Engaging Organizational Leadership to Focus on Employee Development

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speak the Language of Performance

I recently read The 6 Ways Government Needs to Improve Performance Management.  The article talks about The President’s fiscal year 2014 budget and its emphasis on the creation of “a culture of performance improvement.”  Now, of course, when I hear performance improvement, I pay special attention because we are in the business of improving organizational efficiency.  We should always be tuned in to automatically think of this as an opportunity to add value and help our organizations. 

L&D professionals need to be able to explain what is meant by “performance improvement” and how it is tied to individual performance management and employee development.  Employee development and performance have a direct impact on organizational performance.

The article references The New Federal Performance System: Implementing GPRA (Government Performance and Results Act of 1993) Modernization Act which was generated by the IBM Center and the National Academy of Public Administration.     

The report identifies six recommendations on how the federal government can continue to reviltalize the performance management system.  Each of the recommendations has direct implications for L&D.  The six recommendations are below.

  • Recommendation #1:  Connect the performance system to public service motivation
  • Recommendation #2:  Build a learning culture
  • Recommendation #3:  Balance top-down targets with bottom-up innovations
  • Recommendation #4:  Integrate program evaluation into the performance management
  • Recommendation #5:  Ensure leaders are committed to performance management
  • Recommendation #6:  Connect with Congress and stakeholders

We have to speak to organizational leadership using the language of performance in order to engage them in conversations about employee development.  According to the article, the goal of the performance management system is to “improve performance by creating a culture that thrives on incredible performance”, which corresponds to one of the fundamental goals of L&D.  Once L&D shows the link between organizational and individual performance, the conversation regarding employee development becomes that much easier.  
What follows is a few of the topics mentioned in the article that have a direct impact for L&D:

  • Create an environment where there is continuous learning (This is what we do.)
  • Learn from others (We facilitate learning environments.)
  • Incorporate evaluation expertise into performance discussions (We are experts in evaluation and measurement.)
  • Managers need performance management skills (We develop knowledge and skills.)
  • Change practices based on evidence of what works (We are the change agents for our organizationns.)
  • Share information (We are the knowledge management experts.)


Create Learning Organizations to Improve Performance


Creating learning organizations is one impactful thing we can do to address each of the six recommendations to improve government performance management. Learning organizations assist organizations in adapting to change, harnessing creativity, and developing organizational and individual learning capacity. 

Learning organizations do the following:

  • Integrate learning with work
  • Seek opportunities to continuously learn
  • Commit resources to learning and development (L&D)
  • Empower employees to make mistakes
  • Embrace strategic change

We need to find ways to help motivate our employees to desire “incredible performance.”  This is our job to make learning easy, engaging, and part of everyday work.  We can facilitate fun ways that get the work done, but also improve organizational and individual performance.
The Keep Learning Challenge

  I developed The Keep Learning Challenge within my Department to address knowledge and skill gaps within the HR community.  I created a game board with 37 free ways to learn and develop.  As the HRU Ambassador for my Department one of my work assignments is to increase the numbers of HRU registrations from employees in the 201/203 occupational series.  HRU is an online university for government employees, which is fast becoming a one-stop shop for HR employee development.  As an Ambassador, my goal is to increase HRU registrations, while creating a culture of learning that fosters employee development.

As individual performance improves, as a result of the knowledge and skills gained through The Keep Learning Challenge, employees are equipped to better perform on their jobs, leading to increased organizational performance.  Now, I’m not saying that this one learning activity is going to drastically improve the organization’s performance, but it is a start that leads to creating a learning organizaiton.   The Keep Learning Challenge does, however, seeks to create a learning organization by integrating learning with work, creating a framework for employees to seek opportunities to learn, and committing resources to L&D.   I will talk more in detail about the challenge in my next blog.

Starting the Performance Management Conversation

You need to start with an L&D strategic plan that stems from your organizational strategic plan.  This plan should guide L&D conversations about performance and how employee performance impacts organizational performance.  Once you show the direct link between employee development and performance to organizational performance, organizational leaders will listen.  Answering the questions below with your leaders can be the catalyst to some meaningful conversations.

  • Does our organization have a formal employee development process?  (If not, create one.)
  • Does our organization accept that some new ideas will fail and mistakes will be made, but to view those instances as opportunities for learning and improvement? (If not, create a system for knowledge management.)
  • Are there processes in place for employees to give suggestions and improvements?  If so, is such feedback taken seriously?  (If not, develop a process.)
  • Does our organizaiton seek and value customer input?  (If not, create a method to solicit customer input.)
  • Does our organization continuously improve products and services using innovative approaches?  (If not, create a continuous improvement system.)

Sharing Ideas

Feel free to share how your L&D department is creating a learning organization, improving performance, and promoting employee development.  I am always looking for ways to leverage what others are doing.  What are you doing to help your agency or department leaders to focus on employee development?

Next Blog: Strategies to Keep Employees Growing & Learning

About the Author
ASTD Field Editor Deadra Welcome, CPLP, currently works as a senior learning and development strategist in the federal government and is the president and CEO of Concerning Learning. She has more than 22 years of learning and development experience as a strategist, business partner, program manager, instructional designer, and facilitator. In 2011, Welcome wrote Using Passion to Become a True Business Partner for the July 2011 edition of T+D magazine. In March, 2012, she successfully completed the President’s Management Council Interagency Rotational Program as an inaugural participant. Welcome has been a guest presenter for Bowie State University, ISPI-Potomac Chapter, and CBODN Government SIG as well as a guest blogger for the ASTD Government Community of Practice;
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