Human Performance (HP) is critically important in Aviation and Maritime Transport, because both industries are complex and highly interactive, operating in a continually changing environment. To keep these transport ‘systems of systems’ safe, efficient and effective, adaptation and flexibility is necessary. It is the people in the system that provide this resilience, keeping the traffic moving even when things become difficult, while keeping it safe. In simple terms, people create safety.
Human performance, as a domain, focuses on optimising the human element in complex work systems. It covers all aspects of integrating people – the Human Element - into systems, including ensuring for example that there is adequate and competently trained staff, with the right equipment and tools to help them do the job, and managing ‘human error’, or what is more often referred to these days as performance variability.
The science of Human Factors was born in the aftermath of the Second World War, where it was quickly realised that if an aircraft cockpit or a controller’s radar display was not designed with the pilot or controller in mind, accidents would occur. If the design, training and equipment do not fit together around the person in the hot seat, then no amount of blaming the person for not doing it right will lead to better performance. You have to get the Human Factors right. This is one reason that cockpit design, both in military and civil aviation systems, receives so much Human Factors attention.
Both industries are referred to above as a system of systems. What does this mean in practice? Firstly, each of these two industries has their own operational sectors: airframe manufacturers and equipment suppliers, airlines, cargo and private planes, airports and air traffic controllers in aviation, for example, and fishing vessels, ferries, cruise-liners and cargo vessels, along with ship designers and builders, ship-owners and companies in maritime. So, the question is, where does the Human Factors effort need to be in each of these complex and interacting landscapes? An operational company, whether in aviation or maritime domains, is likely to have an SMS – a Safety Management System, and any SMS will have to pay some attention to Human Factors or the Human Element. Human Factors certainly has a place here, whether embedded in the company’s Human Resources department or its safety department (or both), because the selection, staffing, training and use of equipment are key to human performance and safety, and therefore to business success. These companies are the big players. Smaller players, such as fishing vessels or private planes in the General Aviation sector, may not require an SMS (whether emerging drone companies and sky-taxis will require one or a scaled-down version, is an ongoing discussion). But don’t these smaller players also need attention to ensure that the Human Factors are right, even if in a scaled-down way? And what about the designers, the manufacturers? Cockpit design, and air traffic controller workstation design have already been mentioned, but what about the design of a ship’s bridge or engine room controls and displays? What about a new drone control system, or the cockpit of a sky taxi or personal aerial vehicle?
It is a fact of life that resources are limited, so two questions arise, which this factsheet addresses:
- What are the Human Factors relevant to my organisation’s activities?
- What level of Human factors does my organisation need?
To help organisations answer these questions, this factsheet offers an approach called Human Performance Capability Profiling (HPCP). This borrows heavily from an approach called Human Performance Standard of Excellence (HPSoE) developed in the Air Traffic domain, discussed next.
During technical exchange meetings on safety and human performance in Air Traffic Management (ATM) held between EUROCONTROL and the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority on the US), together with a small group of European and North American Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), it became clear that different ANSPs had varying levels of Human Factors, from practically none, to a group of thirty Human Factors professionals. However, in Europe, for example, ANSPs are nationally based, and their size correlates with the size and traffic density and complexity of their airspace. What was therefore desirable, was a scalable approach to Human Factors in ATM. Over a period of four years, the ANSP-based group known as EUROCONTROL/FAA Action Plan 15 therefore developed an approach called the Human Performance Standard of Excellence (HPSoE). At the end of 2015, Action Plan 15 released a White Paper on the HPSoE. This name links the approach to the larger and pre-existing approach called SMS Standard of Excellence, which similarly considers how different ANSPs can deal with safety management in a scalable way. Both approaches are, at their heart, also benchmarking approaches. This means that an ANSP can see now only where it is on a scale of SMS or Human Performance capability, but where comparable organisations are on that scale, as in the example shown which is focusing on one element from the HPSoE for twelve ANSPs during a series of test surveys carried out in 2015.
Below is an excerpt the HP arguments table illustrating the first argument and sub-arguments dealing with human roles and responsibilities.
In ATM in Europe, the SMS SoE has been instrumental in ‘raising the bar’ of safety management practices across the European States, allowing different ANSPs to learn from each other in a measured fashion that fits with their resources and ambitions.
The release of the White Paper, which was focused on Europe and North America, was the trigger to enlarge the reach of the approach to a more global audience. In order to achieve this, CANSO (the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation – a global group of ANSPs), via its Safety Standing Committee (SSC), created a task force in 2016 to continue the development of the Human Performance Management Standard of Excellence (HPM SoE). The HPM SoE final version was presented to CANSO SSC in 2019. European validation was considered complete (6 ANSPs took part in the first validations), and the HPM WG planned wider validation for 2020.
The goal of CANSO, apart from producing the HPM SoE was to enable CANSO to encourage ANSPs to adopt best practice in Human Performance Management. In order to achieve this CANSO HPM Task Force produced two deliverables, one of them being the Standard of Excellence for Human Performance Management, and the other a method for ANSPs to assess their Human Performance Management level of maturity.
Achieving safety, capacity and efficiency benefits requires a focus on human performance from the start to the end of a project or change, and subsequently in day-to-day operations. Human Performance in ATM means how well front-line personnel perform their job. Skills and knowledge, training, wellbeing, procedures, equipment and the workplace environment influence this. All ANSPs focus on these components, so it is not new, but the HPM SoE ensures a systematic view for the company and enables ATM systems to be designed and installed along approved structures to assure overall system performance. It also gives a picture of the overall performance of the organization, i.e. what works well and what does not, and where improvements could be made, and what it would take to ‘move to the next level’.
The key concept is that when HP is managed properly, system performance will increase. So, organisations have to focus on HP management, not do it ad hoc. The need for a Human Performance Management Standard of Excellence can be summarised as follows:
- Identify which of the key Human Performance Management areas of focus.Identify where your organisation is doing well and where improvements could help business performance.
- Identify what other similar organisations are doing in this area.
- Identify the level of maturity your organisation needs to get to, considering the size and scale of its operations.
- Identify first or next steps to take in managing human performance.
The HPM SoE describes the levels of maturity in an objective way for the 12 areas of Human Performance. There are systemic elements like Policy strategy resources, Leadership, Roles and responsibilities and HPM assurance, which indicate that an organisational commitment to HP management is a key issue. The remaining eight elements focus on different operational procedures.
The Human Performance Capability Profiling (HPCP) approach for SAFEMODE
The HPSoE is ATM-focused, and SAFEMODE needed to develop something for the wider aviation system of systems, and also for Maritime. Using the same basic framework, the questions have been adapted slightly in the HPCP to be more generic, this is described further in the section How it Works.
The HPCP approach gives an aviation or maritime organisation a snapshot of its capability in managing human performance, highlighting where it is strong, and where there may be gaps or needed improvements. Critically, HPCP can help organisations see where to place effort on supporting human performance.
As more organisations carry out the HPCP exercise in SAFEMODE, this allows them and others to ‘benchmark’ their own human performance capability against similar companies.
According to the EUROCONTROL and FAA Action Plan 15 around 70% of total project cost is determined in the first 10% of the project. It is much more cost-effective (60 to 100 times) to change the design of a system in the initial phases of development than to do so once the system has been built and is in operation. HPCP supports human performance implementation in the design phase and in the change process.
HPCP provides a unified framework for the assessment and management of HP, it can enhance safety and human performance communication, ensuring having the right professional resources in the organisation.
As a benefit, new HP platforms may emerge in organisations where there is no HP unit, so specific teams of qualified human factors specialists can work together and be systematically integrated into design, selection, training, and safety functions.
The systematic use of HPCP can help focus attention on Human Performance in planning, design, operations and maintenance, ensuring it is treated as seriously as other business-critical functions.
HPCP can provide objective data on Human Performance Management, ensuring a step-by-step performance improvement opportunity. It fosters benchmarking on HP and planning in the long run as well.
Applying HPCP can have a balancing power in making the decisions of the company. The principle here is to use multiple lines of evidence that may suggest certain deficiencies in certain processes. Such information will prove invaluable in verifying the results of the assessment, but also point at which elements (if any) need improvement and their priority.
How It Works
The organisation defines the scope of the assessment - only one division or function in the company, or the entire organisation
ANSP selects 1-2 coordinators (safety and human performance but it can vary at ANSPs) who manage the assessment of the 12 areas using the expertise of staff. Coordinators support common understanding of the assessment.
The involvement of experts from the different fields contribute to the objective data collection that is why it is important to cooperate with key persons having the appropriate knowledge.
Coordinators collect the justifications for the big picture.
Each element starts with an objective, which describes what the element is in support of. The five levels of maturity go from A: Initiating through to E: Continuous Improvement. Against each level of maturity there are a series of capability statements, which describe what will be in place once an organisation reaches a particular level of maturity. It is recommended that an organisation go through all the assessment questions up to Level E. Experience has shown that it is possible to meet some higher maturity requirements while other lower maturity requirements are not met. This helps in getting a complete map of which requirements are met for any given element which, in turn, can help in determining which element should be prioritised and any associated actions.
The assessment is not a single activity but a systematic one with the goal of continual monitoring of an organisation’s HPM. Once an organisation has achieved a certain level it does not mean that it stays there. It can move next time to a more mature one if its scale of operations warrants it, or if this is seen as best practice by comparable organisations. HPCP is a means for both assessing the current level of maturity with respect to human performance management and using the result to identify an organisation’s priorities for improvement and the actions that should be undertaken.
The following is an extract from the HPCP assessment for one division of EUROCONTROL, a pan-European organisation for the safety of air navigation. This particular division is concerned with research and innovation (a separate HPCP exercise was carried out for EUROCONTROL’s air traffic operational centre at Maastricht in the Netherlands. The element assessed below is the first one, Policy, Strategy and Resources, which to a large extent captures how seriously the organisation takes Human Performance. In the assessment the level achieved is assessed as Level 4, even though two aspects of Level 5 are also achieved. This is in part because some other aspects at Level 4 and Level 3 are not fully achieved. The area to improve here would be the two sub-elements at Level 3 which are currently assessed as ‘Y/N’, and to improve matters so these can be clearly answered as ‘Yes’.