Friday, February 22, 2008

Thomas F. Gilbert's Behavioral Engineering Model

Reference: Thomas F. Gilbert, “Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance,” 1978, 1996

Dr. Gilbert recognized that the least expensive solutions happened to be those that were also the easiest and fastest to implement.
  1. Managers should start in the top right cell (factors that are outside of the employee’s control) and ensure that employees have the information they need. If they don’t have that then no other intervention is going to make a significant impact.
  2. If the employees have those three data points then the Manager must look at the next cell and ensure that their team members have all of the resources that they need. Again, without the right resources and employee is set up for failure through no fault of their own.
  3. If the employee has the right resources then the Manager must ensure that the proper incentives are in place. In fact, the employees may be unintentionally incentivized to do the wrong thing (e.g. take shortcuts to make their job easier).
  4. If the proper incentives are in place then the Manager will look at the individual and seek solutions that the employee can take ownership of and improve.
    If the employee has the environmental requirements, but is not getting the job done, the Manager must look at the employee’s motives. If employees are unwilling to do the best that they can do, the behaviors that are observable and/or measurable must be tackled (you cannot easily measure attitude, but you can measure the associated behaviors). Progressive discipline may need to be taken based on failure on the employee’s part to meet the required goals for their job and/or the improved behaviors.
  5. If the employee is willing, but still not performing to the level of their peers, then they may lack the capacity to be a top performer. That would indicate either a bad hire on the Manager’s part or a need to compensate for the gap in order to comply with ADA requirements.
  6. If the employee lacks knowledge or skill they will need to be trained. Training is the most resource-intensive solution to performance problems, yet it is often the first (and sometimes only) solution that companies pursue. But training will only help an employee increase knowledge and skill, both of which they very well might already have.

As a strategic human capital management professional you should ensure that your company leaders understand this model and use it to diagnose performance gaps. Managers are responsible for making certain that employees have the information that they need, the tools required to do the job, proper incentive to do the right thing the right way at the right time, and the access to solutions that will help the employee succeed (discipline, aids, and training).

See also