Abstract

Training is widely used as a learning process whereby employees acquire new skills, knowledge and competence. In this fast changing world, training can be both an anchor and a lifeline. An anchor if it has a clear, focused objective, and a lifeline if it enables employees to keep up with the pace of change and allows companies to survive or even succeed.

However, investment in training appears to be under-utilized. Many companies do not evaluate the impact of training programs. Many Human Resources Department (HRD) believe that they have fulfilled their duty of care after organizing training courses for employees. After an extensive literature search, it was found that many companies do not have a system of evaluation or follow-ups to ensure that trainees put into practice the knowledge and skills acquired during training programs. Human Resource (HR) managers believe that it is the responsibility of the trainer and the Head of department to ensure that employees put the learning into practice. But both of them deny this responsibility and hold the HRD accountable.

It is in this context that the aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of training at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd (HSBC). This study uses exploratory as well as descriptive research designs. Survey research was conducted by way of a questionnaire among a sample number of employees who followed training courses and a face-to-face interview with the Recruitment and Development manager. The interview was audio taped, and the data obtained from the questionnaire was analysed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 16.

The study reveals that while the employees including the Recruitment and Development manager acknowledge the importance of training, unfortunately there is not a specific evaluation system and follow-ups ensuring that the learning is transferred back into the workplace. It is also discovered that while HSBC is planning to use more e-learning as a method of training, most employees prefer classroom-based, raising serious concerns over training effectiveness at HSBC. Focusing only on this study, it can be concluded that training at HSBC is not completely effective. However more in-depth research could be conducted to compare the effectiveness of different training methods available at HSBC

1.0 Introduction

A hundred years ago, change was slow, like the steady flow of an untroubled river. The world is now a much different place to what it was even ten years ago. Most of the time the changes are unpredictable. The current global financial crisis is a vivid proof that the world does not stand still. With approximately eighteen banks currently operating in Mauritius, the banking sector is exposed to increasing levels of international and domestic competition. To innovate and become competitive, its human resources have to innovate in everything they do, be it their minds, their thinking, their skills and competence.

While in the manufacturing sector, employee performance failures end up in the reject pile, in the service sector such as the banking sector; employee performance failures are external failures. Those mistakes are visible to the customer and thus every failure has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Therefore, investing in people through training is a prerequisite. Employees who have the necessary skills can create powerful business advantages that can be very difficult for competitors to duplicate.

Countries like Japan are trying to substitute human beings with robots. Indeed, human beings are non substitutable because they possess intelligence and potential that can never be equaled and their inventions proved it. The Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the Great Wall and now the computer are all the creation and invention of humans.

In Mauritius, government wants to make the Knowledge Hub another pillar of the economy. However, Mauritius is currently suffering from a massive brain drain. Many who are emigrating are highly skilled, such as Doctors, Accountants and IT Developers. School leavers who go abroad for further education rarely come back. As such, the best and brightest are lost to their home country, resulting to a lack of young and skilled people to drive the expanding market place. Therefore, the Human Resources Development Council is offering training grants where employers can recover up to 75% of training costs to encourage companies to provide training to a maximum number of employees.

However, it is still debatable whether the training grant is being used effectively since measuring training effectiveness has often been neglected. But simply having all employees attend a training event does not necessarily translate into an improved workplace. The main challenge for any training program is to ensure that the learning is transferred back into the workplace.

1.1 Structure of Dissertation

This study is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 1 provides a small overview of HSBC.

  • Chapter 2 offers a theoretical and critical background of the literature review.

  • Chapter 3 summarizes the research approach to conduct the study.

  • Chapter 4 provides a thorough analysis of the data obtained from the survey.

  • Chapter 5 consists of recommendations and provides concluding comments.

1.2 Benefits of the Research

The findings of this study are of major importance to HSBC as well as other companies as they assist them in adding value to their company by improving their position as an employer of choice through the delivery of effective training. The findings may also prove useful to lecturers, university students and anyone else with an interest in effectiveness of training programs.

2.0 Company Background

2.1 The HSBC Group

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers from around 9,500 offices in the main regions of the world such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, America, Middle East and Africa. With assets of US$2,527 billion at 31 December 2008, HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organizations.

In 2002, HSBC launched a campaign to differentiate its brand from those of its competitors, with that pithy phrase: “ The world's local bank”. In July 2009, HSBC was named “Best Global Bank” by Euromoney magazine. In addition, HSBC was awarded the “Best Global Debt House” and the “Best Global Transaction Banking House”.

2.2 HSBC in Mauritius

In Mauritius, HSBC operates 11 full-service branches and an offshore unit, which for many years has played a leading role in facilitating cross-border investment activity. It offers a wide range of products and services to diverse domestic and cross border customer base, from accounts services to credit cards, savings, investments, loans and custodian services. Through its locally incorporated subsidiary, the HSBC Bank (Mauritius) Ltd (HBMU), the bank is able to offer many of its global customers more sophisticated financial products and structures that benefit from the extensive range of international double taxation avoidance treaties that Mauritius has negotiated.

In addition, HSBC Mauritius is a leading provider of financial services to local companies across the whole spectrum from SMEs to local Top 100 companies as well as locally listed conglomerates. For three consecutive years, 2005-2007, HSBC has been bank of the year. It is also the second largest credit card issuer in Mauritius. As HSBC Mauritius continues to expand, it has decided to bring together all its non-retail

operations under one site in the fast growing Ebene Cybercity in 2008. In May 2009, HSBC Mauritius has launched two Islamic banking products. It becomes the first bank in Mauritius to offer Syariah-compliant banking services.

  • HSBC vision:

To be a key value creator by identifying, developing, designing and delivering learning and employee development solutions for business success.

  • HSBC mission:

  • Partnering with our business lines to create value for our shareholders and our external customers.

  • Maintaining a learning culture that energizes and motivates employees to maximize their full potential.

  • Aligning training and employee development support with HSBC strategic imperatives.

  • Core business principles:

  • Outstanding customer service

  • Effective and efficient operations

  • Strong capital and liquidity

  • Prudent lending policy

  • Strict expense discipline

    • HSBC Values:

  • Perceptive

  • Progressive

  • Responsive

  • Respectful

  • Fair

3.0 Literature Review

3.1 Definition of training

Training has been defined many times over the years. The Manpower Services Commission (1981 cited by Armstrong 1999) defined training as a planned process to modify attitude, knowledge or skills to achieve effective performance. Similarly, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defined training as “an instructor-led and content-based intervention leading to desired changes in behaviour.”

For Armstrong (2003, p.549), training is “ the use of systematic and planned instruction and development activities to promote learning.” Moore (2005) found the importance of retaining staff through training by defining training as not only a way to achieve a specified standard of staff competence, but also about investing in employees to retain them. Similarly, Cartwright (2003) viewed training as an investment in people.

3.2 Definition of effectiveness

Being effective implies producing powerful effects. According to Bartol et al. (1997), effectiveness is the ability to choose appropriate goals and to achieve them. Similarly, Fraser (1994) defined effectiveness as a measure of the match between stated goals and their achievement.

Often, there is confusion between “effectiveness” and “efficiency” because there is a degree of inter-relationship. This relationship can best be understood by considering effectiveness as doing the right thing and efficiency as doing things the right way. According to Hunter (2005), efficiency and effectiveness are often mutually exclusive. The latter viewed efficiency as a measure of speed and cost and effectiveness as a measure of quality. For Hearn Wendy, effectiveness comes from taking the time to stop and evaluate, rather than running faster and faster. According to her, people should work smarter not harder. Similarly Ferriss (2007) believed that what people do is more important than how they do things. He also saw efficiency as useless if it is not applied to the right things.

3.3 Objectives of training

Business Environment

Changes and Challenges

Learning & Implementation

Business Excellence

The main aim of training is to bring about suitable changes in employees to equip them with the skills required to do their work properly. According to Armstrong (2003) the main objective of training is to achieve companies' human resource development strategies by ensuring that the employees have the skills, knowledge and competence to meet present and future needs.

3.4 Importance of training

Training is crucial to a company's success. It plays a large part in determining the effectiveness and efficiency of the establishment (Sharma 1997). The latter agreed that training is a must and that management has no choice between training and no training. According to him, the only choice is to select a suitable training method. Similarly, Truelove (1997) believed that workplace skills have to be refreshed from time to time just as professional soldiers and top sports people train regularly to maintain their skills.

Bird (1993) also saw training as important to give employees the necessary knowledge to bring about quality improvement across the company. Batten (1992 cited by Vermeulen and Crous 2000, p.61) described the importance of training by the following words: “ Train, Train, Train!” If people are to do things better, they must have the skills and knowledge to do so. If employees cannot do their jobs because they have not been trained, that will reflect in the department's performance. This is supported by Miller et al. (1998 cited by Moore 2005, p.200):

When good training is lacking there is likely to be an atmosphere of tension, crisis and conflict all the time, because nobody is quite sure how the various jobs are supposed to be done and who is responsible for what.

Similarly, Smith et al. (2003) viewed training as an essential ingredient for the success and longevity of teams. Eder (1990) wrote about the successful opening of the Mirage mega-casino in Las Vegas due to the training imparted to employees months before the opening of the casino. Clegg (2000) believed that developing staff to their full potential is important and is doubly required during hard times. According to an article published in the journal of “ Development and Learning in Organizations” in 2004, it is exactly when times are tough and businesses are sailing through rough seas that companies need to update employees' skills since to do otherwise is like throwing the lifeboats overboard to save on weight.

Yet, despite a higher profile for training, there is still little evidence showing that a large number of employers accept the importance of training to organisational success.

According to Clegg (2000, p.2), employees are unlikely to mention training as the most important department of the company. The author observed that:

  • Many training departments have a bad image.

  • Many companies will say that training is among their top priorities but almost always they change their mind when money is short.

  • Too much training that is currently undertaken has very little impact on what the trainees do when they return to the workplace at the end of the course.

  • Too much training is uninspiring.

As rightly said by Hallier and Butts (2000, p.397), in many companies “ Training is perceived to be a less varied sphere of activity and not necessarily essential to the running of the organization.” Indeed, in any economic environment, it makes no sense to throw money at training because training is still regarded as an unnecessary function.

3.5 Benefits of training

Even though training costs money, in most cases the benefits outweigh the costs. Sloman (2005) believed that investing in staff through training bring long-term benefits. Sharma (1997) inferred that training provides the following benefits:

  • Increase in productivity

  • Improve individual and business performance thus obtaining a competitive edge.

  • Improve morale of employees.

  • Reduce supervision

  • Reduce dissatisfactions, complaints, absenteeism and turnover

  • Less accidents and wastage

  • Enable employees to obtain job satisfaction and to progress within the organisation, thus helping the organisation to retain its workforce.

  • Increase in organisational stability and flexibility.

  • Avoid human obsolescence

3.6 Training: an investment or a cost?

Sutherland (1999) stipulated that the most important of all capital is that invested in human beings. Law (1998), Vermeulen and Crous (2000) and Sloman (2005) took a position very similar to Sutherland (1999) by stating that people are indeed the most valuable asset of any enterprise. Sharma (1997, p.244) rightly stated: “There is no greater organizational asset than the trained motivated personnel.” Buzan and Keene (1996) in their book “ The Age Heresy” argued that humans could appreciate in value whilst machinery depreciate in value fast and become redundant. Simarly, Law (1998) commented that human capital is more valuable than property or fixed assets.

In contrast to many authors' opinion about employees being the most important asset, many companies still consider the development of people as a discretionary cost rather than a necessary investment. For many economists, the worth of something is not determined by its purpose but to its price. Prahalad (1972, p.169) rightly stated: “ To most line-managers, training has been by far an optional extra, to be indulged in when profits are good and to be dispensed with during lean periods.” He further added that traditional accounting practices considers all intangibles such as “ organizational capability and worth of human resources as expenses” but all tangibles such as investment in plant and equipment as investment.

Cunningham (2002, p.90) commented that for many organisations training is “ nice to have”, but not an essential. The training budget is the easier option when a company has to reduce costs. As such, companies tend to cut corners which render the training ineffective (Clements and Josiam, 1995).

This is an oxymoron. On the one hand, we have companies stating that employees are the most important assets but on the other hand, the same companies contradict themselves by viewing training as a cost rather than a worthwhile investment. All companies talk a lot about people development. But the moment things get tough; companies reduce training budgets, which may be a very short-sighted policy. If companies really believed about employees' development, this is the one thing they would ring fence (Clegg 2000).

Managers often complain about giving them a better class of workers and their problems will go away. Brown (1992) argued that employers are already equipped with a pretty good class of workers since after all they chose them. Indeed it is managers' responsibility to help employees improve.

The contributions of employees are often taken for granted though employees contribute a lot. Managers tend to believe in things that are visible to them but those whose contributions they cannot see tend to be neglected by them. Cartwright (2003,p.6) rightly stipulated:

Consider what Mickey Mouse is worth to Disney or what a gifted program writer is worth to Microsoft. The value may be impossible to calculate in absolute terms, but it is likely to be many times the conventional worth of either asset.

Barrows and Power (1999 cited by Moore 2005, p.200) believed that the alternative to training, that is not to train may even be more expensive because this lead to poor customer service. A lost customer may never return. As such, the lost revenue from poor service exceeds the costs of training a worker properly.

3.7 Effective Training

Porter and Parker (1993,p.19) identified four features for successful training:

  1. Training must be viewed as a continuous process.

  2. Training must be focused so that people receive appropriate courses at the appropriate level of their needs.

  3. Training must be planned for the future to include the development of total quality skills and techniques.

  4. Training materials must be made customized to suit the particular organization.

Organizations tend to believe that training “ delivered en masse will mean that they have fulfilled their duty of care” (Shuttleworth 2004,p.62). The symptoms of ineffective and poor training are many. The most self- evident are dissatisfied customers, haphazard work, performance and quality standards not met, untidy work, low productivity, high

production costs, excessive waste, employee dissatisfaction, poor discipline and high labour turnover.

In fact, the most effective way to develop people is quite different to conventional skills training, which let us face it most employees regard as a pain in the neck. Clegg (2000) argued that it is no longer good to rely on the way things have always been done and the only way to make training more effective is to be creative. Sloman (2005) suggested that if an effective training program is in place, it could help employees realize their potential and thus benefit both the employees and the organization.

According to Vermeulen and Crous (2000), for training to be effective, it must not only be planned in a systematic and objective manner but it must also be continuous to meet changes in technology, changes involving the environment in which an organisation operates, its structure and most important of all, the employees who work there.

However, Harris (1995) concluded that managers tend to select training programmes according to budgets and time available, but not according to the needs of employees. Conversely, Cunnigham (2002) argued that if training remains focused on the needs of employees, important changes in developing the performance of the organization might be missed out. As such, it can be inferred that creating effective training programs require balancing the needs of the learner and the needs of the organization.

In addition, Sloman (2005, p.349) commented:

Training is not about constructing courses based on identified training needs. It is about making a whole series of interventions that encourage a climate in which committed learners are willing and able to acquire relevant knowledge and skills.

If employees take part in training half-heartedly, it may prove costly for the organization. Even the best-planned training sessions may prove ineffective if employees are unwilling to participate.

Similarly, Barrett and O'Connell (2001) observed that a company can provide training to its employees, but the extent to which the training courses are then applied at work depends on the extent to which employees devote effort to learning and apply the new skills. The values projects model of learning also emphasized the importance of motivation, where the employees are willing to implement their learning.

I do

(Action)

I will

(Motivation)

I Can

(Skills)

I Know

(Knowledge)

3.8 Training Cycle

For training to be effective, companies must complete the full training cycle. But as Beardwell and Claydon (2007) rightly said, the popularity of the training cycle is more evident in the rhetoric of the literature than in organizational reality.

Stage 1

Identification of

Training needs

Stage 4

Evaluation of training

Stage 2

Plan of training required

Stage 3

Implementation of training

3.8.1 Identification of training needs

Arthur et al. (2003, p.236) stated that it is important to carry a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) before providing training because “it provides a mechanism whereby the questions central to successful training programs can be answered.” Prior to training, companies must have a clear idea of what it wants to achieve (Shuttleworth 2004) and whether the organisation's needs, objectives and problems can be addressed by training (Arthur et al. 2003).

Matens (HRfocus 2005b, p.11) suggested that companies should ask these key questions:

  • Where are we now?

  • Where do we want to go?

  • How do we get there?

  • How can we get commitment from key individuals?

McGehee & Thayer (1961) recommended a three-tier approach to determine training needs. Arthur et al. (2003) three-step process for assessing training needs is similar to McGehee & Thayer (1961). They are as follows:

  • Organisational analysis:

Where training should be emphasized within the organization and which organizational goals and problems can be achieved and solved through training.

  • Operational analysis or Task analysis:

The skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for employees to perform their jobs at the desired level.

  • Man analysis:

How well the employees are performing their tasks, who needs to be trained and for what.

In the process of TNA, managers have to identify relevant training needs through the use of annual performance appraisal procedure to examine the individual's aspirations, how their jobs may change and what training is required (Hallier and Butts 2000). According to HRfocus (2005b), companies should get input about what employees want to be trained in. Although TNA is time-consuming and expensive, it provides greater financial, organizational and individual benefits.

Also, training must be top-down, starting with the top team and cascading down the organization to show management commitment and to create an effective, healthy and versatile workforce. While in some organisations, training is considered to be for managers only, in other organisations managers think training is only relevant to workers, but not for them. Indeed, both these attitudes are wrong because training is for everybody (Reynolds, 1994). Similarly, Matens (HRfocus, 2005b) agreed that commitment and support from top management is vital. According to him, management has to show up for classes too.

3.8.1.1 The skills gap

It is important for managers to identify skills gap, which is the difference between the skills needed to perform the required task and the skills employees already possess.

The Skills Gap

Skills needed

Skills already

acquired

3.8.2 Plan of training required

Using a variety of training methods, the skills gap can be filled. In fact, Barrett & O'Connell (2001) observed that different training methods could encourage or discourage employees to participate in training programs. Similarly, The Learning and Skills Council (2004 cited by Beardwell & Claydon 2007, p.317) commented that companies tend to choose inappropriate training methods which are “ costly, time consuming, have a deleterious effect on employees' perceptions of the value of training” and ultimately do not lead to increase skills levels in organizations.

3.8.2.1 Matching skills or tasks and training delivery methods

Skills and tasks can be classified into three broad categories (Farina and Wheaton 1973; Fleishman and Quaintance 1984; Gold-stein and Ford 2002; cited by Arthur et al. 2003, p.236):

  1. Cognitive

This relates to the thinking, idea generation, understanding, problem solving, or the knowledge requirements of the job.

  1. Interpersonal

This relates to interacting with others in a workgroup or with clients and customers, which entails a variety of skills including leadership, communication, conflict management and team-building.

  1. Psychomotor

This relates to physical or manual activities involving a range of movement from very fine to gross motor coordination.

For a specific skill or task, a given training method may be more effective than others. This relationship has been backed by studies from Wexley and Latham (2002) who emphasized on the need to consider skills and task characteristics required to determine the most effective training method.

3.8.2.2 Training techniques

  • On-the-job

It is the most popular training method because it is job-specific, relevant, immediate and flexible. A 2006 study by CIPD conveyed that 56% of learning and development professionals agree that on-the-job training is the most effective way for people to learn in organizations (Beardwell and Claydon 2007,p.308).

Conversely, Smith et al. (2003) commented that training delivered internally by employees who carry other duties apart from their responsibilities of training might lead to ineffective training because they have not received much training in how to train. On-the-job training includes the following:

  • Demonstration

It involves telling or showing trainees how to do a job and then allowing them to get on with it. It is the most commonly used training method (Armstrong 2003) because it is immediate and accessible to most employees. This method is effective if the person giving the demonstration clearly defines what results have been achieved and how they can be improved.

However this method can result in the passing of bad or even dangerous working practices. Also, it does not provide a structured learning system where trainees understand the sequence of the training they are following.

  • Job rotation

The aim is to increase employees' experience by moving them from job to job or department to department. It can be an inefficient and frustrating method of acquiring additional knowledge and skills if it is not carefully planned and controlled (Armstrong 2003). For this method to be effective, a program has to be designed stating what trainees are expected to learn in each department or job. Also, there must be a suitable person to assess whether the trainees are given the right experience and the opportunity to learn.

  • Coaching

It is a person-to-person technique to develop individual skills, knowledge and attitudes (Armstrong 2003). It can be very effective if it takes place informally as part of the normal process of management. Coaching consists of providing guidance on how to carry out specific tasks to help individuals learn rather than force-feeding them with instructions on what to do and how to do it.

  • Mentoring

It is the process of using specially selected and trained individuals to provide guidance and advice to develop the careers of the employees (Armstrong 2003). The aim is to complement learning on the job. The mentor provides personal support and should not be an immediate superior to enable the employees to talk openly about problems and discuss any concerns frankly.

  • Secondment or attachment

It involves the employees widening their skills or learning other skills by visiting other departments. It can also be used to increase awareness and understanding of other departments' roles and concerns.

  • Off the job

It usually takes place in training areas or centres, away from the employees' immediate work positions. It includes lectures, case study, seminars and role-playing amongst others. This method is mainly theoretical. As rightly criticised by Beardwell and Claydon (2007, p.322) this method is

frequently pigeon-holed as the old way of doing things and typified as teacher centred, classroom based, process-focused and providing learning that is difficult to transfer on the workplace. It is often criticised as wasteful of time and money, taking the employees away from the practical context.

  • E-learning

This is concerned with training delivered by electronic technology through the use of Internet, the World Wide Web and intranet within the organisation. It requires the trainees to take the responsibility for their own learning. The cost-efficiencies of e- learning are more apparent today (HRfocus, 2003). It is also more flexible and adaptable to individual circumstances (Beardwell and Claydon, 2007). However, the need for human contact is important in the training process. The technology cannot replace the need for an explanation from human beings (Cartwright 2003).

  1. Implementation of training

Research shows that trainers deal with three personality types (HRfocus 2001, p.6)

  • Learners

These people are eager to get as much as they can from the program.

  • Vacationers

These people consider training, offsite in particular, an opportunity to have as much fun and free time as possible.

  • Prisoners

These people attend training only because they feel forced to, not because they want to.

The relationship between trainees and trainers is the heart of effective training (Clegg 2000). The latter viewed the trainer's flexibility, responsiveness to the trainees' need and ability to generate a human relationship with the trainees as essential. In an interview with McNerney (1995), William Bridges argued that the role of the trainer is to guide the trainees toward upgrading their competencies rather than merely teaching a skill. Hale (2003a) recommended trainers to stop worrying about having a box of tricks, icebreakers and gimmicks to impress trainees.

Clegg (2000) observed that training courses often consists of too long sessions, which totally drains the enthusiasm of trainers. In fact, trainers must also consider the learning levels of employees owing to differences in educational and experiential backgrounds. Scott Ambler commented in an interview with Wickman (2008) that some people are more visual thinkers and need to see diagrams; some just want to go right into the details and some need to see the bigger picture and need to be walked through all the implications.

Brown (1992) recommended a three-part formula for good training courses:

  • Uncover

Create a need for the material within the mind of the trainees. Closed minds cannot relate to a personal need for the material.

  • Discover

If the trainer effectively uncovers the trainees' minds, teaching the knowledge necessary to perform skills will turn into a discovery. Also, people learn faster when presented with an explanation and demonstration.

  • Recover

According to Brown (1992), most trainers fail here. Recovery is intended to provide trainees with hands-on experience, which can include role-play and case studies.

3.8.4 Evaluation of training

Bedingham (1997) observed that even companies that are committed to training viewed its evaluation as difficult and time-consuming. This is supported by Sloman (2005) who observed that measuring training effectiveness is often neglected. When companies have to put a value on training, many of them do not, are unable, or are unwilling to do so. But evaluation and follow-ups are crucial to the success of training (HRfocus, 2005a)

Indeed it is much easy to assess the effectiveness of operational activities through the use of management accounting systems but it is less easy to establish the contribution of training. But how can top management decide on the amount to be invested in training if there is no measurement?

As Prahalad (1972, p.169) rightly said: “ Measurement provides a framework for developing a pattern of resource allocation for the organisation”. Beardwell and Claydon (2007) commented that measurements have to go beyond post-course evaluation to measuring wastage, error rates, customer satisfaction, motivation and link specific outcomes to the training delivered.

According to HRfocus (2005a, p.5), effectiveness of training can be measured by:

  • How many training participants successfully apply what they have learnt during training programs in their job.

  • How long they continue to apply that learning.

  • How quickly the company will realise the benefits of training for the entire target audience.

The main challenge for any training program is to ensure that the learning is transferred back to the workplace. Real-world experience must follow the training course because without application, skills can be easily forgotten. As a Chinese Proverb rightly said: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Similarly, Armstrong (2003,p.563) rightly stated: “Transfer of learning is what counts; behaviour on the job is what matters.” While some researchers estimate that approximately 25% of skills taught are in use six months after training courses and about 15% after one year, others put the figures as low as 10% (Allan 2008).

Unfortunately, training is seen as a collective shrug when it comes to evaluate its impact because it is difficult to evaluate where the learning has been put into action. Evaluation of training is rarely carried out in a useful way either because companies are unsure how to do it or they do not know what to do with the results. It is also viewed as time-consuming.

Swanson (2001 cited Beardwell & Claydon 2007, p.323) observed:

Six out of ten HR and financial directors have little or no idea what return they get on their company's investment in training and many in the HRD profession do not have a predisposition toward measurement and evaluation.

But evaluation is important because if the contribution of training cannot be demonstrated, it is likely to be a target for cost-reduction. Often, trainees are asked to fill a feedback form after training sessions. But nothing seems to be done with these responses. As Clegg (2000, p.139) rightly said, ‘ it's as if the action of taking feedback was a talisman that achieved success in its own right.” Similarly, Allan (2008) commented that many trainers measure trainees' reactions to a program but stop short there.

Feedback is essential for people to know how they are progressing. To learn, employees must feel comfortable to express their thoughts. They should not fear being belittled or marginalized when they disagree with peers or authority figures, ask naive questions, or present a minority viewpoint (Garvin et al, 2008). Unfortunately, negative feedback is considered a criticism to be avoided rather than a desirable thing to make the courses even better (Clegg 2000).

3.8.4.1 Return On Investment (ROI)- Estimating the worth of training

ROI indicates the worth and merit of a particular training programme. According to Campbell (1995), ROI is the most appealing to higher management. He defined ROI as the rate at which training returns what was invested.

However, ROI assessment of training is a debatable issue due to many aspects to be taken into account, some of which are very difficult to quantify. As Armstrong (2003, p.550) rightly observed: “ Ideally ROI should be calculated, but in practice it can be difficult to produce realistic figures”. What value can a company place on improved morale, reduced stress levels, better-qualified staff and improved time management? All of these can be returns on training investment. But attaching a value and relating this to a single cause, that is training is often impossible.

Indeed, ROI is far from being a workable model in practice. A survey carried out in USA revealed that only 7% of the organizations surveyed evaluated ROI in training.

While in UK, 57% admitted that evaluation was becoming more important. However, only 27% are actually using action plans after training (Hale, 2003a).

3.8.4.2 Models of Training Evaluation

Donald Kirkpatrick's four-level model (1959 cited Arthur et al. 2003) is the most popular and consist of:

  • Reaction criteria- what the trainees thought and felt about the training.

  • Learning criteria- the resulting increase in knowledge or capability.

  • Behaviour criteria- extent of applied learning back on the job.

  • Results criteria- the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee's performance.

Previous research in corporate training showed that in practice it is difficult to measure the last two criteria because they are influenced by a number of factors (Van der Klink and Streumer, 2002).

Hale (2003a) argued that it is time to shatter the myths that have emerged due to the reliance on the Kirkpatrick model. He identified the following myths:

Myth 1: Learning is the responsibility of the trainer

Companies often expect the trainer to fix all problems. When businesses cannot prove the value of training, they tend to put the blame on the trainer, not the learner.

Myth 2: Courses prove learning

Training departments prepare reports showing, for example, the number of training days, the duration of the training and the number of courses run to prove that they have been doing their job and how the budget has been spent. But these provide little or no indication about the effectiveness of training.

Myth 3: Good course evaluation mean learning

Kirkpatrick level 1 is the easiest to carry out and thus most organisations are evaluating in this way. However, happiness does not necessarily imply learning. Often, people learn the hard way through difficult and painful experiences. When trainers are aware that they are being assessed at the end of the training, they can use applied psychology to make the trainees “in a state of pleasure before completing the evaluation forms” (Hale 2003a, p.30). Bedingham (1997) supported Hale (2003a) by arguing that the apparently ‘best' courses could simply be those where the trainer has been able to develop a good rapport with the trainees.

In his second article, Hale (2003b) presented a fourth myth:

Myth 4: Real learning takes place in the classroom

Kirkpatrick level 2 assesses the extent to which the trainee recalls the learning after the training. In a survey carried out by Hale (2003b) among 3,000 managers about the most significant learning experiences in their lives, none of them quoted training courses or classroom based training but job experiences.

In fact, since the publication of Kirkpatrick model, there have been dramatic changes in organisational structures, cultures, technologies and training methods. “Yet the HR, training and development community continues to rely predominantly on the old Kirkpatrick model in discussing the evaluation of training” (Hale, 2003a).

Many companies do not go beyond measuring the first two Kirkpatrick levels. As per CIPD Survey (2006 cited Beardwell & Calydon 2007, p.326), 98% of those surveyed measure Kirkpatrick's level 1 outcomes, 75% measure level 2, 62% level 3 and only 36% go as far as level 4; which is the most important.

Missing from Kirkpatrick's model is the ‘ultimate level', which has been added by Hamblin (1974 cited Beardwell and Claydon 2007,p.326) that is the extent to which the training has affected the ultimate profitability and survival of the organisation.

4.0 Research Methodology

4.1 Research Process

4.1.1 Problem definition and research objectives

It is widely acknowledged that a well-defined problem may be considered to be half-solved.

4.1.1.1 Research Problem

In many organisations, training is considered to be a low status activity and not an integral part of the business plan. Research states that many HRD never really examine how training can effectively promote organizational objectives, or how training activities should be altered in the light of business plans. It is also often believed that the responsibility of the HRD is to organise training courses, trainers have to train, managers manage work place performance and thus trainees alone are responsible for applying into their workplace what they have learnt in training courses.

Through an extensive literature search, it was noted that training should be viewed as a continuous process. Prior to training, a TNA must first be carried out and after training; evaluation and follow-ups must be conducted. But to what extent are these being applied in companies remain a big question. Therefore, HSBC, one of the leading banks in Mauritius has been chosen as the company in which the effectiveness of training will be analyzed.

4.1.1.2 Research objectives

Once the problem had been located and defined, the research objectives were set since these would help to identify what information were needed to solve the problem. Therefore the objectives for this study are to:

  • Analyze the factors that contribute to the effectiveness of training

  • Examine the training process at HSBC

  • Investigate the extent to which training at HSBC is effective

  • Determine if a training plan is in place at HSBC.

  • Investigate whether a system of evaluation and follow-ups are in place at HSBC

4.1.2 Research design

This acts as a plan or framework which guides the collection and analysis of data. For this research, exploratory and descriptive designs were used.

4.1.2.1 Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is far more flexible and dynamic. It was used to gain a deeper understanding of training and the factors that contribute to its effectiveness. A search of the literature was conducted to gather preliminary information. A face-to-face interview with the Recruitment and Development manager of HSBC was also conducted to gain a better insight of training at HSBC. Exploratory research was also used to develop hypotheses.

Developing hypothesis

Hypothesis 1: Relationship between frequency of training and how employees viewed their effectiveness at work after delivery of training courses.

Hypothesis 2: Relationship between preference for training method and age.

Hypothesis 3: Relationship between frequency of training and current position of employees.

Hypothesis 4: Relationship between whether training will make a difference in the way employees do their work and their current position.

These hypotheses were tested based on data obtained from the questionnaire.

4.1.2.2 Descriptive Research

Although descriptive research is more rigid and formal, it was used to provide an accurate description of the characteristics of training at HSBC. Therefore, a survey by way of a questionnaire was distributed to the sample of employees who went on training and an interview with the Recruitment and Development manager was conducted.

In addition, the following issues were considered when designing the research plan:

  • Style of research activities

  • Types of data

  • Research instrument

4.1.2.3 Style of research activities

For this study both quantitative and qualitative research were used. For quantitative research, a questionnaire was given to a sample of employees who received training. The data obtained were represented on pie charts, histograms and bar charts to show the frequency of occurrence. With the data inputted on SPSS, statistical analysis was also carried out. For qualitative research, an unstructured interview was conducted with the Recruitment and Development manager to obtain a detailed description of training at HSBC.

4.1.2.3 Types of data

There are two types of data: secondary and primary. For this study, a combination of both was used.

4.1.2.3.1 Secondary data

These are data collected for some other purpose rather than for the immediate study at hand. Sources of secondary data for this study consisted of online databases such as Emerald Library, journal articles from the university library, internet, newspapers, books and website of HSBC. Although secondary data are economical and quicker to obtain, they proved insufficient for the present study and thus primary data were generated.

4.1.2.3.2 Primary data

Through a survey research, primary data were collected for the purpose of the investigation at hand. A questionnaire was distributed among a sample number of employees who received training and an unstructured interview with the Recruitment and Development manager was conducted.

4.1.2.4 Research instrument

For the purpose of this study, an unstructured personal interview and a questionnaire were considered to be a suitable means of collecting data about people's opinions, attitudes, preferences, knowledge and satisfaction.

4.1.2.4.1 Unstructured personal interview

The face-to-face meeting took place with the Recruitment and Development manager at her office. The interviewee's responses were audio taped. The main advantage with this method is that ambiguous questions could be clarified.

4.1.2.4.2 Questionnaire

A self-administered questionnaire with a formalised set of questions was designed to ensure that each person answers the same questions in a predetermined order. This provides an efficient way of collecting responses from a large sample. When designing the questionnaire, care had been taken to ensure reliability and validity of the data to be collected. Issues such as clear layout, question content, response format, question wording, question sequence were taken into consideration to ensure that the questionnaire collect the precise data needed to achieve the objectives of the study.

In an attempt to maximise the response rate, a cover letter was attached with each questionnaire. The letter explained the purpose of the survey, the time taken to fill in the questionnaire and assured confidentiality. (See Appendix….)

In addition, to facilitate analysis of data, numerical codes were already assigned to answers before administering the questionnaire.

4.1.2.4.2.1 Types of questions

The questionnaire consisted of the following types of questions: (See Appendix….)

  • Open-ended

The respondents were required to answer in their own words in as great depth as they wished. For these types of questions, the respondents' answers were categorized and unitized.

  • Closed- ended

The respondents were provided with a number of alternative answers from which they were required to choose. Four types of closed-ended questions were used:

  • Dichotomous

The respondents were required to choose between two categories. But for questions where the proportion of neutral response was perceived to be high, a neutral alternative was included.

  • Multiple choice

The respondents were required to choose from a list of possible answers. For questions where all the list of possible alternatives could not be included, ‘other' category accompanied by ‘please specify' was used.

  • Scaled

Through the use of likert scale, the respondents were asked to select their level of agreement or disagreement from an odd number of categories (5-category).

  • Ranking

There was only one ranking question where respondents were asked to rank their preferences from a list of training experiences.

4.1.2.4.3 Pretest

A pilot test of seven questionnaires was conducted: one executive, two officers and four clerks. The Recruitment and Development manager also went through the questionnaire. The purpose of the pretest was to check the layout, question sequence, word meaning, question difficulty, branching instructions and the time taken to complete the questionnaire. Minor corrections were made to the original proposal.

4.1.3 Sampling plan

Once the problem had been clearly specified, the research objectives set, appropriate research design and data collection instrument developed, the next step was to select those elements from which the information would be collected. For this study, it would be unrealistic, costly and very time-consuming to target the whole population of HSBC. Sampling saves time, an important consideration for this study, given that there is a tight deadline.

4.1.3.1 Population

A population represents the full set of items or people under investigation. HSBC has a population of 391 employees. It must be noted that non-clerical level has been excluded from this population because they are not eligible for training.

Different Levels

Number of employees

Executive Level

69

Officer Level

99

Clerical Level

223

Total

391

Table 1: Population of HSBC

4.1.3.2 Sample frame

It is the list from which employees' names were drawn. The HRD of HSBC keeps a database of all employees who went on training.

4.1.3.3 Sampling unit

It is an individual element of the population to be sampled. For this study, the sampling unit consisted of employees who went on training programs.

4.1.3.4 Sampling method

This can be divided into two types:

    • Probability or random sampling

Here, each member of the population has a known and equal chance of being selected.

    • Non-probability or non-random sampling

Here, each member of the population does not have an equal or known chance of being selected because the selection of sample depends on judgment.

For this study probability sampling was used. More precisely, stratified random sampling. It was found to be more appropriate because the sample frame had to be divided into three strata: executive, officer and clerical. Then, a random sample of executives, officers and clerks who went on training sessions were selected from each stratum.

4.1.3.5 Sampling size

Different Levels

Number of employees

Sample size

Executive Level

69

24

Officer Level

99

35

Clerical Level

223

81

Total

391

140

A sample size of 140 employees over 391 was randomly selected. Each stratum was proportionally represented. This can be illustrated as follows:

Table 2: Sample size

4.1.3.6 Select sample

Since the identity of those participating in the survey had to be kept anonymous, access to the database containing the list of employees who went on training was denied. Therefore, it was the Recruitment and Development manager who executed the stratified random sampling after being informed about the sampling size.

4.1.4 Contact methods

Once the sampling plan was laid out, the next thing was to determine how to contact the respondents to administer the questionnaire. First of all, a contact was made with the Recruitment and Development manager through email who then scheduled a meeting at her office to conduct the personal interview. With her permission, the interview was audiotaped.

Concerning the questionnaires to be filled by employees, it was agreed that she would distribute the questionnaires not only because she knew who went on training but also for confidentiality reasons.

4.1.5 Data gathering

Data was collected during the months of June. The employees were given two weeks to fill in the questionnaire.

4.2 Limitations and problems encountered

  • This study could not cover a numerical analysis to assess the cost effectiveness of training such as ROI, cost-benefit ratio and bottom line evaluation to determine the contribution of training on trainee's productivity and the total value added to the organization. This was due to confidentiality of internal information.

  • According to Roscoe's table for determining sample size from a given population (see Appendix…), a sample size of 196 should have been used for a population of around 391. But given that the Recruitment and Development manager were willing to distribute only 140 questionnaires, a sample size of 140 was thus selected.

  • Deadline for submitting the questionnaires had to be extended to increase the response rate.

  • When carrying a questionnaire, there is a limit to the number of questions that can be asked. With personal interviews, detailed beliefs and feelings can be obtained from respondents. But given the large sample size, it was impossible to carry a personal interview with each employee.

4.3 Ethical Considerations

This research was conducted in a way that ensures its academic integrity and scientific validity. No attempt was made to intentionally falsify or invent any information or citation. By following ‘The University of Mauritius Guide to the Harvard System of Referencing', all materials written or produced by others and mentioned in this study, were given their due recognition. A true description of the different research processes involved in this study was also reported.

In addition, participation in this study was completely voluntary. Respondents were given sufficient information on the cover letter (see Appendix….) for them to decide about participation or nonparticipation. Similarly, the identity of those who participated in the questionnaire as well as their responses and opinions remained confidential.

The results obtained were reported honestly. No attempt was made to falsify any information. It must be noted that this study does not attempt to cause harm to anyone, especially HSBC. Actually, this study aims at helping HSBC to improve the effectiveness of its training programs.