Interview with Dr. Rob Foshay
What was the most rewarding performance improvement experience you've had?
Founding a group that defined the HPT standards for ISPI, and being active in the CPT Committee and chairing the governance committee from shortly after launch until a couple of years ago.
I always believed in measured results and performance based assessment and that’s what HPT is based on. It felt like I was fulfilling my professional obligations to make that a reality.
What was the most frustrating performance improvement experience you've had?
Over the years, as many HPT folks have encountered, managers don’t necessarily want to make the changes that the analysis points to. They prefer a superficial or quick fix, or have their own solution. So they are sometimes not willing to do the intervention that is required and thus do it poorly or don’t abandon the old practices, and thus no change.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone new to the HPT field?
Maintain your professional integrity. The principles of practice that are standards for CPT and ISPI represent a high bar for professional practice and it is critically important to take those standards seriously and conduct your practice accordingly. That may mean telling clients things they don’t want to hear, or letting the analysis uncover things without injecting personal bias. Another piece is “don’t expect to do it alone.” A full HPT intervention usually requires multiple skill sets and is typically a team effort. You need to engage your colleagues and use the strength of the team; don’t do something you don’t have the skill set to do.
What was the greatest learning experience you've had?
I’ve had a great many mentors in the field. People who constantly teach me new things; on the top of that Judy Hale and certainly many others. People who’ve spent decades in the trenches applying the principles of HPT and shared valuable insights about needs of clients and their environments. This has led to a number of valuable conversations over the years.
When did you have the a-ha moment when you knew HPT was for you?
I’m not sure there was one. Certainly an important one was the publication of Gilbert’s book on the behavioral engineering model. That was the first logical framework for HPT analysis that I encountered and it made a ton of sense. I still refer to it.
What is the greatest marketplace opportunity for those in performance improvement (PI) professions that you see emerging in the next 2-3 years?
So many. There are some really important trends. One is that sophisticated businesses are more and more interested in performance-based justification of their investments in training. That in turn creates opportunities for training and non-training solutions blended, facilitated as an example by two things: 1, the ubiquitous availability of mobile devices supporting learning solutions, and 2, improved technology-based delivery of training. In a large corporation, the question isn’t why do we need technology, but rather why wouldn’t we use technology. And the question is how do you do it well? The third major trend that we see in the market is renewed emphasis on performance-based assessment credentialing. Sophisticated businesses are becoming increasingly skeptical of knowledge-based, academic style certifications. That in turn creates huge opportunities to create more sophisticated competency-based systems for identifying and developing talent in the organizations and improving performance through HPT analysis. Another piece is that historically in HPT a problem has been access to performance data while events are in process, but now much of that is online and with big data, it can be easier to accurately model performance of organizations at each step in internal processes. That will over the next decade or so become a major driver in HPT analysis because HPT specialists can show how to use that data for planned interventions for performance improvement and it will create major advances for us in the practice as well as for our clients.
What is the greatest marketplace risk for those in PI professions that you see emerging in the next 2-3 years?
The biggest risk is still communicating the value proposition of HPT to unsophisticated customers. Still lots of corporations of every size that take an unsophisticated view of training see it as a cost, they don’t see value at the organizational level or relevance to the impact on workforce competency, especially in the current economic situation. In that climate there is opportunity to fix their misconceptions and get them to think in terms of a class of intervention that constitutes a significant investment in their people rather than simply a cost. The whole principle of measured results. We still have only scratched the surface on getting the word out to businesses.
What advice would you offer to PI professionals to help them improve their relationships with clients and customers (internal and external)?
Three general things:
1. Make sure that your own credentials and credibility are sound- eg through CPT and other things, and document your successes and talk about them so it is clear you can deliver on your promises.
2. Invest a fair amount of time in educating your clients at your own expense- help them be intelligent consumers of the service- communicate the value proposition.
3. Always speak in the language of your customers- internal or external- don’t use HPT jargon with those outside the field- it’s not appropriate and it won’t work. They don’t need to learn your language, you need to learn theirs. For example, Judy Hale did a multi-year collaboration with an education consultant a number of years ago- they produced a text book as applied to school improvement, but written in the language of schools, not HPT methodology. You wouldn’t recognize it as an HPT book, but you can see it in there if you read it with your HTP goggles on. We need to do that with every market segment in which we work.
A lot of energy and dialogue has taken place in the last two decades about the importance of demonstrating and measuring the value of PI projects. In your opinion, what has resulted from this dialogue and energy around the measurement and evaluation of training and other PI efforts?
Good news and there are opportunities- plenty left to do. As a whole, the profession is getting better at documenting results. My evidence of that is the CPT process and the HPT portfolio both getting consistently stronger. In PIQ, you see some articles that attempt to deal with PI measurement problems. I don’t think we’re doing anything close to enough on that. There are opportunities for someone to do meta-analysis/impact of HPT across the interventions that have been completed, or to see corporations do this with their own interventions. We can do much better here.
If you were not in HPT, what would you be doing?
My first love was always instructional design, and it was understanding of the requirements of the training environments that took me from just ID to HPT and that’s why it made sense to me. There is always something exciting going on in the instructional sciences and I try to do both.