businessman working with graph data at office
ATD Blog

Why Performance Improvement Is Essential

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

When a drop in performance occurs, it can be difficult to know how to address it. If, for instance, a team didn’t meet its goals for the year, what could the problem be? Is it because the team doesn’t have the resources it needs to perform effectively? Do certain team members lack the knowledge or skills to do their jobs? Is something wrong with the way senior leaders are communicating goals to teams and departments?

This is why performance improvement is essential. Performance issues can have many causes, and implementing a solution without knowing the issue’s root cause can be risky. Performance improvement, defined in the study as the systemic process of identifying the root causes of a performance issue in an organization and implementing solutions to resolve that issue, helps ensure that solutions are suited to the problem at hand.

ATD Research surveyed 649 talent development professionals about their organization’s use of performance improvement. The findings are published in ATD’s research report Organizational Performance Improvement: Methods and Skills to Drive Business Results, sponsored by Allego. The findings below are based on the 229 participants whose organizations have performance improvement processes in place.


The top benefit respondents have seen from the performance improvement process is improved employee productivity, as 58 percent of respondents cited this as a result their organization has experienced. Other benefits include improved quality or reduced errors (55 percent), improved employee satisfaction (52 percent), and reduced re-work or duplication of effort (50 percent). Furthermore, respondents from organizations that used performance improvement were significantly more likely than organizations without performance improvement to indicate that they expected their organization’s business performance to improve in the next year.

While performance improvement brings many benefits, some aspects of the process can be challenging. When asked about the most challenging stage of performance improvement, nearly half of respondents indicated having trouble with solutions; 23 percent felt implementing solutions (including getting executive buy-in) was the most difficult stage, while a quarter of respondents had difficulty managing change to maintain those solutions. However, there are steps organizations can take to meet these challenges.



The report includes several recommendations from subject matter experts for how organizations can overcome common performance improvement challenges. A few of these recommendations are described below. To learn more, read the full report.

Partner with leaders.
This is crucial for navigating two of the most challenging stages of performance improvement: implementing solutions and maintaining them. Rachel Hutchinson, head of global portfolio and community management at Hilti North America, recommends including leaders in more planning meetings. When leaders play a role in developing a solution, they may be more likely to ensure that the solution is properly implemented and maintained.

Concentrate on business priorities.
Some performance gaps may require more time or resources than an organization can devote. Focusing on solving only those performance gaps affecting organizational goals can ensure that performance improvement efforts are more effective.


Frame conversations around desired results, not solutions.
If leaders or stakeholders are eager to implement a solution before a root cause is known, that solution may not be successful. “Have a discussion about the results they are seeking, rather than the solutions they have requested,” explains Dana Robinson, lead performance consultant at Handshaw and author of Performance Consulting: Moving Beyond Training. “Raise those questions in their minds so that they value getting that information before moving ahead with a solution.”

Learn More

Learn more about how the ATD model and how to improve your workforce's performance with ATD's Improving Human Performance certificate.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a former ATD research analyst. Her responsibilities included preparing surveys, analyzing data, and writing research reports.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.