Instructional Design: It’s the Performance that Counts

4 cartoon figures are competing in a running race

In our instructional design consulting business, we are constantly surprised at how few learning practitioners focus directly on performance; they are much more apt to discuss their expertise, approach and deliverables in terms of learning. 

When all is said and done, however, it is not so much what has been learned but, in the corporate setting, how much has been learned AND applied on the job to improve performance.  Learning is simply a means or a path to better performance. It should not be the only end result of the training programs you create.

If your instructional design team can truly adopt this performance and outcome-oriented mindset, what will it look like and how will it change things in the workplace?

  • Business needs will be couched in terms of changes in performance. 
    Instead of simply adding to the corporate body of knowledge with yet another bit of learning, the learning solutions will be targeted to improving relevant on-the-job behavior that has been identified as having a measurable and meaningful business impact. Say that the organization’s strategy includes improving the customer experience to increase customer loyalty, renewal revenue and deal size. Design your training program around the scenarios and role plays that will have the greatest impact on those three performance metrics.  Then, practice and provide on-the-spot coaching so participants can understand, experience and benefit from the desired behavioral shift and performance outcomes.

  • Measurement will focus on adoption and impact.
    No longer will you be measuring what has been learned; you will measure what skills have been adopted, how behavior has changed on the job and the impact it has had on performance.  While the customer service skills for your unique strategy, culture and industry will vary as much as your scenarios, the impact you are looking for in this example is an improvement in customer loyalty scores, renewal revenue and deal size. 

  • You will be seen more as a business partner.
    When your focus shifts from skills to performance and business metrics, you become a key player in improving individual, team and organizational performance. You will be part of the conversations about what critical moves the organization needs to make in order to grow and thrive. You are not limited to what happens in an outdated and traditional learning and development department; you become an enabler of business success.

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