The Field Of Human Resources Education Essay

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This became a topic of interest of ours very early on in the research process. Our group quickly began to draw the conclusion that the numerous theories proved that in order to achieve organizational effectiveness, trainers must be prepared to train individuals with different learning styles and motivators. Through awareness of these different styles, and application of this knowledge, Training and Development departments will be able to personalize the training experience to suit the various needs of the trainee. The following analysis of the important learning and motivation theories, as well as how they apply to the attainment of organizational effectiveness, will allow our group to develop not only a clear understanding of these theories, but also a foundation of how this understanding can be used to efficiently train employees in the most appropriate manner.

There are many factors about the constructs of learning that stand to have significant influence and impact on how individuals learn in general, how they learn optimally, how information delivery can be designed to appeal to the various natures of learning, how learning objectives can be affected and ultimately how the attainment or failure of these objectives can affect organizational effectiveness. Learning styles are defined as "the ways in which individuals gather information, process and act on it during the learning process". [2] These styles are a construction of individual learning modes which focus on the nature of different means through which people obtain or collect information, for instance concrete or abstract conceptualization. Furthermore, learning modes focus on the nature of the means through which people process this information, for example active experimentation or reflective observation. Modality of learning has also been reflected in the categorization of visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic learning where these primary means provide a higher influence on information processing. This has significant implications with regards to defined learning objectives as one style of teaching or informing may not fit all. Were it to be assumed that learners would perform better in retention and transfer of knowledge to application for topics that have been presented in their learning style [3] then this speaks volumes as to the impact of appropriately gearing learning material towards these styles. David Kolb is well known for his model of the four elements of experiential learning which presents different learning processes for the gathering and interpretation of information. A converging learning style is proficient in the practical application of ideas and can rely on deductive reasoning to solve problems [4] while a divergent style has a strong imaginative ability and can view things from various perspectives. [5] An assimilator style has strong abilities to create theoretical models and is proficient in inductive reasoning [6] whereas an accommodating style excels at physically partaking in activities and tends to solve problems based on intuition. [7] Although individuals are not limited to only one of these learning styles it is common that they are stronger in or more oriented towards one. This being said, it lends credence to the fact that with regards to the effectiveness of training, individuals would potentially perform better when training is taught in a manner congruent to their preferred learning style. If higher levels of performance play a significant role in the overall effectiveness of an organization than a strong case can be made for the importance of the long-term implications of personalizing training materials and experiences towards maximum individual relevance. The more personalized the learning content and experiences, the more they will resonate with the learner and the greater chance that the learner will be able to recall the key lessons. [8] 

It is also important for training and educating to have consideration of how to create the most effective impact in individuals for optimal retention. Complimentary to a thorough understanding of the different ways through which individuals will gather and interpret information, and the effect that may have on performance outcomes, is having an appreciation for the barriers, motivators and therefore appropriate orientation that information provision should take. For the intention of transferring information for the purposes of training and/or skills development, this entails a proper recognition of how to educate adults in a manner that aligns self-interest and needs with the context of the workplace and situational workplace issues. Allowing adult learners to have a degree of input as to the training they will receive and how it is designed [9] will help to optimize learning objective outcomes. However, understanding and appreciating how individuals gather and interpret information and in what types of context to deliver this information does not entirely reflect how comprehensive the learning process actually is. Two theories that have important considerations for the transference of training knowledge are: the conditioning theory and social cognitive theory. Both can be used to explain the process by which one learns. Psychologist B.F. Skinner believed that learning is a result of reward and punishment contingencies that follow a response to some form of stimulus. [10] A stimulus or cue is followed by a response, which will then lead to a positive or negative consequence. If this response is positively reinforced, there is a greater likelihood that the response will occur again and that learning will result. [11] When a response is reinforced through something positive or pleasurable, the behaviour is more likely to be repeated, however, when there is no reinforcement, over time the response will stop. If the response is punished, then no response will be elicited. [12] Consider an employee learning a repetitive task. If they are rewarded when they complete the task correctly, they are more likely to continue to repeat the task in that manner. Additionally, if the employee completes the task incorrectly, and receives a negative response from the supervisor, they are less likely to repeat the process they used to complete that task. One should be cautioned, however, that punishment is not simply the opposite of positive reinforcement; positive reinforcement (praise) results in lasting behavioural modification, whereas punishment (negative response) only temporarily changes behaviour and presents many detrimental side effects. [13] 

Negative reinforcement is the removal of stimulus after the act. For example, consider a teenager being pestered by their parents to take out the garbage. When the teen finally does it, the parents stop asking. Negative reinforcement is also different from punishment, as punishment tells us a desired behaviour occurring results in a negative reinforcer being removed, [14] which is different than when one receives a negative consequence for doing something undesirable. [15] This has important implications for training as it tells us that trainees should be encouraged and reinforced throughout the training process. "Conditioning theory suggests that training will be most effective when employees are reinforced for learning and the successful performance of their jobs." [16] Social Cognitive Theory suggests that people learn through the observation of others' behaviour, making choices about how they will pursue their actions, and managing their behaviour in the process of learning. [17] The theory proposes that learning does not just occur through reinforcement, but through cognitive processes as well; thus, we observe the reinforcements of others and use them to reproduce similar actions and behaviours, expecting similar consequences to follow. [18] 

There are three components to social cognitive theory; Observation, self-efficacy and self-regulation. Observation denotes that people learn through observing the acts of others and what results from them. Thus, if the person they observe is credible or respected, their behaviour will more than likely be repeated. [19] This will be particularly impactful if the behaviour they are observing is reinforced. [20] For example, a new employee watches a long-tenured co-worker and observes the techniques they use to perform their job. The new employee may then try to emulate the techniques the co-worker used, expecting the same results.

The second component of social cognitive theory is self efficacy, which refers to the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals. [21] For example, the same employee may not be willing to try and emulate the behaviour of the employee they have observed unless they have enough self-efficacy to do so. One's level of self efficacy is influenced by four sources: task performance outcomes, observation, verbal persuasion and social influence, and one's psychological and emotional state. [22] So, the employee's belief that he can perform the required tasks can be increased by successfully performing the task himself, observing his coworkers perform the task, the encouragement and belief of his coworkers that he is capable of performing said task, and a positive attitude.

Self regulation is the final component of social cognitive theory. Self-regulation involves controlling and managing one's own behaviour through internal processes. [23] To the extent that the new employee sets goals, accurately recognizes his progress toward his goals, practices new behaviours and rewards himself for achieving his goals, he has effectively self-regulated. [24] Social cognitive theory can be used when designing training programs as it demonstrates that observing others has an influence on behaviour, thus using models to demonstrate how to perform tasks would be beneficial for learning.

However, training, even personalized training, is not effective on its own as a predictor of later performance; for this, motivation will need to become a significant factor as well. Learning and motivation can be viewed as 'two sides of the same coin' for if an understanding of and strategic application of the learning styles and learning processes of individuals works to achieve a heightened level of information intake and performance output only half the battle has been won. Although an individual may have gained the knowledge necessary to effectively perform tasks or solve task-related problems, this speaks only to their ability to perform. What will fundamentally drive them to want to learn to perform these tasks and what's more, what will drive them to want to learn to perform them well? In this context, motivation is a key factor for learning. [25] Similar to the differences in learning styles, different types of motivation will positively or negatively appeal to different types of people. As significant as understanding the learning styles and processes is to effective teaching so too is understanding an individual's underlying need in order to create an origin for personalizing motivational factors. This can be reflected in Abraham Maslow's Need Hierarchy which establishes five fundamental areas of human needs that must be satisfied in a sequential manner. At the bottom of the hierarchy the more basic of needs, survival, physiological and security pertain to the need to secure one's existence and surroundings. Further along in the hierarchy, more abstract human needs emerge, that of social, and at the top of the hierarchy, esteem and self-actualization, which speak to the needs of growth. The underlying theory of the hierarchy suggests that all humans need to fulfill at least the lower order needs on the hierarchy in order to maintain basic survival but as needs are met, secured and satisfied that they will inclined to pursue the next level of needs and so forth. Depending on where an individual stands with regards to satisfied needs and desired needs, it is telling of what methods and means of motivation would be most effective in driving their behaviours. For example, an individual who is experiencing financial hardship would most likely be motivated to accept if not seek out overtime hours to satisfy the need for security while an employee who is not experiencing financial problems would mostly likely not be motivated to earn the additional money.

Understanding the factors that will appeal to and influence motivation in individuals will determine the emphasis that the use of extrinsic or intrinsic or some combination of the two can have in motivating the learning process and the level of outcome with regards to performance. Intrinsic motivation is motivation that "stems from a direct relationship between a worker and a task." [26] These include feelings of achievement, the craving for challenge, accomplishment and competence. Extrinsic motivation is that which is produced by the external environment, such as benefits, compensation, or the pressure from a supervisor to learn. It is often difficult to provide the necessary intrinsic and extrinsic motivators required to motivate a student to learn. Human Resource departments must specifically tailor their Training and Development programs to offer the required motivation necessary for the students to engage in the learning process. Drawing parallels between intrinsic/extrinsic motivation and the personalization of training, we can see the necessity to satisfy these needs, both intrinsically and extrinsically, in order to provide the most effective learning atmosphere for the trainee. Satisfaction of these needs will greatly increase the ability of the student to properly employ the desired behaviours, and make a contribution to the organization's success. Because the ability to learn is based on the satisfaction of these needs, scholars and theorists have categorized their studies into two types; needs theories and process theories.

One such process theory of motivation is the expectancy theory which states that the energy one directs toward an activity or task is the result of many factors. [27] Expectancy theory also states that people base decisions on the belief that the decision will lead to a desired outcome or reward of some kind. The end goal is often irrelevant, rather the achievement of reaching the goal and the impact it has is of importance. Theory developer Victor Vroom has categorized the process into three factors that contribute to the process; one: expectancy, two: instrumentality, and three: valence. Vroom's theory created the equation of valence x expectancy x instrumentality = motivation. If motivation is the desired outcome, the person must express a high expectancy, valence, and instrumentality. Expectancy holds that individuals measure the probability that they will be able to complete the task or achieve a certain level of performance. If the employee believes that the completion of a task will yield great rewards, they are said to have high expectancy. Valence refers to the degree of desire for a certain reward. If an employee is thought to have a high desire to move up the ranks in an organization, then they are said to have High Valence. Instrumentality refers to the likelihood that the completion of a task will lead to the attainment of goals. These goals can be both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. If any of the three determinants of motivation are weaker than others, "the level of value attached to the outcome significantly impacts the person's motivational state...The motivational chain is obviously only as strong as its weakest link." [28] Human Resource managers can apply the expectancy theory to the design and personalization of training programs to better suit their trainees. Understanding the forces that contribute to a learner's motivational state will allow the trainer to gain a better understanding of what the learner values, and what type of environment will increase the motivation to learn and retain. If effectiveness is the desired outcome of the program, and learning is the tool to reach effectiveness, which is obtained through learner motivation, then training programs must be attuned to these motivators, in an attempt to satisfy the needs of the employee. While it is often difficult to determine the exact intrinsic and extrinsic motivators of different employees, Human Resource Departments can use the principles of the expectancy theory to better design their programs to suit the needs of the employees they hire.

One perspective on motivation and the ability to motivate learners is that of the cognitive theory of goal setting. The goal setting theory states that if individuals set goals, they will be more motivated to reach them, and will work harder to do so. This theory believes that when goals are set, people are given and take direction towards meeting those goals. Much research has been conducted to determine the relationship between the difficulty of the goal and the performance. In a 1975 study by Wood, Mento, and Locke found a clear relationship between goal difficulty and performance. These studies found that "performance increases with the level of goal difficulty, providing the individual working to attain the goal is committed to achieving it and has the ability to do so." [29] The theory breaks down the goal setting process and identifies some key characteristics that the goals must possess in order for them to be motivational. First, goals must be achievable and specific in terms of what is to be obtained. "General goals lack specificity and tend not to be motivational." [30] Next, the goal setting theory states that the goals must be challenging. It believes that if a goal is too easily attainable, or little effort is required, the goal will lack motivation. This means that goals must be carefully considered in order to ensure that the goal is of maximum motivation. In order for goals to be properly attained and motivational in nature, individuals must receive feedback. This is essential as employees and trainees must have an idea of how they are doing in relationship to their goal. Lastly, the person must be committed to attaining the goal. If they are not committed, the individual is susceptible to lack motivation very early on in the process. Another area of study that has received much research and time is that of participation of learners in the process of setting goals and its contribution to performance. Investigators and scholars have found a direct correlation between these two factors. "Participation in the goal setting process increases an individual's perception of control and fairness, which subsequently leads to control and fairness." [31] Human Resource managers can use the goal setting theory to aid in the process of creating and establishing personalized concrete goals for training programs. By establishing these attainable goals early on in a presentation or training and development program, individuals will be motivated - according to this theory - to attain the goals. The four factors, specificity, challenging, feedback and commitment, are essential to making the goals as motivational as possible. With regards to the personalization of training, the goal setting theory can be used to allow each individual receiving training to set goals that are attainable, and use this goal as motivation towards achieving it.

The fundamental nature of learning and growth is a continuous process with regards to the landscape of organizational effectiveness and sustainability. A key component to the success of any organization is the utilization of its human capital to the most efficient and advantageous means possible and this entails appreciating and optimally maximizing the appropriate tools and techniques to train, educate and develop this resource. For this reason, those who design and deliver training programs and development opportunities would find it in their best interests to understand the fundamental differences and complex relationship attributed to psychological, cognitive and internal and external motivating factors. Incorporating and directing these personal differences to maximize efficiency throughout training and educating may cost an organization in the short-run but result in a greater long-term benefit through personalized investment in their human capital. As well, by truly understanding and catering to the integral relationship between learning and the motivating factors to learn, individual growth and development can be directed to the benefit of both parties. Just as an employee's position or job duties will most likely evolve within an organization over time, so too will their learning abilities and preferences. Learning styles and cognitive influences are not static and therefore, in tandem, motivating factors will also not remain static. Individual growth and development will over time shift one's motivating factors and through this, behavioural drive may be increased or decreased. Organizations truly invested in the long term benefits of their human capital will need to understand and cater to the personal reciprocal relationship between learning and motivation; and the degree to which it impacts performance outcomes and aligns with organizational effectiveness.