whilst it is recognised that mistakes are part of an individual’s learning and development, research from the United States Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) shows that 80% of human error occurs as a result of an organisation’s failings and errors (INPO database 2008).

This research suggests that errors occur as a result of deficiencies already present in a system that contribute to a chain of events resulting in an incident. Factors such as procedures, processes, culture and mental attitude can all play a part in a situation that results in an error.

Many mistakes can be avoided through either the development of organisational systems and processes designed specifically to mitigate factors known to have caused errors, or the identification of areas of weakness that could lead to errors. However, when improving systems and processes, many organisations fail to consider the key ‘mistake’ factors that impact human performance and can contribute to the occurrence of errors.

What is the Role of the Organisation in Human Performance?

Organisations play a key role in human performance and should strive to develop robust systems and processes to improve performance and reduce the incidence and impact of errors in their operations and the individuals they employ.

In their Human Performance Reference Manual , the INPO describes the following factors organisations should focus on to reduce errors and improve human performance:

Organisations should be cognisant of the above factors in developing systems and processes, with an aim of identifying, addressing, mitigating, and implementing strategies to drive effective change, reduce error and improve human performance.

What are the Responsibilities of the Leader?

Leaders provide a benchmark for human performance and set the tone for employee behaviours to increase their performance.

The development of effective Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) provides employees with an understanding of what is expected from them and gives them goals and targets to aim for.

Through hands on leadership, instruction, mentoring and coaching, leaders will be able to empower their employees to focus on what they do, understand how and why they do it, and effectively improve their performance.

Leaders also need to develop a culture where their employees have the freedom to speak up in a situation where they might identify a deficiency in a system or process that could lead to errors. This gives the organisation an opportunity to address the matter quickly and develop a suitable solution before errors occur.

What are the Responsibilities of the Individual?

Individuals have a major role to play in their own performance and need to work effectively to improve their performance within the context of the organisation’s goals and objectives.

Through a process of self-accountability, individuals need to work to achieve their own targets (KPIs), whilst being aware of areas where errors could occur and where they could improve their own performance.

Individuals need to feel they have the freedom and support of the organisation and their leaders to develop a positive questioning attitude and not be afraid to speak up if they identify a deficiency in an organisational system or process that could lead to errors.

Barclayss® can assist you with improving the levels of human performance in your organisation by: