Performance Lever 7 Knowledge and Skills & Performance Lever 8 Capabilities

When this blog series began on December 15, 2010 a scenario was presented:  

Study a hundred organizations of diverse size and industry with the objective of answering one question, “What factors are most driving and detouring the performance of frontline employees?”  What would you discover? 

Since then we identified 6 factors driving and detouring performance:

Performance Lever 1: Strategy and Goals

Performance Lever 2: Workflows or Processes

Performance Lever 3: Expectations

Performance Lever 4: Feedback

Performance Lever 5: Resources

Performance Lever 6: Incentives

Performance lever 7 (knowledge and skills) and performance lever 8 (capabilities) however stand in contrast to performance levers 1-6.  Performance levers 1-6 are environmental and reside outside people.  They make up the systems or environment people work in.  Performance levers 7 and 8, on the other hand, are individual and reside inside people.  They make up the abilities people bring to work.      

Knowledge and skills, performance lever 7, provides managers the understanding and abilities they need to perform their job. 

Obviously, every manager needs job specific knowledge and skills.  But few performance problems involve knowledge and skill deficiencies alone.  Attempts to provide managers needed knowledge and skills should be combined with other performance levers. New knowledge and skills with good or modified workflows and clear expectations limits a manager’s effectiveness.     

When knowledge and skills are needed a systematic approach to training increases employee on-the-job retention. This approach must be a facet if managers are to consistently perform at high levels, knowledge and skill solutions.  This training is a cycle of practice, feedback, and then corrected practice. 

Effective training includes:

  • Presentation of new knowledge and skills
  • Practicing the new knowledge and skill with the guidance of a subject matter expert
  • Independently practicing the new knowledge and skill
  • Feedback regarding progress
  • The opportunity to practice the knowledge and skill again  

Capabilities, performance lever 8, is also an individual performance lever that resides in people.  Capabilities involves innate capabilities that people possess and change little over time.

For example, every job requires certain innate capabilities.  If the job calls for lifting 75-pounds and an employee is unable to do this, he or she has a capability deficiency and will not perform to expectations. Many believe that things such as customer service or multi-tasking are innate capabilities that workers cannot adopt later in life; they either have or do not have these capabilities. If these innate capabilities are critical job requirements, then the people you hire should possess them. There is no easy way to evaluate whether there is a capability deficiency when addressing performance problems but this possibility always needs to be considered. 

As we’ve presented in this series, understanding these eight easy-to-leverage performance drivers — both environmental and individual — can serve two critical and difficult functions.  It will guide diagnosis of performance deficiencies and recommendation of effective performance solutions. Look for our next series from the Better Managers Blog coming to you soon.

Tim LaMacchio, Business Performance Engineer, Red Book Solutions

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