Dealing With Competitive Pressures Commerce Essay

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Globalisation has had a major impact on the world economy. A large number of companies from Western Europe, Canada and the USA have relocated their manufacturing facilities to the developing economies (e.g. China, India etc) in order to significantly reduce their production costs and overheads. This allows them to reduce the selling price for their goods and services and makes them much more competitive.

Ireland has a high labour cost economy - we cannot compete on price. We need to become smarter - we need to embrace the knowledge economy in order to compete and survive. One of the key aspects of the knowledge economy is the skill-sets of its workforce. The quality of the workforce is possibly the most important factor governing the success of any organisation.

Throughout the Irish economy over the last 25 years the average size of a workforce has declined. Workers have become much productive because of rapid technological advances. Another major reason for this development is that companies need to significantly lower their cost base in order to remain competitive.

The Importance of Training

Employers' expectations of employees have risen dramatically. An employer now expects his / her workforce to be flexible, be able to multi-task and deliver an improved performance. This can only be achieved by recruiting the right people in the first place - ensuring that the workforce is effectively managed and receives the correct training.

Very few senior executives view an integrated training and development plan as a key component of their business strategy. As a result this important area is often only considered in a piecemeal fashion. All too often training is limited to ad hoc courses designed to fill a particular knowledge gap (e.g. technical training on a particular software program).

Training and development needs to be elevated from the departmental level directly to the top of the agenda at board. Companies need to develop a holistic and strategic approach towards developing the skills, knowledge and competencies of their workforces. Senior executives need to see training and development as an investment and not as a cost.


Out Of Date Training Programmes

The vast majority of traditional training programmes concentrate on the technical and procedural aspects of job roles. However, in today's dynamic economy and fast moving consumer markets, customers' demands have risen dramatically with regard to the level and quality of information and service they expect to receive when products and services. The companies that can give added value to their products and services in the form of better information and excellent customer service will the ones that get the business.

Thus a key factor to being competitive is not simply about charging a lower price it is about it is also about providing the customer with a better experience. Unfortunately, however, many corporate training programmes are dull, one-dimensional and simply out-of-date. In the vast majority of cases they simply do not equip the workers at the sharp end of the business to deliver the added value element that ultimately converts the prospect into a sure-fired sale.

Obviously to be effective workers need to have a high level of technical (e.g. product knowledge, model specification etc) and procedural (e.g. how to process customer orders, take payment etc) competence. However, training programmes also need to equip them with lateral thinking skills (i.e. the ability to think and act creatively in order to solve problems, generate ideas etc), the ability to establish and develop rapport with customers, work colleagues and managers etc.

A Change Of Direction

What is needed is a radically different approach - this is why this new course MIND OVER MATTER has been developed - it is designed to combat the limitations of traditional training programmes run by companies throughout Ireland. It is designed to be versatile and flexible. It could, for example, be added to technical training schemes or could be delivered as a stand-alone course. To establish its reputation and credibility within commercial training circles it complies with all of the quality assurance criteria as specified in the FAS Training Standards QA 58/01.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Why will this course be different? In order to answer this question - we need to examine why only a relatively few products and services are very successful. This is because they have USP - it is this factor that makes them stand out from the crowd - they have something that makes them radically different from similar products and services. The USP of the MIND OVER MATTER programme is that it will give added value to existing training schemes. This will help to radically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce for a relatively small additional cost.

Perhaps the most important benefit this new course will create is a new and positive attitude towards training and development amongst employees. Most people can tell a good story about some boring training course they have been on. Many employees feel that they are "press ganged" into attending courses, which on many occasions prove to be a waste of time and are often irrelevant to their job role and long-term personal development.

The Structure of Training Courses

All training courses must at least contain 2 of the 3 learning domains. In reality most courses will contain all 3. Whilst the domains are separate entities in their own right - it must be remembered that a competent and highly effective trainer will intertwine the domains in order to produce a stimulating learning experience for the course delegates. In other words a trainer will "mix and match" the content of the domains to meet the learning expectations and needs of the people attending the course.

Pyschomotor Domain - Those skills which are concerned with physical dexterity, for example, changing a wheel or giving an injection. Both of these tasks do need knowledge, but predominantly, they are physical skills, which need practise.

Cognitive Domain - Knowledge and knowing the "how" and "why", are the thinking skills, that fall into this domain. An example would be, "state the names of the major bones in the body" - this requires that thought processes are accomplished.

Affective Domain - This is concerned with attitudes. Examples are, "the need to eat a balanced, healthy diet" and "the need for equality of opportunity for all". These deal with feelings and emotions and are different from the examples for the other domains.

Each of these domains is broken down into a number of categories. Learning may therefore be seen as a building block process in which the trainee passes through each category of the relevant domain until he / she reaches the highest level, or the level, which is considered appropriate to what the trainee is trying to achieve.

In terms of the cognitive domain the vast majority of work-related training courses are concerned with the first three categories, as shown in the table below.

Level / Category

Behaviour Descriptions

Examples of Activity To Be Trained and Evidence To Be Measured

1. Knowledge

Recall or recognise information

Multiple-choice test, recount facts or statistics, recall a process, rules, definitions; quote law or procedure

2. Comprehension

Understand meaning, re-state data in one's own words, interpret, extrapolate, translate

Explain or interpret meaning from a given scenario or statement, suggest treatment, reaction or solution to a given problem, create examples or metaphors

3. Application

Use or apply knowledge, put theory into practice, use knowledge in response to real circumstances

Put a theory into practical effect, demonstrate, solve a problem, manage an activity

4. Analysis

Interpret elements, organisational principles, structure, construction, internal relationships; quality, reliability of individual components

Identify constituent parts and functions of a process or concept, or de-construct a methodology or process making qualitative assessment of variables, values and effects; measure requirements or needs

5. Synthesis (create / build)

Develop new unique structures, systems, approaches, creative thinking, operations

Develop plans or procedures, design solutions, integrate methods, resources, ideas, parts; create teams or new approaches, write protocols or contingencies

6. Evaluation

Assess effectiveness of whole concepts, in relation to values, outputs, efficacy, viability; critical thinking comparison and review; judgement relating to external criteria.

Review strategic options or plans in terms of efficacy, return on investment or cost-effectiveness, practicability; assess sustainability; perform a SWOT analysis in relation to alternative; produce a financial justification for a proposition or venture, calculate the effects of a plan or strategy; perform and costed risk analysis with recommendations and justifications

This is because the vast majority of the operational activities (e.g. business administration, sales order processing, purchase order processing etc) that occur in any organisation are covered by these three levels. They are routine, regular and on the whole are predictable events. In any work environment the ability to analyse, synthesise and evaluate are the preserve of supervisors, middle managers and senior executives.

However, as we have identified in our earlier discussion, all organisations in Ireland now have to compete in a dynamic and rapidly changing business environment, which is anything but routine, regular and predictable. The rate of change is not going to slow down - if anything, it is going to get faster. Work-based pressures and stress levels are already at an all-time high - things are going to get worse - not better. Traditional work-related training courses simply fail to prepare employees for the changes that lie ahead.

Also it must be remembered that workforces are getting smaller. This means that in the future employers may have an all graduate workforce, which they will train to complete operational activities (levels 1 to 3) but with the added capability of being able to analyse, synthesise and evaluate (i.e. levels 4 to 6 in the cognitive domain). Such a workforce will be highly educated, technically competent and fully equipped to deal with the demands and change imposed by a rapidly changing business environment.

The affective domain is the most important one because without the right attitude and state of mind, no one is going to learn anything on any training course. If people are self-confident and are feeling positive about the training they receive, they will learn a great deal and will be able to apply their new skills and knowledge effectively within the work environment. The MIND OVER MATTER training programme is designed to release the creative brain power of employees and generate a positive mental "can-do" attitude.


The Benefits Of Making Employees More Creative

The Mind Gym is a highly innovative training and development organisation, which takes a very different approach to transforming people's behaviour at work. It's an approach that delivers results like no other - and it costs a lot less in terms of both time and money. This is achieved by thinking differently. It is based upon 63 different 90-minute workouts covering a wide range of subjects - for example, "Influence and persuade", "Getting things done", "Creativity for logical thinkers" and so on.

These face-to-face workouts are for up to 20 people at a time and can be delivered anywhere in the world. They usually take place in companies' offices, factories or conference venues. Numerous organisations have benefited from these work-outs. For example, for five years, a division of Barclays Bank has been increasing skills more successfully and at less cost than they imagined. A major division of BT are using the work-outs to help deliver a more effective customer service.

The MIND OVER MATTER programme has been developed along similar lines as the Mind Gym and consists of the following modules:

Module 1 - Effective Goal Setting - How to reach your potential by means of setting achievable goals

Module 2 - NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) - NLP is an extremely powerful concept and it is said by many to contain all the positive and most useful aspects of modern psychology.

Module 3 - Kaleidoscope Brainstorming Process - Brainstorming is a powerful technique for problem solving, planning and team building.

Module 4 - Emotional Freedom Techniques - This is a modern growing form of personal development and therapy.

Module 5 - Memory Techniques - These tools help to improve your memory. They help you both to remember facts accurately and to remember the structure of the information.

The modules can be offered as a complete programme or as stand-alone units. They can also be used to compliment other training courses and can be used to generate the capability within delegates to analyse, synthesise and evaluate (i.e. levels 4 to 6 in the cognitive domain). Thus these modules will ultimately help organisations to improve the productivity and creativity of their workforces.

The structure, content and delivery of this programme comply with the FAS Training Standards QA 58/01. These quality assurance standards ensure that all work-related training programmes satisfy the business requirements of employers and the occupational development goals of employees.

Module 1 - The Importance of Setting Effective Goals - Structure and Content

Module Aims

The purpose of this module is to improve the goal setting capability of employees both in terms of themselves and helping others to become more effective at this process.

Module Objectives

To make employees aware of and understand the goal setting process.

To enable employees to research, develop and set appropriate goals in order to make them more effective in the workplace and to enhance their personal development.

To provide designated employees with the skills, knowledge and competence to become effective work-based coaches.

To enable designated work-based coaches to establish a meaningful rapport with their coachees and help to become effective at developing and setting goals.

To provide the employees with a "toolkit" of concepts and techniques which will improve their capability to set and achieve SMART goals.

To improve the self-confidence of the employees and make them robust in terms of dealing with increased work pressures and stressful situations.

Element 1 - The Language of Goals and Coaching

This element will gently lead you and your coachees into the coaching language of goals by the frequent repetition of the basic words.

There are some words that are sometimes used as alternatives to "goals" when coaching - for example, results, outcomes, aims and objectives.

Each of these is acceptable. Obviously, different organisations use terminology as well. But for the purposes of consistency we all need to be talking about setting and achieving goals.

All employees need to understand that work and personal goals are achievable because they have been researched, developed and devised using the SMART criteria.

Element 2 - Turning Negatives Into Positives

As a coach you must aim to achieve absolute clarity about what your coachees want to achieve. This will obviously depend upon the work-based goals that have been set.

Coachees may lack an understanding of what is required of them. This can lead to apprehension and stressful situations.

Therefore, whenever possible the coachees' supervisor and / or line manager need to play an active role in the coaching process.

It is often the case that work-based goals are never achieved. Sometimes this happens because they are simply unrealistic and can never be achieved.

More often than not - they are not achieved, because the employees have not been involved in the goal setting process.

If supervisors and managers actively involve and encourage their subordinates to become involved in the goal setting process - this will empower and motivate them.

Element 3 - Motivation Fuels Action

Motivation is the fuel that turns a thought into action and carries that action through to completion. It is the kick start that gets you over the first barrier.

Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs Model (shown below) in the USA during the 1940s and 50s. This model is now widely used today - often as a management tool - to understand how we are motivated.

In general terms, motivation - the willingness to take actions - derives from 2 sources:

External - outside influence and stimulus from other people, events or situations

Internal - inner determination and passion

External motivation is essential for survival - it is usually very temporary and short lived.

Internal motivation is the lasting motivation that creates positive results. It is fuelled by two prime human instincts:

The avoidance of pain or negative reinforcement.

The pursuit of pleasure, or positive reinforcement.

This element provides you with coaching concepts and techniques, which can to identify what motivates the coachees.

Negative issues need to identified, analysed and resolved. Otherwise the coachee's work performance will below the required standard. This means that the goals stated for the department, work section etc, will not be achieved.

Element 4 - Techniques To Assist Goal Setting

To be effective goals must:

Be written down / Have target dates for completion / Be expressed in the present tense

Be reviewed daily / Have a clearly defined destination

Have a means of measuring progress towards their achievement - are you on track within your timescale?

Contain a tangible reward for achievement / Be set without limits

Have a defined support infrastructure - who is going to help you get to your goal?

Be set within a structured ACTION PLAN

Meet the requirements of the SMART criteria - which are:

Specific - means that each action is defined as clearly and precisely as possible

Measurable - means that you are able to quantify and your progress at all times

Achievable - means that that the action plan is realistic - i.e. you are challenged by the goal but have not aimed too high

Resourced - means that you have in place all of the necessary equipment, skills, knowledge and support required to achieve each goal

Time-framed - means that you have set a target date, by which you will complete each action

Module 2 - NLP - Structure and Content

Module Aims

NLP has many beneficial uses in the business world (e.g. CRM - Customer Relationship Management).

It incorporates a wide array of techniques (e.g. anchors, calibration, reframing etc) which facilitate matter of mind fitness, mind training and intellectual challenges.

Module Objectives

Upon completion of this module delegates will have an appreciation and understanding of how NLP help to:

People to research, develop and set effective goals and pragmatic strategies which will deliver the desired results

Improve the self-confidence and job satisfaction of new and existing staff

Identify, analyse, rationalise and eradicate issues which cause stress and conflict

Improve the confidence and develop the skills of customer care staff and improve customer satisfaction levels

Element 1 - NLP Principle 1 - Achieving Outcomes

NLP lists certain well-formed conditions that outcomes should meet.

The first of these is that the outcome needs to be stated in positive terms.

The second well-formed condition for outcomes is that the outcome must be testable and demonstrable in sensory experience.

Third, the desired state must be sensory specific.

Fourth, the outcome or desired state must be initiated and maintained by the subject.

Fifth, the outcome must be appropriately and explicitly contextualised.

Element 2 - NLP Principle 2 - Sensory Awareness

NLP teaches the ability to "read" people.

The NLP practitioner uses these and other indicators to determine what effect they are having on other people.

This information serves as feedback as to whether the other person is in the desired state.

Element 3 - NLP Principle 3 - Changing Behaviour

The third operational principle of NLP is to vary your behaviour until you get the response you want.

If what you are doing is not working, then you need to do something else.

If what you are doing is leading towards your outcome, then you should continue.

Element 4 - NLP Principle 4 - Time For Action

The fourth and final operational principle of NLP is to take action now.

NLP is about taking action now to change behaviour for yourself and for others, now and in the future.

Module 3 - Kaleidoscope Brainstorming Process - Structure and Content

Module Aims

Upon the successful completion of this module delegates will understand that brainstorming is a process which creates new ideas, motivates and develops teams.

This is because it involves team members in bigger management issues and gets the brainstorming participants working together.

Module Objectives

Upon the completion of this module the delegates will:

Understand the benefits that brainstorming provides and will be able to identify its potential to generate improvements within their own organisation.

Understand how to facilitate a brainstorming session and manage the process to produce realistic and cost effective ideas.

Element 1 - Introduction To The Kaleidoscope Brainstorming Technique

Have you attended any brainstorming sessions in your life? The sessions are normally run by a facilitator, who introduces the purpose of the session, explains the ground rules and coordinates the process.

A note taker may be used to document all the ideas generated in the session.

Generally the session is open to any ideas - no idea is too simple, stupid or wild.

The Kaleidoscope advanced brainstorming techniques are applicable to any subject or situation, and any type of forum where people can work as a group, including internet-based conferencing and communications.

This is a new approach to the brainstorming process, including different variations as to its use.

The process makes efficient use of silence and communication, which are interleaved in the brainstorming session.

The various degrees and modes of silence and communication effectively use as "tools" in the Kaleidoscope brainstorming approach.

Notably the power of silence is used to supplement the communications-orientated parts of the session.

Element 2 - The Kaleidoscope Brainstorming Process

Stage 1 - Initial ideas generation brainstorming session - The session should start with a facilitator detailing the process steps used for the particular session.

The session is conducted in a normal fashion with the participants speaking out their ideas in a round robin or random fashion for an agreed period.

Stage 2 - Silent brainstorming session - This session requires all team members to stop talking, and to think of ideas, but not to speak out.

The facilitator can ring a bell or use another method to indicate the start and end of this part of the exercise.

Ideas are to be written down by each brainstorming participant. In addition, the participants must guess the ideas of the other participants for each person, one after the other.

At this stage what is happening is that each participant is coming up with ideas from their own perspective of how each of the other participants is thinking.

Each participant should logically end up with a list of ideas alongside, or below, the names of each participant, including themselves.

After a reasonable period, when it is clear that participants have completed their lists, the facilitator can ring the bell again, indicating the end of the silent brainstorming stage.

Stage 3 - Presentation of brainstorming ideas - In this session, each of the delegates reads out or shows their own ideas and also their best guesses of the ideas for the others.

Stage 4 - Discussion of brainstorming ideas session - The presentations are followed by a detailed discussion session.

In this session, the participants may discuss why and how they guessed about others. Each participant can also comment on the guesses of the other participants, and validate or clarify.

Stage 5 - Further silent and speaking session - the kaleidoscope effect - Further sessions can repeat and extend the silent session so that participants increase the depth and complexity of their thinking. Obviously the exercise at this stage has expended massively.

From a simple individual brainstorming activity involving say seven people and seven sets of personal ideas (seven perspectives), the session has expanded to entail seven people considering six other people's ideas (that's 242 perspectives).

Module 4 - Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) - Structure and Content

Module Aims

EFT is a modern and growing form of personal development and therapy.

EFT can be effective for various purposes, including personal and self-development, attitude and behaviour development, resolving personal problems, reducing stress and restoring life balance.

Module Objectives

Upon the completion of this module the delegates will:

Be aware and understand how EFT is a flexible technique, which can be applied in a variety of situations.

Become familiar with the processes involved in applying the technique and understand the benefits its successful application can produce.

Element 1 - How EFT Works

EFT is a very effective method of directly balancing the body's energy system for the feelings you want to change.

It's a bit like clearing a log that's blocking a stream where the log represents a stuck emotion in your stream of energy.

Using EFT involves "tuning into" the issue and then tapping with your fingers on specific acupressure points with your fingers.

For example, if you still carry anger towards someone who has hurt you in the past, you would be asked to think about them and notice how you feel.

You do not have to relive past events - you just have to be aware that the negative feeling is there.

Having therefore "tuned in" to it - you are shown which acupressure points to tap, and what words to say as you do so.

Having done that you are then asked to think about the person or situation again and check how you are feeling.

Typically you will notice a significant reduction in the intensity of the feeling. Following an EFT session, the dispelled feelings very rarely return.

Module 5 - Memory Techniques - Structure and Content

Module Aims

Memory techniques help people to retain more information and enhance their ability to recall its structure and salient features.

Module Objectives

Upon the successful completion of this module the delegates will understand and be able to apply:

Tools that can be used to make it easier to remember information.

How to apply the tools in practice to remember people's names, dates, places etc.

Element 1 - Mnemonics

"Mnemonics" is another word for memory tool.

Mnemonics are methods for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall.

Element 2 - Using Your Whole Mind To Remember

By coding language and numbers in striking images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information.

You can then easily recall these later.

You can do several things to make mnemonics more memorable (e.g. use positive, pleasant images - your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones).

The MIND OVER MATTER Training Programme - Trainer Competence

In order to deliver this programme all trainers must comply with the essential trainer competencies as specified by the FAS Training Standards QA 58/01. These are as follows:

Training and Development - A trainer must be able to:

Define training and discuss the training function

Identify the main components of the training Systematic Training Cycle (STC)

Describe and interrelate the various components of the STC (i.e. analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation)

Aims and Objectives - A trainer must be able to:

Distinguish between aims and objectives and describe where each is appropriate

Prepare precise objective statements of the required outputs

Learner Profiles - A trainer must be able to:

Prepare a learner profile considering individual intellectual and physical differences

Learning Process - A trainer must be able to:

Create appropriate learning situations taking the cycle of adult learning into consideration

Learning Styles - A trainer must be able to:

Adapt training presentations to meet the needs of particular learning styles

Training Analysis - A trainer must be able to:

Identify training needs and training specifications

Synthesise and draw conclusions from data

Training Programmes Preparation - A trainer must be able to:

Prepare and plan training using appropriate formats (e.g. QA 58 01)

Motivation - A trainer must be able to:

Support learners by utilising the most appropriate motivational approaches for any given learning situation

Communication - A trainer must be able to:

Make appropriate use of basic communications theory to exchange information and stimulate insight in individuals and groups

Feedback - A trainer must be able to:

Give and receive feedback in the training situation so that it is constructive, can be understood and can be acted upon

Training / Visual Aids - A trainer must be able to:

Operate overhead projectors, slide projectors, video projectors, whiteboards, chalkboard and flipcharts

Design and use appropriate visual aids

Presentation Skills - A trainer must be able to:

Plan and present structured talks and demonstrations, organise discussion groups and facilitate training sessions

Training Methods - A trainer must be able to:

Discuss the merits of a variety of training methods in relation to a specific piece of -

Training technology

Work-based training / learning

Open learning



Resource based learning

Project based learning

Programmed learning

Case studies

Role play exercises

Buzz groups

Syndicate groups

Equality Matters - A trainer must be able to:

Identify characteristics used as a pretext for unequal treatment

Be aware of legal requirements as regards equality in training

Use appropriate language in relation to equal treatment for men and women, for people with disabilities and for other groups

Evaluation and Assessment - A trainer must be able to:

Determine the appropriate evaluation level

Formulate and interpret an appropriate training evaluation instrument

Objectively assess learner progress