Investigation of two workplace learning interventions

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This report shall investigate two workplace learning interventions where the learning is integrated with day to day work experience rather than external training courses or out of house training. A literature review on each of the two learning intervention schemes shall form the basis of the investigation.

The first workplace learning intervention shall be mentoring by managers and senior management staff. The report shall define what mentoring within the workplace may be defined as, the benefits of mentoring and also the critical issues of mentoring.

Secondly, professional challenges shall be investigated to evaluate a workplace in house learning intervention. Professional challenges as a learning intervention shall be defined. The benefits of having professional challenges shall be investigated as well as the critical issues for managing such a tool investigated.

Intervention 1 - Mentoring

Mentoring Description

Mentoring means to provide a teacher, role model, trusted adviser or encourager to the younger worker. This is in order to provide an outcome that over time, they are able to become a wise and improved good worker (Caldwell and Carter, 1993) . Mentors can either be in the form of traditional mentors, supportive bosses, organisational sponsors, professional career mentors, patrons or even invisible godparents (Marsick, 1987).

Caldwell and Carter (1993) discuss workplace strategies for using a mentor as a learning intervention within the educational section, health industry and the industrial sector. As many organisations need to cope with continuous change, there needs to be a continuous workplace learning mechanism in place. Mentoring is a way of passing on information from a more experienced and knowledgeable worker to another worker who can benefit from the experience and knowledge of the mentor.

Benefits of Mentoring

Marsick (1987) indicates that one of the ways adults learn is through mentoring. Mentoring provides a basic for of education as it provides a holistic and individualised approach to learning. Caldwell and Carter (1993) note that mentoring can be a learning experience for both the mentor and the mentree. Mentoring empowers professionals to work individually with others which encourages a more perceptive and effective practice. Within the teaching sector, principals themselves have often chosen mentoring as the most appropriate form of workplace learning. In the other industries, the human relationships are similar within the workplace and all benefit from a mutual learning process that goes both ways. Within the industrial sector, the training is no longer work related but rather work based when mentoring is involved.

Garrick (1999) indicates that globalisation and technological changes have put pressure on productivity which in tern puts greater pressure on workplace learning. Innovation within the workplace comes from the leadership within the workplace and the workplace learning environment. A dynamic organisation should have a workplace environment which encourages organic learning. A dynamic organisation should have employees which display organic learning in their everyday work and also support others in a similar fashion. Mentoring can also boost morale in the workplace by providing a sense of ownership to a specific place of the workplace while at the same time advancing the entire corporate culture of the entire organisation. Allocating a staff member as a mentor in a company shows that the management respect the worker and trust that worker to manage another individual in a mentoring role. Hence this can benefit the mentor as well as the student.

Jarvis (2002) indicates that mentoring is also seen as a very powerful tool for the development of the mentor in terms of professional development and also learning. It can encourage critical reflection and also articulate the skills and knowledge they may have which become not as familiar over time. Hence by explaining this knowledge to a younger student, the mentor also benefits. Often by explaining something to another, the knowledge passed on by the mentor is also reinforced to the mentor or refreshed if the knowledge has not been used for a period of time.

Attributes of a good mentor are summarised by Marsick (1987). Firstly the mentor should take an active interest in the career development of the student. Secondly, the mentor should support the students dream and assist to make it become a reality. Thirdly the mentor should take into account the relationship and the function of the mentor relationship. Fourthly, the mentor should provide guidance, support and opportunities for the student. Fifthly, the mentor should personalise the mentoring to a suitable format whether this may be as a guide, tutor or coach role. Sixthly, the mentor needs to listen and respond with ideas based on what the student is saying. Seventhly, the mentor should look objectively and provide encouragement. Eighthly, the mentor should initiate the student into the new occupational and social world and acquaint the student with the customs, resource and values of the the position. Ninthly, the mentor should promote a common career goal and ego ideal. Finally the mentor should be influential to the student in question. If the mentor does not believe in themselves the the student can not be expected to look up to the person as a mentor.

Critical issues of mentoring

It is important for the mentor to respect the student and understand the attitudes of the student. Rainbird, Fuller and Munro (2004) indicate that sometimes workers resist engaging in team work when it clashes with their cultural mores. In this instance the worker may believe he or she is more competent than his mentor and more sophisticated than his place in the workplace. Also personal experiences of the worker are likely to incite them to take actions that are central to learning through their work. Hence the mentor could take into careful consideration any factors that may hinder the relationship of the student and mentor.

According to Jarvis (2002), Mentoring is a relationship built on negotiation and trust. The mentor must be careful not to dominate, judge or be over critical. They should provide constructive criticism and support in order to allow development of the student (Jarvis, 2002).

Intervention 2 - Professional Challenges

Professional challenges description

Employers require a dynamic learning environment to remain competitive in this global and high technological business world market. They require staff that are dynamic and able to learn new skills all the time. Professional challenges provide opportunities for employees to further their skills and learn new skills by providing employees with opportunities to improve their skills. Professional challenges may involve giving the employee new tasks that they have not encountered before or changing the way that they currently deal with existing problems in order to improve their efficiency of the tasks being undertaken.

Benefits of Professional Challenges

De Geus (1998) indicates that the only competitive advantage that companies have other similar companies is their ability to learn faster than their competitors. Employees of the company need to be challenged not only for the benefit of the company but also to assist in their job satisfaction and staff retention. Employees that do not have the opportunities of professional challenges may not be as dynamic as a learning institution as one of their competitor organisations.

Employees sense of achievement and social status are factors which can motive employees sometimes more than just the monetary value of the job. As pointed out by Feurer and Chaharbaghi (1997) and common to all organisations whether they are not for profit or for profit, successful organisations must focus on new concepts, creativity, strategy innovation and also providing staff with opportunities for professional promotion and new learning.

Organisations, just like products, may generate different perceptions, values and feelings based upon the reality of the employees within the company the the interpersonal relationships between the employee and employer. Employees increasingly want to work for a company that respects them and has their best interests in mind. If the employers provide more opportunities for worker professional challenges, the employees shall feel a greater sense of team and their motivation shall improve (McMullen, 1998). Many organisations train workers up to a high standard but lose them to other companies where there may be better career advancement for the employees. Hence by showing the employees that there is a clear path of career advances that is possible through professional challenges and subsequent promotion, staff retention may be reduced (McMullen, 1998).

Most importantly, the employee has increasingly become more of a learning worker that a knowledge worker. McMullen (1998), indicates that mistakes in basic assumptions in a large project can be very expensive. Even small improvements in the project quality, efficiency and communication processes can prove to be extremely valuable. These benefits only come from an organisation that provides professional challenges to its workers. The employers should reward workers that learn and work smarter. Often by providing professional challenges, the employees can rise to the challenge and be more motivated with their position.

Critical issues for professional challenges

As a contrast, scientific management was detailed by Braverman (1974) and he noted that simplifying jobs results in the de-skilling of the workforce. A modern day example of this is the McDonalds restaurant. They break tasks down into components such as for example french fries machines, programmed cash registers, cooking times and drink dispensers. This is done to improve efficiency and creates specialised personnel. This however creates problems for the workforce.

Employees often want more than just a monetary reward for their work and seek employment that can provide other benefits. Examples of other benefits may be for example flexible working hours, training schemes, career development and possibilities of promotion. In addition workers these days are often more productive when they are given more input into the company that they are working for. Hence by providing professional challenges for employees, the best staff can be retained and improved. Without professional challenges workers may become anti-motivated and dissatisfied. Workers now are not only just looking for economic reward. They want to feel part of the company family and also be able to be promoted. With the scientific management approach of Taylor (1911), these rewards are ignored with the emphasis on devaluing their skills and getting them to do repetitive simple tasks.

Professional challenges must also be administered fairly to the entire workplace and all employees should be seen to be given equal chances for professional challenges. Not all employees respond the same to professional challenges however, so the managers must identify the strongest skills of each worker and find ways to challenge them which take most advantages of their strongest skills.

Intervention 1 Bibliography

Caldwell , B. & Carter, E. M. A. (1993). The Return of the mentor: strategies for workplace learning. Routledge, USA.

Garrick, J. (1999). Understanding Learning at Work. Routeldge, New York, USA.

Jarvis, P. (2002). The theory & practice of teaching. Routledge, UK.

Marsick, V, J. (1987). Learning in the workplace. Routledge, UK.

Rainbird, H., Fuller, A., Munro, A. (2004). Workplace learning in context. Routledge, USA.

Intervention 2 Bibliography

Braverman, M. 1974. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. 1974 New York: Monthly Review Press.

De Geus, A, P. 1988. Planning as learning. Harvard Business Review, 66(2):70-74.

Feurer, R., Chaharbaghi, K. 1997. Strategy development: past, present and future. Training for Quality, 5(2):58-70

McMullen, T. B. (1998). Project Management in the Fast Lane: Applying the Theory of Constraints. USA, St. Lucie Press.

Taylor, F, W. 1911. The Principles of scientific management. New York & London. Harper & Brothers Publishers.