ATD Blog

Performance Improvement Is a Vital Capability for TD Professionals

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Performance improvement is a key driver of organizational competitiveness and one of the 23 capabilities in ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model.

The model outlines the knowledge, skills, and abilities talent development (TD) professionals need to grow and succeed in this fast-changing workplace environment. Performance improvement, defined in Capabilities for Talent Development: Shaping the Future of the Profession as a “holistic and systematic approach to meeting organizational goals by identifying and closing human performance gaps,” is part of the model’s Impacting Organizational Capabilities domain.

It is the process by which talent development professionals identify and analyze root causes of performance issues, design and develop solutions to close performance gaps, and plan for continual improvement. According to ATD’s Capability Model, TD professionals skilled in performance improvement should:

  • Have a thorough understanding of human performance improvement models, which generally follow the same principles and process.
  • Understand how workplace and organizational structure, work process, management and organization support, technology and resources, human resources and selection, learning and development, personal motivation, industry trends or shifts, and cultural or global influences can affect performance.
  • Have a thorough grasp of change management skills.
  • Effectively employ performance analysis methods and techniques (for example, business process analysis, performance gap assessment, and root-cause analysis).
  • Apply measurement criteria to performance outcomes.
  • Successfully partner with stakeholders to select a solution(s).
  • Model ethics and integrity throughout a performance improvement initiative, which can involve dealing with sensitive information.
  • Evaluate the performance improvement solutions after implementation.
  • Design and implement performance support systems and tools and understand how to make them available to employees at “the moment of need.”

“Performance improvement starts with the end in mind: the desired business results,” says Geri Lopker, business coach and founder of Geri Lopker and Associates.


She explains that every role within an organization should have clear performance outcomes linked to business goals. TD professionals are responsible for helping business unit managers clearly define performance outcomes for the job roles they oversee. Those outcomes are then used to identify high-performing, standard-performing, and low-performing employees. The solutions used to close gaps between low- and high-performing employees are usually manifold, and they may not always involve training, adds Lopker. If training is not determined to be an effective solution, it is talent development’s responsibility to say so and find the best solution.


From her personal consulting experience, Lopker explains a situation where training was not the right solution. While working with a customer service team that had simply requested customer service training, she uncovered the reasons behind the lagging customer service: inefficient workflows were preventing customer service representatives from fulfilling customer requests in a timely manner. However, there were no complaints about the actual interactions between customers and the reps, so rather than deliver training to the reps, Lopker worked with the team to improve its internal workflows. She also helped them set new performance goals and incentives, which resulted in a same-day service option being successfully implemented and improved overall wait times.

“Next time you are asked for a solution, try asking questions to better understand the issues,” says Lopker.

Check out the model to discover the knowledge and skills that will empower the growth and development of talent development professionals.

About the Author

Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Florida.

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