Training has become a necessary tool kit for every individual within an organisation. Regular training is required to ensure individuals are imparted with a particular type of behaviour or skill to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in their adaptation to the work environment and meaningful contribution to organisational productivity. The expected behaviour or skill could be learnt through consistent and effective practice over a given period of time. However, it is worth-stressing, the length of time required to assure effective skill-acquisition or behaviour-adaptation varies from one person to the other.
As evidenced in many workplaces, when a group of workers undergo a specific skill-training, it is likely for a proportion of the implied workforce to grasp the concept; and subject it to application through practice faster than others. To wit, the estimated period for practical instructions towards skill-acquisition varies in terms of the nature of a given job; and in terms of individuals’ commitment and depth of knowledge in the given vocation. Generally, training facilitates teaching of individuals how to perform specific tasks; it conditions individual workforce through a learning process to give of their best on the job.
Training as Vocational Necessity for the Workforce
Conceptually, training is perceived as a short-term process that utilises systematic and organised procedure towards skills and technical knowledge acquisition by personnel at various levels for definite purposes. Instructions inherent in training could be both technical and mechanical. Thus, training could condition individuals towards enhanced knowledge in the operations of machinery or equipment; and towards increasing knowledge to improve managerial effectiveness to assure rapid organisational success.
Organisations may take it upon themselves to organise formal training programmes as part of arrangements and efforts geared toward improving the performance and self-fulfillment of their workforce. The training may be prescribed in different forms, including workshops, educational methods and programmes. In the contemporary job environment, application of the educational method and programmes is rolled-out in a variety of ways, including long-term professional development and formal instructions in jobs with highly specific skills.
Strategic organisation of training to ensure eventual development of the workforce takes a centre stage in modern institutional operations; it constitutes an integral part of the overall institutional strategy; and has distinct theories and methodologies applied to its professional application. Continual learning has found common expression in many organisations, irrespective of the size, across the globe. This and other training regimen are perceived by many institutions as a strategic way to promote growth among the existing workforce; and to attract highly-skilled workforce.
Some institutions perceive training intended to provide strong support for development of their respective workforce as vocational necessity that permanently forms part of day-to-day operations; implying training is an adhoc or experimental tool. In order to move beyond the rhetoric to practical implementation, management of various global organisations could affirm its commitment to training schedules. The commitment could manifest in overt support for detailed training programmes and active participation in each phase of the training activity.
A belief commonly held among the management of some global institutions is, unlike other forms of assets such as plant, equipment, fixtures and fittings, human capital or human assets do not depreciate over time; and this underscores the need for human assets to be appreciated throughout their duration on the job in the workplace. Due to the foregoing, training is perceived as an investment; and not a cost to institutions that recognise the need to organise regular training schedules for their workforce. Proponents of this assertion hold that attitude change remains one of the intangible gains to be derived from investments in training in the long-run. These intangible gains could be considered as valuable returns on investment in training programmes.
Effective communication and co-ordination of institutional policies and programmes are facilitated through the organisation of training activities. For every organisation that seeks to ensure co-operation, cohesiveness and compatibility, regular training schedules draw it closer to these attributes. Periodic training programmes are intended to develop the workforce as individuals to inspire confidence and capability in their respective trades; and to assure them of decent life through meaningful earnings. This implies training activities serve as good conduits for enhancing the knowledge and skill of the workforce. These training activities are carefully designed to transform the behaviour of each worker in a way that would be beneficial to both the workforce and the organisation.
Cascio (1995) defined training as an activity that is strategically planned and designed to improve performance at various levels – organisational, group and individual levels. Improvements in performance are indicative of measurable changes in social behaviour, skills, attitude and knowledge of the workforce at the various levels outlined earlier. Some experts in the field consider training as an essential tool for human capital or workforce development.
Training has the potential to result in utilisation and transfer of state-of-the-art technical knowledge; organisation of workforce; development of institutional leadership; mobilisation of workforce and other resources; empowerment of workforce that is resource-poor; formation of self-help groups; and development of entrepreneurial spirit, among others. Memoria (2000) described training as the defined process for learning sequentially programmed behaviour. The foregoing definitions suggest the concept of training involves the application of knowledge and the attempt to improve workforce performance on current jobs; while preparing and conditioning them for other intended jobs.
As noted earlier, the training process is generally short and involves the adaptation of systematic and organised procedure which enables non-managerial workforce to quickly and readily acquire technical knowledge and skills for definitive purposes. Training entails instructions in mechanical and technical operations such as the operation of sophisticated and less sophisticated equipment; and for specific job-related purposes. At the core of every training programme is the learning process. However, the opportunities and avenues for learning are numerous and varied. Consistent training programmes help in the development of the workforce in the long-run.
Workforce development is analogous with self-actualisation and attainment of maturity by individual staff while improving team and organisational performance in the long-run. Development, from workforce perspective, relates to various attempts to ensure improvements in the effectiveness of management through planned and deliberate learning process. Development is further described as the nature and transformation that are witnessed among the workforce due to the implementation of education and training programmes.
Development at the managerial level relates to measures intended to ensure each staff acquires skills-set whose application would ensure that efficiency and effectiveness in relation to the expected outcomes of particular segments of the institution are achieved. Continuous development of technology at a relatively fast pace makes training a necessary strategic tool for the workforce to be abreast of modern trends; and to be assured of sustained job positions in the immediate- and medium-term; when the newly-introduced technology would still be in vogue.
In order to remain competitive, the workforce have plethora of responsibilities including rapid adaptation to technological changes; improvement in the quality of products and services; and increase in current productivity level comparative to previous periods. Effective training provides an antidote for expected increase in productivity; allows acquired skills to be transferred to another job; and creates room for skills supplement and modification, where necessary.
The efficiency and effectiveness of an institution are integrally shaped by its scheduled training activities. Successful training programmes open windows of opportunities such as eventual increase in profit margins, significant improvement in skills and job knowledge at various levels, boost in morale of the workforce, room for trust and openness, fostering of authenticity, improvements in existing relationship between superiors and subordinates, development of guidelines for effective understanding and implementation of institutional policies. Others include provision of vital information on essential future needs in all areas of the implied institutions.
Undoubtedly, well-organised training activities facilitate effective decision-making and development of strong problem-solving and leadership skills; it engenders loyalty, improvements in attitudes, workforce motivation, reduction in cost of operations through waste minimisation and improved work-quality and productivity.
Since training tends to broaden employees’ knowledge and increases skills-acquisition, the quantum of money required for external consulting is reduced; competent and reliable consultants within the organisation create less room for doubts; and minimise the need for services of external consultants.
In large institutions, continuous demand for the services of external consultants may be more pronounced in areas or departments that are still at the nascent stage, in terms of development and growth. Well-rehearsed training regimen enables the workforce to adapt to organisational changes, handle conflicts tactfully, leading to ease of tension and relieve of stress, among other qualitative and intangible benefits.
Essence of Training Professionals’ Goals
The success of training programmes is usually pivoted around the effectiveness of managers or professionals in-charge of the training. Generally, good managers establish goals to assure the resounding success of their respective organisations; and training professionals are no exception. Strategic thinking and decision are required by training professionals to ensure safe execution of planned training activities.
To assure impart of knowledge, skill and technique from training professionals to the workforce, the former are expected to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-constrained. The acronym for these goals is SMART. Consistent with line managers in various organisations, training professionals are envisaged to set SMART goals to guide their planned programmes to logical and successful completion.
Focusing on SMART goals creates the needed environment for training managers to develop materials and programmes that meet the expectations of the workforce; allows the workforce to learn novel skills and techniques; facilitates transfer and retention of knowledge; and enables trainees to make significant impacts on the implied institutions. The foregoing suggests, in the absence of SMART goals, it may be pretty difficult for implemented training curricula to result in the achievement of desired outcomes.
Goals established by training professionals are preceded by a statement of purpose. Training professionals establish goals to ensure certain underlying objectives are clearly articulated to participants and other key stakeholders. The statement of purpose indicates the problem intended to be addressed by the training professional. It further asserts identified ways to resolve the problem; and how the training outcomes would be measured to determine significance of the training session on participants or the workforce.
The foregoing suggests the tasks of training professionals are streamlined and focused when instructional programmes are clearly defined and outlined to affirm the assignments that participants would be able to perform upon successful completion of the training programme. Effective training programmes are designed to address the gap in measurable performance. The performance gap relates to the initial condition of the workforce and desired condition of the workforce by the organisation.
The initial condition refers to the current level of knowledge and skills possessed by the workforce and applied to the job; whereas desired condition relates to the actual level of knowledge and skill that could improve workforce performance; enhance their contribution to institutional productivity, output and profit; while addressing broader institutional challenges. Likewise, training professionals are presented with an opportunity to enhance their professional development goals within the framework of the broader organisational goals and needs.
After carefully analysing trends, effective training professionals emerge with identified goals. Pre-analysis in this context relates to the initiatives of training professionals towards observation of the workforce during the process of completing assigned tasks. The observation process enables training professionals to conduct needs analysis, determine what the workforce seek to learn, speculate on future needs of the institution; and to identify best practices, among others. Effective analysis permits training professionals to identify essential characteristics of the workforce to be trained; and to address challenges related to qualified trainees after the training programme has been developed.
Development activities lined-up by training professionals require specific timelines to assure strict adherence to schedules towards completion of assigned responsibilities. The phases of development projects in training include definition, design and development. Prior to the commencement of each training programme, the training professional seeks the inputs of key stakeholders such as sponsors, participants and institutions that would be impacted by the training outcomes.
Definition of scope and schedule at the start of each training narrows the activities to render it more manageable. The extent of training programme is often limited by budgetary constraints. This affirms the need for financial budget to be considered and determined prior to the commencement of training activities, be it complex or simplified forms or versions.
Mathematical estimates for the costs of training facilities, tools, production expenses and salaries, among others, are required to provide fair knowledge about the financial commitments towards successful organisation of the training project. Included in the goals of training professionals should be strategic achievement of stated objectives at the least possible cost to the organisation. When training professionals design programmes that are memorable and upbeat, they facilitate learning among the workforce participating in the learning process. In such situations, training managers are expected to bring their expertise to bear; they are expected to combine their institutional skills, natural charm and knowledge on the topic to tease eagerness and active engagement out of the participants.
Usually, elated training participants part-away with new forms of knowledge and express gratitude for having impactful instructions during the class sessions. Training programmes are deemed most effective when they are designed and tailored for specific group of workforce or trainees. For new hires on a job with limited familiarity within the industry, use of complex jargons and technical acronyms may not serve a useful purpose.
Rather, simplified versions of industry-specific terminologies would be beneficial at the outset. Training professionals’ fair knowledge about the learning competencies of participants could prove useful to determination of the best instructional approach. For instance, time spent on familiar topics would be less; while more time and attention would be paid to challenging topics.
Imperatively, training professionals organise the information to be shared with the workforce long before the commencement of the classes. Organised training information allows participants to acquire the knowledge needed to improve their skills and actual performance on the job. Structured training programmes facilitate the transition of participants from one session to the other on the learning curve. Well-organised training activities imply availability of the necessary teaching aids such as visual aids, supplies, handouts; and all other materials relevant to the success of the training programme.
To ensure mastery and facilitate learning by participants during training sessions, professionals in-charge of the training engage in presentation practice. The presentation is often organised in the presence of individuals with in-depth knowledge in the subject area. Questions from presentation participants and answers provided by the presenter or training professional help in the formation of feedback loop, which in turn helps training professionals to determine whether or not all the important facts have been covered prior to the main training programme.
Interactive sessions have been found to be an integral part of every training programme. Allowing training participants to be interactive is synonymous with creating the congenial environment for the workforce or participants to apply the information received during the training. Thus, interactive sessions imply “questions and answers” segment immediately after the training, but before the entire training is brought to an end, so participants could pose questions and receive answers in the form of explanation from the instructor. Answers provided for the questions help to deepen participants’ understanding and appreciation of the training programme as useful addition to knowledge in the chosen topic. In some cases, training professionals could test participants’ level of understanding by posing questions on the training materials.
Consistent with practices in customer service training, organisation of training programmes for the workforce in other departments of an institution could proceed with role play. This would afford participants with the needed opportunity to put their newly-acquired skills to practice. The role play may include reducing the class into smaller groups or teams; presenting each team with the opportunity to read; and to make oral presentations on selected parts of the training topic to the entire class, among other strategies.
Variety, they say, is the spice of life. New and exciting training experiences make life on the job and in the workplace more interesting to the workforce. Method for effective absorption of training varies from one employee to the other; and may vary from one group of workers to the other. For instance, some workers grasp training concepts more effectively by reading training guides; whereas others rely on hands-on approach to appreciate the new work-dynamics. Development of training programmes using diverse training strategies enables the training professional to effectively play to the strength of all participants.
Application of multiple approaches to training activities has numerous benefits including effective learning and overall success of the workforce. Although reiteration of pertinent facts during training sessions tends to emphasise relevance of the lessons to participants, mixing up seriousness of the training with fun-breaks could place participants in a relax mode; while interacting along the learning process.
Social Learning Theory and Workforce Development
Daniels (2021) noted the relevance of applying social learning theory in the workplace. The institutional manager could assume the role of an instructor in the workplace. In order to adapt to changing trends in the global business environment, it is imperative for the workforce to be oriented to new organisational skills, strategies and technologies. However, it is often difficult to just introduce the workforce to new form of occupational knowledge and expect them to absorb it with relative ease. Daniels (2021) further affirmed the importance of Bandura’s social learning theory in this context. The theory explains how social context of learning eventually makes individuals better or worse learners.
Consideration of the social learning theory by training professionals during the organisation of training programmes could place various learning teams in a strategic position towards success. Daniels (2021) outlined five distinct, but interrelated steps that could prove useful during training sessions. The first step relates to effective utilisation of the three learning contexts when new learning materials are introduced. These include symbolic modelling, live model demonstration and verbal instruction. For instance, live role plays could be adapted to introduce the workforce to new forms of interacting with customers; and the workforce could be provided with flow charts. Moreover, short lectures on learning guidelines could be adapted for implementation during the learning process.
The second step underscores the need for training professionals to commence learning sessions with an ice-breaker to effectively attract the attention of participants. This could be achieved by ensuring participants are separated from distractions in the workplace. Introduction of and discussion on training materials tend to focus employees’ attention; and to ensure they return to work with fresh ideas and skills to increase organisational productivity. Motivation of the workforce towards retention of new teaching materials through the illustration of how these materials could play pivotal role in their day-to-day activities in the workplace is stressed in the third step. Further, training professionals could motivate participants by providing refreshments, offering rewards and ending particular sessions early when participants demonstrate mastery of the topic, among other significant motivation strategies.
The need to provide opportunities to recall and utilise training materials during future sessions; and during refresher courses is emphasised in the fourth step. Reutilisation of training materials at future sessions would prevent training professionals from losing vital information; and prevent future training participants from missing-out on materials that could prove decisive to the success of their performance on the job; and crucial to the achievement of overall institutional goals. The fifth step calls for the reward of training participants who demonstrate mastery of the new learning concept. The reward could be packaged in the form of promotion, offering of bonuses, organisation of refreshments; and presentation of certificates and plaques to participants. Individual and group participants could be duly acknowledged for exemplary performance; and encouraged to perform better on the job and during future training sessions.
Empirical Assessment of Training Programmes
Contemporary training programmes in most institutions have been given face-lifts. It is not out-of-place for employees to witness subtle transformations in their workplaces in recent years. These transformations relate to new training initiatives rolled-out by organisations through their human resources departments to ensure professional development of the workforce. Indeed, modern training programmes rolled-out by most global institutions are workforce-centred, with greater emphasis on professional development of individual employees. The universal momentum towards effective development of individual workforce is on the ascendency at a fast pace; with little sign of slowing down in the near or distant future.
The greatest assets of an institution, it is argued, are its workforce. The level of skill and competence of the workforce determines the institution’s competitive advantage over others within the industry. To this end, it remains the strategy of most cutting-edge organisations to regularly attract and retain the best talents; and to provide incentives including mouth-watering rewards and congenial work environment. Extant empirical studies in human resource development revealed training as an essential factor to workforce satisfaction and retention.
During 2017, the Corporate Learning Pulse (as cited in Wells, 2017) conducted a survey of nearly one thousand executives drawn from global countries including China, Japan, Middle East and Europe to assess the effectiveness of training programmes in shaping their respective organisations; and towards enhancing their competitiveness within and across borders. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the Financial Times (FT).
Findings from the survey revealed, even where learning and leadership development did not remain the number one priority, top management understood and recognised the long-term benefits of these attributes to their respective institutions. Respondents comprising top level management or senior professionals expressed optimism about the economic usefulness of future investments in training and leadership development programmes, albeit the respondents believed, as at the time of the study, that these programmes had not lived up to their optimum expectations.
Moreover, numerous attempts by institutions to effectively measure the impact of executive education and leadership have not been successful. This is in spite of its prioritisation when making decisions on the right choice of programmes. Comparative to the findings during 2016, the 2017 survey outcomes revealed some level of consistency in the learning priorities for senior professionals. The top training programmes with priorities during 2017 were concentrated in the areas of financial management (26%), cyber security (26%), market growth (33%); and strategy development and execution (31%). Sixth on the priority list was executive education and leadership development (24%).
Nearly 22% of respondents perceived executive education and leadership development as a challenge that required redress within three years after the survey. The analysis revealed about 38% of sampled respondents identified executive education and leadership development, recruitment and training as requiring immediate attention. These challenges notwithstanding, almost 80% of the respondents noted the importance of executive education and leadership development in improving their skills; and the crucial role of training in achieving institutional goals. Approximately 58% of the survey participants identified executive education and leadership development as the key to retaining the most talented workforce.
Views expressed by respondents on the impact of learning and leadership development programmes varied from one global region to the other. Regional ratings of respondents’ satisfaction with the training programmes were Chine (72%), Spain (64%), Germany (57%), the Nordic countries (37%) and Japan (16%). Many respondents drawn from Germany, China and Spain believed top level management in their respective organisations were optimistic about future investments in executive education and leadership development. Nonetheless, less than half of the sampled respondents reported their senior leadership teams believed investments in executive education in prior years added value to their respective organisations.
The perceived value-addition varied by market: China (69%), Spain (60%) and Germany (60%). Measurements of the outcomes of previous institutional learning programmes were focused on the programme’s impact on workforce engagement (72%), workforce satisfaction (72%), customer satisfaction (72%); and revenue, profit and margins (68%). Approximately 37% of respondents affirmed tangible impact of the training programmes on workforce engagement; 34% identified benefits in relation to customer satisfaction; 32% noted the programmes’ benefits in connection with revenue, profit and margins; while another 32% confirmed the training programmes’ impact on workforce satisfaction.
The number of participants who expressed their views on executive education and leadership development including better alignment with institutional goals was 41%. The views expressed by the foregoing respondents (41%) suggested room for improvement. Nearly 37% of the survey participants were hopeful of better long-term planning of the training programmes; while 40% confirmed more engagement from the workforce.
In addition to key issues in training, the survey underscored the relevance of executive education and leadership development across broader spectrum of the contemporary global business environment. The 2017 survey provided various institutions with relevant data to tap into towards the development of pragmatic training programmes that could ensure meaningful contribution to the achievement of strategic institutional goals.
The long-term success and profitability of many small-, medium-sized companies; and large corporate institutions are contingent on periodic organisation of training programmes for the workforce to increase skills-quality and to improve productivity. Access to continual learning of all forms is required by the workforce to catch-up with the pace of accelerated workforce development in the globally-competitive job environment. Some experts argued, organisations stand the risk of losing the competency race if their workforce stand-still in relation to training; whereas institutions that fail to stride actively against the skills deficiency momentum are likely to lose in terms of quality human capital output and increased productivity.
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The writer is a Chief Superintendent of Police and Deputy Chief Staff Officer Ghana Police Service, National Headquarters, Accra.