Training and Development – A vital HR Function in organisations

Training and development is one of the vital HR functions. Most organisations look at training and development as an essential part of the human resource development activity. The turn of the century has seen increased focus on the same in organisations globally. Many organisations have mandated training hours per year for employees keeping in consideration the fact that technology is deskilling the employees at a very fast rate.

So what is training and development then? Is it really that important to organisational survival or they can survive without the former? Are training and development one and the same thing or are they different? Training may be described as an attempt aimed to improve or develop additional competency or skills in an employee on the job one currently holds in order to increase the performance or productivity.

Technically training involves change in attitude, skills or knowledge of a person with the resultant improvement in the behavior. For training to be effective it has to be a planned activity conducted after a thorough need analysis and target at certain competencies, most importantly it is to be conducted in a learning atmosphere.

While designing the training program it has to be kept in mind that both the individual goals and organisational goals are kept in mind. Although it may not be entirely possible to ensure a sync, but competencies are chosen in a way that a win-win is created for the employee and the organisation.

Typically organisations prepare their training calendars at the beginning of the financial year where training needs are identified for the employees. This need identification called as ‘training need analysis’ is a part of the performance appraisal process. After need analysis the number of training hours, along with the training intervention are decided and the same is spread strategically over the next year.

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Lots of time training is confused with development, both are different in certain respects yet components of the same system. Development implies opportunities created to help employees grow. It is more of long term or futuristic in nature as opposed to training, which focus on the current job. It also is not limited to the job avenues in the current organisation but may focus on other development aspects also.

At Goodyear, for example, employees are expected to mandatorily attend training program on presentation skills however they are also free to choose a course on ‘perspectives in leadership through literature’. Whereas the presentation skills program helps them on job, the literature based program may or may not help them directly.

Similarly many organisations choose certain employees preferentially for programs to develop them for future positions. This is done on the basis of existing attitude, skills and abilities, knowledge and performance of the employee. Most of the leadership programs tend to be of this nature with a vision of creating and nurturing leaders for tomorrow.

The major difference between training and development therefore is that while training focuses often on the current employee needs or competency gaps, development concerns itself with preparing people for future assignments and responsibilities.

With technology creating more deskilled workers and with industrial workers being replaced by knowledge workers, training and development is at the forefront of HR Department. The onus is now on the human development department to take a proactive leadership role in responding to training and business needs.

The need for Training and Development in organisations:

Before we say that technology is responsible for increased need of training inputs to employees, it is important to understand that there are other factors too that contribute to the need of training. Training is also necessary for the individual development and progress of the employee, which motivates him to work for a certain organisation apart from just money. We also require training to update employees of the market trends, the change in the employment policies and other things.

The following are the two biggest factors that contribute to the increased need to training and development in organisations:

  1. Change: The word change encapsulates almost everything. It is one of the biggest factors that contribute to the need of training and development. There is in fact a direct relationship between the two. Change leads to the need for training and development and training and development leads to individual and organisational change, and the cycle goes on and on. More specifically it is the technology that is driving the need; changing the way how businesses function, compete and deliver.
  2. Development: It is again one of the strong reasons for training and development becoming all the more important. Money is not the sole motivator at work and this is especially very true for the 21st century. People who work with organisations seek more than just employment out of their work; they look at holistic development of self. Spirituality and self awareness for example are gaining momentum world over. People seek happiness at jobs which may not be possible unless an individual is aware of the self. At ford, for example, an individual can enroll himself / herself in a course on ‘self awareness’, which apparently seems unimportant to ones performance at work but contributes to the spiritual well being of an individual which is all the more important.

Stages in a Training Program:

The success of a training program is evaluated in terms of the end result or the increase in the work ability, skill or competency in the trainee. For any training program to be successful it is very essential to follow a certain process.

The basic process as illustrated in the figure below consists of four stages which are: Assessment, Development, Delivery and Evaluation.

Stages in Training Program

  • The process of training begins with the needs Assessment stage. The aim of the assessment stage is to understand whether or not training is required. If the answer is yes; the next step is determining competency or skills gaps and the appropriate training intervention required. The training intervention is essentially decided in terms of attitude, knowledge and skill (ASK), the combination of which is called as competency. The assessment also called as the ‘training needs analysis’ is undertaken at three levels, the job, the individual and organisational analysis.
  • Once the training needs analysis is complete, the next stage is that of Development. This stage involves the development of content and the training material. Right from designing the appropriate environment to deciding the various tools, everything is taken care of in the development stage. Games, Case Studies, Class room intervention are various means that may be decided upon apart from the content delivered. For example, in behavioural training emotional intelligence, teamwork, listening are examples of competencies that are required to perform superior work.
  • The most important stage and perhaps the least talked upon from the training process is the Delivery. Once the development stage is over it is time to conduct the training. Factors like time and venue of delivery are already decided in the earlier stages. There are various factors that determine the process of delivery like the participant demographics, the training intervention, the individual style of the trainer etc. This brings in a lot of diversity to the training programs.
  • Evaluation is the last stage in the training process, and more important from the perspective of evaluation of the effectiveness of training. Needless to say, it is aimed at analyzing whether or not the training has been effective in achieving the objective (bridging the competency gap, changing the attitude, developing new skills etc).

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