Orienting and Developing Employees - Principles of Management

What do employees at Wipro Technologies appreciate most about working at the Indian software giant? Financial rewards and challenging work are certainly on the list, but one of the top benefits is learning. “Wipro provides great learning opportunities,” says CEO Vivek Paul.

“The core of how employees think about us and value us revolves around training. It simply isn’t something we can back off from.” After recruiting and selecting employees, companies need to be sure that they have the knowledge and skills needed to perform their jobs and, more generally, work effectively within the organization. At Wipro and probably every other organization these days, employees desire this training as much as managers want them to have it.

EMPLOYEE ORIENTATION

The first training that employees should receive is employee orientation —the organization’s systematic process of helping new employees make sense of and adapt to the work context. In fact, employee orientation should begin before the job applicant is hired. It is a process of communicating work-related information beginning with recruiting and continuing through the first few months of employment. Several studies suggest that newcomers adjust better to an organization when they receive a formal orientation program. Even a session lasting a few hours has a significant effect on stress, turnover, and job performance.

One of the first forms of employee orientation should be a realistic job preview (RJP), which occurs during recruitment and selection. In many companies recruiters exaggerate positive features of jobs and neglect to mention their undesirable elements in the hope that the best applicants will get “stuck” on the organization. In contrast, an RJP offers a balance of positive and negative information about the job and work context.

Laidlaw, which employs about 1,000 bus drivers on Long Island, shows all job applicants a video of a bus driver’s worst day on the job, including a bus full of rowdy kids. This balance helps job applicants decide for themselves whether their skills, needs, and values are compatible with the job and organization. Although RJPs scare away some applicants, they tend to reduce turnover and increase job performance.

After people are hired but before they begin work, orientation takes the form of providing more information about the company and its practices through literature and personal calls or e-mail messages from new coworkers. On the first day of work (when people traditionally, but incorrectly, believe orientation begins), new hires should receive high-priority information, such as the location of key resources and the roles of key people around them.

Supervisors and coworkers should demonstrate that the new recruit is a welcome addition to the team, such as by preparing the necessary facilities and symbols of membership (such as a desk with a name plate). Many organizations also support employee orientation with a “buddy system” that assigns newcomers to coworkers for information and social support. Progressive Inc., the Mayfield, Ohio–based insurance firm, relies on current employees to recruit and socialize job applicants.

“I think candidates can trust and respect people who already work here,” says Jennifer Cohen, Progressive’s national employment director. “They get a lot of honest information about the company.”

The Bank of Nova Scotia has effectively applied these orientation practices. In particular, the Canadian financial institution takes short-listed job applicants on a tour of the offices where they would actually work. They also meet current employees in the work area, who are quick to show their welcoming support. On the newcomers’ first day of work, ScotiaBank assigns buddies to help them adjust to the workplace over the first two years.

“We have to make sure, once they are in the door, that they start having a great experience as an employee— and that we haven’t overpromised,” says Sylvia Chrominska, ScotiaBank’s executive vice president of human resources.

TRAINING NEEDS ANALYSIS

Training can be expensive, so managers need to identify who needs training, what type of training works best, and when that training is required. These questions are answered by training needs analysis. Figuring out the who–what–when of training usually takes one of two forms: performance gap analysis and organizational analysis.

Performance gap analysis involves diagnosing gaps in employee performance. Suppose one of your employees isn’t performing the job as well as he or she should. Does this situation call for training? Possibly, but there can be many explanations for the employee’s poor performance, and some of them are corrected through other interventions. One question to ask is whether the employee has performed the job well in the past.

If so, has the employee had enough opportunity to practice the skill recently? If not, a training program might consist of practice sessions rather than a full-blown learning process. If the employee does use the skill often, maybe he or she isn’t getting meaningful feedback that there is a problem with the results. Along with examining the employee’s skills, managers need to consider whether the work environment motivates or discourages good performance.

Altogether, this diagnosis works out the cause of the employee’s poor performance and determines whether training is required to correct the situation.

Whereas performance gap analysis determines training needs from each employee’s behavior and performance, organizational analysis takes a top-down view of training needs. Organizational strategy is translated into specific operational plans that cascade down to each department and ultimately every employee. Some employees are affected by strategic initiatives, such as when job duties change or jobs are eliminated.

Thus training needs analysis involves anticipating what skills and knowledge employees will require as a result of changes caused by the organizational strategy and operational plans. Notice that organizational analysis links back to the human resource planning process described at the beginning of this. By estimating future demand and supply in the context of the organization’s objectives, managers can decipher who needs what training and when they will require it.

TRAINING METHODS

Suppose you are a manager at a retail financial institution (such as a bank branch) and want to improve the skills and knowledge of customer service staff. What type of training would you provide? There are many varieties of training, so managers need to consider the advantages and limitations of each. The right choice is important because training makes a difference in the financial services industry. “The difference between [a client accepting or rejecting your product] is proper training,” explains banking consultant Kenneth Kehrer.

“Training could be the difference between keeping a customer for life or watching them walk out the door.” One financial services company that is moving forward on the training front is Allstate. The company recently rolled out a training program for bank staff that includes self-assessments, interactive discussion materials, role-playing activities, video demonstrations, and goal setting.

Figure below highlights seven categories that represent most types of training methods in the workplace. Lectures, readings, and discussion sessions are adequate learning methods for transferring factual or persuasive knowledge. Audiovisual materials have similar learning outcomes, although their graphic display of conditions potentially offers higher persuasiveness and recall of factual knowledge.

Visual material is also effective for behavior modeling, which offers some transfer of tacit knowledge. Computer-based training has become very popular because it is cost-effective and allows trainees to learn on their own time, often anywhere. Most computer-based training transfers explicit knowledge and may improve some thinking (cognitive) skills.

Coaching and mentoring provide one-on-one information, encouragement, and feedback to trainees from the supervisor or coworkers. This training method can be very effective for

Training Methods and Their Learning Outcomes

Training Methods and Their Learning Outcomes

developing knowledge and skill as well as self-confidence. It is sometimes a formal activity but often occurs informally with new employees. Job rotation involves moving trainees into different jobs over time so they continuously develop new skills through on-the-job practice. This method usually includes coaching and mentoring from experienced coworkers. Simulations and role-playing represent various forms of practice away from the actual workplace.

Some simulations are very lifelike, such as mock disasters for emergency crews or aircraft cockpit simulators where pilots practice for new aircraft. Role-playing tends to have less workplace “fidelity”; that is, trainees pretend they are in a work situation even though the surrounding environment is a classroom or another place that doesn’t look like the natural work setting. Action learning is an increasingly popular training method whereby employees, usually in teams, investigate and apply solutions to a situation that is both real and complex, with immediate relevance to the company. In other words, the task becomes the source of learning.

SUPPORTING THE TRAINING PROCESS

Along with diagnosing training needs and determining which method of training works best for the training content, managers need to take steps to maximize the learning process. Here are three of the most important issues to consider when introducing a staff training program:

  • Is the trainee ready to learn? The effectiveness of training depends just as much on the ability and motivation of the employee to learn as it does on the content and instructional methods. Thus managers need to determine whether trainees have the prerequisite knowledge, are sufficiently confident to learn, and believe the training outcomes are valuable.
  • Is the training practice well designed? One of the most important principles of learning is that active practice is usually more effective than passive learning (such as through observation or lectures). But practice sessions need to be arranged in ways that maximize their effectiveness. One consideration is whether to have one continuous session or to divide the training into several sessions. Learning is usually more effective when the practice is spread out over time rather than experienced all at once. Another issue is whether trainees should practice all of the behaviors at one time or break up the learning content in chunks. Complex content should be divided if feasible.
  • Is the trainee’s transfer of learning supported? Most training requires support to ensure that employees

actually use on the job what they learned in a classroom, workshop, or practice area. One strategy, called relapse prevention, involves teaching employees to anticipate and overcome obstacles in the workplace that might make it difficult to practice their new skills.

This anticipation of barriers seems to reduce those problems when they occur. Another strategy is to teach employees to manage their behavior change. This means that they learn to set goals that use the new skills, find ways to monitor how well they are applying those skills, and reward themselves when performing well with the new skill set.


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