Diagnostic vs. New Performance Analysis: Which is Right for You?

Diagnostic vs. New Performance Improvement

If you have visited our blog in recent months, you know we have been thinking a lot about performance improvement lately. It’s an especially timely topic as the global pandemic has reshaped market landscapes and workplace norms, forcing business leaders to rethink how they’re assessing and encouraging performance within their workforce. In case you missed it:

If you’re caught up, you know that creating lasting performance improvement is about more than just building a training program. You need to focus on improving your employees’ work products that drive value for the organization, and the best place to start is with a detailed performance analysis. 

Where do you go from here? Read on to gain a better understanding of what comes next.

Business performance improvement

Consider Your Problem to Begin Working Towards a Solution

There is more than one way to approach creating a performance improvement strategy, whether you develop one yourself or with the help of a specialist. To determine the best way to overcome performance gaps within your organization, you first need to establish whether you need a “diagnostic” performance analysis or a “new performance” performance analysis.

To determine which approach is best for you, start by asking yourself: “Am I trying to improve performance because I have a problem with existing processes and/or employees, or is the issue that I have new processes or employees coming into play?” 

If your challenge deals with existing variables, you need a diagnostic analysis. If you’re trying to accommodate for new variables, you need a new performance analysis. It’s as simple as that, at least at a high level, but let’s talk about what that really means for you.

A Deeper Dive on Diagnostic Performance Improvement

Let’s say you have an issue with existing employees not meeting standards for performance based on the quality of their work outputs. While your first reaction might be to prescribe training, this deficit may not stem from a lack of knowledge on the part of these workers. You could save yourself a significant amount of time and money by waiting to invest in training and instead delving deeper into understanding the root cause of the problem before pursuing a specific solution.

This is where a diagnostic performance analysis can help. Diagnostic performance analyses help when it’s clear that standards aren’t being met today, but you need to better understand why that is the case before you can create sustainable performance improvement. The objective of a diagnostic analysis is to identify the true source of a problem by looking at factors like:

  • What value-driving output is suffering?
    Ideally, the answer can be traced to a specific work output that is not meeting established quality standards—something measurable
  • What tasks are involved in creating that output?
    This might involve interviewing people who create similar outputs. Interview at least one person who performs well and one who does not when creating these outputs so that you can more easily identify differences in approach.
  • What might be causing the issue?
    This is a great opportunity to use proven performance analysis frameworks to understand what contributes to performance gaps. Interview—or even better, observe—workers to find out what behavioral influences might be affecting outcomes.
  • Address the root cause.
    Once you determine what is causing your performance gap, it’s time to create a plan to overcome that gap. This may involve developing training, job aids, and process documentation, or it could involve other interventions, such as setting clearer expectations or setting up more effective feedback loops based on findings of a performance analysis.

New Faces or Processes? You May Need New Performance Improvement

Let’s say your problem is not that your current workers aren’t meeting expectations. What if, instead, you have new employees joining your team or your current workers’ roles are shifting and you don’t have effective resources in place to help them perform at a high level moving forward. In this scenario, you know the root cause of the challenges you face, so you don’t need a diagnostic performance analysis. Yet, you still may not be prepared to overcome the challenge you face. 

When you don’t need to solve a problem with the status quo, but rather need to set yourself up for effective change management, a new performance improvement initiative may very well be the answer. These analyses focus on identifying the performance needed in a given situation and/or what exemplary looks like, giving you a strong base from which to build.

New performance analyses are especially helpful when:

  • You need to hire for an entirely new role.
    A new performance analysis can help you get the right people in the door by defining what “good” looks like for that role before anyone even fills it. The results of that analysis can help you create job descriptions or hiring guides for open positions, streamlining the hiring process and increasing the likelihood of a good fit.
  • You’ve made new hires, but you aren’t equipped to onboard them effectively.
    Whether you have no training in place or you rely on an informal process that fails to set clear expectations or contributes to inconsistent work outputs, a new performance analysis can help you define your need and create appropriate solutions. This is also helpful if you lack documentation that sets standards for success or explains how to conduct tasks effectively, which may be necessary if there is lack of consensus on the best processes to follow to create high-quality work outputs. 
  • You have skilled employees, but they need to learn to do new tasks or use new systems.
    Sometimes existing employees have to take on new responsibilities, and that requires new coaching or process documentation. Engineers may be adept in their current roles, for example, but new initiatives require them to develop consulting skills so they can more effectively work with customers. They may even need to learn new software to help them provide value to new consulting customers, requiring additional support to help team members reach competency. A new performance analysis can help you find the right approach to set them up for success.

Start Your Journey Down the Path to Performance

Have a feeling that you need to pursue a diagnostic performance analysis or a new performance analysis at this point? Now it’s time to get started. Just remember that experienced performance improvement professionals are only a phone call away if you could use some guidance. Reach out any time at (330) 650-4777.