Magoosh GRE

Learning and Development

| March 7, 2015

INTRODUCTION
Today’s flat organizations and lean departments are increasingly creating new challenges for training (Hale 2006). Companies are concerned with increasing their productivity and performance. As a result, they must rely on training in bringing their employees up to speed. Training of employees is often called for where they lack the knowledge, skills and experience to perform job tasks, or where a situation arises which involves new or changed job procedures (Hale 2006). That is, reorganization, corporate downsizing, process improvement and reengineering as well as a merger may result in radically changed and newly developed procedures that require training (Hale 2006). On-the-job training remains the principal means by which changes are integrated into the workplace.
In this analysis, we explore on a structured approach to training employees within Looking Good, an independent retailer of personal care products including electric shavers, hair straighteners, hairdryers, and foot spas among others in the UK. Following threats of takeover and uncertainty in the market share, Looking Good has recently appointed a new MD and its first HR manager, both of whom are committed to improving the “people agenda” in line with the company’s new missions and values. Concerns particularly relates to staying independent and competitive.
Harnessing and building organizational capabilities at Looking Good forms the basis of this analysis. In particular, the paper examines how the new HR manager can ensure that Looking Good adopts a structured training process approach to the analysis, design, delivery and evaluation of its future learning and development provision.
COMPANY OVERVIEW

Looking good is an independent retailer of personal care products (electric shavers, hair straighteners, hairdryers, and foot spas among others) with 20 stores across the UK. Each store has a manager and an assistant manager, and a total of 60 retail assistants are currently employed across the country. These consist mainly of young people less than 25 years, who view their current employment with Looking Good as a short-term job and do not plan to make their career in retail.
Typical of the sector, there is a difficulty in recruiting staff, high turnover, low skills levels and little investment in training and development. Looking Good, like other independent companies in the retail sector faces competition from major high street chains, on-line shopping sites, out-of-town megastores and home shopping TV channels. There is an increased need for more multi-skilled staff and more IT and “people” skills, as customer-facing services merge with back office administration and distribution functions.
Training has up to date been delivered on the shop floor by the store managers. According to a recent staff survey, most of the retail assistants have been “fairly satisfied” with the training they receive. Some have shown interest in more training, especially in IT, customer service and health and safety. Their preferred training method is on-the-job; however some have indicated interest in other training methods as well.

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING

On-the-job training (OJT) refers to a process that is conducted at the employee’s work area, which involves providing the employee with experience, skills and knowledge necessary to effectively execute tasks (Jacobs 2003). It is an ongoing process that needs to be continually refined and involves training the newly hired and retraining the current employees. OJT can be conducted by the employee’s supervisor or by a designated coworker on a one on one session (Jacobs 2003).
According to the estimates by Carnevale & Gainer (1989), more than 80% of all critical work skills are acquired on the job yet most OJT are poorly handled. On-the-job training approaches such as observation and imitation, performance tryouts and verbal instruction are most common yet least effective ways to learning and developing the necessary job skills (Jacobs 2003). There is need for a well-designed, implemented and monitored structured on-the-job training program if Looking Good is to meet the training needs of its increasingly diverse workforce.
Research into the training of employees has rarely measured the bottom-line results of a structured approach to OJT. One study, however, does support the theory that a structured approach to training offer better results. Rothwell & Kazanas (1990b) found that when there was no structured training process, most of the employees generally consulted their coworkers on advice of how to perform their tasks. Given the lack of a planned approach; procedures and instructions were not standardized hence resulting in employees picking up bad practices from their coworkers (Rothwell & Kazanas 1990b). This haphazard approach leads to a greater number of errors, increased employee frustration and a lower productivity.
The success of any structured on-the-job training however hinges on management support (Lawson 1997). In this regard, the HR department has the overall responsibility of ensuring effective training and development strategies. The new HR manager at Looking Good must thus ensure that the organization adopts a structured on-the-job training programme in the analysis, design, delivery and evaluation of its future learning and development provisions.
Prior to developing a training and learning programme, the new HR manager must first ensure that the training, learning and development philosophy is in line with the company’s new missions and values; and that it reflects on the commitment to improving the “people agenda”. For example, the training and learning philosophy may be:
Looking Good strives to develop skilled and motivated employees through a structured on-the-job training approach to development that endorses personal growth and a culture of lifelong learning. Looking good believes that developing organizational capabilities is critical to achieving success, attaining sustainability and maintaining a competitive hedge in the market place.

1) ANALYSIS

As an initial step of the structured training program, the HR manager must first analyze the training needs. While there are various aspects to be considered in the analysis of the training needs, priority must be made to the essential activities such as:
• Determining what is required to complete the task.
• Determining the existing staff skill level that may be useful in completing the work
• Determining the training gap. That is, the difference between the required and the existing skill levels.
Such comprehensive analysis of the training needs is important for the design process. Unless a training need analysis is conducted, it may be difficult to justify the purpose for providing the training to the workers (Molnar & Watts 2007). Such a needs assessment provides a sufficient explanation as to why the training is being provided and also shows that training is, in fact, the most viable option for best performance.
In this regard, Looking Good, like any other independent retailers, faces competition from major high street chains, online shopping sites, home shopping TV channels and out-of-town megastores. Typical in this company is the low skills levels and little investment in training and development. There is thus need for more OJT in order to equip the employees with the necessary skills and technology to perform the job tasks.
The HR manager must at this phase clarify all of the assumptions, constraints and expectations for the training that is to be developed. This will include analysis of the budgetary constraints, given the low investment by Looking Good into training and development. The analysis of the training needs will ensure that the staff receives the most relevant training which ultimately will deliver an immediate positive impact on their performance.

2) DESIGN PROCESS

After the analysis stage, the HR manager must ensure a systematic development of the training program. It is at this phase of design that the products of the analysis phase ends in a model or blue print of the training process for future development (Jacobs, et.al 1995). This may include drafting a roadmap, a detailed flowchart that breaks down the whole training process into defined units or modules that will need to be completed for the job position. This breakdown will allow for the training process to be completed within a practical timeframe. Each of these modules represents a lesson along with defined objectives and the delivery mode as well as the estimated duration.
For each roadmap module, a lesson guide may be provided. The guide outlines the objectives for the training and contains a checklist or a step-by-step listing of activities to be performed for the completion of that lesson. Having a defined checklist would ensure that all the pertinent topics are covered, as opposed to relying on the instructor’s memory.
The HR manager must at this stage take into consideration the following factors
• Learning objectives: – he/she must ensure that the learning objectives reflect on what the employees will be expected to perform after completing the learning process and that they are in line with the company’s new missions and values.
• Performance test: – employing the use of performance test will be useful in showing how well the tasks must be met.
• Learning steps: – the HR manager must ensure a step by step learning process that will show employees how to perform the tasks.
• Finally, the HR must ensure that the objectives of the training are sequenced and structured in an orderly fashion so as to provide the best opportunity for learning.

3) IMPLEMENTATION

A key aspect to take into consideration in the training process is how the training is going to be conveyed to the employees for implementation. The HR manager must thus ensure a full “training support package”. That is, the training support package must have all the materials necessary to ensure that the training can be effectively implemented as designed. This can be in the form of training manuals, texts or guides as well as a whole range of stimulus materials.
Also, the HR must ensure that the trainers have clearly understood what is to be achieved and that they have an adequate repertoire of the techniques and methods to be employed in achieving it. It is at this phase where the various aspects discussed at the analysis and design phase are implemented.

4) EVALUATION

Every phase of training development must end with a formal review such that the whole training process is subject to continuous review and evaluation; and that any deficiencies detected are corrected at the early stage of the developmental process (Craig 1997). This final phase is a continuous process whereby the whole training process including the analysis and design are subject to review and revision. This will include an evaluation of the training components and utilities, which may then be subjected to revision if deficiencies are detected.

RECOMMENDATIONS

There is need to increase on investment and training in Looking Good. As we have noted, the last annual training spend was 3000 GBP with most staff indicating a fair satisfaction with the training that they received. Research has identified a direct correlation between investment levels in training and a firm’s performance. Looking Good must thus increase their investment in training if they are to increase on their productivity and performance as well as improving morale of the employees and building on their loyalty.

Alternatively, outsourcing as a business model may be employed in meeting the demand for training without the need of investing in the development of training function. Outsourcing refers to the acquisition of external resources in order to perform current tasks (Hale 2006). The HR might consider outsourcing a training specialist where there are budgetary constraints to investment in training and development, and also where the expertise doesn’t lie within the company. This is especially the case with information technology which is rapidly changing, hence the need to keep abreast with dynamic changes in IT. As noted above, most of the retail assistants in Looking Good need more training in the field of IT. Where there is lack of training specialists within the company, the HR might have to consider outsourcing such expertise from other specialists.
Additionally, there is need to consider adopting a blended approach to learning. For example, combining a class-based programme with structured OJT, participation in task teams and projects as well as E-learning. In this regard, Colins & Moonen (2001) notes that a blended approach to learning provides a more robust learning experience than fully e-learning or only on-the-job training. Combining the various learning strategies and delivery methods will certainly optimize the learning experience of the employee.
Finally, there is need to conduct bi-annual performance reviews of all the staff employees. The review must incorporate feedback from the immediate line managers and also from the coworkers who are working closely with the employee. A staff survey may as well be conducted to analyze employee satisfaction with the training received, and incorporate back their feedback for future improvements. This multiple perspective provides a broader view of the capabilities of the employee and helps determine whether the training and development process has successfully equipped the employee with the appropriate knowledge and skills for the job.

CONCLUSION

There is no doubt that a structured on-the-job training is the most effective and efficient way to training employees. Looking Good will certainly improve on its performance and maintain a competitive hedge against the other retailers in the market by adopting a well-designed, implemented and monitored structured on-the-job training program. The success of the structured on-the-job training however hinges on management support. The new HR must thus demonstrate his/her commitment to improving the “people agenda” in line with the company’s new missions and values, by ensuring a structured training process approach to the analysis, design, delivery and evaluation of its future learning and development provision.

REFERENCES

Carnevale, A. P., & L.J. Gainer, 1989. The learning enterprise.
http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1e/70/d5.pdf. {Accessed 25th January 2012}
Colis, B. and J. Moonen, 2001. Flexible Learning in a Digital World: Experiences and expectations. London: Kogan-Page.
Craig, R. L., (ed.) 1997. Training and Development Handbook: A Guide to Human Resource Development. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hale, J., 2006. Outsourcing training and development: factors for success. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Jacobs, R. L., 2003. Structured on-the-job training: Unleashing employee expertise in the workplace. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Jacobs R. L., et.al., 1995. Structured On-the-Job Training. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler Publishers, 1995
Lawson, K., 1997. “Overview of structured on-the-job training”. In: Improving on-the-job training and coaching. Alexandria: ASTD publications
Molnar, J. and B. Watts, 2007. Structured on-the-job training: effectively training employees with employees. West Virginia University: Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies and Development, Inc.
Rothwell, W.J. and H.C. Kazanas, 1990b. “Planned OJT is Productive OJT”. Training and Development Journal, 44(11), 53-56

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