TRAINING IMPROVEMENT

Improvement of training in organisations requires paying attention to some critical dimensions. These important dimensions which require special attention for training improvement in an organisation are :

1. LEARNING

The main function of training is to facilitate learning. The most effective learning is self-initiated and self-managed learning. Training should help in developing a culture of self-managed learning. In general, learning by discovery is more internalised and is longer-lasting than didactic learning from others.

Below are suggested 15 different conditions to make learning effective. For this purpose, learning has been defined as “the process of acquiring, assimilating, and internalising cognitive, motor or behavioural inputs for their effective and varied use when required, and leading to enhanced capability of further self-monitored learning”.

1. Authentic and open system of training institution or the place of learning.

2. Non-threatening climate.

3. Challenging learning tasks.

4. Collaborative arrangements for mutual support of learners.

5. Organisation of graduated experiences of challenging successes.

6. Mechanisms for supportive and quick feedback.

7. Opportunities to practise the skills learnt.

8. Opportunities to apply learning.

9. Opportunities for and encouragement to self-learning.

10. Opportunities for and support to experimentation.

11. Emphasis on learning through discovery.

12. Indirect and liberating influence by trainer/teacher through minimum guidance.

13. Trainer’s/teacher’s human values and faith in man.

14. Trainer’s/teacher’s high expectations from learners, and openness to examine own needs.

15. Trainer’s/teacher’s competence.

2. PRE-TRAINING WORK

Unless attention is paid to the following pre-training work, training cannot succeed in developing people, groups, and organisations:

– proper identification of training needs;

– developing a strategy of development of people through training,

– including the rationale and criteria of who (which role occupants) should be sent for training, how many at a time and, in what sequence;

– the process of helping people to volunteer, and the departments to ask for training;

– pre-training workshop in some cases to raise the level of motivation of participants and finalise the curriculum;

– building expectations of prospective participants from training, etc.

3. POST-TRAINING WORK

Equally important is what is done after the training is over. The training section needs to help the concerned managers to plan to utilise the participants’ training, and provide the needed support to them. Post-training work helps in building linkages between the training section and the line departments. Follow-up work by the training section is critical.

4. EXPANDING THE TRAINING CONCEPT

The concept of training has to be widened and training should include not only programmes involving face-to-face classroom work, but should also include other ways of providing information and giving necessary skills to people in an organisation. In fact, getting people together in a group for giving information which can be given in some other form is a waste of resources. Moreover, the organisation cannot afford to provide the necessary information and skills on all aspects to all those who need it, by using the classroom model of training. Self-instructional packages and manuals of various kinds can be very rich and useful resources of training, even without collecting people at one site. For example, all those who join the organisation should know about the budgetary processes and the concept of transfer price. If a self-instructional book is prepared on this subject, this can be given to anyone who joins the organisation so that he gets familiar with this concept and can understand the whole process of all the negotiations taking place in the company. It may, therefore, be recommended that a list of areas in which such self-instructional material can be prepared should be developed. This may include the new sales tax rules, new environmental changes, basic financial problems, calculating contribution, etc. Similarly, manuals of simple office procedures, leave rules, various personnel practices, etc., may also be prepared. However, the immediate superior officer may help the employees by calling them for dialogue and further clarifications after the employees have learnt through such self-instructional books.

5. PREPARATION OF TRAINING MATERIALS

There is a great need to develop more training materials. Unfortunately, most of the training programmes use only the lecture method. While the lecture method itself needs improvement through use of small group discussions, etc., new training materials need to be developed. These will include simulation exercises and games, role play cases and material, cases and incidents, practical work manuals, tests and instruments, and self-instructional materials. Preparation of such material involves large investment of money, time and energy. But it is still worthwhile, and will have much higher pay-off than the cost of the investment. In some cases an Organisation can get help from outside experts in the preparation of such material, especially simulation exercises and games, role plays, cases, and self-instructional material.  

TO OVERCOME THE CAUSES OF TRAINING FAILURE

Training is not fulfilling its proper role in various organisations. There are various causes for which training could not achieve its proper objectives, which are needed to overcome to achieve the desired objective of training :

1. CALL-GIRL ROLE

The training unit organises training events on the initiation or suggestion of the persons who matter in the organisation. Training plays a reactive rather than a proactive role. Instead of being a partner in the process of development of the organisation, it merely responds to requests made to it. This essentially reduces its effectiveness. This plight is largely shared by the outside consultants and trainers who are invited to do a particular training programme, or even to give one or more talks on specific topics. But this is also true of the in-company training function. While talking to persons in charge of training in various organisations, one gets the impression that they do not have enough opportunity in the organisation to innovate and suggest ways of developing it.

So far training has been treated either as a feudal wife or as a call-girl rather than a modern housewife. The role of the wife in the feudal society was to decorate the home and bear children, but not necessarily be a life partner in enjoying life, or sharing problems. A call-girl is invited when she is needed and she also does not participate in the vital decisions of a man’s life. Similarly, taking either analogy, training is not able to fulfil the obligation of being really effective in an organisation. Training has to become comparable to a real housewife, by not only responding to the needs of the organisation, but by determining these needs and being a partner in the process of development. Unless training is treated as a partner in decision making, it cannot play the role of contributing to organisational effectiveness.

2. EXPECTANCY OF PERIPHERALITY

By and large there seems to be a general feeling in the organisation that training is a peripheral activity rather than a central one. In many organisations training is more decorative than functional. Some organisations start a training department in order to look modern, while in some organisations training performs the role of the family priest. This role is enjoyed by the training sub-system also. The family priest mainly helps in the performance of religious rituals appropriate to the caste of the family. He also gives pious advice, often to be merely heard and not necessarily acted upon. He, however, is not involved in any vital decisions taken by the family. Training therefore is often regarded as a useful but not a very essential activity in the organisation. Other functions such as production, marketing, personnel, and finance are very central and important, and compared to these functions training is only of secondary importance. This concept of training as a non-essential or a peripheral activity produces several effects in the organisation. It produces a different sense of priority for training in the organisation. The personnel connected with the training activity have a low self-image, and cannot operate with confidence.

3. LOW STATUS

Since training is regarded as peripheral, and since it is treated as a service department, only responding to the various demands of the organisation, it is unfortunately given rather a low status. This is a vicious circle. No activity can become central in an organisation unless the organisation expects that activity to be important and gives it high enough status. On the other hand, the status is also a function of the activity being central. The low status of training is reflected in the level at which the TM is being recruited in the organisation. In most organisations he is at such a low level that it becomes difficult for him to assert himself and to be heard with respect. Unfortunately, in Indian organisations status and grade play an important part in deciding how much say a person would have in the organisation. Low status of training, therefore, limits its effectiveness considerably.  

4. NON-PROFESSIONAL IMAGE

Training is becoming a profession. Although it has not been completely professionalised, it has developed its own techniques, and is fast emerging as a profession. However, organisations in India still do not treat training as a profession; in fact, they do not take it seriously. Training is seen as a function which can be managed by anyone who is good in the main activity of the organisation. As a result, people appointed to manage training may not have the necessary professional skills which TMs would be required to have. In some cases those who are found to be less efficient and effective in other functions are transferred to the training function. Such practices reflect the attitude of the management towards training. The example is cited of one organisation in which the training system is fairly large. Discussions with persons in various parts of the organisation revealed that they were recommending or nominating those persons for appointment as trainers whom they did not find very useful. In some cases the transfers of people to the training units and back to operations were very frequent. Those who were not trainers were not given any orientation or training before being made to take up their new roles as trainers.

5. SLOW PROFESSIONALISATION

One factor for which we, those who are in the field of training, are responsible is the slow speed with which we are professionalising training in India. Each profession has its own system of preparation of those persons who want to join it. It develops its own skills of working, its own techniques, and its own standards of ethics. It develops a strong pressure group to ensure that the minimum standards of pre-professional and in-professional training are maintained. The establishment of the Indian Institute of Management and the Indian Society for Training and Development has helped in developing training as a profession. However, the aspirations of training personnel are so low, and their behaviour so different, that they project a weak image of training. They only respond to the needs of the organisation, rather than thinking of ways of transforming their role into a more central one. We need to do a great deal in developing training as a profession.

Because of these and some other factors the role of training has remained rather peripheral. It is necessary that it is transformed into a more active and effective tool for helping the organisation solve some of its problems. Training has to become more proactive.

Training can play a more effective role in the organisation if it is regarded as one intervention in a larger context in which several interventions precede or follow it. Training can either be expanded or formally transformed into organisational development. Even without such transformation training can begin to play a more proactive role. We suggest at least two such important roles: Firstly, training personnel can educate the top management through a series of systematic feedback from the data generated during the training programmes, as successfully done by one organisation. The top management in that organisation have increasingly asked for more advanced programmes for their own education. Secondly, training can be used as an entry point for further organisational work. For example, one organisation hired consultants for a specific programme of achievement-motivation training. After the first programme, the consultants had discussions on their understanding of the problems, and recommended to the top management to look into the various other aspects of the organisation. As a result of this discussion, the top management agreed for a more systematic work of diagnosis and a possible OD effort.

Such a proactive role requires authenticity on the part of the trainers and consultants. If they feel that some intervention other than training may be more useful, it may be helpful to have a dialogue with the management. One of their roles is to confront the senior management with the understanding of the problem and help it to be aware of a variety of interventions for the solution of problems. Training can be a good diagnostic tool also-the first step in a strategy of organisational change.

Training, like any other activity in an organisation, is meant to help in the achievement of the organisational goals. The organisation evaluates the various inputs in terms of cost-benefit ratio. It may be useful for the training unit to increasingly develop evaluation systems in cost-benefit terms. It should be possible to show how training is helping the organisation in reducing various kinds of wastage. Such an evaluation of training in hardware terms will increase its credibility and boost its self-image.

Training has to be professionalised at a faster rate. One of the skills that we lack is the use of rich data generated during training and collected in the follow-up work. To make training an effective intervention for organisational change, the development of skills of collecting and meaningfully using relevant data for decision making and for recording the experience for possible sharing with others is very essential. The increasing professionalisation should reflect in the training of the personnel of the OD units in various kinds of skills, such as organisational diagnosis, problem solving, innovation for organisational change, data collection, data processing and interpreting the data, etc. In fact, research should be functional for facilitating organisational change and these skills are necessary for the successful implementation of the programme of organisational development.

It may be useful to take help from some agencies for developing such skills. In order to utilise the rare skills in these areas, some agencies should be persuaded to undertake the responsibility of developing strategies of and providing help in data collection, interpretation and feedback for organisational development. All organisations, however, need not have this kind of expertise. One or a few organisations can coordinate and provide this kind of expert help. For example, some institutions can develop a survey and data feedback centre, providing these services at reasonable cost. It can make available meticulously standardised devices for diagnosis and organisational survey, and can analyse data and provide confidential reports on the various aspects of organisational health and effectiveness. Such a centre can serve the national organisations in publishing consolidated annual reports on general trends in the country, according to various types of organisations.

The suggestions of transformation of training into organisational development, may imply elitism in training. While we may plead for this transformation, it is equally important that the strategy for supervisory and operational training is streamlined. Such training also needs a wider perspective; attention to the method of receiving and inducting the new employees in the organisation; determining technical and behavioural needs for their effective role performance; ways of enhancing teamwork and inter role support; variety of training inputs and their sequencing to meet the training needs; and evaluation and follow-up plans, including ways of building post-training support for achieving training goals.

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