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Human Performance Technology

Rita Daniel
Megan MacDonald
Tiffani Reardon
Claire Santoro
April 20, 2016
LT 7150

The History of Human Performance Technology

Human Performance Improvement, HPI, and Human Performance Technology, HPT, are
terms that can be used interchangeably. HPI is the means of achieving through people, successful
accomplishments, valued by all organizational stakeholders. (Kaufman, 2006) HPI is what we
wish to achieve and HPT is the means to which we hope to accomplish it.
The desire to measure human performance improvement dates back to the days when
jobs were started as apprenticeships in which the apprentice assisted a master craftsman, and
learned a trade. The master apprentice model took a long time, yet was a way in which a person
was taught a trade through observation, practice and instruction. With the Industrial revolution of
the 19th century came the introduction of workplace literacy, printed and illustrated texts. More
and more workers were becoming literate, and employers now had an additional means of
instruction. Training was able to be conducted through other methods providing trainees with a
faster method of preparation.
In the early 1900s Human Performance Technology, HPT was evolving as radio, film
and television were being introduced into the human experience. With World War II, the need to
develop weapons created a practical necessity to support engineering systems, these systems
required human competency, with little to no margin for error. The need to train millions of
soldiers quickly, saw a push in war-related industries and efficiency was paramount in the
success of the war efforts. The invention of audiovisual discoveries saw a change in facilitation
of learning. Audiovisual training programs were being used, and used as a means of providing
training tools and job aids. Implementation of quick training to provide workers with knowledge
and skills would soon be supported by behavioral and cognitive psychology.

In 1954 Skinner proposed the revolutionary idea that small-step instruction and extensive
feedback could enhance learning. This led to programmed instruction, and attempted to marry
the concepts of the principles of learning psychology to audiovisual based instruction. This
practice, combined with research led to concepts regarding instructional feedback and
reinforcement. Training materials were structured and presented in such a way as to provide
instruction in the most efficient means to benefit learners. Many pioneers, influenced by the
ideas of B.F. Skinner, looked at behaviors in the attempt to improve training. They concluded
that instruction was not enough and deeper evaluation into human performance needed further
analysis. Behavioral and Cognitive psychology provided a theoretical explanation of the basis of
how people learn.
Thomas F. Gilbert, former student of Skinner, is considered the father of HPT. In 1962 he
gained the attention of many in his field for his Journal of Mathetics, derived from the Greek
word meaning to learn. Mathetics was his ideas of the science of learning. It was in this
publication that Gilbert presented the foundation of what would later become instructional
technology. (Reiser,, 2007) Gilbert and his supporters formed the National Society for
Programmed Instruction (NSPI), and through this organization the early pioneers shared and
collaborated on combining learning and technology. In 1960 the work of Mager, Gilbert,
Rummler and Harless introduced a method of analysis techniques to explain that training and
instruction do not always provide improved performance. Their insight became the beginning of
what is considered the development of the performance technology movement. By the late
1960s HPT evolved into a system of addressing complex performance issues and the utilization
of these systems to diagnose, create solutions and close the performance gaps.

By the early 1970s a new discipline in the systematic approach to creating and delivering
instruction, was to be known as instructional technology or instructional systems design, ISD.
Gilberts Behavior Engineering Model that addresses six major categories of variables that affect
performance in the workplace is still used today.
Contributors such as Gilberts Behavior Engineering Model addressing six major
categories of variables that affect performance in the workplace; Joe Harlesss front-end analysis
methodology; Mager and Pipes model; Rummler and Braches, Improving Performance: How to
Manage the White Space in the Organization Chart; Stolovitch and Keeps, Engineering Effective
Performance model; and Van Tiem, Moseley & Dessingers, model adapted by the ISPI; all
helped pave the way for what we now call HPT. HPT has had significant contributions from
other disciplines such as learning, cognitive and behavioral psychology, instructional systems,
engineering, and human resource management to name a few.

Defining Human Performance Improvement

Most definitions of human performance technology stem from Gilberts distinctions
between performance and behavior and his methods for improving each. Thomas Gilbert
explains that performance and behavior are very different things, though they are usually
perceived to be the same. Explained throughout his leisurely theorems, performance is the
accomplishment at the end of the behavior, or in other words, the outcome. The behavior is the
actual act of doing something. Gilberts theorems revolve around the relationship between these
two because according to him, you have to maximize performance and minimize behavior in
order to have a worthy accomplishment (Gilbert 2007).

Keeping Gilbert in mind, everyone has their own interpretation of what HPT is and how
Gilbert plays into it. According to the International Society for Performance Improvement, as
cited in Performance Improvement, HPT is a systematic approach to improving productivity
and competence, through a process of analysis, intervention selection and design, development,
implementation, and evaluation designed to influence human behavior and accomplishment
(Wilmoth, Prigmore, and Bray 2014). According to Saul Carliner, HPT is a systematic
methodology for developing performance in individuals and organizations (Carliner 2013). As
you can see, they are both saying pretty much the same thing, just in different terms.
Based on Gilberts definitions of performance and behavior and his potential for
improving performance concept, our definition of human performance improvement would be
that it is the analysis of current performance and behavior in relation to the exemplary, the
development of an intervention plan to improve them, the implementation of that plan, and the
evaluation of the results of that intervention plan.

Actions of Human Performance Technology

Human Performance is an internal requirement used to meet the goals and objectives of
most organization. Human performance dictates the behaviors that result in accomplishments
within an organization. Behavior and accomplishments are strongly influenced by both external
factors and internal factors. These influences dictate the actions of human performance. These
influences are deemed and judged as acceptable, unacceptable or modified when meeting the
organizations requirement. Analyses of HPT diagnose the needed changes and design suitable
interventions that drive and support the appropriate performance.
The actions of many HPT include:

1. Identifying the organizations requirement looking for opportunities needed to improve

the performance of an organization
a. The goal is to determine what is needed to improve the organizations ability to
meet their goals, objectives or mission.
b. Next step, define the nature of the current performance status. Exemplary and
deficient behaviors and accomplishments must be included in this step.
c. The next step is to identify the gap (the differences between the actual
performance and the desired performance). Many analytical tools are available
and used to gather and analyze this data that is important when determining the
d. Identify next the factors that directly or indirectly influence the gap. HPT uses
many investigative tools that are needed to determine these factors.
2. Intervention: Now that the gap has been identified and the factors contributing to the gap
have been identified, what is needed next is to determine how to fix the problem. The
process of identifying potential performance intervention, selecting and developing the
intervention are completed in this step.
3. Implementation: Now that you have an intervention, plans should be put in place to
implement the intervention. Once the intervention is implemented, there is a need to
monitor the intervention to determine the success or failure of the intervention and
maintain the performance intervention to make sure it is functioning as developed.

Trends in Human Performance Technology

Since its development in the 1960s HPT has paved the way for organizations to improve
performance. It provides organizations with a structured process for improving both individual
and organizational performance and its results are almost always successful. Yet it is still not as
widespread of a practice as one may think. Some feel as though while many corporations may be

practicing HPT they provide some other label for it. In some European countries the term human
performance technology is regarded as yet another American saying that many Europeans do not
take seriously. It is unclear where HPT is headed. It is an evolving field and its future is left
One explanation on the hesitation to adopt and integrate HPT techniques can perhaps be
explained by the lack of empirical data on HPT. According to Stolovitch (2000),"for the field to
evolve further, we need to embark on solid, well-conceived and executed inquiry that results in a
firm, believable theory and research base" (p. 34). HPT is such a new field there have been few
who are willing to study it. Recently however there has been a drastic increase in the amount of
empirical research specific to HPT. Marker, Hughlin, and Johnsen (2006) explain, there has
been an increase during the past five years in articles that draw their conclusions based on
empirical research (p. 17). While much of this research has been exclusive to the same scholarly
articles it does show that the theories of HPT are beginning to gain a respectable research base.
Pershing, Lee, and Cheng (2008) attempted to learn more about the future of HPT by
interviewing 15 HPT experts. They explained, given the assessments of HPT and coupling them
with the rapid changes occurring throughout the globe in societies, economies, and technologies,
it is worthwhile to pause and to think about the current status and the future of HPT (p.9). Their
study revealed trends and issues in regards to economy, society, technology and business
processes. In regards to economy many HPT practitioners felt as though HPT could provide
structure to many western economies (particularly European economies) that are currently facing
structural problems. HPT principles can be applied to create more efficient economies that can
have more value. In terms of society many of the practitioners felt as though HPT could be used
to address the ever changing differing of opinions currently in the United States. Many felt that

the key principles of HPT are applicable in a variety of domains. HPT can greatly impact
business processes through the current demand by businesses for measurable added value. The
practitioners felt as though HPT could benefit from learning and integrating other successful
performance improvement efforts such as Six Sigma. These influences can help HPT produce
solutions faster and therefore meet the demands of many fast paced businesses.
Human performance technology is a budding field that has the potential to be highly
effective in many different areas. Through the growing research in the field many hope that HPT
will emerge as an international practice. Many practitioners feel as though the reason for its
significance in the American corporations is because HPT is easily applicable to large
corporations. In order for the future of HPT to explain globally there is a need for HPT to be
easily applied to smaller, more intimate companies. As Pershing, Lee, and Cheng (2008) explain,
to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead, HPT professionals must shoulder the
responsibility of clarifying HPTs principles, communicating HPTs values, demonstrating
HPTs impact on organizational results, and marketing HPT to upper-level management to obtain
buy-in (p. 17).


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