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All organisations are under increasing pressure to train and retain their workforce; this change has been forced by the "knowledge economy". These pressures are economic, to remain effective employees need to posses the skills so the organisation can attract and retain business. Training of employees is discussed as the last competitive edge that organisations can have.
Organisational structures are changing. The emphasis on training employees has shifted from an organisational led requirement to the individual employee taking control of their career. This emphasis is a shift of responsibility to most employees, and introduces new challenges. To take control of learning the individual needs to establish their preference to learning, to acquire the knowledge in the best form of delivery
The appearance of knowledge based economies, has deep implications for the factors of growth, and its effect on employment and skill requirements. This may call for new directions in industry related government policies (DTI White Paper). The UK government aimed there learning policies towards the emerging knowledge economy. The prime minister stated that "education is the best economic policy we have" That through the policy of lifelong learning the UK would have the knowledge to compete in the new economy (Tony Blair PM 1998 cited in DTI White Paper).
To compete in the "new economy" organisations and their component parts (employees) require the skills to compete. These skills today are both the responsibility of the organisation and the employee. Employees who seek career development and promotion can develop their own skills. To be able to plan this intervention, the individual should understand which method and delivery of training is suited to their requirements (Sparrow, S. 2004).
Employees are being forced to take more responsibility for their own careers, going where the work is rewarding and where they can develop skills that will guarantee their employability in any organisation. Organisations no longer offer "a job for life" there is no longer guaranteed employment, with a pension as a reward for loyalty and compliance. The "psychological contract" between employer and employee has altered. Employees are increasingly mobile, changing employment for promotion, reward and job satisfaction; top employees have more choice as to where to work. To retain these key employees the organisations culture needs to allow an environment of personal growth (Harrison 2002).
With less job security, the best reward an organisation can give an employee is transferable skills. This intervention is driven more by the employee taking control on their career path. The individual can take control, and change the direction of their career through development. This training and development is not solely undertaken in the work environment, this can take place outside of work hours (Marchington, M & Wilkinson, A 1997).
Individuals, who manage their own training, require the skill to select the correct method of delivery of the intervention. Whether this is formal or informal, the method of delivery must match the individuals training preference. If this is not matched, then the intervention is worthless. The individual feels failure, and resources are wasted (Beardwell I et al 2004). Training plans have been until now been the territory of the HR department. The skilled HR practioners have assessed and planned the intervention, although this has primarily been for the organisation's benefit. The knowledge required for an individual to complete this plan, is too often outside of their level of understanding of delivery methods (Mullins, L. 2005).
The pressure is increasing for individuals to take control of their development path. Organisations are changing in shape, the hierarchical structure are being replaced by new leaner and thinner organisations. This places a greater emphasis on getting the best performance from the employees. According to Delany (2001) "successful organisations keep people issues the people issues at the forefront of their thinking and at the core of their decision making and planning". Delany adds "organisations that get the people things right are the organisations likely to be around in the future" (Delany (2001) cited in Mullins, L. 2005:748).
Organisations have an economic requirement for all employees to be flexible within the workplace. The culture should encourage them to use their own initiative and apply the knowledge to undertake a variety of tasks. This is not just acquiring the new skills; it allowing an environment to practice them in, without the fear of failure (Mullins, L. 2005).
Lewin (1958) three stage theory on training was aimed at both organisational and individuals understanding of learning. The first stage disposal of the old level (unfreezing), second stage is to implement the new structures and processes (moving) and the final stage involves stabilising (refreezing). This simplistic technique allowed individuals to understand and implement improvements to their methods of working. Problems that arise with this model are that it is not flexible and cannot adapt swiftly toproblems (Lewin (1958) cited in Buchanan, D and Hucczynski, A 1991).
Wilson (1999) discussed that adults learn in one of three ways. (1) Behaviourist theories of learning recognise learning as a response to external stimuli. Maintenance of the new behaviour is enforced by positive and negative reinforcement, a system of punishment and reward. (2) Cognitive theories of learning emphasise the proactive nature of development. This school of thought perceives human beings as seekers of knowledge in an attempt to understand our own identities and positional. Cognitive learning lets the workforce learn strategies, and then transfer the learning to be able to solve problems. (3) Humanist theories believe that learning occurs as a result of our natural inclination towards it. People learn because in an environment of "warmth, care and understanding" (Wilson, 1999:197).
The individual must decide on their preference before training commences. The question arises is it straightforward for an individual to ascertain their preferred method or learning or does this require professional intervention. Can the individual take control of their training by understanding training theory? The shift for individual control requires the knowledge to assess the best method of delivery, and reflection to reinforce this intervention. The organisation must still provide the culture to support and reinforce this knowledge (Wilson, 1999).
Reinforcing learning within in an organisations, requires what Hawkins (1994) called "a change at the heart" this change is in "the understanding of learning, a shift from viewing learning as being abrupt facts to learning as a more multi-faceted and dynamic process". As Hawkins suggests, it is not that we are learning any differently than before but "our understanding of how we learn has begun to catch up with what happens in practice" (Hawkins, 1994:9). The learning process has been challenged to create a culture that allows continual learning throughout the organisation. As knowledge is what matters, organisations and individuals alike must become continuous learners (Hawkins, 1994).
People continue to learn throughout their life, whether this is formally taught or just experienced. The process of life long learning requires continuous adaptation. This is gained from increased knowledge and improved skills, which aid the individual to adapt to or change the environment. This allows for new possibilities and outcomes from situations that they face. These changes can raise the individuals self esteem and confidence. Therefore the learning can generate far reaching changes in both the individual and the environment (Beardwell I et al 2004)
Training as an intervention, whether this is driven by the individual or the organisation can benefit both parties involved. Not only does improving the skills and knowledge of the individual improve motivation, it also increases self-confidence, job performance and job satisfaction. The organisation should contain the knowledge of methods of interventions and the individual should understand their preference for delivery. Therefore to ensure the fit, organisations and employees should join forces when planning training (Sparrow, S. 2004).
The change in the organisational structures and the shift to the knowledge economy has brought new challenges for the individual. The rigid formal training plans have declined, with more emphasis on the employee taking control of their training. This brings new challenges to the employee, having to decide on what and how they will receive training. These are decisions that until recently have been made by the organisation.
For the individual to receive any form of benefit from training the method and delivery must suit their learning style. Therefore understanding of their style is vital for the intervention to be a success. Organisations should still take responsibility with the employees on development. This can be achieved by the skilled practioners (HR) working closely with the employee on training plans. This training does not have to be delivered through the organisation.
With the changing work patterns it is essential that all individuals who wish to be developed are aware of training theories to gain maximum benefit from any intervention. This also increases the benefit gained from training for both parties.
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