3rd Trend – Performance

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Do you have your time travel gear? Shoes? Old-timey dress wear? British accent, or can you fake one? Ability to enjoy open-air travel without a headache? Then if yes, enter the time travel machine. We are going on a journey. Set the time back to the ’70s or ’80s or ’60s, maybe the 50s, just for kicks. What? Too afraid? Okay, okay. Take the 90’s or perhaps yesterday for some companies (many). For those going back to the 70s, 80’s, and partially ’90s, be aware that you will need to know how to type to blend in (using a gadget known as a typewriter), and smartphones are unavailable. Yes, listening and talking to others face-to-face is required.

Depending on your vernacular, Performance can be seen in some twist with talent management or as a standalone as performance management. If you are in L&D or have a background in OD (Org. Development), which most folks in L&D have anyway, OR if you are T&D (Talent Development, which most vendors are not using as a term, even though it exists) OR HR if you are doing some Performance, then performance management is part of your domain. Again, HR, is dependent on the business, etc.

I wouldn’t slide Training as part of this scene, although there may be companies where internally Training oversees performance. At the places I worked, it wasn’t.

The term “performance management” conjures up a lot of perspectives for some folks. Negative including, although from a company standpoint, it is all “positive”. Perhaps at your company, where 360 feedback is supposed to include “negative feedback” in a dog-eat-dog angle (business-wise), you see this as pure positivity for the person receiving it. Yeah, I guess you can see it as all happiness, even if the employee cries.

From an online standpoint, performance management has always been an outlier, err outside the domain of learning systems. After all, it never focused or keyed in on learning, it keyed in on other areas. If you wanted performance management, you purchased a PM system (I will use PM going forward to mean performance management). Perhaps you purchase an HCM with performance as a module or cornerstone. Regardless, you did not buy an LMS, learning platform, LXP (in the last few years, oh, so long LXP – RIP), or training platform. You didn’t run out and get your Sales Enablement Platform either.

Recent, if you would likely still purchase a PM or TM, or HCM with PM or an employee experience platform or employee engagement platform – both terms I detest, but being added to the space since learning slides in there somewhere – not as a key mind you, then performance can play a crucial role – in many it does.

Yet, we are not there – well, not with our time machine, because for those folks who fully believed in ILT (and yes, many still do), or in the way of performance management within their company as the cornerstone of “all” tied around employees, tapping into uh ILT among other items. Online? Egads!

I bring all of this together because the latest trend in the learning system space is “Performance” and it scares the bejeezus out of me, due to being a very slippery slope if a vendor isn’t paying enough attention.

For those systems adding PM capabilities it is either seen as an add-on (in this case, an add-on is the way to go) or adding components within their learning environment to intertwine to a slight degree with learning (I’ll cover how shortly). Some offer it as a module – staying with the way of the legacy systems, such as Saba, SumTotal who offered PM or TM as a module.

In this modern performance aspect, the vendor is screaming from the rooftops – we are employee-focused. We are all about employees. Or, we can be if you want us to. I bring this up because of the number of combo learning systems – going after employees and customers. If you offer performance components in your system and say you are a combo, you are fooling yourselves. And if you are a buyer wanting a system for your customers or association, for that matter, you are fooling yourselves into thinking that the system that is pitching it is great for customers, and will continue pressing on key future features for that segment.

If your learning system is offering performance as an add-on and says they are an excellent system for customers, again, in giant BOLD letters, they are showing they are not – you don’t add performance and seriously believe that customer education is in the wheelhouse for growth.

There are LMS and learning platform vendors who offer performance as a separate module and go combo, and here is where it gets tricky. Because if you decide not to purchase performance, and want the system for customer ed, then sure, it could work, depending on the functionality of the LMS or LP.

With the push of performance into various learning systems either as an add-on for future interest or right there, they are undoubtedly focused on employees, which is fine. Some are now spinning it as workforce development. Great, more spin!

Everyone into this backroom

As it relates to a learning system and PM capabilities, we must think of our time machine; because it is as though all those L&D or T&D folks got together in one room and one place and said, “let’s add these pieces as the core,” and everyone nodded in agreement. After all, it has been that way for such a long time, and it works, so therefore, it will work here.

Similar to the whole ILT aspect, of well it works, because we get a lot of attendance (ignoring it is required for the majority of people) or a lot of usages (because, uh it is required for the majority of people) or that people complete it and retain the knowledge (let’s see that statement come true in six and 12 months, no looking at your notes! The completion angle? Uh, it’s required); the performance management angle of try and true is stuck in the mud or your mouth, like that piece of peanut butter you can’t remove.

I digress (and yes, you know).

The People in The Back Room

Here is a list of commonalities with the folks in the back room and what is appearing with performance either as part of a learning system or an add-on:

  • Leadership Development
  • Succession Planning
  • 360 Feedback
  • One-on-One Feedback
  • Task management
  • Performance Improvement (Performance Review)
  • Performance Assessment
  • Goal measurement
  • Goal setting
  • Company goals and rollups

If you take a few seconds and look this list over, what will you see? Beyond everything that has been around before online learning (as in online via first a modem) was in existence, not just corporate by education too (known as edtech).

Leadership Development could be done as early as 2000 online, heck that is what some folks used their courses/content in an LMS for. And yes, you could assign tasks too, although that really started to appear with a lot of systems by later 2017s or so. They didn’t always call it tasks.

Really though take a look. All stuff that has been around, and you can question whether they all truly work for “all” or not, but I am looking at where is something new here.

From a learning standpoint, more specific content you can tie a few of them into it, such as

  • Objectives – under goal setting, thru rollups (personal, team, division, etc)
  • Performance improvement, thru courses/content – and tie that into an assessment or add an assessment to performance improvement to see over time how their performance has improved or not
  • Task management – Courses/Content tied to the task (which is often noted as a way for comprehension, which I believe is highly debatable)
  • Possibly succession planning, if the plan is based upon courses/content completed tied to whatever other variables – a stretch granted
  • Leadership Development – Obvious
  • One on One feedback could slide within coaching – which could be tied to courses/content – but most folks think 1 to 1 with the manager which again, the manager can recommend courses/content.
  • Viewing metrics on the back end could be tapped with numerous items here, including goal management (the goal pieces), performance improvement, assessment, and even leadership dev.

I’ve seen task delegation, which has promise but I’ve seen it slide under performance, which okay, works far better than say somewhere else.

I’ve also seen some job opportunities within the company slide under performance, as though recruiting is no longer a piece of uh, recruiting and instead can be in performance, since the courses/content needed to attain or be considered for that opportunity, including the skills (which is learning), should be here.

It reminds me of the early days of the LXP space, where it seemed everyone got together and said, “Okay, let’s not allow for multiple roles for administrators, or approvals; and let’s not have this, or this” and everyone said okay, that makes sense.

The Slippery

I believe for some vendors this will be just the first step into adding features that breach the HR line if you will. Sure performance goes into L&D and T&D, but is all of performance a part of learning or just some? I’d argue the latter, and only for specific pieces at that. Anything can be spinned in such a way to fit for learning, but learning in a way is training right? You are training someone to learn a new skill. You are training someone to acquire knowledge to improve their learning on a specific subject. You shouldn’t think of training someone as a way to improve their performance as a key indicator for learning. Either you support the idea around performance and learning being intertwined at the hip or you don’t. Of course, there will be vendors who take pieces (as you will see) of performance tie them in with learning and mash it all together so it works in harmony.

But where does it stop? Opportunities as noted above, is making an appearance under performance in some learning systems (those that have it are, skew more around skills and employee dev/exp platform, and learning platform, not so much LMS), and it isn’t too far of a stretch to start to think of other HCM pieces sneaking in under the guise of performance. If I can do opportunities within the company, tied to learning and roles, why not add recruiting externally as well? If I can tie downsizing to my learning, why not look at it thru the eyes of performance reviews which are tied to performance improvement or lack thereof from the courses/content.

If I need to shave off some resources (i..e layoffs), let’s take a look at performance assessments tied to learning tied to improvement or lack thereof, tied to the rollups which are tied to the learning, and then decide who stays and who goes.

Bottom Line

The crossover is now official. Performance Mgt capabilities are starting to appear in the learning system space. If you are in the performance add (then it is all the above and then some, or all the above – they may use different terms) or add-on/module. The latter is fine, and sticking it into your system, okay, well that is the next step – but only if your system is for employees. Not customers. Not associations.

And only if you can handle what comes next.

Because once performance features start coming in, how can you make sure

You can stop the flow?

If at all?

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