Drive Custom Training Toward Performance Milestones!

Once a learning strategy aligns with business goals, one of the following steps is to determine the employee performance, knowledge, and skill that need to change or improve to meet those goals.

There are several ways to accomplish this, one of which is to define the performance milestones that sequentially build from the current state to the target state. There are similarities to both competency models and job level guides. The result differentiates each “level” using demarcations of one form or another in all three situations. When an organization has a competency model or job level guides, use them as a cross-check to confirm alignment and accuracy.

Performance milestones don’t apply to every situation and are ill-suited to small, incremental, one-off changes. That said, analysts and designers can use the conceptual framework during conversations with stakeholders to elicit a more robust discussion and deeper insights.

A performance milestone includes dimensions and stages with definitions. Stakeholders, managers, and sometimes subject-matter-experts provide insights that shape the milestones. Analysts or designers use their input either before the detailed process starts – in which case performance milestones are a way to frame analysis and design efforts.

Alternatively, analysts and designers may develop performance milestones from the “ground up” by aggregating and organizing data uncovered during their analysis and design processes.

Performance milestones are also a framework for determining the type of scenarios and situations covered during training and realistic practice.

Here’s an example from a commercial insurance underwriter role. For illustrative purposes, much of the detail has been removed in favor of simplified summary statements.

Screen Shot 2021-03-23 at 1.04.35 PM.png

This example shows the essential features of a performance milestone. It includes dimensions and stages that managers use to differentiate employee success. In the example above, the dimensions include:

  • Customer type – the type, segment, or group of customers the individual interacts with (in account management settings, this may also have a list of named customers)

  • Risk exposure – the amount or type of risk or opportunity the individual sells to or supports

  • Deal complexity – how many product lines the individual is qualified to sell or support

  • Deal structure – the amount of customization (e.g., unique terms and conditions requiring involvement from legal and special negotiation)

  • Specialization – whether the individual works in a ‘general’ classification or in a particular industry (and, as it is in this case, industries may have a low-to-high classification)

  • Agency management – whether the individual maintains one or many agency relationships

  • Autonomy – the degree to which the individual works independently, or said another way, the degree to which a direct supervisor or more experienced person helps the individual

Each organizational situation is unique, so some discussions with the stakeholders become iterative as they think about, uncover, and finalize the list of dimensions that make the most sense to them. It can be an iterative process.

Performance milestones can look like stages where each column’s contents, considered in total, describe what constitutes achievement. Read the columns from left to right, the difficulty and complexity of the performance increases.

Build training (with plenty of authentic practice) and support to help employees achieve each successive milestone.

Building your Best Employee: Learning Strategies that Drive Results