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ATD Blog

Performance Improvement, Management, or Consulting?

Friday, April 7, 2023

Organizational leaders, employees, and talent development (TD) professionals focus on performance, so TD professionals must understand different ways to support optimal performance. ATD’s Talent Development Body of Knowledge (TDBoK) defines “performance” as “the execution and accomplishment of some activity; it is not an adjective that describes the action itself.” This article reviews three primary approaches used to support optimal performance.

When discussing performance in organizations, it is generally approached in terms of how well an individual executes the key responsibilities of their role, the way a system or process is working, or in terms of key business and financial metrics. In performance discussions, four questions generally arise:

1. What is current performance like?
2. How does this compare with desired performance?
3. Whether or not there is a gap in current performance, what are the opportunities to improve performance?
4. How can we improve performance?

As a TD professional, it is essential to understand the concepts, methods, and tools available and how to use them to drive performance that helps organizations achieve their goals.

First, let’s look at performance improvement. Performance improvement is the systematic process of identifying the root causes of a performance issue in an organization and implementing solutions to resolve that issue. Generally, every individual in an organization is tasked with performance improvement in their areas of responsibility. Performance improvement is the process applied and the actions taken to improve performance, whereas performance is the execution and accomplishment of some activity.

Second, let’s look at performance management. The TDBoK defines performance management as “an ongoing communication process between supervisors and employees to establish expectations that support accomplishing the organization’s strategic objectives, including clarifying expectations, setting objectives, providing feedback and coaching, and reviewing results.” Performance management is a process that focuses on an organization’s commitment to consistent communication and clarity related to an employee’s ongoing performance concerning their role and organizational goals. Performance management generally includes regular performance appraisals of an employee’s work.


ATD’s TDBoK defines a performance appraisal as “an assessment of an employee’s job accomplishments. It may also be referred to as a performance review, performance evaluation, or employee appraisal.” Many organizations leverage technology to support performance management. Some of these systems include ADP Performance Management, WorkDay, BambooHR, and others. The manager and employee are the main drivers in the performance management process. Human resources and talent management can support the employee and manager when a specific performance improvement plan is established for an employee.

The third approach to performance is performance consulting, a discipline that uses a performance consulting model like ATD’s HPI (human performance improvement) model and provides value to any professional’s overall business acumen. We use performance consulting to improve performance by:

1. Identifying the performance goal in terms of outcomes
2. Verifying alignment of the performance goal with business goals
3. Analyzing current performance to quantify the performance gap in terms of outcomes
4. Recommending the best solution to close the gap while employing project management, change management, and performance evaluation best practices


This is an image representing ATD’s HPI

HPI Model.jpg
Business and organizational leaders value partnerships with effective TD professionals who can address the priority of performance in their organizations. Knowing the differences between performance improvement, performance management, and performance consulting is essential for TD professionals to create effective partnerships.

Learn more about ATD’s HPI model through the Human Performance Improvement Certification Program. There is a preconference session available at the San Diego conference:

About the Author

Amy P. Kelly is president and chief learning officer of the Amy P. Kelly Companies. Her work combines her belief in people with a passion for achieving business results through strategic Human Resources and Development Programs. Amy is an experienced HR and Learning and Development Executive who has built award-winning employment brands, corporate universities, leadership development programs, and organizational well-being strategies. She is a Certified High-Performance Consultant, Master Trainer, and Executive Coach who works with executives to develop exceptional talent and cultures that win in the marketspace while having fun achieving superior results.

Amy is a graduate of the Leadership Coaching for Organizational Well-Being Program at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and brings her work in Human Resources, Learning and Development, Business Development, and Coaching to provide powerful leadership development and consulting programs that help people grow their careers and organizations. Amy’s programs push leaders and teams to get productively uncomfortable in order to best position themselves to thrive in the continuous change that leadership and business success demands. Amy designs and delivers Leadership Wellness, Emotional Intelligence, and Women's Leadership Programs for companies and universities. Amy is the co-creator of the "Leading Well Program" to help leaders operate at their highest capacity by integrating strategic leadership fundamentals with personal well-being practices and emotional intelligence competencies.

Amy is a Global Facilitator for ATD in the areas of consulting, training, change management, and human performance improvement. She holds multiple certifications from ATD programs including:

Human Performance Improvement
Master Performance Consultant
Change Management
Creating Leadership Development Programs

Amy is the lead consultant, speaker, and trainer for The Jon Gordon Companies and co-author of The Energy Bus Field Guide, a roadmap to fueling your life, work, and team with positive energy. She is a Gallup Strengths Trained Coach and certified in the full suite of Wiley Communication, Leadership, and Agile EQ products.

You can find Amy believing in people and partnering to build great leaders, teams, and organizations in all aspects of life, whether it is at home with her husband and four children, in her community, or in businesses globally. It is her passion to believe in people and work alongside them to drive performance at the highest levels possible.

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Enjoyed this article and its content on improving human potential in the workforce using not just a system but proven methods that benefit people and organization.
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Enjoyed this article and its content on improving human potential in the workforce using not just a system but proven methods that benefit people and organization.
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I appreciated the visual model included in this informational blog post about the impact of improving human performance in the workplace. The need to both identify and close performance gaps effectively is crucial to boosting performance in the workplace, but finding the root causes can be difficult. Implementing this systematic approach can ensure the needs of the business are being met with real solutions, to not just help the employees reach their full potential, but the business, too!
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