The five principles of human performance 


The international aviation sector relies on people and their ability to perform in high-stress situations. Employees continuously adapt to meet the needs of a dynamic work environment, with environmental, organizational, occupational, human and individual factors all affecting how work is carried out in the workplace.  Human Performance (HP) looks at how these factors contribute to aviation. The first edition of ICAO’s Human Performance Manual for Regulators (Doc 10151) was published with one primary goal in mind: to make it easier for people in the aviation system to do the right thing and to, therefore, avoid negative safety consequences.

ICAO has curated this four-minute video to correspond with the release of the new manual, which provides an overview of the importance of HP.

With the knowledge of HP and Human Factors, the manual has come up with five main principles of HP as outlined in the video above. These principles include:

1. People’s performance is shaped by their capabilities and limitations;

The first principle of HP involves capabilities and limitations. This principle recognizes both the physical and mental limitations that a person may be dealing with. At times, an individual may be able to act at their peak performance, but this is rarely the case all of the time. The capabilities and limitations principle recognizes that performance is variable and that people may utilize different processes to assist in daily tasks. 

2. People interpret situations differently and perform in ways that make sense to them;

The second principle of interpretation and sense-making recognizes that each person may interpret a situation differently. This principle is integral to safety as not only does it contribute to the production of regulatory material, but it also looks at why people think and act the way they do. 

3. People adapt to meet the demands of a complex and dynamic work environment;

Different people react differently to fit the needs of their work environment, especially under dynamic circumstances, and that is exactly the focus of the third principle of HP: Adapting to changing demands. While the procedure within a workplace may be static, the work itself is dynamic, leading this principle to be key in system performance. 

4. People assess risk and make trade-offs; 

While one person may consider a task or situation to be safe, another may consider it to be risky, thus, leading to the fourth HP principle of risk assessment and trade-offs. Whether making changes to a procedure, being judged by colleagues, or showing up late to a meeting, each individual assesses these risks and trade-offs differently. 

5. People’s performance is influenced by working with other people, technology, and the environment.

Interaction with people, technology, and the environment is the final principle of HP and looks at teamwork and the relationships between people. The principle focuses on the impact relationships between people affect their individual performance. Specifically, it looks at the impact of people’s relationships with others, technology, and their environment and how these relationships affect performance. 

Regulations are in place to ensure individuals follow the rules and protocol as written. With the help of HP, regulations can be written to make it easier for people to do their best and avoid negative safety consequences. 

Further information can be found in Doc 10151, which can be found online for free on the HP webpage and in the ICAO ELibrary.