What is Training?

Training is the teaching and/or learning activities undertaken for the purpose of helping employees of an organization acquire and reproduce new or developed knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes needed by that organization. It is aimed at increasing the knowledge and skills of employees. With this, the organization will also benefit.

Training is one of the best ways of helping employees work more effectively. It is a vital task in people management and organizations must undertake this.

Training encompasses any activities that relate to teaching or learning that assist employees attain more skills, knowledge and abilities in order to perform their jobs more effectively. It also encompasses attitudinal training.

Training equips employees with the proper skills and knowledge which will contribute to organizational efficiency and how to cope with any changes in the work environment. Managers must also be properly trained to deal with environmental changes. In some cases, technology moves so fast that skills can become outdated and new training is necessary.

Objectives of Training

The aim of training all employees is to help the organization meet its objectives by increasing the value of its major resource – its employees. Armstrong (2001) mentions three particular training objectives:

To develop the competences of employees and improve their performance.

To help people grow within the organization in order that, as far as possible, its future needs for human resources can be met from within the organization.

To reduce the learning time for employees starting in new jobs on appointment, transfer or promotion, and ensure that they become fully competent as quickly and economically as possible.

Cost-effective training can be achieved through clear objectives for employee training. These objectives should describe precisely what the employees must demonstrate after the training. This is what will show the trainers if their methods work or not. Without this criterion, which is used to judge the effectiveness of the training, it is not possible to know for sure if the training was effective or not.

Learning objectives should meet the following criteria:

  1. They must be expressed in learner-oriented ways. This can be done by explaining what the learners should be able to do after the training, including certain knowledge and skills.
  2. Be as specific and clear as possible about what performance is expected, what standards are required and the conditions of attendance.
  3. Try to achieve the training in the time specified and allow the correct amount of time for the achievement of the training goals for both the trainer and the learner.
  4. The language used must be clear and explicitly describe what the trainees must do.

Certain learning objectives can still be found in published training manuals. For example, an objective for a management training course may go like this: ‘To familiarize employees with the principles of effective management.’ It would be pretty much impossible for this type of criterion to be a basis for effective measurement of this learning activity. It is way too broad a description.

A better way to phrase the objective would be something like this: ‘In this training program employees will be able to identify and define principles of effective management and be able to use real examples from practice and personal experience.’ With the clear and explicit wording of this objective it would be possible for effective learning to take place.

Despite what is mentioned above, it is in fact, easier to formulate objectives that can be easily assessed for some subjects as opposed to others. For certain activities such as computer skills, driving, carpentry, cooking, and the like, it is much easier to define objectives in measurable terms. With training programs such as management, it is a more difficult task, even though things like interviewing and chairing meetings are two of the simpler ones. For more complex topics it is better to break them down into separate objectives. Only after the training objectives have been outlined, can the next stages of the process be addressed. Then certain questions will need to be asked such as: what form will the training take? Who will do any particular training? What exactly will the contents be? What methods should be used?

Benefits of Employee Training and Development

Transformation of organizations can be achieved with proper training and professional development courses for all employees. This will give employees extra skills which will assist in increasing productivity and achieve higher job satisfaction, which will cause better performance in the organization, as a whole.

Situational training is also necessary as it allows employees to learn skills to make informed decisions in a timely manner that benefit customers and the organization. This situational training may be given by a number of people, such as a supervisor, employee – to – employee training, or the HR department itself.

There are a number of reasons why supervisors conduct training for employees. These include:

– Increased levels of morale and job satisfaction among employees.

– Increase in (employee) motivation.

– More efficient processes which will ultimately result in financial gain.

– Innovation in strategies and products.

– Reduction of employee turnover.

– A higher ability to adapt to new technologies and systems.

– An improved image for the company.

– Risk management training which will include things like non-discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.


Assessment of Training Needs

What, Why, Where, and How?

A training needs assessment must come before any training programs are developed. In this way, the optimizing of benefits to employees will be achieved and the costs can be kept down. The person doing the training, be it a manager, supervisor or another trainer, must ensure a needs assessment is done before anything else.


What Is a Training Needs Assessment?

Training needs assessments are a means of identifying what educational programs or activities must be provided to ensure employee productivity is improved.


Why Have a Training Needs Assessment?

– To determine the specific needs of the employees in order to make their work faster and better.

– To determine if the training will have the desired effect on productivity and cost.

– To distinguish between training and organizational issues.


How Is a Training Needs Assessment Performed?

Training needs assessments can be done individually or combined with one another. Several methods should be contemplated in order to ensure the big picture is being looked at. The ultimate decision of which method to use is made by the organization.

Things that must be done are:

  1. Management Meetings: Supervisors and managers are more intimately involved with planning projects and have more awareness of the future of the company. Because of this, they know what is needed. Their knowledge of their employees’ abilities, strengths and weaknesses is essential in knowing what is needed to get them to the next level or to equip them with the skills for new projects that may be coming.
  2. Meetings with Employees: It is important for supervisors to get information from employees regarding what issues they are facing and how they feel their jobs could be made easier and more efficient. During this process it is important for supervisors to make sure employees express what they need instead of what they may want.
  3. Conduct Surveys: Surveys are an efficient way of obtaining information quickly as many people can be surveyed in a short period of time. Getting employees to express their needs on paper can also be more informative as sometimes people are embarrassed to admit certain things in front of others.
  4. The surveys should be done as a questionnaire. This can include questions that are closed – ended (only a Yes or No is needed) or open-ended (employees must give reasons and more details for their answers). The close-ended questions are usually very easy to organize as the answers are limited. The open-ended answers will allow employees to provide more information that could include new ideas or concepts that management may not have originally considered. It is usually best practice to include both types of questions.
  5. Focus Groups: Focus groups are good for small group communication. Because of the size it is easier for the supervisor or assessor to find out more details about the people in the group. Brainstorming is a good way to get new ideas including ideas about what type of training might be needed. The timing is also important. A good time frame is about 90 minutes long thus enabling the participants to get comfortable with each other and the assessor and begin to feel free to express themselves. These focus groups can be held only one time or more regularly depending on the time allowance.
  6. Review of Organizational Goals and Mission Statement: Looking back at the organization and its past is valuable as is looking to where the future might be going. This may reveal information that is important for scheduling training. The company needs to look at how the employees are currently working and what they might need to learn or to know as the company grows and changes.

There are six steps to identifying organizational training needs. These are:

Step 1: Think about what employees’ needs are.

Step 2: Create surveys that employees must fill out with both open-ended and close-ended questions. Also make sure there are some statements that they must think very carefully about. For example: I could perform better and more efficiently if…

Step 3: Organize focus groups.

Step 4: Have a second meeting (or more, if needed) with the employer to evaluate the feedback from the surveys and the focus groups.

Step 5: Create a customized training plan that suits the organizational and employee needs.

Step 6: Implement the training.


Identifying Training Needs

The training needs assessment below is best done in small to mid-sized companies. It will give management a clear idea of what programs to implement for groups of employees as it will give a quick assessment of the training needs.

  1. The facilitator brings in all employees who do the same type of job to a conference room. A white board or charts are needed for the training.
  2. Each employee must then write ten of (what they believe to be) their most important training needs. Ask them to be as specific as they can.
  3. Understand that there might be a need to do more training as team building and effective communication are quite broad topics. Topics that are more specific may include how to give clear feedback or methods to resolve conflicts with a co-worker.
  4. The facilitator writes the employees training needs on the board as they mention them. It may be necessary to double check that needs are not duplicated with further questioning.
  5. The process then will be for the employees to vote for the most immediate needs and perhaps to place them in order of priority. By writing down the number of votes per need mentioned you can then decide which ones are the most important. You can use sticky dots or just write the numbers next to each need.
  6. Make sure someone is taking notes of the meeting so that any and all important points are kept on record.
  7. Scheduling another session is necessary to assess and evaluate the information.
  8. Schedule another session to brainstorm the needed outcomes from the first few training sessions that have identified the needs.
  9. Training needs assessment is usually more complicated that what is mentioned above but it is quite useful for a simple training needs assessment.
  10. Make sure you keep the commitments made by the training needs assessment process.

Long-term profitability of an organization depends on the quality of employee training and putting that training to good use. Investing in proper training for employees is a sound investment as is the hire and maintenance of quality people. Training should be done across all departments and for all employees, not just new ones. Those already employed need training to assist them in adjusting to changing work environments and changing job requirements. In this way productivity and effectiveness is increased and benefits the organization.


The Training Process

Training process steps are:

– Working toward the organizational objectives

– Doing a needs assessment analysis

– Detecting gaps

– Agreement on the training objectives

– Choosing the trainees

– Choosing training methods

– Deciding on the evaluation means

– Administering the training

– Evaluating the training

Ask these questions before deciding on what training strategy should be used:

  •  Who are the company’s customers?
  •  Why do customers buy from the company?
  •  Who are the competitors?
  •  How do the other competitors serve the market?
  •  What competitive advantages do the competitors enjoy?
  •  What parts of the market have the competitors ignored?
  •  What strengths and weaknesses does the company have?
  •  What social trends are arising that will affect the organization?

Formulating a training strategy is necessary in order to answer a couple of critical questions:

  1. What is your business?
  2. What should your business be?

Answering these questions as clearly as possible will make it easier for a company to identify its mission and company vision, which will, therefore, identify the training needs.

Assessment of training needs can be done through the analyzing of three human resource areas. Assessments must be done for:

– The organization as a whole,

– The features of the jobs, and

– The needs of all the individuals within the organization.

Analyzing these will offer answers to the following questions:

  •  Where specifically is training needed?
  •  What exactly must an employee learn in order to be more productive?
  •  Who needs to be trained?

To begin with, it is important to analyze the current position of the organization and how it works. It is also necessary to assess the abilities of all employees in their specific roles. The company must have a five-year plan and know what it wants to achieve in that time. When all of the above are done it will be easier to identify what training programs will be needed.

It is necessary for the company to commit the finances necessary to put these training programs in

place and ensure they are done. Without this commitment the company will most likely not achieve its

five-year goals. Concentrate resources where they are needed and an audit will uncover specific areas for which training is needed. This audit will identify what skills are available to the company at this moment and what skills will be needed to achieve future objectives. Whatever inconsistencies are found between the skills available now and the anticipated skills is where training will be needed.


Selecting Trainees

When the decision is made as to what training is needed, the next step is to choose who will be trained. This is an important decision for all businesses but especially so for small businesses. The selection of employees to be trained should be made very carefully because it costs money, especially if the people trained leave for another job.

It is important to select training programs that consider the capacity for employees to be motivated by the training and to use what they learn as effectively as possible. Efficient use of resources is a must. If any employee fails in the selected programs it will cost the company both time and money and will be detrimental to the employee. This is where the right selection comes into play as mentioned above.


Training Goals

The training program goals must match the needs identified by the assessment process. These goals must be clear about the behavior and skills that are to be changed through training. They must also correlate to the mission statement of the company and address the strategic plan. It is a good idea to allow employees to contribute to setting the goals as it often increases the likelihood of success. It will also help if the goals incorporate milestones to give the employees an idea of where they are and to get them to where the company wants them to go in the future.


Standard Areas of Employee Training

  1. Communications: Because of the diversity of the modern-day workforce a wide variety of languages and customs will most likely be found in most workplaces.
  2. Computer Skills: Computer skills are pretty much a necessity for any administrative and office tasks.
  3. Customer Service: It is vital that employees understand and meet the needs of customers. This is especially true in today’s global marketplace.
  4. Diversity: Diversity training aims to equip employees with the understanding of how different people have different views. Methods are used to teach employees to value this diversity.
  5. Ethics: In today’s world, people expect corporate social responsibility. With the diversity in the workplace, employees bring with them different values to the organization.
  6. Human Relations: Misunderstandings and therefore conflicts can sometimes occur in workplaces due to increased levels of stress. Proper training to help avoid or resolve any misunderstandings that may arise is of benefit to everyone.
  7. Quality Initiatives: Basic training regarding quality concepts and guidelines are essential to any organization. Thus, training would include total quality management, quality circles and benchmarking.
  8. Safety: Occupational health and safety is a major component of safe workplaces in particular where there is heavy equipment, chemicals or continuous repetitive activities. It can also be useful for avoiding other personal safety issues.
  9. Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment training is, unfortunately, necessary and includes careful descriptions of the organization’s policies especially what is inappropriate behavior. Sexual harassment usually affects women (although, sometimes, can affect men, as well), but these policies (and laws) are there to protect everyone.

Training Methods

Types of training methods include on-the-job and off-the-job practices. Answering the questions of who to train, what programs should be used, and the reasons why it is important to train, will give you the answers as to what training methods to use.

On-the-Job Training is done while employees go about their regular jobs. This is a good way to ensure that time is not lost while they are learning and include things such as, job instructions, apprenticeships, orientation, and coaching, etc. The contents and plan of the training program must be given to the employees. A time-table must be set which includes evaluation times to let employees know how they are progressing.

Off-the-Job Techniques are things like conferences, case studies, lectures, laboratory training (if appropriate) and films. These can be expensive so small business in particular must be careful about what they choose.

Orientations are for new employees. The first days on the job are crucial in the success of new employees. This point is made clearly if you understand the fact that 60% of employees who leave a company quit in the first ten days. During orientation training the following topics must be stressed:

  • The company’s history and mission.
  • The central members of the organization.
  • The key members in any department, and how the department helps achieve the company’s mission.
  •  Rules and regulations of personnel.

Both written and verbal presentations are used by companies in order to stress these points. Orientations are also done on a one-to-one basis, especially in smaller businesses. Ensuring the new employee knows and understands his/her new place of employment is important and must be done.

Lectures are orations or verbally expressed presentations. They are the best method to use when there is a lot of material to be covered and a lot of people in the audience. This method is more cost effective than teaching or training employees individually. However, lectures are not necessarily the most effective way of training people. It can be difficult to know if the audience understands what is being presented, and how much they understand. Some people may only understand a little and be left undertrained and others might be lost completely.

Role – playing and simulation are techniques used to depict realistic situations where the employees are required to make decisions and discuss the effects and possible solutions of these decisions later. Role playing can be a very effective technique. This particular method is very cost effective and, as such, is often used in marketing and management.

Audio-Visual Methods include films, television, and DVDs. The use of these sources is very effective as a way of learning because it can show real life situations in a very short time. The Audio – Visual Method, however, does not allow for questions or interaction with the speaker and as such is a somewhat limited method.

Job Rotation engages the employees in many different job areas. This allows the employees to experience the tasks associated with different jobs as he/she learns a bit about everything. It is the most common method for training people for supervisory roles and is also a good method for small businesses to use.

Apprenticeships are also known as “traineeships”. This includes a contract between an employer and an employee whereby the employee (or apprentice) learns skills on the job for a particular trade or occupation. The apprentice works with a senior skilled worker who oversees the training and it usually lasts for at least a year and often more.

Internships and Assistantships are opportunities offered to employees who are then called ‘interns.’ They work in a company for a fixed period of time ranging from one week to a year. Internships or assistantships include both classroom and on-the-job training and are usually used to train prospective managers or marketing people.

Programmed Learning is a method whereby information is broken into sections and the employees can learn at their own pace and test themselves. This method of teaching and learning is based on taking small steps, going at one’s own pace and getting immediate feedback. Computer instruction and interactive videos are very useful for this. The teacher or instructor only really needs to be present for the first part, the introduction, and the employees can take things at their own pace. This may not be easily available for small businesses, however.

Laboratory Training is done for small groups and usually for upper and middle management trainees. It enables them to foster a spirit of teamwork and a better ability to interact with management and their peers. This method can be expensive but is also used by small businesses.