Preparing Employees to Perform - Training and Development

Understandably,some organizations' systems and subsystems may be larger and more complicated than others. For instance, the systems and processes used in an industrial manufacturing plant are undoubtedly more intricate than those of the cafeteria described above. Despite the variance in complexity and size, all systems have three basic components: inputs, process, and outputs. The ability to recognize the systems and subsystems of an organization is an important element in all training and development activities. Training and development exists to promote individual and organizational excellence by providing opportunities to develop workplace skills. The design and implementation of effecting training interventions cannot be accomplished without first identifying the various processes operating within the system. But who is responsible for that task?

The Human Resource Development (HRD) or Training and Development

Department(or somebody called the "trainer") is a familiar subgroup in most organizations. Why? Because the people of any organization are like the water put into the coffee machine: For their output to be acceptable, they must change from what they were when they reported for work. At that time, they neither knew what a proper output looked like nor were they familiar with the technology by which to achieve it. They must be prepared—trained—to do their jobs. That's the big reason for a Training Department! One way of looking at it is to envision training as the subsystem that acquaints the people with the material and the technology. It helps them learn how to use the material in an approved fashion that allows the organization to reach its desired output.

Because growth and change are inherent in organizations, they create a plethora of training needs. The term "learning organization" has become a popular buzzword to describe the way organizations must cope with their dynamic nature. A learning organization is based upon the principle of continuous learning, or a systematic method designed to increase learning within an organization, thereby enabling a more effective response to organizational change.

Learning organizations emphasize the importance of learning at the individual, team, and organizational levels, thereby increasing the likelihood of further developing a competent and competitive workforce. Peter Senge defines the term as an organization that is "continually expanding its capacity to create it's future."

Doing so requires that individuals improve existing skills as well as learn new skills. Collectively, these newly acquired or refined skills can accomplish shared organizational goals. And, by anticipating future changes and working toward the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the demands resulting from these changes, the organization can systematically expand its capacity.

Able people may grow to a point where they are ready for responsibilities beyond their initial assignments. When this happens, the organization can profitably help them develop new, larger capabilities. In turn, performance improvements— individual and organizational—result. That's why it's called a "Training and Development Department."
Furthermore,the organization itself may grow and develop. The cafeteria may acquire other cafeterias, or open an "exotic" cafe that specializes in foreign cuisine.It might set up a catering service that delivers food to industrial or institutional clients. It might even select totally different outputs by founding an Institute of Haute Cuisine or buying an existing firm that is unrelated to food.

After all, ours is the era of the creative conglomerate.

The point is this: Training and development has become concerned not only with helping individuals to fill their positions adequately but also with helping entire organizations and sub departments to grow and develop. Thus the sign on the door has changed from "Training and Development" to titles reflecting missions such as "Employee Development," "Organization Development," or "Human Resource Development."This trend makes it wise for us to look a bit more closely at the interrelationship of the four inputs: people, technology, materials, and time.

Training and development, though primarily concerned with people, is also concerned with technology and processes, or the precise way an organization does business.That technology might be the way a flight attendant greets a passenger on an airliner, or the way an egg is fried; it might be the recipe that makes one soft drink distinctly different from all other soft drinks. It might be the design that makes one automobile more attractive or more efficient than its competitors. It might include the procedures for mixing and bottling the drink,or for assembling the automobile. The point is this: To accomplish the desired final output, an organization requires work. That work is divided among positions; and positions are divided into tasks—and tasks are assigned to people.

And there we have our second input: people! To perform their assigned tasks properly, all workers need to master and apply the unique technology governing their tasks. So here's where training enters the picture.

Civilization has not yet found the way to conceive and run an employee-free organization.Nor has it found a magic technology-and-skill potion that can be injected into people. Training is concerned with the meeting of two inputs to organizational effectiveness: people and technology. Since organizations can rarely find people who are, at the time of employment, total masters of the unique requirements for specific jobs, organizations need a subsystem called "training"to help new employees master the technology of their tasks. Training changes uninformed employees into informed employees; training changes unskilled or semiskilled workers into employees who can perform their assigned tasks in the way the organization wants them done; employees become workers who do things"the right way."

This"right way" is called a standard—and one major function of training is to produce people who do their work "at standard." In fact, one simple way to envision how training contributes is to look at the steps by which people control their positions:
Step1 : Define the right (or standard) way for performing all the tasks needed by the organization.
Step2 : Secure people to perform these tasks.
Step3 : Find out how much of the task they can already perform. (What is their"inventory" of the necessary technology?)
Step4 : Train them to meet skill gaps—the difference in what they cannot already do and the standard for performing the task.
Step5 : Test them to make certain they can perform their assigned tasks to minimum standards.
Step6 : Give them the resources necessary to perform their tasks.
From that six-step process, we can also identify the two remaining inputs: time and material. People can't be miracle workers who create something from nothing. So we give them materials such as fabric from which they can cut dresses; parts they can assemble into machines; parts of a broken machine they can analyze and repair. In all these situations, management usually makes some statement about quality; it specifies what the finished product must look like. By stating how many units should be repaired in an hour, or how many dresses sewn in a day,management also sets quantity standards. The job of the training department is to "output" people who can meet those standards, both in quality and quantity.

This description may imply that all training takes place after people are hired but before they are assigned to their jobs. That's obviously not true. Just look at the rosters of training programs and you'll see the names of lots of old timers.

What are they doing there?

One legitimate reason for including old-timers in training programs is that the organization has undergone a major change. Equipment changes, processes change,policies change, and procedures change. Thus, veteran employees and new employees alike need training initiatives and benefit from them. When change occurs, an organization will have incumbent workers who no longer know how to do their jobs the new, right way. When people do not know how to do their jobs the right way, there is a training need. People do not usually know how to do the "next job" properly. Thus transfers, or the promotions implied winsome career-planning designs, imply potential education needs. Some organization shave training departments that help prepare for the future. But sometimes we find people in training programs even when the technology hasn't changed, or even when they aren't preparing for new responsibilities.

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