Enabling HR Business Partners to Drive Continuous Performance Improvement

Enabling HR Business Partners to Drive Continuous Performance Improvement

This On-Demand event was originally presented on June 28, 2023 (60 min)


The discipline of Human Performance Improvement (HPI) has evolved since the 1970s to become an important contributor to training, talent management, process and quality improvement, sales enablement, and other functions in companies and not-for-profit organizations. Both the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) and the Association for talent Development (ATD), as well as some training companies, offer certifications in performance improvement. Countless books, chapters, and journal articles have emerged as the field has evolved.

The Performance Thinking® methodology and models have developed since the late 1980s to make the underlying methods and logic of Performance Improvement and behavior science accessible to as broad a range of users as possible. It’s simple models and plain English terminology are easy for anyone to understand and apply. Organizations in industries such as biotech, computer hardware and software, insurance, behavioral health, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, banking, social media, and education have adopted Performance Thinking models and programs to extend the reach and impact of their learning and performance departments, organizational development specialists, process improvement teams, talent development groups, managers as coaches, and executive leaders.

A new opportunity for driving performance improvement in organizations it to enable Human Resource Business Partners to help the managers and executives whom they serve to continuously improve the performance of their teams, departments, and business units. Because HR Business Partners are usually spread thin across the clients and challenges they serve, they are not well-situated to take on the types of large projects that training, process, and OD professionals often conduct. Instead, they must be able to simultaneously address a wider range of challenges and opportunities for which their clients need solutions, including both day-to-day issues, and larger scope issues. They can help their clients re-define jobs, document ill-defined processes, coach team members for improved productivity, figure out how to measure specific performance, create Employee Engagement Plans, improve working relationships, create succession planning for key roles, and so on. While we cannot usually expect HR Business Partners to devote their time to managing major projects, their roles as advisors to senior managers and executives could allow them to be agents of performance improvement.  Most existing programs for supporting and developing HR Business Partners focus either on HR topics and methods or on business-related topics, not explicitly on methods for improving employee productivity and engagement.

This webinar introduces elements of the performance improvement methodology known as Performance Thinking.  It summarizes an analysis completed in several organizations of the contributions that HR Business Partners and Senior HR Business Partners make in their work with senior managers and executives. And it describes a modular Performance Thinking® curriculum that can be adapted for HR Business Partners, based on the particular priorities and applications they engage in their organizations. Such an approach can empower HR Business Partners to be agents of continuous performance improvement partnering with stakeholders.

Attendees will learn

  • How to distinguish between behavior and work outputs, the valuable products of behavior.
  • To describe how anchoring descriptions of performance to work outputs simplifies analysis.
  • The categories of behavior influences are defined by the Six Boxes® Model.
  • Several ways that an HR Business Partner can contribute to performance improvement.
  • How plain English terminology and simple visual models can accelerate communication and collaboration.


Dr. Carl Binder, CEO of The Performance Thinking Network, began as a behavior scientist, one of B.F. Skinner’s last graduate student at Harvard. He spent the 1970s conducting research, training teachers, and consulting with educational and human service organizations across North America, with a focus on fluency-based instruction. Shifting to corporate training in 1982, he joined the International Society for Performance Improvement where he met Tom Gilbert, Geary Rummler, Joe Harless, Roger Kaufman, and other performance improvement pioneers, who proved to be generous mentors. Founder of 4 consulting firms, he has continued to refine performance improvement models and methods, partnering with clients and stakeholders, developing performance consultants, and teaching leaders and managers to contribute to continuous improvement.

Over 40+ years, Carl has developed what is known as Performance Thinking®, a powerful but flexible accomplishment-based performance improvement methodology that his firm certifies others to apply in programs for different organizational roles. Adopted by clients on six continents, Performance Thinking has built a global community of practice. Carl has published several dozen articles and chapters, spoken at events worldwide, and received four Lifetime Achievement awards from the American Psychological Association, The International Society for Performance Improvement, the OBM Network, and the Standard Celeration Society.


Enabling HR Business Partners to Drive Continuous Performance Improvement
The Performance Thinking Network

The Performance Thinking Network helps leaders, managers, and performance professionals to accelerate business results through the performance of their people. We combine the research-based Performance Chain model for analyzing the elements of human performance, with the Six Boxes® Model, voted “the best performance model in the world” by participants at the 2022 conference of the International Society for Performance Improvement, to teach a “logic” of performance improvement that can be applied across levels and functions in any organization.

Learn more at The Performance Thinking Network

Six Boxes Special Offer
Special discounts from SixBoxes

Webinar attendees qualify for a discounted rate on the three most popular Performance Thinking®️ programs and services: Performance Thinking®️ for HR Business PartnersExecutive Coaching with Performance Thinking, and The Open Performance Thinking®️ Practitioner Program.

To take advantage of these discounts, please contact Six Boxes here, use the code HRDQU23 in your message, and state what program interests you.

On-Demand Webinar Recording
Play Video

Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Enabling HR Business Partners to Drive Continuous Performance Improvement, hosted by HRDQ-U, and presented by Dr. Carl Binder. My name is Sarah, and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions or comments, please type them into the Questions box on your GoToWebinar control panel.
And today’s webinar is sponsored by the Performance Thinking Network, and HRDQ. The Performance Thinking Network helps leaders, managers, and performance professionals to accelerate business results through the performance of their people. They can find the research to base a performance-chain model for analyzing the elements of performance, but the Six Boxes model was voted the best performance model in the world by participants at the 2022 conference of the International Society for Performance Improvement, to teach the logic of performance improvement that can be applied across levels and functions in any organization. Learn more at www.sixboxes.com.
And for 45 years, HRDQ has provided researched-based, off the shelf, soft skills training resources for classroom, virtual, and online training. From assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on games, HRDQ helps organizations improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more. You can learn more at HRDQstore.com.
And now, I’d like to welcome today’s presenter, Dr. Carl Binder, CEO of their Performance Thinking Network. Dr. Binder is a renowned behavior scientist who began his career as one of BF Skinner’s last graduate students at Harvard. With a background in research, teaching, and consulting in the field of education and human services. He’s shifted his focus to corporate training in 1982. Throughout his career he founded multiple consulting firms, developed performance improvement models and methods, and mentored many pioneers in the field.
Over the past 40 plus years, Dr. Binder has created “Performance Thinking”, a versatile performance improvement methodology adopted globally. Its contributions have been recognized within several lifetime achievement awards from prestigious organizations. Thank you so much for joining us today Dr. Binder.
Thank you, Sarah. That was a really nice introduction. That was way better than I could ever do it, so, I appreciate it very much. This is, this is fun to do this.
So, we’re going to talk about HR business partners.
And I want to, you know, some background here. As Sarah said.
I started out as a behavior science researcher, and it’s still very deep in my, you know, DNA. And so, what we’re going to really talk about a little bit is some of the research we’ve done to better define the role and the potential contributions of HR business partners.
And then, to talk about how they could possibly adopt our simple models and approach to performance improvement, and, and really, more actively than ever, perhaps, drive continuous improvement in your organizations.
So, I want to, in the process, illustrate what we call accomplishment based job mapping. It’s a tool that you’ll see examples of. And we used it in our analysis of HR business partners.
And then, I want to share the research that we’ve done in analyzing HR business partner performance in several different organizations.
Give you a really quick overview of performance thinking, that the models and logic that Sarah referred to.
And then talk a little bit about some, about how performance improvement can be embedded in, you know, in the day-to-day work of HR Business partners.
And then show you what is really A initial design ready to pilot a modular program design for HR Business Partners. I should tell you that, in some ways, this represents work, that …
interrupted, because we had and I’ll tell you a little bit more about this shortly.
But we had, we were all ready to pilot this modular program for HR Business partners with several organizations.
And then, know, the clock stopped when it when coven. Covert hit.
So, we’re actually looking for people to partner with around this program, because we think there’s enormous potential, and in any case, we want to share with you what we’ve learned in the analysis process.
So, you know, this, this looks like the Pacific north-west, where I live, but the question is, you know, that I’d like to set the context. Is, where does this come from? Where does the, particularly the performance improvement part of it.
Because, as Sarah said, I moved from being a researcher in instructional design and performance measurement in 19 82, into working with organizations in sales, and customer service, and factory maintenance, and a variety of other areas.
And I became deeply involved in the field of performance improvement, and you may know the the phrases or the names of human performance technology, which was the name that the International Society for Performance Improvement used for performance improved methodologies. Or what ATD the Association for Talent Development describes as human performance improvement.
And so that’s really where it came from.
But more specifically, I really trace my roots back to doctor Tom Gilbert, who was one of my mentors.
He, he passed away some years ago, but he was really one of the fathers of performance improvement, and he published a book in 19 78 called Human Competence, and Tom was very much of an iconoclast, he liked to shake people up.
And he was definitely a paradigm shift.
And really, this, What I’m about to talk about is really what shifted in many ways: from instructional systems design to performance improvement, or performance, performance technology. And so in his book in 19 78, which is still taught in some graduate schools and is still has more ideas in it than you can probably apply at old career, he made this rat a radical statement.
He said, in the great cult of behavior.
And he didn’t just mean behaviorists or trainers. He meant all of us who look at performance.
He said, In the great cult of behavior, behavior itself is viewed as an end rather than the means to an end. So we do behavior based coaching. We talk about behavior. When we do feedback to people. We talk about the behavior of everyone.
But what Tom said, we must enable people to produce accomplishments, the valuable products to behave.
So this was an enormous shift and as my colleague, John ***** likes to say the great basketball coach.
John Wooden used to, say we often, you know, people confuse activity with accomplishments or with achievements, and that’s really what Tom was pointing to here.
And so this notion of the valuable products, the behaviors accomplishments, was a big game changer, and the word accomplishments is a great word. It sounds valuable.
It’s very, you know, it sounds like an important thing What we’ve noticed, however, what I’ve noticed in the 40 plus years that I’ve been doing this kind of work, is two things. one is if you look up the word accomplishments in the dictionary. More, more of it means that completion of behavior than the products of behavior. And so it doesn’t quite reflect what Tom was pointing to.
And the second thing is that, if you look in the current literature, or even in the last 20 or 30 years in journals and so forth, or graduate programs where people talk about accomplishments, it’s really fuzzy. Sometimes they’re talking about big business results, sometimes they’re talking about little deliverables and everything in between.
And the measurement of that is not always clear. So we coined the phrase, about 15 years ago, work outputs. And the point of that, and I’ll be using that phrase going forward to mean the same thing as accomplishment, is, first of all, it’s clearly the product of something work, so to speak.
But secondly, notice, it’s a plural.
And so what we say is that work outputs are countable things that are valuable, that people produce.
So if you look at performance improvement as a field, kind of, before I got involved in over the last several decades, it’s complicated.
And, of course, that’s partly because performance, an organization’s it’s complicated. There’s it’s a whole system. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
And there have been many, many models for improving performance over the years. This one happens to have been on the website of the International Society for Performance Improvement for many years. It’s often referred to as the human performance technology or the HPT model.
Now, if you look at, it’s never done training, development, performance, consulting, anything like that, If you look at this model, we say, yep, that’s kinda got everything I could ever want to do, to try to analyze and improve performance.
And that’s great, but I’ve referred to it a little bit, you know, jokingly as the everything, including the kitchen sink model.
And one of the challenges is it’s kind of overwhelming.
And so in the early eighties and in early night and night going into the nineties I used to go into organizations and people would be trying to apply this or comparably complex models.
And they would say things like, you know, this is like, this is an awful lot of stuff for our, our executives. look at it, and they say, how long is this going to take? Is this, like analysis, paralysis, you know, et cetera, et cetera?
And so influenced by, frankly, by Steve Jobs and the focus on implicity, simplicity back in the seventies and eighties.
We, over the years, went for simplicity.
And what I want, what I want to show you very quickly is where that has landed in the last about 15 or so years.
We have a framework by which you can analyze and communicate about performance in performance in ways that are actionable and evidence based.
And then, of course, there’s lots of methodologies that teach that or that support that, but we have, we have evolved, and Sarah made some reference to it in the introduction.
These two very simple visual mental models and 21 plain English words that were user tested in the late eighties until we came up with a vocabulary that we could introduce the people and they would know what they meant already.
So we could avoid technical jargon and sort of geek speak.
And what the simplicity of that, and the plain language does, is allows us to introduce this way of thinking or this approach to performance across all levels and functions.
So, we’ve worked with C level executives, and we worked with frontline members of, you know, assembly lines, and everybody in between, everybody involved, performance, leaders, managers, et cetera, to build communities of shared practice. Because they can share this vocabulary this way of looking at performance, and it means we can drive collaborations and continuous improvement, which is what everybody says they want.
Now, we began to do this in the late. You know, we were doing this for quite awhile.
But when we started to realize we had a thing that we could teach people, we started doing so in the early two thousands, and a whole bunch, a number of our clients said to us, you know, you’re giving as tools, and methods, and processes, and stuff like that.
But what you’re really giving us is a different way to think about performance.
So, we named our, eventually our company, and this methodology, Performance thinking, because what we believe is that all of those people at different levels and functions can share this way of looking at performance, this framework, in a way that drives collective learning and collaborative performance improvement.
So, here’s the first model, and we can say a lot about it, but I’m just going to say a little if we call it the performance chain.
And if you look at it, it definitely describes how behavior produces business results.
Now, you know, I, Stephen Covey says we start with the end in mind. So we want to start with organizational level business results, and you can see the things there that are typically indicators of how an organization is doing as a whole, and these are just some examples. But these are the things that executives, know, managers and hopefully employees have in mind when they’re focused on improving performance.
So we want to know what’s at stake in any given project or intervention, or even coaching conversation.
Once we understand that, then we want to look at what we call work outputs or accomplishments, and those are the things, as I mentioned, that people produce.
Now, some of them, like deliverables, are very concrete and tangible, like documents and widgets.
But there’s things like decisions, and relationships.
And some of these other things that are not so tangible, But they are still things that we can define, encounter a good hiring decision, a good funding decision. A good working relationship with the HR business partner, a good, you know, working relationship with my fellow managers, whatever it is, we can define these things as countable nouns.
And we can say, you know, what’s good about that. And that turns out to be a huge lever.
Because once we understand what people are supposed to produce, the things that are valuable, because they contribute to organizational business results, Now, we’re in a really strong position to look at behavior.
Because we can no, say, this is the behavior for producing these outputs, these contributions, these accomplishments at a level of quality and quantity, that is what we need. And so, we can do task analysis. Of course, we can observe successful farmers. But we’re focused, not in some general sense of, Oh, it’s good to behave like this, but rather, specifically on the ways to produce those valuable contributions or outputs.
And so those are the three elements of performance. Those really, behavior producing work outputs that contribute to business results really are what?
Describe or delineate how behavior produces business results.
And then we got that fourth thing at the beginning, behavior influences, which I always like to say, You know, that list can go from here. The next county, depending on what workshop you’ve been to or book you read, you know, last year, was Growth Mindset. This year, it’s AI, the year before, it was agile, but there’s all these interventions, components, Things that people try to do to improve performance.
So, this is our first tool, if you will, our model.
You know, it works from left to right, in reality, and in jobs there’s behavior influences, which either support or get in the way a behavior.
And that is intended to produce work outputs that contribute to business results.
But, of course, we analyze it with no, starting from the end.
So that’s the first model, and there’s a lot there.
We spend a lot of time in our programs teaching people how to use this and how to define work outputs as such, But this is, this is the simplicity of that model.
And as I said, we anchor things, we anchor our analysis to work outputs, because, what, once we understand the valuable contributions that individuals, teams, and processes make to the business, we can then go forward to look at the best behavior for doing that and optimize the conditions for producing.
And so, here’s an example is a very simple process map, And some of you may have been involved in process improvement or process mapping, historically.
This is a very simple process designed to produce a content specification document, and, like most press, and there’s three performers, if you will, the author, the editor, and the approver.
And, like, most process maps, the boxes have steps or behavior in them.
But what we always want to be sure of is what each of those produces.
So the circled things are the outputs, the project plan, the content spec draft feedback, which itself as an output and so forth.
So, we can look at outputs in processes, and, of course, value gets delivered in the processes in most organizations. So this is one of the places we do a fair amount of analysis and improvement.
We can also look at individual performance maps. We, we’ve historically call this a customer diagram, but we call it an individual performance map nowadays.
And that’s because the performers in the middle, the sales director in this case, and the sales directors, customers, internal and external, are around the sides, and again, the things that are circled or what the sales director delivers to the to the different people.
So the sales director delivers sales data summaries, answers to questions, and coaching suggestions to the senior account manager, improve processes and customer feedback to the customer service team, and the VP of sales, some reports, some analysis, and so forth. So, this is a simple example of an individual performance.
Now, what we then did, again, following Tom Gilbert, and some of you have may, or may have heard of Gilbert’s behavior engineering model.
What we did is we add into this a way to think about those behavior influences in a way that’s organized and systemic.
Now we call this the six Boxes model.
I developed it in the late eighties, based on Tom Gilbert’s model.
Tom Gilbert’s behavior engineering model if you want to look it up, is a brilliant thing with these same six cells, but the language, the the labels of the categories was hard for many people to understand.
So, for example, the first one, we call expectations and feedback. He called data.
People say, well, let me, my data’s is like, you know, data, bases, or spreadsheets, or what does that about? And he said, well, no, actually it’s the information needed to know what we’re expected to produce and do, and then feedback about that. That’s the core of that.
And then, box to he called instruments that people will say, you know, you’ve done by a violin or HR, you know, personality test, or O meter, or what does it. So we recognize as tools and resources.
So, for several years and the end of the eighties, I refined and tried different versions of this language as I trained people.
And we finally arrived at this language that repeatedly, over quite a period of time.
We could introduce people, and they would get it, and they would not make category errors, so we knew we have it.
And, again, you can spend a lot of time in this model.
There’s a lot in it, but it is a comprehensive framework of behavior influences, because those six categories represent functions that is they represent things that events or things do, or how they affect behavior.
And you can go into great detail about all the positive behavior influences. You just scan this in, you’ll see. there’s lots of ways that our world, our environment, our workplace, sets expectations and provides feedback.
There’s lots of tools and resources, including software, people we can turn to, reference materials, job design, process flow, et cetera.
There’s lots of things that either intentionally or unintentionally provide consequences, or incentives, and so forth.
And we can also look at the things that get in the way of performance, the problems, the obstructions. And so this is a way to look through the lens of the six boxes at those things. So again, there’s a lot to be said about it, but this is a really powerful and simple framework.
And as Sarah said, it’s not that big a deal, I don’t think, but I always like to mention it anyway.
At the 2022 International Society for Performance Improvement Conference, there was a session that I didn’t know was going to happen, But it was facilitated by it, a colleague of mine, and they voted on the best performance model in the world, and 6 boxes 1.
And I think the recent one is because it’s useful, because it’s straightforward. Because it’s very practical.
So now, and again, I mentioned, and also Sarah mentioned in introduction this notion of logic.
So how do we do this? We got these models. What do we do with them?
Well, what we teach people is what we call performance thinking, logic, or performance improvement logic.
We just basically put those two models together, we say, are we got to know what’s at stake in any given situation?
Whether it’s a three year, huge global project, or whether it’s a, a coaching conversation I’m having with somebody.
Once we know what’s at stake, so we know why we’re doing this, and we say, OK, let’s identify the work outputs.
And we interview people, we observe people, we, there’s a variety of ways we do that, but we identify the work outputs, and be sure, they do actually contribute to business results credibly, which is not as hard to do as it sounds.
But we want to be sure just like lean process people who want to get rid of waste, that the work outputs are actually valuable.
Once we know those, it’s very straightforward to go through task analysis, through observing through exemplary performance analysis, to identify the needed behavior, the tasks, and tactics that procedures and strategies for producing the work outputs.
So those are the three elements in our analysis of performance. And once we know those, we can just look at measurement.
There’s a lot of conversations about measurement in the field.
Training and development, performance improvements, so forth.
But, if you think about it, if you analyze performance into these elements, you will recognize, these are the three things you can measure.
So, we, we tend to be measuring business results, in many cases, but, if you think about it, you recognize most business results, things like revenue, and profit, expenses, and employee engagement, and customer satisfaction, and so forth.
Those tend to be lagging indicators in the sense that we don’t get a lot of data points. We might get data monthly in some cases, or quarterly, But what that means is, we can’t make frequent decisions, but we obviously have to monitor those results, and most organizations do.
At the other end, there’s behavior.
And we measure or monitor behavior with things like checklists, or counting behavior in environments. For example, where we’re trying to improve safety or in someplace like a call center where we’re trying to give feedback to customer service representatives based on some sort of behavioral checklist. So they can sharpen up their performance.
The challenge with behavior measurement is it’s moderately expensive usually to watch people to really do it.
You know, we don’t, we don’t count measurement to include things like asking the manager, if the person’s behavior change, that’s refined opinion. We’re talking about actual measurement.
So to do that, it takes time and money and so forth.
And sometimes it’s really worth doing, and it provides feedback and it’s a useful way to diagnose if things are not happening where you’d like.
But the thing that we think is highly underutilized its work happens is once we define a good decision or relationship, or a proposal, or widget, what a good one is, we can count those.
So that’s our measurement framework.
Once we know what we might measure, then we look at the behavior influences and we say, OK, let’s take a look. Let’s interview and observe people.
Let’s figure out what’s happening in each of the cells of this model, like how our expectations set for you, are they consistent and clear, or they inconsistent, or are they aligned up and down the organization? How about feedback? Do you get feedback as it mostly critical? Is that sometimes positive, where you get, et cetera.
So you do what we call analyze.
First of all, what are all the pluses and minuses in each of the cells?
And then we brainstorm with our colleagues and with best practices, investigations, and research on, you know, what the best stuff we could put in place.
And then, ideally, with our stakeholders, we choose behavior influences to comprise a systemic, optimal combination of things, for return on investment, basically, to produce the desired performance. And that’s our best guess about what’s going to work.
So, we implement, and we measure. And, just like agile, you know, we may adjust over time For continuous improvement, we probably always do. Or, if we’re really engaged, we’re adjusting all of the things in those cells.
But what’s beautiful about this framework is that, if I’m coaching an individual, she and I can talk about, or he and I can talk about the things we might do in the six boxes to help improve their performance. If I’m doing a gigantic global project of some kind, I can I can do the same thing, I could planned interventions using the same framework.
And in fact, what we’ve learned over the years, and this is if I pull this up because when we first started realized we had something to teach people the simplicity of these models and so forth, it was around 2005.
And what we recognized was that there was users, if you will, at different levels, in an organization.
And then there were lots of things They could do, what we call the applications.
And this is just a short list, But what we recognize when we look at this, is, if we teach these simple models and the logic, we can give people, tools and directions to enable all of these different kinds of players in an organization to do quite a variety of things.
And at that point, we realized we had a big deal here, because this was not just role specific or application specific, it was a generic model for analyzing and improving performance.
And as we’ve done that over the years, you know, some of our, some of the reports we’ve gotten from clients are things like a customer service organization shortening the time for onboarding to full productivity from two months to two weeks, or accelerating productivity in sales and customer service and elsewhere by reports everywhere.
From 35 to 60% or a number of companies but one in particular who said we, more or less saved their company.
By increasing employee engagement and retention, they’d actually became the employee choice because, or employer of choice, because if you organize this behavior influences, people not only productive, they’re also happy.
Um, senior executives referring to our models and so forth, as a strategic business advantage. 1, 1 of our largest clients are a global biotech firm, certifying over 300 people using this methodology and having it become a standard, so forth. So, these are some of the kinds of effects we’ve seen.
So, this is not just making stuff up, this is, this is a time tested approach.
So, if we start to talk about and move toward talking about HR business partners, 1 one sort of place to stop for a moment, is to consider HR business partners typically serve senior leaders and executives at various levels, depending on the company.
So we did a lot of work over the years, asking groups, like what do leaders do, what managers do?
And everybody has their different point of view about the difference, between the similarities between leadership and management.
But if we just ask that kind of question, we get a lot of things. So, here’s an example of some of the things that people said about what leaders do.
So I’ll make some sense, if you take a look at, those are certainly important things, And we ask what managers do.
We sometimes get a longer list, and this was to flip charts, order, or whatever.
But, you know, these are all things, and if you look at these things, like providing feedback, making plans, setting goals, and priorities, the big ahah that you might have, if you’re thinking, like we do, is that the job of a leader manager, is to arrange those behavior influences so that people will be productive and happy or engaged.
And so, when we look at the role of leadership and management in an organization, what we say is they may there may be a lot of things at any particular leader or manager can do. They may be also technical experts or what have you.
But, as leader or manager, their job used to arrange these things, so their employees will be productive and engaged. And we think those two things go together. We don’t think it makes a lot of sense to drive productivity without engagement or vice versa.
So, we always put those two things together some years ago.
And some of you may be familiar with the Gallup employee Engagement Survey that they’ve been doing for decades.
And there’s these 12 questions that they ask people to rate.
And if you know about the Gallup 12, this may be familiar to if you don’t.
What I can tell you is what I, when I encountered the Gallup Survey Employee Engagement Survey, probably 12 years ago or so.
Now, I realize that it’s sorted beautifully into the six boxes model. And so we, we looked at those things about what leaders do and what managers do. And we looked at the Gallup survey.
And we said, we can define pretty well best practices for leaders and managers by looking at it in the context of the six boxes model. And the point is, these are not isolated things. These are things that have to hang together, and if we’re going to optimize return on investment, and have people engaged to have them productive, we wanna look at the whole picture.
And so, these are the kinds of practices that we want to help leaders and managers adopt.
Now, there’s a whole set of conversations about that, that we don’t have time for now.
If I’m an HR business partner, and I’m trying to help the, my clients, my leaders, and managers, this is a framework that can be very useful.
So, as I mentioned, Performance Thinking has been a framework that we’ve used for a long time to develop programs and to empower different roles. So, for example, prefer performance consultants, and that word means different things to different people.
But it very often means training and development, people who want to expand their scope beyond just skills and knowledge.
And there’s books about it, and there’s programs about it, and so forth.
And we have what we call our Performance Thinking Practitioner Program, which is, teaches people to do analysis and recommendations for optimizing organizational performance, but at sort of the large project level, in most cases.
So that’s certainly a role that we can absolutely support.
But, of course, there are more leaders and managers than there are performance consultants or performance professionals, or HR professionals, or anybody else, and so we want to engage them.
And so we’ve got coaching and management leadership programs, which also use those very same models to enable them to develop their people, whether formally or informally to optimize productivity, engage.
And then different people, Very often managers, but not always, function as coaches.
And so we have a coaching program, again, built on the same, the same model, which is accomplished with, basically, when we’re coaching somebody about performance, we figure out what the outputs or accomplishments are that we’d like to develop in them improve.
No cleanup introduced for the next step on their career path or whatever.
And we have conversations with them, and we agree upon action steps that are framed in the six Box, as well.
And then executives.
We have an executive coaching approach, which we really discovered about 10 years ago, working with a few senior executives, where we did individual performance maps for them and began to help them see their job and their contributions in a different perspective.
So that they can start to make some decisions about how they allocate their time, and possibly how to delegate things, and, you know, if they were thinking about a succession plan and so forth. So these are all roles and organizations that we’ve actively over the years helped to support and empower with this, these models.
But the question comes up, what about JH, HR Business Partners?
And the history of this in our work is that probably, I don’t know, probably over the last 10 years, the practitioner program that I mentioned to you, which is A, which is designed to enable people, do big projects, mostly. Companies who would come to us and say, well, we’d like to put our HR business partners through your practitioner program.
And that was kind of an issue, And let me, I’ll mention that a little bit more in a minute.
But when you start to look at what HR Business Partners do, this is just really from one Bank that we have to work with some years ago, Fifth Third Bank.
But when you look at it, then working with a lot of different people, and they’re spread typically pretty thin.
Now, I suspect there are some HR business partners or people who lead and manage them in this, in this webinar, and this may not exactly reflect the situation in your organization, but what we, what we knew, and we didn’t know a ton at that point, but before we did an analysis, what we knew is that HR business partners tend to be spread pretty thin.
And so what we felt was, that the program, we had, to, to develop performance consultants, was going to be frustrating, …, as far as, because they didn’t typically have the bandwidth to focus on just 1 or 2 giant projects. They tended to be much more scattered, or, perhaps that’s not the right word, but distributed in their efforts.
But, they have an enormous, potential impact, because, first of all, they’re working with leaders and managers.
And any of us in training, performance improvement, change management, process improvement, human resources, no.
That we gotta get to the top.
In many cases, we’ve got to engage our senior leaders in setting expectations, and communicating a vision, and consistently recognizing good performance.
And all those things, and HR business partners have a direct line to these people. This is, these are their clients.
And the second thing is, what’s very interesting, is, typically, HR business partners contribute across the whole enterprise. They’re not function specific, necessarily.
They’re working with leaders and managers across different functions, different groups. Some of them may be internally focused.
That is the group, so maybe externally focus, but whatever it is, HR Business Partners are connecting up with the senior folks in most most functions.
And then the other thing that weeks, we’ve started to recognize a week. I’m sure you know this and we just sort of nude and formally started years ago.
Is the best ones really become tress, trusted advisers and partners?
They look more like many cases, management consultants, especially the ones that are called Senior or Strategic HR Business Partners.
So, that’s huge. This is like a big deal.
This is, you know, this is a big deal, except that, when people came to us and said they’d like to put these folks in our program, we don’t think so.
I think they’re going to be frustrated, because they don’t do big projects.
So we set out to try to understand a little bit more about how we can help.
And this is a, this is actually just a picture of, of some of the activities that HR business partners are typically involved in.
And actually, this is created by a colleague of ours, who actually was working in her organization, with HR business partners, that the person gets pushed off the screen a little bit, because there’s so much stuff here.
There’s so many things that HR business partners might have involvement.
And so we looked at that, this is pretty complicated, Like, what does you know, how do we deal with it?
So, we began to take a look, using our analytical tools at the role of HR business partners.
But before we did, or while that, we started looking out, on Google, basically, and saying, like, what are the different programs, or ways to develop HR business partners, Like, if you’re an HR business partner, let’s say you’re new, and how do you learn about stuff?
Now, what we, what we noticed as we began to speak with the, especially senior HR business partners, was very often, and this may not be true in all organizations.
But the organizations that we work with, and did an analysis of, especially the senior HR business partners, typically had some line management experience, operational experience. They might have managed the business unit, they may have run a retail store, they may have had a bigger role in a management role.
So they have business acumen, and they were respected for that, and then they may be where people, people, and they developed, or learned about human resources.
Now, that wasn’t always the case.
But what I was always impressed by is that the really best ones that I’ve known and met, where people who were selected probably because of who they were and what their experience was, rather than sort of a cookie cutter model.
But on the other hand, if you look out there and you look at stuff, this is just a few things I clipped off the web.
But, you know, this is the Academy to innovate HR on the left, future ready, HR Business Partner role and responsibility. So you can see a bunch of stuff there, that they’re expected to do.
And then the middle one is, actually from an article on another, from another company about stuff to think about, you know, what are three big areas where a strong partner relationship would add value? How do you make your HR business partners able to deliver direct, quick wins, et cetera?
And then, the third one, which are some things that HR business partners do.
And if you look out there, and you look at the, whether it’s Society of Human Resource Development, or berson, or a lot of these organizations that provide training and development for HR Business Partners, provide really good stuff.
But what we started to recognize is that there’s no explicit focus in most of these things, and performance.
And so, um, we thought, Well, you know, what can we do here?
Let’s analyze, in more detail, using what we call our individual performance Map, or accomplishment based role mapping, to see what we get.
So we introduced, we interviewed, rather at several companies quite a few HR business partners.
And, again, like the simple example I showed you earlier, the performers in the middle and their customers are around the sides. And so they, they may deliver value to employees and individual contributors.
They may, to their peers, They may certainly to HR, VP, leadership, their senior leaders, within the HR function, but especially business leaders, director, and below, in some cases, for regular HR business partners.
You know, for employee relations, manager, sometimes for themselves, for HR, centers of excellence, So this is just an example, but this is based on quite a few interviews, and if you look at these things in detail, a huge number of them are recommendations, or maybe questions or suggestions.
It wasn’t very easy to sort of sort this in a way that made a lot of sense.
Now, again, this is regular HR business partners, when we started to look, however, at them in a different way, we started to see some other stuff, which is, OK, so these are their outputs, these are contributions.
What are the processes or activity’s they’re involved in?
So when we interviewed people with that in mind, we came up with this kind of a list: employee relations, corrective action, compensation, promotions, recruiting, et cetera. These are some of the things that HR business partners are involved in.
And those outputs of theirs that are listed on the right side of the screen are contributions, often in processes, business, in HR processes, involved there on the left.
And then, we looked at senior HR business partners, which in most companies, there’s at least two categories.
And sometimes, they even have completely different names. one company was changing senior HR business partner to something like Strategic Business Advisor, or something.
But these are the people who really do, I think, get get selected because of their particular experience.
And if you look at them, they have a lot of the same outputs, but they have some different ones, too, Some more high level strategic ones.
And, again, we can look at the processes and functions.
And this is, this, I should just mention in passing, is an example of what sometimes happens when you’re conducting a thorough performance analysis.
You start out, and you say, well, let’s define this role and see what their contributions are.
And for many roles, that’s all you need for many roles, if you can begin to define their outputs or their accomplishments. And then you can decide which ones are most important and which ones what qualifies is, you know, what does good look like.
You can then build training, and onboarding, and coaching.
And even hiring around these accomplishments. You can build an entire accomplishment based talent development methodology.
But for a lot of roles, and this is the insight we had about HR business partners, their contributions really are more delivered to processes and activities that involve other people.
So often, the HR business partners, they might be managing some of these processes.
They might just be sort of bird ******* them in the sense of being sure they happen. Even though somebody else is doing it, a senior manager has to do something.
And so that HR business partner becomes an advisor, and sort of a bug in their ear and a contributor at key points, or they may simply be contributing to things that other people are driving.
But that list down on the left, it’s a pretty good list distilled from quite a few interviews of the kinds of activities that senior HR business partners typically are involved.
So, this started to get clarifying, because what we were looking for, of course, was opportunities for them, to contribute to performance improvement, to explicitly take what I outlined earlier in our performance thinking models, and apply those in ways that would, can, you know, drive performance and, and also, not just productivity, but also engagement.
So, then we took a look at the two of them when we sort of light, lay them next to each other. We said, OK, here’s the senior ones. And here’s the HR business partners. These are things that more or less or the same, but then there’s some significant differences and things that the senior folks do, and in, and in your company, of course, it may differ because, that’s the other thing we learned, is that it really depends on the company and the industry.
There’s quite a bit of variation, but we’ve never met any HR business partners who didn’t do some of these things.
It’s just a different mix depending on the context, So that’s very helpful.
So what we started to do is to say, OK. How could we bring performance improvement to these folks? Give them a way to apply the simple models of logic by work flexibly to do a lot of these things.
So what we did is we developed what I refer to as a modular program. And before I sort of show you the outline of it, let me tell you a little bit about the rationale.
First thing is, we don’t think that we’re going to, that it’s possible to create sort of a program. one fits all, it’s one thing.
So, our practitioner program does, does teach a methodology and a logic for analyzing and improving performance.
And although we talk about different applications, it’s still pretty much, you learn the logic and the methodology and the tools, and then you apply it to different things, will give them the diversity of things that and the diversity in size and scope of what HR business partners do.
We didn’t think that was going to work. So we needed to make it modular in the sense that we needed to have small chunks and applications that could sort of be learned on their own.
So that’s one piece.
And then the other thing is that, as I mentioned before, what we recognized was that companies have, there’s a good deal, variation in what HR Business partners do. and Company A versus Company B And not only that, but even within a given company, if it’s big enough, there may be some diversity in what different HR business partners specialize.
So we need to make it modular also, so that for any given group, or that for any given organization, we could tweak it. We could make it apply to them, we could customize it in a modular way.
And so, what we built was a design that now are looking for partners, too, through Pilot, with a design that I want to take you through just at a very high level.
And, and these are modules, and the scope is still yet to be defined. And it will probably in our first half dozen implementations. We will be refining that with different companies. But the things in gray here are sort of foundation modules.
So, we’ll provide an introduction to this whole framework of performance thinking will teach them how to do those individual performance maps, which are harder than they look.
But once you get, so you can do it.
You have a way of defining individuals’ and roles, contributions that gives you a way to do, first of all, just clarify expectations.
But, then, you can begin to look at span of control and organization design issues related to the different roles you can. You can use the list of accomplishments in the process of defining recruiting and talent acquisition. Activities you can, you can do succession planning and coaching, and executive coaching using those, so that’s a key tool itself.
That’s kind of one of the foundations, but it’s also something you can start to apply right off the bat.
And then, number three, there, Connecting employee behavior to business results. one of the things that we saw a lot when we looked at on the web, for, you know, what people thought HR business partner should do is, we said, we need to be able to connect up to and connect that HR to business results.
Well, one of the beauties of the performance chain is, if you’ve defined the outputs of a person, and you know the behavior, that the, that produces those outputs, and you know how the outputs contribute to the organization’s results.
You can have conversations with employees, and say, you know, this little form that you fill out every day that you might see, it becomes very boring, but getting it done on time, and have been sure it’s complete and accurate, may have an effect on regulatory compliance, or our ability to deliver good customer service, or whatever. All of a sudden, OK, that’s more important than I thought it was.
So, we can teach, You can.
We can teach people to use the performance chain, and the logic of it to do a variety of things, for leadership management, et cetera.
And then the six boxes model itself is a very rich thing to learn, because you begin to learn how to use as a framework for dealing with employee relations and corrective action things. You can begin to coach individual performance and show other people how to do it. You can begin as we, as the example I showed you to look at what leaders and managers need to learn, how to do it, and coaching them, etcetera.
So those are the foundation modules and then the subsequent modules, which could be sort of mixed and matched. And it’s really a short list.
First of all, enabling people to get the perspective that what leaders and managers do is they arrange conditions for their people to be productive and engaged. advents. You could drive leadership and management development, either as an individual coaching, an advisory role, or for that matter. if people are trying to develop programs or high potential programs or whatever. You can influence that.
Um, it turns out, you can also teach managers and leaders to use that framework to build engagement plans, and you can drive continuous performance development and then explicitly creating employee engagement plans.
We actually, in the next several months, are going to be offering what we’re going to call an application kit, which will be a very inexpensive toolkit for managers to develop engagement plans for their teams. And it turns out, the six boxes framework is a really nice way to do that.
And then measurement. I already mentioned the whole measurement with the performance team. We can teach people to identify, easy to access, practical measures of performance.
So whatever they do with leaders and managers, they can begin to look at individuals and teams and processes, and line up with the met business results, but also performance results for individuals and teams.
So those are some of the applications I’ve already mentioned, But we can also go into more.
We can, for example, we did a we did a webinar a few years ago, actually, I think we we may have for HR GQ.
I can’t recall now, but the whole thing of relationships as valuable accomplishments, if you define a relationship as a valuable accomplishment in the way that we do, and then you define criteria for a good one, you can teach people to actively build and improve their relationships.
So, for team development, if you’re coaching individuals, if you’re working with leaders and managers, as a context for developing emotional intelligence, we can, of course, also teach people to look at processes a little bit differently.
Because what we found when we brought performance thinking, too, process specialists, or leaders, and managers, who are trying to optimize the processes in their departments, or business units, is it’s really important to do two things that not all process people do.
one is define the outputs at each step in a process, so that we know where things go wrong. We can define and measure them better.
And, secondly, instead of sort of throwing things into the human error bucket.
We can use the six boxes by, we’ll figure out what it is we can do to improve that. So, there’s a bunch of things.
We’re not going to turn HR business partners or their clients into process specialists, but we can teach them to look at and document, and problem solve processes, and their departments and business units in a more effective way.
We can do executive coaching, which I’ll show you about a minute, we can do succession planning, et cetera.
So these are all applications, and there’s more of them that we could teach at any given company, can sequence and organize these in different ways.
Now, I mentioned the executive coaching thing, and this is a discovery we made, and I’m almost done what I want to present here, and we’ll have a few minutes for Q&A, But, one of the things we learned years ago, when, when a CEO of a not for-profit asked us, she said, My board is trying to measure my performance. And they’re coming up with really silly stuff.
So can you do one of these individual performance maps with me and see if we can come up with something different?
So we did, this is not the person, actually, is another example.
But, once you begin to identify, once you show a senior executive, their contributions like this, their whole job on a simple piece of paper, you can start, you’re not like, going to tell them what to do, but you can ask some questions, like, What are the most important contributions you make?
Which ones consume the most of your time? Is there any way you can delegate to, do you have a succession plan?
How are your team members using and accepting your vision statements, your goals, your solutions, your, your, you know, blah, blah, blah. How are the processes in your scope? You know, that you’re influencing.
So you can help a senior leader look into the contributions, that shear you’re making, and this is a perfect application for a HR business partner.
So just to summarize some takeaways, there’s a potential here for HR business partners to integrate performance improvement into the work that they do, and that’s kind of what we’re talking about here. Let’s get explicit about HR business partners, becoming agents of continuous improvement.
The modular design that we’re proposing allows an organization to customize and tweak it, solid foundation and performance improvement, but then applications, depending on what’s needed.
Um, what we believe strongly is, that, with the simple vocabulary, and the shared vocabulary, in particular, and the models, that HR business partners can more quickly expand their ability to influence and help leaders and managers.
And we think, as a result of all that, because HR Business Partners sort of have the organizational wired, they can really drive continuous performance improvement.
Now, I have a couple of, sort of, shameless commerce things. We have this practitioner program, not for HR Business Partners, but for performance Improvement Professionals, we’ve got an open program starting in September, for anybody wants to sign up, so it’s good to know about it, you can use that QR code to get to the page that describes it.
We have a coaching program that, during Covert, we turn into a virtual coaching program, and we’re gonna do a pilot of that. That’s a good thing for HR business partners to learn, but also for anybody, managers, leaders, and so forth.
And then, of course, because we’re so happy to be partnering with HRD DQ.
If you use this QR code, it’ll get you to a page with discounts. So we want to offer a discount for people that are interested in, in working with us to pilot the HR Business partner program. But, also, we can offer a significant discount or executive coaching services, and our practitioner program, So those are things to check out.
one more thing is we’ve been doing free webinars ourselves every month for about three years now, and we’re beginning to develop study guides for them, And so if you want to sign up to get the study guide so you can develop it, internal Reading Group or, like, we’ve got ATD chapters around the country that have started to develop groups where they watch the video and have discussions. You can sign up for these free study guides and you might find them quite useful.
So that’s, that’s pretty much what I have to say here.
Some sources of information, I’ll turn it over to CERA, see if there any questions.
Great. Thanks. Thanks. Doctor Binder. If you have any questions, type them into the questions box.
We have a few minutes here to answer those for you today. And our first question is coming from James, who would like to now. How has the discipline of human performance improvement evolved over time? And what factors have contributed to its growth? Oh, that’s a really, that’s a whole webinar in its own right. But thanks for the question.
Know, it it, human performance technology, human performance improvement emerged in the sixties and seventies from the people who were doing instructional systems design and people like Gary Rumler, and Tom Gilbert, and others. And they began to recognize that skills and knowledge are just one lever and a pretty expensive one.
And so they started to look at the whole system and all the variables.
And so that emerged.
And then there was an organization called the National Society for Programed Instruction, where those people were members in the sixties and early seventies. And then they turned it into the National Society for Performance and Instruction, As they started looking at other variables.
Then they, then, they turn it in, ultimately, to the International Society for Performance Improvement. And that’s really the home of performance improvement.
The Association for Talent Development, previously yazidi, caught on to that, I think, in the eighties, early nineties.
And they kind of cloned ISPI’s programs.
And, and because they’re better at marketing, they built their human performance improvement certifications.
A lot of performance improvement in my view, has been just sort of training on steroids.
It’s been teaching instructional folks, training people, how to talk more like business people. And that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about looking at the whole system.
What the business results and outputs we need from our people are. And then what all the variables are to co-ordinate.
What I would say, my contribution is, is that, in the seventies and eighties, all of the thought leaders were creating all these different models. And they were great, but they were kinda complicated.
And so I think what we, what I would say is performance thinking, is one of our colleagues said, recently has distilled most of what came from those early days into these sort of simple models. So that it isn’t just performance improvement specialists, but it’s kind of anybody who can apply them.
So, that’s kind of my angle on it, I’m not sure if that answers your question, but that’s how I think it’s evolved.
one other thing I can, that’s, well, can I add one of the things here, which is the International Society for Performance Improvement hit pretty hard time a few years ago, but I’m really excited.
I went to their conference a few months ago, and it’s growing again and it’s, it’s a vibrant place for people who are really interested in this stuff.
But go ahead, I’m sorry to interrupt.
Oh, no worries there, and so this next question that we have is from Kayla, who would like to know in what ways does the performance thinking methodology differ from traditional approaches to performance improvement?
I would say that the ways it differs is a couple of things.
The plain language is what we think is a big deal.
Because performance improvement, traditionally, if you talk to an experienced performance consultant who comes from the history of this field, they will pull out some model, you know, depending on the situation, which is fantastic. They’re masterful. But what it means is it’s very hard to get people up to speed on performance improvement.
So performance thinking with its plain language and with these two simple models, extracts really from the history of accomplishment based performance improvement tracing back to Tom Gilbert, and Gary Rumler, and some others.
The essentials, so that anybody can learn it more quickly.
I can talk to an executive, and within a few minutes, they’re going to sort of get, They’re not going to be performance consultants, but they’re going to get this framework, and we can work with them.
So I would say that we are accomplishment based, which is a particular version that I think is the most important, really distinctive version of performance improvement. We start with the valuable contributions, not with behavior, and then we put it in a framework that kind of anybody can learn and apply flexibly.
And I think that differentiates us from the, the models and the teachings, which are much more sophisticated and complicated, if you will.
But I’ll tell you, we can do anything.
Just, you know, we’ve got, like, our largest clients, apply this to do three year global projects, or, you know, right, you know, off, that just immediate ad hoc performance improvement, Everything is everything in between.
And we have time for one more question coming from Josh, and Josh would like to know how can the implementation of performance thinking models and programs by HR Business partners partners contribute to addressing the day-to-day issues and larger scope challenges faced by managers and executives?
Well, what, I think that, that, one of the things, is, because we’ve tried, and what we think here is, that, instead of trying to turn HR business partners into sort of big project, you know, this is how you do a big project, from analysis, to design and implementation.
We can teach specific applications.
So, one of the ways is by taking the particular things that a leader or manager needs to get done this week, this month, maybe even today, and applying these models in a flexible, but straightforward way that adds value.
But of course, if there’s a much bigger project, let’s say, succession planning for some really strategic roles, we can do a more systematic thing to by defining the outputs needed from the successor. We can analyze the performance of the person that’s being replaced, or that’s retiring, let’s say, we can look at candidates and define what they’re capable of producing. We can then build an onboarding, or succession planning thing, which enables them over time to do that.
So, I guess my simple answer is, as quickly as I can say, it, is, that the, the, the logic of this, with the simple models allow an HR business partner. Once they get, you know, some sophistication in this, to help address quick and dirty applications, as well as larger, more systematic ones.
And I think that will differentiate this from if you teach them a whole bunch of different models for change management, for succession planning. For da da da da da da.
This is a simple framework that you can apply to all those things.
Great. And that here, that does bring us right up to the top of the hour. So thank you so much, Dr. Binder, for sharing such great insights today.
You’re welcome.
And today’s webinar was sponsored by the Performance Thinking Network and HRDQ. Make sure that you check out those links that Dr. Binder shared with you today, will also be following up with an e-mail, with the link, so you can check your inbox for that if you didn’t miss it.
And also making sure that you join me for next week’s webinar, What Makes Great Transformational Leadership. And check out our podcast, HRDQ-U InReview. It’s been really fun over there, we’ve had 10 episodes so far, so make sure that you check that out.
For more information and tips to chat further with our presenters, and thank you all for participating in today’s webinar. Thank you. Again, Dr. Binder, for your time today.
Thank you, Sarah. Appreciate it.
And happy training, everyone.

Listen to the podcast

In this week’s episode of the HRDQ-U InReview Podcast, Sarah is joined by Dr. Carl Binder, an expert in performance improvement. This webinar reviews the webinar he presented, “Enabling HR Business Partners to Drive Continuous Performance Improvement.” Join us as we discuss what the Performance Thinking® framework is, when the framework should be applied, and who should use it.
Related HRDQstore training resources
More topics from HRDQ-U
Career development
Diversity and inclusion webinars
Diversity &
Business coaching webinar
Webinar customer service
Creativity and innovation skills training
Creativity &

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Log In