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Relationship Between Training and Employee Commitment

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Published: Wed, 07 Feb 2018

Is there a connection between a high level of commitment to training and development of employees?

1.0 Introduction

This paper will discuss training issues within the UK, and what organisations and the government are doing to address a skill shortage. The labour force in competitor countries is educated to higher levels than those in the UK, and that higher education qualifications will ever more be in demand to address future skills needs, particularly at the technical, associate professional and customer service level (M. Doyle 2003).

This skills shortage is being addressed by the government by encouraging individuals and organisations to take more interest in training. There are many organisations within the UK that have very good policies on training, the question is does training employees equate on the bottom line.

The government has introduced several policies aimed at tackling the skills shortage. D Blunkitt (2000) discussed. “that our education reforms are all about the development of an educated citizenry democracy in which people are educated in and are able to participate in active self-government. Individuals that are knowledgeable are equipped to make moral judgements, and will be able to construct solutions to the challenges they face, both locally and globally”(Blunkett, 2000, p. 13).

This has shifted the emphasis from organisations training employees to individuals taking more responsibility for their own training. The skills are then transferable between organisations, aiding to the mobility of the individual. But organisations still require employees ‘to be trained in their culture and core values.

Organisations seek the competitive edge of rivals; they use training to increase the level of service they offer customers. This in turn will create loyalty with their customers, therefore increasing turnover. The human resource is discussed as the most valuable, and perhaps the last edge organisations can have. If all organisations trained to the same level, would this then eliminate the competitive edge?

Organisations are implementing strategic HR as a change agent, not to replace an out dated personnel department. Although there is still evidence within the UK that once these interventions are implemented, they just replace the role of the personnel department. To be effective belongs on the board of an organisation.

The organisation that will be reviewed is Tesco’s; during the past decade they have introduced strategic HR with increased training of employees. The role of HR within the organisation has increased in importance. Their practice of training and the importance of HR will be reviewed with the current theory.

Tesco’s’ operates in a very competitive market; the consumer has choice where to shop for their groceries. They have expanded their portfolio to include CD’s, DVD’s, electrical goods and clothing. Recently they have expanded into the financial services offering customers products from Credit cards to insurance. All their products are available on the internet 24 hours a day.

Their slogan “every little helps” is used to show their commitment to customers, this has been used to reduce prices and to increase the level of customer service. This slogan is now used in their staff training, that any intervention will increase the knowledge of the workforce.

The organisation is widely reported in newspapers, this is due to the success of the business. They are rapidly expanding in the UK with the opening of their Metro stores and into new and foreign markets. This has taken a great deal of their resources in the planning and implementing stage of expansion. The core units need to remain focused, to retain the reputation they have built. Reinforcing the culture and values through training will focus employees on their roles.
Whilst writing this paper it was identified that further paper could be written on cost analyses of the organisation, to identify if the extra resources they have placed on training has been value for money. This was outside the scope of this paper.

3.0 Methodology

This chapter discusses the research methods used for the project and the justification for the choice of methods. It discusses methods that were not used, with justification of why they were not included. Included is a critique of methods selected, and with hindsight this identifies any changes that would have enhanced the research.

This paper critically evaluates training within the UK and focuses on the training issues within Tesco. It will compare the HR and training practices at Tesco to the theory. The organisation was chosen as they had put themselves to forefront of training a decade ago, by becoming investors in people.

Selection of the topic was stimulated and formed out of heightened political awareness on the subject area. The government has recognised skills gap between the UK and competitor countries. To address this issue they have introduced policies that included lifelong learning. The government’s green and white papers were used to review these policies.

The nature of the research was discussed with colleagues and fellow students, this not only added practical ideas and suggestions; it also opened new avenues of thought. This was the discussed with lecturers sounding out ideas, gauging opinions and clarifying the question. Focusing in on the question was obtained by employing relevance trees, narrowing the research area. This gave direction to the research, although with reviewing the literature this direction changed several times (Buzan, J. 1995).

Next, a research proposal was compiled, with the benefit of organising ideas and setting a time-scale for research. Theoretically, the proposal would highlight any difficulties with the research question and access to data. Creating a time-scale would focus on targets and meet deadlines in the completion of the paper.

The literature review, discussing theories and ideas that exist on the topic formed the foundation of the paper. The findings from the research are then tested on theories for validity (Saunders, M. et al1997). The literature review was challenging, there is a vast amount of articles on the subject. Books journals and newspaper articles formed the back bone for the review.

Tertiary data sources, such as library catalogues and indexes were used to scan for secondary data. This produced journals and newspaper articles, and Internet addresses. With the amount of literature, it took time to sort out relevant material to the research. Narrowing down the search Bell’s (1993) six point’s parameters was applied. Applying key words that were identified in the first search produced relevant and up-to-date material (Bell, J.1993). A limitation on the literature search was the amount of time to read all articles and books on the subject. Whilst reviewing the literature references to other relevant publications was followed and reviewed. Bells checklist on identifying the relevance of literature found was a practical method to reduce the amount of reading (Bell, J. 1993).

The Case study material was compiled from the organisations web site and from articles that discussed their training policy. Tesco’s appear to be rarely out of the papers, with daily reports on their success. The organisation disseminates a lot of information on their web page, only relevant material was chosen.

To produce primary data on organisations training proved to be a vast task, taking a lot of time to produce results. Instead it was decide to review previously published interviews and surveys. This was then compared to the literature review. Interviewing people within organisations was an option for primary research. The target of the interview would be the person that held enough power to influence decisions that the organisation makes. This was rejected due to the time limitations of the paper.

The major limitation of the study lies in its relatively small sample size and the limited coverage. This was mainly attributable tithe limited time and resources available for the study. Although thesis a small sample it will conclude on the findings with recommendations for further research papers into the subject.

4.0 Literature Review

4.1 Introduction

This chapter will review current and recent articles and books of the topics of Training, HR and government policy.

4.2 What is training?

Training can be defined as a planned process to change attitudes, knowledge or skills and behaviour through a range of activities to achieve effective performance. When this training is in the work situation, it develops the employee to satisfy current or future needs of the organisation (Beardwell, I et al 2004).

It is generally accepted that methods of training can usually be separated into two categories: on-the-job, and, off-the-job. On-the-job training is implemented at the trainee’s workplace, while off-the-job training is conducted away from the trainee’s workplace and takes them outside of their work environment (Mullins, L. 2005).

Training can be used as a change agent, to change the culture of an organisation. It is also a tool to improve organisational effectiveness, especially in fiercely competitive markets. All too often organisations that are facing financial problems will cut back the training program, where as they could be used to increase overall performance. The training budget is viewed too often as an expendable, and the first to cut or even go in crises (Rogers 2004).

4.2 Why Train

Nobody in business would disagree with the cliché that a company is only as good as the people in it. But opinions differ on how that translates into practice, and what it means in terms of the way a firm goes about gathering and developing a world-class staff line-up. With near full employment in the UK, the fight for talent is as ruthless as ever, and getting, hanging on to and developing those people remains the HR issue of the moment.

The principal function of any organisation is to increase the value of the business and therefore enhance the wealth of its Owner(s). This is obtained by efficient use of the limited “resources” available to them(T Blackwood, 1995). Garrick (1998) discussed that training inextricably linked to market economics, that “knowledge is prized ins far as it can generate a market advantage“(Garrick 1998:5). This leads to the assumption that though training and developing employees, it can give the organisation advantage, increasing profit.

Best (2001) discussed the “new economy, as a knowledge-based economy without borders, where the race is between companies and locales over how to learn faster and organise more flexibly to take advantage of technology-enabled market opportunities” (Best (2001) cited in DeFillippi, R. 2002). Organisations have changed in the way they operate, shifting from immobile-wired infrastructures to mobile, miniature, and wireless modes of communication, computing, and transacting. Customers now demand 24 hour service, with “anytime, anyplace” solutions of their problems (DeFillippi, R. 2002).

Radical shifts are taking place in management theory; these shifts need to be reflected in the theory of training and development. The move towards a knowledge economy makes these shifts vital to the survival of the organisation. Ideas of training tend to focus on results; typically they are short-term and assume transferable skills. Ideas of personal development may be insufficiently focused on the workplace. Therefore for an organisation to enter the knowledge economy, it is vital for them to review their training and development to a broader aspect (Bryans, P. & Smith, R. 2000).

Increasingly, as the nature of business and organisations change, its ‘leaders are recognising that their most valuable assets are their skilled employees and, more significantly, the knowledge, both tacit and explicit, that is possessed by these employees. The “knowledge is power” cliché has never been more accurate than in today’s corporate world. This added value that this can be seen in products and services is now dependant on knowledge based intangibles (Rogers 2004).

Since the late 1990s the business environment has drastically changed(Mullins, L. 2005). Chaos theorists have argued that the world of the organisations is “turbulent and chaotic, making it impossible for them to predict the future” Therefore conventional approaches to strategic decision making are no longer appropriate (Harrison, R. 1997:78).Competition and the pace of change in business require continuous improvement, therefore it means continuous learning. From this demand the market for business education has grown with a proliferation of courses, full- and part-time, ‘open’ and bespoke (Mullins, L. 2005).

4.3 The Role of HR

Recognition of the importance of HR has increased in recent years; thesis a result of competition from overseas economies. In countries for example Japan, Germany and Sweden investment in employee development is higher than the UK. This has led to some organisations reviewing their policies on training introducing continuous investment in their employees (Beardwell, I. et al 2004).

This increase in training priority has been supported by a rise inhuman Resource Management. This practice emphasises that increased growth can only be maintained in the long run; by equipping the workforce with the skills they need to complete their tasks (Mullins, L.2005).

Although it is argued that HR departments are within UK organisations mostly administration based. Rogers (2004) stated that “the threat revolves around a fundamental mismatch between the functions of Departments today and the real strategic human resource needs of modern business, which those departments it should be serving“. The image of training and development has changed and can be used a key driver for delivering shareholder value (Rogers 2004:25).

The role of HR should not be administrative based; it should be a part of the long term strategy of the organisation. Appointed an HR manager to the board is the only way this can happen (Beardwell et al2004).Rogers (2004) discussed the “role of developing human capital strategies that HR has a real opportunity to shine”. There are numerous departments are failing to deliver the goods. This is caused by “too many departments are dominated and viewed by the board as fulfilling mainly administrative role, dominated by endless form filling” (Rogers2004 :25).

For HR to succeed it must take on a proactive role within the organisation. Strategic HR creates value by providing opportunities for organic learning, development of intellectual capital and enhances core competencies. This value is crucial to the organisation’s future success (Treen, D. 2000). Employers are increasing extorting the best possible performance from employees. Best practice will increase the skills of the current workforce, and with recruiting it will reinforce the culture of a highly skilled work force (Mullins, L. 2005).Strategic HRM has gained both credibility and popularity over the past decade, specifically with respect to its impact on organisational performance (Paauwe, J & Boselie P. 2003).

To fully exploit the wealth of knowledge contained within an organisation, it must be realised that it is in human resource management that the most significant advances will be made. As result, the human resource department must be made a central figure in an organisation’s strategy to establish a knowledge basis for its operations (Mullins, L. 2005).

There are fundamental differences in the approach to HR. Storey(1987) discussed these as ‘hard’ and `soft’ versions of HRM.. The ‘hard’ version places little emphasis on workers’ concerns and, therefore, within its concept, any judgments of the effectiveness form would be based on business performance criteria only. In contrast, ‘soft’ HRM, while also having business performance as its primary concern, would be more likely to advocate a parallel concern for workers’ outcomes (Storey cited in Guest, D. 1999).

These models of HR theory, will justify why there has been an increase in this management practice. Walton (1985) defined HR as “mutual goals, mutual influence, mutual respect, mutual rewards, and mutual responsibility” Walton further added that the ‘psychological contract ‘under this guitarist, high commitment model is one of mutuality, but it is a mutuality strictly bounded by the need to operate within an essentially unitary framework (Walton cited in Beardwell, l. et al2004)

There is a need for a higher value to be placed on employees. And therefore get the best performance from the employees. According toDelany (2001) “successful organisations keep 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).

The role of human resource explicitly views employees as another resource for managers to exploit. In the past, managements had failed to align their human resource systems with business strategy and therefore failed to exploit or utilise their human resources to the full. The force to take on HRM is therefore, based on the business case of a need to respond to an external threat from increasing competition(Guest, D 1999).

This view reflects a longstanding capitalist tradition in which the worker is viewed as a commodity. The consequential exploitation may be paternalist and benevolent; but, equally, it may operate against the interests of workers. Essentially, workers are simply resources to be squeezed and disposed of as business requirements dictate. More importantly, the interests of workers and their well-being are of no significance in themselves. As John Monks (1998) stated “In the wrong hands HRM becomes both a sharp weapon to prise workers apart from their union and a blunt instrument to bully workers” (Guest, D 1999).

4.5 HRD

HR and training literatures highlights the organisational benefits tube gained from adopting a systematic approach to HRD, therefore thronging development of employees’ skills underpins the wider business objectives (Keep, 1989). This systematic approach to training often includes models that identifying needs, planning, delivery and evaluation. Harrison developed an eight stage model to identify monitor and evaluate training. The evaluation stage is possibly the most problematic part of the training process (Reid and Barrington, 1997).

Therefore using that theory HRD should be viewed as a vital function offal organisations, and not just there to satisfy training issues, a proactive role. Caravan et al (2000) discusses the emergence of strategic HRD practices, which are directly linked to the organisation’s strategies, with profit maximising paramount, HRD is atoll that should be employed to obtain and support this (Caravan et al,2000).

Strategic HRD is not embraced by all organisations; some view other resources as more valuable. There are many individual interconnected components, that impact on the performance of the organisation. The human resource is in theory the most valuable resource, but does not always receive the respect, and the financial recognition to develop(Walton 1999). Mumford (1997) agreed with this stating that “other resources within the organisation have a higher value placed on them and they are protected by rules and regulations” (A Mumford 1997:78).

The theory of HRD appeals more to academics that the practioners. Garrick (1999) noted that academics rather than practitioners are more eager to pursue the ‘learning perspective’. This opinion defines HRD as being solely concerned with employees’ rather than organisational Strategy (Garrick 1999). Although this view is not shared by all authors. Caravan et al. (2000) defines the learning perspective that defines HRD as “responsible for fostering the long-term, work related learning capacity at an individual, group and organisational level”(Caravan et al. 2000:66).

A research undertaken by Robertson and O’Malley Hamersley reinforces this view of HRD. A two-year qualitative study composed from eighteen semi-structured interviews concluded that continuous professional learning was important to professional workers. To conclude from the study, learning does not have to directly correlate with organisational strategy. Therefore HRD can also be defined as a continuous learning programmes and encouragement of self-directed learning (Robertson and O’Malley Hamersley cited in Caravan et al. 2000:71).

Continuously during the late 1990s and into the current century there has been a shift in organisational HRD rhetoric. Walton (2004) has discussed this shift in practice as “from how to support learning to how to manage knowledge, from the learning organisation to knowledge management”. These are new implications for the HRD practitioner in what has loosely been named the new economy (Walton 2004).

4.6 Managers and facilitators

Education, training and development for managers, especially in the UK, has traditionally fallen into the “nice to have” category rather than the “must have” This view of business is persistent, with the assumption that managers are born and not made (Stern, S 2002). The majority of managers have learnt their skills through on-the-job experience. The conventional assumption, that managers learn best through “doing” whenever possible (Reader, A. 1998).

Focussing on the concept that the human resource is the highly valued, systems should be in place to protect their importance. Development for managers who manage employees is a basic component of management development (Marching ton & Wilkinson 1996). Mumford(1997) discussed the reason for failure of some of the processes has been “clearly been due in some instances to the absence of the required skills” (Mumford 1997:78). The majority of Managers would profit from training, but they are not capable of managing even with the intervention of training. These managers would still find in difficult to transfer the new skills and practices into their work place. The people who should train are not trained themselves (Walton 1999).

In the UK the majority of managers have been trained in a skilled occupation, and consequently promoted through the system (Beardwell& Holden 1994). Although highly trained in their primary occupation, the challenges of the managerial role are foreign to their skills. Rees commented that “few people start their careers off in managerial role; they have to acquire skills in organising employees effectively in an ever increasing competitive environment” (Rees cited in Beardwell & Holden 1994:373).

Good employee developers make a difference to the individual employee and/or their organisational performance. A new employee with a skills gap can be made to feel part of the organisation when he is developed into his role. Employees can be identified who have the potential for more demanding work or promotion but who require support to make this change. This can then set up a cycle of good behaviour that is passed on when the ‘receivers’ become managers and developers themselves. Anises study found examples of increased skills and knowledge, work experience, self-confidence, improved motivation, job performance and job satisfaction, all thanks to the developers (Sparrow 2004).

4.7 Learning Theories

Organisations have an economic need 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. Cognitive learning lets the workforce learn strategies, and then transfer the learning to be able to solve problems. Lewis (1958) broke the learning down into three key stages. The first stage is the disposal of the old level (unfreezing), second stage is to implement the new structures and processes (moving) and the final stage involves stabilising the company with its new structure (refreezing). This technique was used so the organisation and the employees would be able to understand and implement improvements to their methods of working. Problems that arise from organisational change, which it is not flexible and cannot adapt swiftly to situations such as economic recession (Lewis (1958) cited in Buchanan, D and Hucczynski, A 1991).

Wilson (1999) summarised on three main adult learning theories. 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. Cognitivist 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 positionality. Humanist theories believe that learning occurs as result of our natural inclination towards it. People learn because in an environment of “warmth, care and understanding” (Wilson, 1999:197)we cannot help it. In this sense education is learner-centred; the student initiates the development environment and needs assessment.

People continue to learn throughout their life, whether this is formally taught or just experienced. The process of lifelong 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 al2004)

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).

4.8 Identification of training

The UK government has introduced the National Occupational Standards(NOS). These are used as benchmarks of good practice in learning, and to identify the benefits to organisations and individuals that use them. These agreed statements of competence, describe the work outcomes required for an individual to achieve the standard expected of them(Wagner, L. 2004). These benefits can be used as a tool for the Human Resource Management function, to review and identify competencies in the work place. This process can start with recruitment and selection, measuring people’s experiences that will be transferred to the role, identifying any skills gaps in the existing work force (Harrison, R.2002).

Employees appraisals is a tool used as to identify development issues within the organisation. Harrison (1993) suggests that they are “system and process for the provision of both feedback to employees on all aspects of their performance, and the opportunity for discussion to agree actions to assist their future development” (Harrison1993:256). Mullins defined the advantages of regular staff appraisals as “a formalised and systematic appraisal scheme will enable a regular assessment of individuals’ performance, highlight potential and identify training and development needs” (Mullins 1996:639). The information collected from the appraisals can be used for strategic development of employees.

Outcomes can be used as measurement of success from the initial objectives. Harrison (1997) defined three outcomes that should come from appraisals, feedback on performance, work planning and diagnosis of training and development needs. If these outcomes are satisfied in the appraisal, then it will have a motivating effect on employees. IPhone of these outcomes is not satisfied, then the others cannot be satisfied (Harrison 1997).

4.9 Psychological contract

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 shifted. Employees are increasingly mobile, changing employment for promotion, reward and job satisfaction; top employees have more choices to where to work. To retain these key employees the organisations culture needs to allow an environment of personal growth (Harrison2002). With less job security, the best reward an organisation can give an employee is transferable skills (M Marching ton & Wilkinson, 1997).

Workers have been 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 whatever organisation. This mobility and “free agency” has created greater competition for skilled workers between organisations. Good workers have more choices than before, and are more liable to use them. Withal the costs involved in recruiting and training new employees, organisations need to retain them. And key to this is the intrinsic rewards (Harrison 2002).

Career development is important to the individual employee; Harrison(2002) noted this as an organised planned effort comprised of structured activities or processes that result in a mutual career-plotting effort between employees and the organisation. This Isa central component of the psychological contract that binds the individual to the organisation (Harrison 2002). This further complicates the role of the HRD PR actioner, balancing organisational needs with the individual’s expectations. Some employees will develop their career with one employer, while others require transferable skills. The organisation requires employees with the right skills to ensure and sustain competitive advantage (Gilley and England, 1989:48).

4.10 The Facts in the UK

When organisations do not employ the resources to evaluate the benefit gained from training, the needs analysis is not completed. Therefore any benefit gained is not known to the organisation. A studying 1989 revealed that only 3 per cent of UK organisations reviewed any cost-benefit analysis of their training intervention (Deloitte et al(1989) cited in Santos and Stuart 2003).

This approach within the UK has barely changed in fifty years. Evaluation of training intervention does not receive the consideration that accepted opinion demands; it is not an important factor in determining the allocation of resources to training. The important factor within an organisation is the focus of HR on the training and development needs, so they are focused on the learning needs of theorganisation.UK organisations fail when assessing the effect of training, to both the individual and the organisation (Sloman 2004).

A survey from the CIPD of 1,180 HR professionals agreed that the role of the HR department requires change to move forward. Mike Emmett, head of employee relations at the CIPD agreed with the survey stating “Theory community has internalised the message that it needs to spend less time on administration and operational issues and more time on business strategy and adding value“ The role that HR has adopted in the Appears to follow on from the role of the personnel department. For Hardtop be successful the HR department should hold a strategic position within the organisation (Mike Emmett cited in Zneimer and Merriden 2004:38).

The trend in the UK o


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