I recently watched this video from Chief Learning Officer magazine.
In it, Michael Nehoray, PhD, VP, Head of Global Learning and Organization Development at Mattel describes Mattel’s process for grooming leaders within the company.
However, he mentions one thing rarely discussed in the professional learning and development field. He says, “You create change through a declared set of behaviors, of capabilities, and of values.”
That statement reveals the key to so many of the things we as L&D professionals try to do. As companies, we only move forward when we state agreed upon and declared sets of behaviors, capabilities, and values. I’d like to focus on two parts of that sentence: “agreed upon” and “declared.”
“Agreed upon” means that each department and business unit in a company concur on this topic. “Declared” means we have written down (in a perfect world) this agreement. At the very least, it means we speak openly about the behaviors and values we want.
Why Do Performance Standards (Job Requirements) Matter?
Chances are high that if someone in your organization asks if there are performance standards for each job, most people would say yes. Unfortunately, these standards are not always evident. Even if they are evident, they are often not clearly stated. Businesses stay so focused on making the product, providing the service, and keeping customers happy that they do not take the time to agree upon (much less document) performance standards.
Performance standards are critical for businesses because they provide the methods an organization uses to be successful. They reflect the intellectual capital created by the organization to deliver the product or service. Failing to reach these standards reduces the organization’s ability to succeed.
Unfortunately, managers and leaders rarely have written standards that outline expected behaviors. The standards may be clear in the minds of managers, but often they are not written down to allow for an agreement on performance. Even if they are in the minds of managers, it’s rarer still for those standards to be formally communicated to the people being managed. When standards are not made clear, it becomes impossible to reach them.
The Question of Competency
Organizations often require competencies such as decision making, conflict management, and interpersonal skills. Yet they neglect to identify the standards for the competency. This creates a large gap in the ability to reach the competency because there is not agreement on “what the competency looks like.” How do we know if our leaders possess interpersonal skills? What standards of performance (things they do) show they have interpersonal skills?
Creating a learning program without clear standards compares to starting a journey without knowing the destination. Imagine your significant other asking you to go to the grocery store so he or she can cook a meal. Imagine they asked you to go without giving you any specific directions. They simply asked you to go to the grocery store to get what they need. Certainly, you can go to a grocery store, but what items do they need? How much of each item do they need? Which store carries all the items? Which brands of the items do you purchase to satisfy the recipe?
You can see how returning home without clarity of what was expected could be problematic. No one wants to be put in the position of failure. How can you be expected to return with the proper items without being given clarity on the expected outcome?
Standards Allow You To Measure Learning and Create Change
Knowing what the standards are, documenting them, and communicating them is the only way to address performance. Learning pros need to clarify standards to create an effective program to reach them. They need to clarify the standards so they can determine if their learning program reached the goal of creating the standards of behavior. Only through performance (behavior change) can there be an impact on the performance metric.
You measure learning success through behavior change. Behavior change in the classroom leads to behavior change on the job. Behavior change on the job impacts the performance metric. Performance standards provide the L&D pro with the content needed to create any learning program. Those performance standards become the objectives of our learning programs. Only with information on the conditions of performance and the criteria for completing the performance, can both the learning pro and business manager know if learning succeeded. Additionally, this information serves as a reference so the learner can know they are performing to the correct standard.
Taking time to agree on standards supports the basic components needed for organizational growth. It’s this step that provides benchmarks for measurement.
Document Standards If You Want to Create Change
If your organization has never formally documented job standards, now is the time to start. Even if not all in one place, most companies have some documentation on hand. Search company information for:
- Manuals or handbooks
- SOPs (standard operating procedures) or WP (working practices)
- Written policies or procedures
- Job descriptions
These documents describe the performance needed. They describe performance conditions and the level required to complete the performance. L&D teams find this information invaluable. Clear performance standards paves the way for stakeholder agreement on learning program outcomes.
Have you documented job standards at your organization? To create change and measure learning outcomes, take this necessary step. If you want to learn more about how to create change at your organization contact us here at eParamus. We’d love to help.
Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to discuss the learning challenges you face.
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