The Development of Soft Skill Training in the Workplace
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Since the beginning of the twentieth century and especially after World War II, training programs have become widespread among organizations in the United States, involving more and more employees and also expanding in content. In the 1910s, only a few large companies such as Westinghouse, General Electric, and International Harvester had factory schools that focused on training technical skills for entry-level workers. By the 1990s, forty percent of the Fortune 500 firms have had a corporate university or learning center. In recent decades, as the U.S. companies are confronted with technological changes, domestic social problems and global economic competition, training programs in organizations have received even more attention, touted as almost a panacea for organizational problem.
The enormous expansion in the content of training programs over time has now largely been taken for granted. Now people would rarely question the necessity of training in conversational skills. However, back to the 1920s, the idea that organizations should devote resources to training employees in such skills would have been regarded as absurd. Such skills clearly were not part of the exact knowledge and methods that the employee will use on his particular job or the job just ahead of him. Nevertheless, seventy years later, eleven percent of U.S. organizations deem communications skills as the most important on their priority lists of training, and many more regard it as highly important. More than three hundred training organizations specialize in communications training (Training and Development Organizations Directory, 1994).
Previous studies on training have largely focused on the incidence of formal training and the total amount of training offered. This study, however, draws attention to the enormous expansion in the content of training with an emphasis on the rise of personal development training (or popularly known as the "soft skills" training, such as leadership, teamwork, creativity, conversational skills and time management training). Personal development training can be defined as training programs that aim at improving one's cognitive and behavioral skills in dealing with one self and others. It is intended to develop one's personal potential and is not immediately related to the technical aspects of one's job tasks. Monahan, Meyer and Scott (1994) describe the spread of personal development training programs based on their survey of and interviews with more than one hundred organizations in Northern California. "Training programs became more elaborate; they incorporated, in addition to technical training for workers and human relations training for supervisors and managers, a widening array of developmental, personal growth, and self-management courses. Courses of this nature include office professionalism, time management, individual contributor programs, entrepreneur, transacting with people, and applying intelligence in the workplace, career management, and structured problem solving. Courses are also offered on health and personal well-being, including safe diets, exercise, mental health, injury prevention, holiday health, stress and nutrition."
Training is one element many corporations consider when looking to advance people and offer promotions. Although many employees recognize the high value those in management place on training and development, some employees are still reluctant to be trained. It is not uncommon to hear excuses regarding why someone has not received training.
Some people are just comfortable in what they are doing. Some fail to see the value of training because they really believe that they already know it all. And while that might be true, the knowledge value of training and development is not the only perk.
Training and development offers more than just increased knowledge. It offers the added advantage of networking and drawing from others' experiences. When you attend a seminar or event with others who have jobs that are much like yours, you have the added benefit of sharing from life experience. The seminar notes or the conference leader might not give you the key nugget you take back and implement in the workplace. Your best piece of advice for the day might come from the peer sitting beside you.
Another common excuse is that there is not enough money budgeted to pay for training. Who said that training always carries a heavy enrollment fee? Training can be free. You can set up meetings with peers who are in similar positions and ask how they are doing their jobs. Follow someone for a day to see how he organizes or manages his work and time. The cost to you is a day out of your normal routine, so the only drawback may be working a little harder on an assignment to catch up from a day out of the office. You usually don't think twice about taking a day of vacation, so why should a day of training be any different?
Time is another often-heard excuse when training and development is mentioned. Have you considered that training and development might actually give you more time? Often the procedures, ideas, short cuts, and timesaving hints learned in training and development sessions equal more time in the long run. Have you heard the old saying that you have to spend money to make money? Well, in a sense, the same is true for training and development. You have to devote some time to training and development to make you more productive in the long run.
What is Training in terms of organization?
"Transferring information and knowledge to employers and equipping employers to translate that information and knowledge into practice with a view to enhancing organization effectiveness and productivity, and the quality of the management of people." It also means that in organizational development, the related field of training and development (T & D) deals with the design and delivery of workplace learning to improve performance.
Difference between Training and Learning
There is a big difference:
- 'Training' implies putting skills into people, when actually we should be developing people from the inside out, beyond skills, i.e., facilitating learning.
- So focus on facilitating learning, not imposing training.
- Emotional maturity, integrity, and compassion are more important than skills and processes. If you are in any doubt, analyze the root causes of your organization's successes and your failures - they will never be skills and processes.
- Enable and encourage the development of the person - in any way that you can.
- Give people choice - we all learn in different ways, and we all have our own strengths and potential, waiting to be fulfilled.
Talk about learning, not training. Focus on the person, from the inside out, not the outside in; and offer opportunities for people to develop as people in as many ways you can.
A Brief Critique of Previous Approaches to Employee Training
It is a classic question in the training field, first raised by human capital theorists, that why firms train their employees. Many attempts have been made to address this question, but the question of why firms provide general-skill training has not been fully understood. There have been two main theoretical approaches towards employee training, namely, the human capital approach and the technology-based approach. The human capital approach regards training as investment in human capital. Training is provided only when the benefit from productivity gains is greater than the cost of training. The technology-based approach regards training as a skill formation process. According to this approach, the expanded training in the contemporary period is driven by the rapidly changing technologies and work reorganization. These two approaches are popular in academic and policy discussions. What they have in common is that they assume an instrumental logic and technical rationality behind training decisions. Training is provided because it satisfies the functional needs of an organization. Studies with these approaches have largely overlooked the content of employee training, as if all kinds of training programs equally contribute to human capital accumulation or skill formation. Moreover, personal development training becomes a puzzle if viewed from these approaches, because it does not seem to follow from an instrumental logic or technical rationality.
The Puzzle about Personal Development Training
The puzzle about personal development training comes in the following four ways. First, it is not innately or immediately related to the technical aspects of specific job tasks. Second, prior need analysis is rarely conducted for such training, despite suggestions to do so in many training handbooks. Third, organizations and trainers seldom conduct evaluations of behavior or outcome changes brought out by such training. Evaluation, when there is one, is often about how one feels about the training or what one has learned. The evaluation questionnaire is often called a "smile sheet," as trainees often respond happily to the questions. But the impact of the training remains uncertain. Fourth, the rapid expansion of personal development training has taken place in the absence of scientific evidence of any link between such training and improvement in organizational bottom lines.
So, why have organizations increasingly engaged in personal development training? It is because that the rise of the participatory citizenship model of organization over time has driven the expansion of personal development training in organizations. This argument is based on an institutional perspective towards organizations. It is distinct from previous approaches to training in two ways. First, it recognizes that training is not only provided to satisfy functional needs of firms, but is also shaped by the shared understanding about individuals and organizations, which is called "organizational model" in this study and is independent of the functional needs. Second, training decisions are not only affected by the internal conditions of an organization, but are also affected by the dominant ideologies and practices in the organizational field.
Importance of Developing a Role in Training
Developing a national role in training is important for an employers' organization for several reasons.
First, it enables the organization to contribute to the development of a country's human capital, through its influence on education policies and systems and training by public training institutions, to better serve business needs. It also enables it to influence employers in regard to the need for them to invest more in training and employee development - which employers should recognize as one key to their competitiveness in the future.
Second, it provides an important service to members, especially in industrial relations in respect of which sources of training for employers in developing countries are few. Third, it is an important source of income provided the organization can deliver relevant quality training. Fourth, it compels its own staff to improve their knowledge without which they cannot offer training to enterprises through their own staff. Fifth, the knowledge required for training increases the quality of other services provided by the organization - policy lobbying, advisory and representation services. Sixth, it contributes to better human relations at the enterprise level and therefore to better enterprise performance, by matching corporate goals and people management policies. Finally, it improves the overall image of the organization and invests it with a degree of professionalism, which can lead to increased membership and influence. Many entrepreneurs seem to view employee training and development as more optional than essential...a viewpoint that can be costly to both short-term profits and long-term progress. The primary reason training is considered optional by so many business owners is because it's viewed more as an expense than an investment. This is completely understandable when you realize that in many companies, training and development aren't focused on producing a targeted result for the business. As a result, business owners frequently send their people to training courses that seem right and sound good without knowing what to expect in return. But without measurable results, it's almost impossible to view training as anything more than an expense.
Now contrast that approach to one where training's viewed as a capital investment with thoughtful consideration as to how you're going to obtain an acceptable rate of return on your investment. And a good place to start your "thoughtful consideration" is with a needs analysis. As it relates to training and development, needs analysis is really an outcome analysis--what do you want out of this training? Ask yourself, "What's going to change in my business or in the behavior or performance of my employees as a result of this training that's going to help my company?" Be forewarned: This exercise requires you to take time to think it through and focus more on your processes than your products.
As you go through this analysis, consider the strengths and weaknesses in your company and try to identify the deficiencies that, when corrected, represent a potential for upside gain in your business. Common areas for improvement in many companies is helping supervisors better manage for performance. Many people are promoted into managerial positions because they're technically good at their jobs, but they aren't trained as managers to help their subordinates achieve peak performance. Determining your training and development needs based on targeted results is only the beginning. The next step is to establish a learning dynamic for your company. In today's economy, if your business isn't learning, then you're going to fall behind. And a business learns as its people learn. Your employees are the ones that produce, refine, protect, deliver and manage your products or services every day, year in, year out. With the rapid pace and international reach of the 21st century marketplace, continual learning is critical to your business's continued success.
To create a learning culture in your business, begin by clearly communicating your expectation that employees should take the steps necessary to hone their skills to stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support their efforts in this area by supplying the resources they need to accomplish this goal. Second, communicate to your employees the specific training needs and targeted results you've established as a result of your needs analysis.
Third, provide a sound introduction and orientation to your company's culture, including your learning culture, to any new employees you hire. This orientation should introduce employees to your company, and provide them with proper training in the successful procedures your company's developed and learned over time.
Every successful training and development program also includes a component that addresses your current and future leadership needs. At its core, this component must provide for the systematic identification and development of your managers in terms of the leadership style that drives your business and makes it unique and profitable. Have you spent time thoughtfully examining the style of leadership that's most successful in your environment and that you want to promote? What steps are you taking to develop those important leadership traits in your people?
Financial considerations related to training can be perplexing, but in most cases, the true budgetary impact depends on how well you manage the first three components (needs analysis, learning and leadership). If your training is targeted to specific business results, then you're more likely to be happy with what you spend on training. But if the training budget isn't related to specific outcomes, then money is more likely to be spent on courses that have no positive impact on the company.
In many organizations, training budgets are solely a function of whether the company is enjoying an economic upswing or enduring a downturn. In good times, companies tend to spend money on training that's not significant to the organization, and in bad times, the pendulum swings to the other extreme and training is eliminated altogether. In any economic environment, the training expense should be determined by the targeted business results you want, not other budget-related factors.
To help counter this tendency, sit down and assess your training and development needs once or twice a year to identify your needs and brainstorm how to achieve your desired results effectively and efficiently.
Your employees are your principle business asset. Invest in them thoughtfully and strategically, and you'll reap rewards that pay off now and for years to come.
Beyond Training: Training and Development
Training is generally defined as "change in behavior" - yet, how many trainers and managers forget that, using the term training only as applicable to "skills training"? What about the human element? What about those very same people we want to "train"? What about their individual beliefs, backgrounds, ideas, needs and aspirations?
In order to achieve long-term results through training, we must broaden our vision to include people development as part of our strategic planning. Although training covers a broad range of subjects under the three main categories (skills, attitude, knowledge), using the term "training" without linking it to "development" narrows our concept of the training function and leads us to failure.
When we limit our thinking, we fall into the trap of:
- Classifying people into lots and categories
- Thinking of "trainees" as robots expected to perform a job function
- Dismissing the individual characteristics of people and the roles they play
- Focusing only on "what needs to be done" without adequately preparing the trainees involved to accept and internalize what is being taught.
We are dealing with human thoughts, feelings and reactions which must be given equal attention than to the skill itself. We thus create a double-focus: people development and skills training. These two simultaneous objectives will give us the right balance and guide our actions to reach our goal.
To clarify our training and development objectives, and identify our criteria for success, we must ask ourselves a few questions:
- Do we expect an automatic, faultless job performance?
- Does attitude count?
- Does goodwill count?
- Do loyalty and dedication count?
- Does goal-sharing count?
- Does motivation count?
- Do general knowledge and know-how count?
- Do people-skills count?
- Does an inquisitive mind count?
- Does initiative count?
- Does a learning attitude count?
- Does a sense of responsibility count?
- Do team efforts count?
- Do good work relations count?
- Does creative input count?
- Do we want employees to feel proud of their role and contribution?
How can we expect such qualities and behavior if we consider and treat our personnel as "skills performers"? However, we could achieve the desired results if we address the personal development needs of the employees involved.
When we plan for both "training" and "development", we achieve a proper balance between the needs of the company and those of the trainees. The synergy created takes us to new levels, to a continuing trend of company growth.
Our consideration of the people involved results in work motivation, goal-sharing, and a sense of partnership. Not only do the employee-trainees perform at the desired levels, but they offer to the company and its customers their hidden individual gifts and talents, and this reflects itself in the quality of service. Customers feel and recognize efficient performance, motivation and team-work. They become loyal customers.
We can learn from the case of a small restaurant operator who had become desperate at the negligent attitude of his servers, resulting in customer complaints. He decided to seek professional expertise to help him replace his employees with "motivated, trained" people fresh out of a waiter's training school.
Following some probing questions it came to light that, besides hourly pay, he did not offer much to attract and retain loyal and dedicated employees. Through professional consultation, he came to realize that even if he paid higher wages to new "trained" employees, the problem would persist because employees want more than wages from their work place. They want:
- Organization and professional management
- Information regarding the business and its customers
- Recognition for their role in the company's success
- Acknowledgement of their individual capacities and contributions
- Positive discipline / fairness
- A say in the way the business is run.
The restaurant operator realized that until then he had treated his employees as "plate carriers" and this is exactly how they had behaved and performed. He was ready to change his mode of operation: he diverted his focus to the needs of his employees, re-structured his organisation, planned new operational strategies, a human resources strategy, training and development guidelines, disciplinary rules and regulations.
He communicated and shared these in a meeting with his employees and handed out the employee handbook prepared for that purpose. He also reminded them of their responsibilities towards the business, the customers, and themselves (taking charge of their own training, development, and work performance). They were more than pleased when he asked them to express their opinions, make comments and suggestions.
He was surprised at the immediate transformation that took place. He began receiving excellent reviews from his customers, the employees worked as a team, their motivation sky-rocketed and he never had to replace them! All this was accomplished by extending the previous concept of training to that of training and people development.
Training and Development represents a complete whole that triggers the mind, emotions and employees' best work performance. It is not only business managers and owners who must do this shift in thinking, but Human Resources Directors and Training Managers (whose title should be "Training and Development" Managers). By their actions, they should offer a personal example, coaching and guiding all the people in an organisation to think "beyond training" and invest efforts in people:
- Professional development
- Personal development.
Contrary to what some manager's think, people do not quit a place of work as soon as they have grown personally and professionally through training and development programs - at least they do not do so for a long while. They become loyal to their employer and help him/her grows business-wise, which offers them more opportunities. They chart their own course for career advancement within the broader framework of organizational growth.
Do we not call employees our "human resources asset"? Whatever their positions, each expect to be treated as such; when they are, they give more than their physical presence at work.
Training & Evaluation
Improving business performance is a journey, not a destination. Business performance rises and falls with the ebb and flow of human performances. HR professionals lead the search for ways to enhance the effectiveness of employees in their jobs today and prepare them for tomorrow. Over the years, training programmes have grown into corporate with these goals in mind. Training programmes should enhance performance and enrich the contributions of the workforce. The ultimate goal of training is to develop appropriate talent in the workforce internally.
In India, training as an activity has been going on as a distinct field with its own roles, structures and budgets, but it is still young. This field is however; expanding fast but controversy seems to envelop any attempts to find benefits commensurate with the escalating costs of training.
Training has made significant contributions to development of all kinds. Training is essential; doubts arise over its contribution in practice. Complaints are growing over its ineffectiveness and waste. The training apparatus and costs have multiplied but not its benefits. Dissatisfaction persists and is growing at the working level where the benefits of training should show up most clearly. This disillusionment shows in many ways - reluctance to send the most promising people for training, inadequate use of personnel after training etc. With disillusionment mounting in the midst of expansion, training has entered a dangerous phase in its development.
Training is neither a panacea for all ills nor is it a waste of time. What is required is an insight into what training can or cannot do and skill in designing and carrying out training effectively and economically.
The searchlight of inquiry may make the task and challenges stand out too starkly, too simply. Using experience with training in India and other rapidly developing countries has this advantage at similar risk. The contribution that training can make to development is needed acutely and obviously. At the same time, the limited resources available in these countries make this contribution hard to come by. These lines are sharply drawn; on the one hand, no promise can be ignored; on the other, no waste is permissible.
Much of the training provided today proceeds as if knowledge and action were directly related. This assumption is itself a striking illustration of the wide gulf that separates the two. On a continuum with personal maturation and growth at one end and improvement in performance of predetermined tasks at the other, education lies near the former, and training near the later. Focusing training on skill in action makes the task wide and complex. Training embraces an understanding of the complex processes by which various factors that make up a situation interact.
For every training strategy, no matter which, the proper focus right from the very outset is on one or more people - on-the-job-in-the-organization - this whole amalgam. Wherever the focus moves during the training programme, the starting point becomes the focus again at the end. The difference lies in what people have learned that they now apply. That difference, in terms of more effective behavior is the measure of the efficacy of training.
The training process is made up of three phases:
Phase 1: Pre-training. This may also be called the preparation phase. The process starts with an understanding of the situation requiring more effective behavior. An organization's concerns before training lie mainly in four areas: Clarifying the precise objectives of training and the use the organization expects to make of the participants after training; selection of suitable participants; building favorable expectations and motivation in the participants prior to the training; and planning for any changes that improved task performance will require in addition to training.
Phase 2: Training. During the course of the training, participants focus their attention on the new impressions that seem useful, stimulating and engaging. There is no guarantee that the participants will in fact learn what they have chosen. But the main purpose remains: participants explore in a training situation what interests them, and a training institution's basic task is to provide the necessary opportunities.
Having explored, participants try out some new behavior. If they find the new behavior useful, they try it again, check it for effectiveness and satisfaction, try it repeatedly and improve it. Finally, they incorporate this new facet into their habitual behavior in the training situation. If they do not find it useful, they discard it, try some variant, or discontinue learning in this direction. The intricate process of selection and testing is continuous and more or less conscious. It is important that work organizations meanwhile prepare the conditions for improved performance by their participants upon their return.
Phase 3: Post-training. This may be called the "follow up" phase. When, training per se concludes, the situation changes. When the participants return back to work from the training, a process of adjustment begins for everyone involved. The newly learned skills undergo modification to fit the work situation. Participants may find their organizations offering encouragement to use the training and also support for continuing contact with the training institution. On the other hand, they may step into a quagmire of negativity.
More effective behavior of people on the job in the organization is the primary objective of the training process as a whole. In the simplest training process, improvement is a dependent variable, and participants and organizations independent variables.
The training process has the following major objectives:
Improvement in Performance
Training will be an important aid to managers for developing themselves as well as their subordinates. It is not a substitute for development on the job, which comes from doing, experiencing, observing, giving and receiving feedback and coaching. Research has shown that 80% of a person's development takes place on the job. However, training can contribute the vital 20% that makes the difference. Training can bring about an improvement in a person's:
- Thereby raising his potential to perform better on the job.
Training is also directed towards developing people for higher levels of responsibility thereby reducing the need for recruiting people from outside. This would have the effect of improving the morale of the existing employees.
In company training provides a means for bringing about organizational development. It can be used for strengthening values, building teams, improving inter-group relations and quality of work life. The ultimate objective of training in the long run is to improve the company's performance through people performing better.
Benefits of Training Evaluation
Evaluation has three main purposes:
Feedback to help trainers understand the extent to which objectives are being met and the effectiveness of particular learning activities - as an aid to continuous improvement
Control to make sure training policy and practice are aligned with organizational goals and delivering cost-effective solutions to organizational issues
Intervention to raise awareness of key issues such as pre-course and post-course briefing and the selection of delegates Evaluation is itself a learning process. Training which has been planned and delivered is reflected on. Views on how to do it better are formulated and tested .The outcome may be to:
- Abandon the training
- Redesign the training - new sequence, new methods, new content, new trainer
- Redesign the preparation/pre-work - new briefing material, new pre-course work
- Rethink the timing of the training - earlier or later in people's career, earlier or later in the training programme, earlier or later in the company calendar
- Leave well alone
The following are the clear benefits of evaluation:
- Improved quality of training activities
- Improved ability of the trainers to relate inputs to output
- Better discrimination of training activities between those that are worthy of support and those that should be dropped
- Better integration of training offered and on the job development
- Better co-operation between trainers and line-managers in the development of staff
- Evidence of the contribution that training and development activities are making to the organization
- Closer integration of training aims and organizational objectives
The Way Ahead
The development of learning organizations, working to harness the brainpower, knowledge and experience of their people, reflects the fundamental importance of training and learning for those organizations that hope to prosper in the new millennium. The rend towards a more "empowering" style of management and an increasing emphasis on self-development have combined to bring about a move away from didactic instruction towards coaching and facilitation and away from "trainer" towards "performance improvement consultant".
In the coming future, the following trends are likely to be seen:
- Increased use of virtual reality, the internet and multi-media training
- Emphasis on cross-cultural development
- Remote learning to reflect changing patterns of work
The Training Role
The role of an employers' organization in training has to be viewed from different perspectives. First and foremost it must be viewed from an "internal" point of view i.e. the training and development of its own staff. This is essential to the effectiveness of the organization's training services as well as to the other services it provides members, all of which fall within the following:
- Influencing the legal and policy environment needed for business growth and development
- Direct services to members
This requires that the staff be trained in the areas of the organization's services and core competencies which may include areas such as:
- Industrial relations
- Human resource management
- Occupational safety and health
Information analysis and research for:
- Influencing the policy environment
- Transferring knowledge to members
- Undertaking wage and other surveys
This objective of training (i.e. to make its other services more effective) involves mostly the acquisition of knowledge needed for staff to perform their functions. This is an important pre-requisite to staff undertaking the second role of an employers' organization in training, which is to provide training to members (and sometimes to nonmembers) in areas in which they expect services. But unlike in the case of the first objective of training earlier referred to, this second role or objective requires not only knowledge in the areas of training, but also training skills i.e. in training techniques or methodologies. If staff do not develop training skills
- They will be able to transfer knowledge
- But not the skills to apply the knowledge to particular situations which arise in enterprises (productivity is increasingly the application of knowledge).
Examples include negotiation, workplace mechanisms to improve workplace relations and human resource management policies and practices such as:
- Recruitment, selection, induction
- Performance appraisal
- Leadership and motivation
- Employee retention
- Wage and salary determination
The main objectives of this second training role (to provide training to members) are:
- To provide members with the means to address labour - related problems and issues
- To instill in enterprise managers the skills needed to improve their management of people
- Where enterprises have a training department, to train their personnel.
It follows that the staff of employers' organizations are not themselves practitioners in people management. They are trainers of those engaged in managing people and, occasionally of other trainers.
Influencing National Policies and Programmes
The third role is one to be discharged at the national level, and involves influencing national educational and skills training policies and schemes. This could be affected in a variety of ways:
- Through representation on the policy boards of national training institutions.
- Identifying employers' education and skills needs and providing feed back from employers. Employers' organizations could form executive training committees within the organization such as the Education Committee in the Japan Federation of Employers' Associations, the Industrial Education and Training Committee in the Korean Employers' Federation and the Committee on Manpower and Development in the Singapore National Employers' Federation. At the initiative of the New Zealand Employers' Federation the School-Industry Links Development Board was established in 1990 to strengthen the relationship between secondary schools and business. Unique pilot programmes were commenced in 1992 on "Teacher Placement in Industry" and "Management Course for Secondary School Principals".
- Influencing government, education and training authorities to correct inappropriate policies and to commence preparing for the future education and training needs if HRD policies are to have impact.
- Initiating or promoting teacher education programmes to impart to them knowledge about the role of business in society, the environment needed for business development etc.
- Promoting closer links between employers and educational and training institutions.
- Influencing course content e.g. management course contents to include more human relations management subjects, and even basic management in occupational safety and health and environmental management.
A fourth role is for an employers' organization to raise awareness among employers of the need for increased investment in the development of human capital as an essential condition for achieving competiveness.
A fifth role is in the training of personnel or human resource managers, given the fact that their role still tends to be downgraded relative to other management functions such as finance, marketing and production. This role could also be undertaken through training support given to professional bodies like an institute of personnel management.
A sixth role for an employers' organization is the provision of advisory services to member companies by
- Assisting trainers in enterprises to develop or improve their in-house training programmes, especially in the areas of the employers' organization's expertise
- Upgrading the knowledge of company trainers
- Maintaining a directory of relevant training programmes/courses
Seventh, an employers' organization should be able to influence the provision of training incentives to be offered to employers, through the tax system or training levies. Numerous examples in countries abound which can provide useful ideas to employers' organizations.
Eight, an employers' organization could develop training material to be used by enterprises for in-house training.
Understanding Employee Drives and Motivations - The First Step towards Motivation at Work
However large or small a company or business is, it is employees at all levels that can make or break it. This holds true not only for the people we hire on a regular basis, but also for temporary and contracted workers. It is as important to research and study the needs, drives, and expectations of people we hire or employ, and aim at responding to and satisfying those, as it is with regard to customers.
In actual fact, considering the role each "employee" plays in a company's success, analyzing and planning an adequate response to employees' motivations deserves first place in the order of business.
Before going any further, let us shift our approach from grouping people under the generic category of "employee" to individual human beings and term them as "hired workers" or "working partners". This is what they are. We must acknowledge them as human beings with individual needs, drives, characteristics, personalities, and acknowledge their contribution to the business success.
Though each person has specific needs, drives, aspirations, and capabilities, at varying degrees of intensity, people's basic needs are the same, as illustrated by Abraham Maslow in the following model:
- Social Needs
- Safety Needs
- Physiological Needs
MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
Maslow explains the Hierarchy of Needs as applied to workers roughly as follows:
Basic physical needs:the ability to acquire food, shelter, clothing and other basics to survive
Safety Needs: a safe and non-threatening work environment, job security, safe equipment and installations
Social Needs: contact and friendship with fellow-workers, social activities and opportunities
Ego: recognition, acknowledgment, rewards
Self-Actualization: realizing one's dreams and potential, reaching the heights of one's gifts and talents.
It is only when these needs are met that workers are morally, emotionally, and even physically ready to satisfy the needs of the employer and the customers.
Worker motivation must also be viewed from two perspectives:
- Inner drives
- Outer (external) motivators.
A person's inner drives push and propel him/her towards an employer, a particular job, career, line of study, or other activity (such as travel or recreation). It is these drives that Maslow delineates in his hierarchy of needs, and which we must understand and internalize, use as guidelines in our efforts to help employees feel motivated.
The outer (external) motivators are the mirror image the employer or outside world offers in response to the inner drives. In order to attract the "cream of the crop" of available workers, same as in his/her dealings with customers, the employer not only tries to satisfy these basic needs, but to exceed them - taking into consideration additional extraordinary needs individual workers have.
Most workers need to:
- Earn wages that will enable them to pay for basic necessities and additional luxuries such as the purchase of a home, or travel
- Save for and enjoy old age security benefits
- Have medical and other insurance coverage
- Acquire friends at work
- Win recognition
- Be acknowledged and rewarded for special efforts and contributions
- Be able to advance in life and career-wise
- Have opportunities for self-development
- Improve their skills, knowledge, and know-how
- Demonstrate and use special gifts and abilities
- Realize their ideals.
The employer responds to those needs by offering and providing:
- Adequate pay
- Assistance to workers for their special needs (such as child care arrangements, transportation, flexible work schedules)
- Job security (to the degree possible)
- Clear company policies
- Clear and organized work procedures
- A stable, just and fair work environment
- A safe work environment
- Medical coverage and other benefits
- An atmosphere of teamwork and cooperation
- Social activities
- Reward and recognition programs
- Incentive programs
- Open lines of communication (formal and informal)
- Systematic feedback
- Training and development programs
- Opportunities for promotion
- Company/ business information
- Information on customer feedback
- Sharing of company goals and objectives a
- Information on the market situation and industry
- Future expectations
- Plans for the future
- Guidance and mentoring.
It is important that the employer discover other extraordinary needs applicants have before hiring them and know beforehand whether he/she can satisfy those needs or not. An employee may have:
- Family responsibilities and be unable to work shifts, overtime, or weekends
- Heavy financial responsibilities which he/she can meet only by working at two jobs, leading to exhaustion, "sick leave", and deficient work performance
- A desperate financial need for additional overtime and weekend remuneration
- Premature expectations of swift promotions.
Some other needs the employer can expect, for which company policies should be planned accordingly:
- If the company is in a remote location, all employees will have a need for more social activities
- Many single people look for dates and spouses at work
- Some women may not be ready to work late shifts unless the employer provides transportation back home
- Some workers may have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse.
In addition to needs and drives, adult workers have expectations from their employer - they expect:
- A knowledgeable, experienced, expert employer
- Clear and fair policies, procedures, and employment practices
- Business integrity
- Clear job descriptions
- Two-way communications
- Effective management and supervision
- Positive discipline
- Good company repute
- Good customer relations
- Company survival
- Opportunities for personal growth
- Company growth
- A share in the company's success.
Business owners and managers are under constant scrutiny by the people they hire. Adult workers care beyond the salary - they care to know to whom they entrust their fate, reputation, and security. They consider their work as a major factor that shapes their lives and the lives of those dear to them. Once they feel confident that the employer and their place of work is what they wished for and expected, they are ready to contribute above and beyond "the call of duty".
Most of these needs, expectations and aspirations are unexpressed - it is up to the employer to develop a good system of company communications, employee relations, training and development that will lead to an environment of openness, cooperation, teamwork, and motivation that will benefit all the parties involved.
Cross-Training as a motivational and problem-solving Technique
Many managers, including human resources directors, mistakenly believe that employee motivation can be won through monetary rewards or other perks. They learn soon enough that such perks are taken for granted and that money is not the key to employee motivation. A professional and unified management, in a good work environment, is the basis on which to build employee motivation.
While high employee turnover reflects on low morale and lack of motivation, when seen from another angle, the absence of turnover quickly results in de-motivation since the possibility of motion and forward-motion is taken away from employees. It is against human nature to remain static, performing the same duties day in, day out, without expectations of change in routine or opportunities for advancement.
Following a reading or lecture on the subject, managers sometimes implement "job enrichment" in a misguided manner, adding unrewarded responsibilities on the shoulders of their supervisors and employees. This results in a feeling of exploitation and has the reverse of the intended effect.
An effective training technique which results in motivation is cross-training, when implemented horizontally, upward and downward. Department heads, assistants and employees can cross-train in different departments or within the department itself.With background support, employees can have one day training in the role of department head ("King for the Day"). When a General Manager is away, department heads can take roles replacing him, which is a form of cross-training.
Cross-training should be carefully planned and presented as a learning opportunity. It should be incorporated in a hotel's master yearly training plan, covering all positions and departments. It should begin with supervisory level and filter down to entry-level positions. Housekeeping should cross-train in Front Office and vice-versa; Front Office in Marketing, Sales, Public Relations, Food & Beverage, Banquets, Security; Marketing & Sales in Front Office, Food & Beverage, Purchasing; Food & Beverage Service in the Culinary department and vice versa; Human Resources in different departments and vice versa.
This technique achieves the following objectives:
- Prevents stagnation
- Offers a learning and professional development opportunity
- Rejuvenates all departments
- Improves understanding of the different departments and the hotel as a whole
- Leads to better coordination and teamwork
- Erases differences, enmity and unhealthy competition
- Increases knowledge, know-how, skills and work performance
- Improves overall motivation
- Leads to the sharing of organizational goals and objectives.
Sending people to work in another department at a moment's notice is not what cross-training is about. This has to be an effective planned process. Employees must "buy" into the idea, be encouraged to give feedback and make suggestions for improvement. They become "partners". Departmental communications meetings can be used to share lessons learned. When employees think "the grass is greener on the other side of the lawn" they soon realize their mistake after exposure to other departments. They return to their job with a better attitude.
Cross-training can also be used to "shake up" supervisors or employees who have lapsed into poor performance. Upon being moved to a different position or department, albeit temporarily, they hear "warning bells",shape up and usually return to their positions as exemplary performers.
Depending on the budget at hand and the objectives to be achieved, the time for cross-training can vary from one day to a week or more. Details must be coordinated with the "receiving" department head. The trainee is incorporated within the department's activities for the duration of the cross-training (briefings, meetings, or obligations).
A more sophisticated form of cross-training is job rotation, which usually involves extended periods (from one month to six months). With job rotation, the employee's role is of a different nature. He is not considered as trainee, but is responsible over certain job functions, for which he has to prove himself.
Both cross-training and job rotation create a team of workers who are more knowledgeable, can easily replace each other when needed and who gain new confidence regarding their professional expertise. These two techniques lead to great motivation throughout the company.
Unionized properties face some difficulty in implementing such techniques due to the rigidity of Union policies and labor agreements. It is up to management to win over Unions on this concept and convince them of the benefits to employees' careers. Union representatives can be made to understand that company-wide cross-training involves substantial investment in time, effort and payroll. The benefits, however, are enjoyed by the three main stakeholders: employees, management and guests. Employees enjoy the rewards of added know-how, skills, career opportunities and future security due to business success.
Problems for Employers' Organizations Developing Training Role
Several reasons account for the problems faced by employers' organizations in training their own staff, and in providing training to members. They include the following:
- Unlike enterprises which can have their staff trained in management and other training institutions, there are no courses and training institutions which are geared to the needs of employers' organizations. This places a heavy responsibility on senior staff to train new recruits and on staff to develop themselves. Therefore organizations often rely on the ILO to conduct training programmes designed to serve the needs of employers' organizations, and to provide staff with study tours to other employers' organizations.
- Most organizations do not have skilled trainers i.e. persons who have been trained as trainers.
- Inadequate training material
- Inadequate information/knowledge relating to labor-related subjects needed to attract enterprises to the organization's training programmes.
- The economic viability of having full time training staff. Due to financial constraints, an employers' organization would generally have to keep full time training staff to a minimum. Therefore staff with special skills providing advisory and representation services should be trained as trainers to enable them to undertake some training in their areas of expertise.
Conventional organizational change, which typically encompasses training and development, and 'motivation', mostly fails.
Why? Are the people stupid? Can they not see the need for change? Do they not realise that if the organization cannot make these changes then we will become uncompetitive. We will lose market share. There will be job cuts. We will eventually go out of business. Can they not see it? Actually probably not or more precisely, people look at things in a different way.
Bosses and organizations still tend to think that people whom are managed and employed and paid to do a job should do what they're told to do. We are conditioned from an early age to believe that the way to teach and train, and to motivate people towards changing what they do, is to tell them, or persuade them. From the experiences at school the people are conditioned to believe that skills, knowledge, and expectations are imposed on or 'put into' people by teachers, and later, by managers and bosses in the workplace. But just because the boss says so, doesn't make it so. People today have a different perspective. And when they think about it, they're bound to.
Imposing new skills and change on people doesn't work because:
- It assumes that people's personal aims and wishes and needs are completely aligned with those of the organization, or that there is no need for such alignment, and
- It assumes that people want, and can assimilate into their lives, given all their other priorities, the type of development or change that the organization deems appropriate for them.
Instead, organizations, managers, bosses and business owners would do better to think first about exploring ways to align the aims of the business with the needs - total life needs - of their people. Most people who go to work are under no illusion that their main purpose is to do what their manager says, so that the organization can at the end of the year pay outrageously high rewards to greedy directors, and a big fat dividend to the shareholders. The workers work so that other more gifted or fortunate or aggressive people can profit because of our efforts.
And god help those if they are running a management buyout company, intent on floating or selling out in the next two-to-five years, making the MBO equity-holders millionaires, and leaving the employees, on whose backs these scandalous gains have been made, up the creek without a paddle, at the mercy of the new owners.
How the bloody hell do you expect decent hardworking people to align with those aims?
It's time for a radical re-think, before they all disappear up their own backsides...
People will never align with bad aims. Executive greed, exploitation, environmental damage, inequality, betrayal, false promises are transparent for all decent folk to see:
"Oh you want me to do this training, and adjust to your changes, so I can make more money for you and the parasites who feed off this corporation? I've got my own life to lead thanks very much."
And that's if bosses are lucky. Most staff will simply nod and smile demurely as if in servile acceptance. If they still wore caps they'd doff them.
The bosses should re-assess and re-align their organization's aims, beliefs, and integrity - all of it - with their workers. Then they might begin to be interested in helping with new skills and change, etc.
People can't just drop everything and 'change', or learn new skills, just because boss says so. Even if they want to change and learn new skills, they have a whole range of issues that keep them fully occupied for most of their waking hours. The need for consulting with people is rather a good idea is that it saves boss from his own wrong assumptions. Consulting with people does not mean that organization is in the workers hand they wouldn't want the corporation if they are paid well. So if the company is thinking in this then it is wrong because consulting with people gives boss and them a chance to understand the implications and feasibility of what boss think needs doing. And aside from this, consulting with people, and helping them to see things from both sides generally throws up some very good ideas for doing things better than boss could have dreamt of by himself. It helps boss to see from both sides too.
Organizations commonly say they don't have time to re-assess and re-align their aims and values, etc., or don't have time to consult with people properly, because the organization is on the edge of a crisis.
Well whose fault is that? Organizations get into crisis because they ignore facts one and two. Ignoring these facts again will only deepen the crisis.
Crisis is no excuse for compromising integrity. Crisis is the best reason to re-align aims and consult with workers. Crisis is wake-up and change the organization and its purpose - not change the people. When an organization is in crisis, the people are almost always okay - it'll be the organizational purpose and aims that stink.
The company should start by looking at their organization's aims and values and purposes. What does organization actually seek to do? Whom does their organization benefit? And whom does it exploit? Who are the winners, and who are the losers? Does the organization have real integrity? Are they proud of the consequences and implications of what their organization does? Will the organization be remembered for the good that it did? And what do workers say to themselves about the way their boss is managing change?
Developing the Organization's Training Function
There are certain prerequisites essential to undertaking a training role in relation to members. Training may be affected in three ways
- By the employers' organization's own staff
- By external persons or institutions the employers' organization may contract with to conduct training
- By a combination of both the above methods, this would usually be the most practical since it is unrealistic to expect employers' organizations to develop the level of skills needed in all the areas of training.
Even in courses conducted by the organization trainers or resource persons can be used for selected subjects to enrich the programme.
Where training is conducted by the staff of the employers' organization it follows that it must have a comparative advantage in the subject matter of the training. In order to have that advantage the staff should
- Have the requisite knowledge in the subject matter
- Be trained as trainers, although this is not critical in all cases. For instance, conducting courses on the application of the labor laws requires knowledge of the subject matter, and skills in training may not be particularly critical though undoubtedly useful.
- Be supported by an up to date information and research base.
The above mentioned pre-requisites underline the two types of training an employers' organization might undertake. The first is the transference of information and knowledge needed by enterprises to make decisions in labor related areas. This requires the first and third pre-requisites referred to. However, in order to have an impact on enterprises in the management of people, the training needs to go beyond knowledge-transference and demonstrate how to translate the relevant knowledge into practice. This involves not only a sound information and research base and staff with the requisite knowledge, but also staff with training skills.
Identifying Areas of Training Specialization
Employers' organizations do not usually offer training in all areas of management (e.g. general management, finance, and marketing) because
- These are specialized areas requiring knowledge in subjects outside the mandate of an employers' organization
- Such training is provided by other institutions like business schools and polytechnics which specially cater to these training needs.
However, in some areas training undertaken by employers' organizations and other institutions overlap. An example is negotiation skills on which business education institutions in some countries have highly effective programmes. Another is human resource management. Therefore it is important for employers' organizations to develop an expertise in training in industrial relations (laws, workplace labor relations practices, wages, and negotiation). It is a subject in which it can develop a comparative advantage, especially since in many countries such training is seldom offered by other institutions. Even if other institutions do, they may lack the practical experience employers' organizations develop if they provide direct services to members.
An increasingly important target group is the small enterprise sector which, unlike the large scale sector, usually lacks a human resource manager or a training policy and in house training facilities. A special needs assessment may have to be conducted in this sector as its needs tend to differ from those of large and medium scale enterprises. The ILO has developed the Improve Your Business (IYB) programme, which is a system of inter-related training packages and supporting materials for providing owners and managers of small enterprises with training in basic business management skills.
Establishing Training Priorities
The employers' organization should establish a priority table in respect of the areas in which it wishes to
- Itself provide the training
- Act only in a subsidiary capacity by, for instance, collaborating with external institutions or individuals.
- Provide training material
Some of the areas in which an employers' organization can undertake training are:
- Industrial Relations and Labour Law. This should be a priority as it is the labour relations role which, more than any other, distinguishes an employers' organization from other employer bodies.
- Personnel and Human Resource Management. Training in this area helps to strengthen personal departments and human resource management functions. Since one of the main objectives of HRM is to integrate it with the functions of line managers, HRM training should be made available to all enterprise managers. However, training in this field may require linking up with institutions which are qualified in this regard, as it is difficult to build a comparative advantage without external assistance.
- Negotiation and negotiation skills. This is important not only for the conduct of collective bargaining but also for enterprise managers in their frequent interactions with their employees and other enterprises.
- Safety and health. An employers' organization could develop a limited role, such as interpreti
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