The Learning + Training podcast

While employee training is important, it is only a piece of the overall employee performance puzzle. Join us as we speak with Barbara Greenstein, Senior Instructional Designer at Epsilon XR, on six areas to address to drive better employee performance.

Barbara is a performance improvement specialist providing proven and creative ways to improve human performance in the workplace. 

Highly regarded for her instructional design and facilitation skills, with over 30 years in the learning and development field, she helps clients put the systems in place to more effectively manage in today’s changing business environment while ensuring optimal performance and job satisfaction for all employees.

She received her M.A. in Human Resource Development from Marymount University.  Barbara is a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT), from ISPI. 

 

Host – Steven Maggi: Organizations are always looking to increase employee performance. But the question is how. With us today is Barbara Greenstein, senior instructional designer at Epsilon XR. Barbara has over 20 years of experience in learning and development. Now, Barbara, you specifically target six components of human performance. What are they?

Barbara Greenstein: Well, first of all, thanks for having me here today, Steve. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this. And what you’re referring to, the six ideas that we need to think about in regards to performance, the first one is that person needs to have a certain level of skills and knowledge, and that’s what we normally refer to as training or learning.

And then the second piece is what we call capacity. And that might be the capacity to be able to learn in more than one language. It might be the capacity to be able to lift a particular weight in a warehouse. So, what would be your capacity to actually do the job?

And then we have this item called motives, and everybody knows motivation. We’ve got internal, we’ve got external. But the ones that we think about most frequently are the motivations that drive us to do our work: things like a good salary, compensation in the form of healthcare, compensation in the form of our 401ks. But it’s also things like waking up every day with the intent to go in and do a good job. But not just do a good job, but we’re motivated to be there, both physically and mentally on the job.

Steven: Is that something that we should be finding out in the interview process? Are these the things that we’re looking out for there, or is it something that kind of develops over time?

Barbara: Interestingly enough, a lot of organizations don’t really think about the three factors that I just talked about or the six factors overall, even though they’re very common sense type of things to have in place for your employees. We don’t always necessarily think, as an employer, that if I have these six areas in place for my employees and support them in all six of these areas, then I’m probably going to get an employee that is more eager to be there all the time. So generally, when I go in to talk to a client, I do some line of questioning to help me to determine what they have going on. How motivated are their employees? What is the retention rate? How long are people staying? Those sorts of things will tell me if somebody’s motivated, things to determine how they are actually hiring, what their interviewing process, will help me to determine if they’re looking at things like capacity. And then what is their level of having different types of employee development in health or out health for developing skills and knowledge of their employees.

But that’s all about the person. And those are the three things that really relate to the person and how the person is going to do based on who they are, what they come in as an individual to work with. But there’s actually three additional factors that are related to the environment side, things that may be out of control of the individual to factor into how they perform. But certainly things as an employer, that we can make sure that they have in order to be able to be a better performer. And those three things are information or data that we provide the employee with everything they need to know in order to be able to do their job, from high level of policies and procedures, to low level of a desk aid that tells them what to do when they get there on the job and everything in between.

Steven: That’s different than tools, right?

Barbara: That’s different from tools because we’re talking simply about information there, data that will help them to do their job. When we’re talking about the second piece there in that environment setting, tools and settings, we’re getting into equipment, we’re getting into software, we’re getting into ergonomics with the style of the desk and the right kind of chair and the right kind of keyboard and having a phone. May seem simple, but all of these things have to be thought about, have to be supplied to the employee in order for them to be able to do a better job.

And the very last thing ties into the motivation piece on the person side. And the last item in the environment sector is what we call incentives. And that’s making sure that we not only provide them with a salary, but we do provide them with a great list of other incentives. And those incentives don’t have to have a dollar amount. They can be things like recognition, where on a monthly basis, you’re telling them what a great job they did, or you’re finding things that they’re doing right and letting them know what a great job they did, recognizing them at a team meeting, providing them with movie tickets for doing something well, but also providing them with feedback when they’re not doing something exactly right, to let them know what they need to do in the future to improve on how they do their job.

Steven: And the incentives go directly to the motives. Right? So maybe each employee might have different motives, so therefore the incentives might be different from one to another.

Barbara: Absolutely. Absolutely. And let me give you an example of that. One employer that I worked for a long time ago was really great about providing these small incentives to their employees, so that they would feel great about what they did, after an accomplishment had been met. And I was in process of learning how to teach C programming. Once upon a time, I actually taught technical classes and programs and C++. So I was learning to teach the C, I was out in the field learning how to code in C before I actually came into the classroom to be able to teach it. A lot went into it. It was a big endeavor, and I finally did it. And I did a great job, and I got great reviews. And my manager,to make sure that he recognized the job that I did, thought he did a great thing. He went out and he bought me two bottles of wine.

Now, when my coworkers saw that the gentleman purchased me two bottles of wine, they were appalled. How could he possibly do that? How was it that he didn’t know that Barbara is allergic to alcohol and never, ever drinks? So even though it was so well thought out on his part, and I certainly appreciated it, and I didn’t turn to him and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t have this. This is not for me.” I took them home like a nice person, and I distributed them somehow. My husband drank them, or somebody else when they came to the house. But it certainly wasn’t something that would motivate me.

So when you think about individuals and providing that form of incentives and recognition, really important and a big piece of this model is that you know your employees and what their capabilities are.

Steven: Right. And I guess some of that you might just find by trial and error. But really, I guess the more you know, in terms of these six factors, the more effective it is not only for the company, but also for the employee.

Barbara: Absolutely. We hear all the time, different people talking about “know your employee, know who they are, know what makes them who they are, what drives them, what motivates them.” It lends credibility to the leader. And at the same time, it ensures that you’re doing something for that individual that they’re really going to be excited about. And in the process, they’re going to give you a little extra. We’re all human.

Steven: It’s just good for everybody’s feeling, right? Something that you can’t measure maybe, but if people are enjoying going to work, that makes a difference too.

Barbara: Absolutely. Absolutely. Let me tell you another little story about these six boxes. Something that happened to me. So another company that I worked for was a fast food industry, and we had a meeting off campus with all of the human resource development employees, which included myself and all of my coworkers for the training and development center. The first night that we were there, they had a big gala event, where we got all dressed up, and we all went to dinner. And we sat down with our cohort, and my boss was there, and all the table settings were out and everybody had a name tent. And I saw my name tent. I saw my boss’s name tent. To the left of me, there was a setting and there was absolutely no name tent there. And I was freaking out because the president and CEO at the time was there and I’m saying, “Oh my gosh, what if he sits next to me?”

And so sure enough, he did. He sat next to me, and I totally freaked out because I was like, how am I going to eat? How am I going to be able to talk? I was just totally, totally star struck. And we’re sitting there, we’re having dinner. And as we’re having dinner, they bring out a palate cleanser of sherbet. Now this is a long story to get to a point, but I think it’s well-founded. So they bring out the palate cleanser, and the gentleman takes out his soup spoon and begins to eat. And I just looked at it because I know you don’t eat… there’s a special spoon for eating that course of the meal. And I didn’t say anything, but I just had this epiphany as I sat there.

And I realized that first of all, it was a learning lesson for me that everyone gets up the same way and puts on their pants, one leg at a time. And it doesn’t matter who they are. We’re all human, and we all want to be treated exactly the same way. So years later, I moved away from that job to another location. And I was having a very, very difficult time with dealing with the new employer that I was working with. Nothing of the six items that I explained to you here was set up in their system. Almost to the contrary, the motivation was negative. The incentives were minimal. The tools and settings, I had to assure they got put in place because they didn’t exist. People who were hired that didn’t have the skillset to do the job, so of course it was making it much more difficult to communicate and get things done the way you needed to. The environment was minimal in regards to the data that was provided, there was no rules or procedures or policies. It was all sort of done by the seat of your pants. There was no training at all. Training just did not exist. It was a startup company, and that is very typical for a startup type of environment.

And as I sat there, I realized, “Oh my gosh, this is what’s missing. These six things are missing.” And I had all of those things at Burger King Corporation, which is the company that I’m talking about. And they were so, so very good about making sure that their employees had everything that they needed to do the job and about setting that environment for the employees. That they wanted to come in every day and work. And when you put these six pieces in place, that’s what people do. It’s so different an environment, and when you’re thrown into that environment, that doesn’t have it, and you realize that you’re like, wow. And I actually turned around and I wrote that gentleman and I told him that, and I thanked him for making that kind of environment that everybody wanted to show up to every day, because it had such an impact on my life.

Steven: How do you measure this performance improvement? We know these are the tools and so forth, but it really isn’t all that hard to measure it. That’s one of the things you’ll learn as you go through this, is it all goes about setting up the perfect system, in your story, the Burger King thing, and then how close you can get to that.

Barbara: Yeah, absolutely. And the thing is, I was on a call this morning, and we were talking about measurement, and we were talking about assessing how people do on their training, specifically training because everybody always goes to training, how do you measure what they did in their training? And then how do you determine how well they can actually do it once they get back to the job? And when you talk to folks in leadership roles, your CEOs, your chief learning officers, those who are trying to make sure that their employees are doing the best job ever, so that they reach their bottom line goals on a yearly basis—-they want to know how the employee development that is provided to their employees actually makes a difference in their bottom line goals.

And oftentimes it doesn’t happen. And sometimes it doesn’t happen because time gets in the way. There’s not necessarily someone who is assigned to doing that part of the job. And so it sort of slips under the rug and it doesn’t get done. And the only way that I have found to ensure that these six components get measured and that we have checks in place to ensure that it really is making a difference to how the company is running, is from the very beginning, when you go in and you talk to your leaders about putting different types of employee development in place. You talk about how do they want to track that back to the overall goals for the company. What does it look like when somebody is doing the job right? What are they wanting to know that they’re doing to a particular level that tracks to, let’s say, sales or tracks to retention rate going up. Or let’s say it tracks to their customer service level increasing, what sort of things do they want to measure?

And then as you go about designing and developing your employee development solutions, based on these six factor areas, you ensure that there’s a way to get information, whether it’s through surveys or observations or some sort of digital measurement that takes place. That you can track it, look at the data, determine how well people are doing, and then look at how it aligns to the goals that were originally stated before starting any of the solutions, designing them, putting them in place for the organization. And you can see, was there some sort of gap reduction that this is where they started, and this is where they are. And have they gotten closer to reducing the gap by putting this solution in place?

Because that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do, is whatever we put in place with these six factors should reduce inefficiency, should make our employees want to be there. And by wanting to be there and wanting to do better, suddenly we start to see the numbers increase in sales. We see the numbers increase in retention, because they’re so happy, they never want to leave. We see the customer satisfaction ratio go through the roof because customers have nothing but great things to say about how they’re treated on a contact center line.

Steven: It’s always about shrinking the gap, isn’t it? And it never ends. You’re constantly going and sharpening and getting better and better, if you do this correctly.

Barbara: Absolutely. I think you get it.

Steven: Well, it’s easy to get. If people want more information, is there a place you can recommend they start?

Barbara: There is so much information out there. I would recommend starting with a simple Google search and looking up human performance improvement. There are books that you can read on the subject matter.

Steven: Well, Barbara, I know this is your life. And in fact, you wrote the book to speak or at least you wrote a chapter in there. Kind of tell us a little about that, so people can pick it up and maybe spend a little time with it and work with them.

Barbara: Yeah, sure. The name of the book is Supportive Accountability and how to inspire people and improve performance. The editor of the book is Sylvia Melena M-E-L-E-N-A.

And I actually did chapter eight, which is critical support factors that unleash performance. And it talks about what we’re talking about here. It talks about the six pieces of that you need, in order to make sure that your employees have what they need, tools, equipment, motivation, incentives, what’s the supervisor’s role in it. Sylvia created some case studies in this chapter, as well, to stress how important these ideas are. So I think it’s a great starter, if you’re trying to think about performance improvement.

Steven: We will pick that book up. And also we will go to chapter eight first, before we get into the full book. If people have any questions for you, is there an email address we could reach out?

Barbara: Yeah, absolutely. My email address is bgreenstein@epsilonsystems.com.

Steven: Barbara, thank you so much for being with us today. Really appreciate it.

Barbara: Oh, you’re so welcome. And thank you for having me on. I appreciate having the opportunity to talk about something that I love and that I’m totally passionate about.