When an organization hires an employee, it expects the employee to perform to his/her fullest and maintain a high level of productivity through his/her years with the company. However, this will never be the case as things such as the technology, market product, services, people, and policies evolve every day.
Employee development is a process of improving employee’s existing competencies and/or developing new ones to support the organization’s goals and growth. In other words, employee development is required in an organization for the following reasons:
- Getting new employees to be effective and productivity as quickly as possible.
- Improving the performance of an existing employee on his/her present job.
- Preparing a good performing employee for an identified job of greater responsibilities soon.
- Keeping abreast of new changes or development (such technologies, regulations, or leading practices) in existing jobs.
When done right, employee development may be a huge investment (time, effort, and money) to the company, but it will be more than pay off over the long run. In fact, it will be one of the contributing factors to attracting talents, motivating, rewarding, and retaining employees in an organization.
Therefore, for all employees to be able to perform well and be productive consistently in their jobs, employee development must be continuously through the employee’s tenure with the company. It must also be consistently applied to all levels of employees from top management to the junior or new employees.
Hence, employee development is more than training, it is continuous learning.
By developing employees in the organization, the company will not only be able to attract talents and retain employees, it will also be able to have a competitive advantage over its competitors. This is because its employees will have the competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) to perform well through adopting best or leading practices, improving and enhancing processes as well as innovating new products and services.
Understanding about Learning
Before diving into employee development through training, it is important to understand a few things about learning.
Andragogy vs. Pedagogy
According to Malcolm Knowles, an American educator who focuses on adult education, adult learning (andragogy) is very different from child education (pedagogy). In child education or pedagogy, the learners are very dependent on the teacher, and it is a top-down approach, that is, the teacher has authority and control over the student’s learning experience. Since the learner has no prior knowledge of the subject, the teaching method is very much about the transfer of foundation or basic knowledge for later application.
On the other hand, in adult learning or andragogy, learners are much self-directed, that is, they are motivated or committed to learn and set their own schedule for learning. They do have some knowledge and experience to help them understand the subject and focus on know-how or the application of the subject to their workplace.
In adult learning, it is also important for trainers and HR professionals to understand that different adult learners have different learning styles. The VARK model states that there are 4 learning styles:
- Visual – learners with a strong preference for visuals such as presentations, pictures, video shows, etc. They can retain information better when they are presented in picture or graphic forms.
- Auditory – learners who prefer to listen such as lectures, discussions, guest speakers, etc. They can retain much information through listening.
- Tactile or reading and writing – learners with a strong preference for reading and writing such as reading text information and taking notes.
- Kinesthetic – learners have a strong preference for skills practices such as role play, physical activities or exercises, experiments, etc. They can retain information well through hands-on or practice.
So, it is important that trainers use a combination of different learning styles to ensure that all learners can understand the subject and retain what is being taught.
In a study on different learning styles, it was discovered that listening to lectures has the lowest retention rate for learners while practicing, and teaching others have the highest retention rate for learners.
Creating a Learning Culture
If an organization is concerned about its employee development, it needs to develop a learning culture where learning is a strategic imperative. A learning culture puts the continuous development of competencies at the heart of everything the organization does. The organization must provide opportunities and enable every employee to continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills.
Besides providing opportunities and enabling employees to learn, the organization must encourage learning at all levels, create a policy on employee development to foster a learning mindset, allow for practice or application of newly acquired skills on the job (transfer of knowledge), provide time, resources, and fund to support learning as well as recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities.
When learning culture is cultivated at every level of the organization and there is a desire to learn throughout the organization, the benefits are wide-ranging. Some of the benefits are:
- quick to adapt to changing needs,
- ability to solve or resolve problems effectively,
- increase employee morale and decrease staff turnover, and
- increase in work efficiency, productivity, and profit.
Developing a learning culture in an organization is not something that happens overnight but over time when actionable steps are taken. The actionable steps are:
- Commitment from Everyone
To successfully build or develop a learning culture, everyone in the organization from the leaders to the workers must support and be committed to learning. Everyone must give their 100% effort to make learning as part and parcel of their daily work life in the organization.
- Provide Support and Have the Right Environment
Besides having the commitment of everyone in the organization, the management must ensure that there is full support and resources such as financials, time, facilities, and learning aids, provided to all employees in their quest to continuously develop themselves.
- Lead by Example
Leaders in the organization must walk the talk. They must be open to feedbacks about their weaknesses and be prepared to make corrections through constantly acquiring new knowledge and skills. Besides developing themselves, leaders must also be prepared to impart and share their knowledge and skills with junior employees in the organization. They must make time and put in effort to teach or coach others so that the learners can help improve the company’s performance.
- Develop Personalized Learning Plans
All employees must set their career goals in the organization and develop their learning plans to achieve their career goals. With a learning plan, the employee will be committed and engaged in the process of learning. By supporting your employees on their learning plan and achieving their career goals, company will be able to motivate and retain their employees
- Provide the Right Rewards
When introduced correctly, rewards can motivate employees to consistently keep learning to acquire new knowledge and skills to improve or develop themselves. Most companies will issue a certificate upon successful completion of the training while others do provide badges or plaque. However, some organizations introduce financial rewards, but they must be careful to ensure that any financial rewards introduced must not lead to greed and selfishness.
- Encourage Knowledge Sharing and Transfer
Knowledge sharing and transfer are a big part and pillar of the learning culture in an organization. Through sharing knowledge and skills, employees will also be able to strengthen or build up the team spirit in the organization as they will have a better understanding of one another. This, in turn, will encourage employees to learn morre.
- Create Meaning Training Programs
Do not send employees for training for the sake to meet the statistical figures. There must be proper needs analysis to ensure that the training must be part of the learning plan that improves the employee’s performance or develop the employee for the next level.
- Make Learning in Hiring Process
It is important that while developing a learning culture in the organization, steps must be taken to ensure that new employees joining the company are in the right and same mindset as the rest of the existing employees in the organization. It is important to highlight to new employees the importance of learning and they must be committed to be part of the learning culture.
Plan the Training
Responsibilities for Employee Development
Some jobs are fast disappearing due to the increased use of technology and automation, while new jobs emerged require a new set of competencies such as quick thinking, creativity, high social and emotional intelligence. Hence, companies with nimble employees who can react quickly to disruptions, adapt to meet the new demands of a fast-changing business climate, and harness a wealth of ideas for innovation, will be able to survive and thrive in the competition.
The responsibility of employee development in an organization is a dual responsibility of both the management and employee.
The responsibilities of the management towards employee development are:
- provide a well-crafted job description
- provide training required by employees to meet the basic competencies for the job
- develop a good understanding of the new competencies required by the job in the future
- explain to employees on the need to develop a training plan to acquire the new competencies for the future job
- support and guide the employees during the identification of training or learning opportunities
The responsibilities of the employees towards employee development are:
- look for learning opportunities in everyday work activities
identify goals and activities for development and prepare own development plan
Training Needs Analysis (TNA)
Training needs analysis (TNA) is a process in which the gap between the actual and the desired competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) in a job are identified. In other words, it is a process in which the company identifies the training and development needs of its employees so that they can do their job effectively.
It is through TNA that managers identify, design and/or select the right training program to meet the competencies requirements of their employees to enhance their productivity and ultimately achieve the goals and objectives set by the organization.
Analysis of training needs can be done on two levels:
- Organizational analysis – investigates the training requirements of all levels of employees in the organization to meet the current and future business plans
- Individual analysis – identifies the skills and knowledge required by a particular employee to meet his/her current job requirements and expectation
Many organizations do not conduct a thorough training needs analysis and in many instances do provide employee training based on general observation. This is not to say that every problem, issue, or gap in the organization can be solved through training – on the contrary! Most problems and issues are caused by other organizational variables such as human errors, lack of tools or materials, poor processes, etc., and are not necessarily caused by a lack of competencies of employees.
There are various methods of conducting a training needs analysis to understand and identify the competencies gap of the employee. Some of the methods are:
- direct observation
- performance appraisal review
- interviews or meetings
- assessment or TNA questionnaire
- focus groups
- customers or peers’ feedback
A sample of a TNA questionnaire or assessment is below.
Methods of Training
When planning the training programs for employees, the Management can consider the various forms or methods of training depending on the financial budget:
- Classroom training – external or in-house
- Workshops and Conferences
- Seminars or Webinars
- Computer-based Training (e-Learning)
- Field Trips
- On-the-Job Training
- Coaching or Mentoring
- Job Rotation or Enrichment
- Stimulations or Case Studies
- Online Training Videos
As mentioned earlier, different people have different learning styles and therefore, using different training methods will enable different employees to learn well. Hence, when planning for a training program, it is advisable to adopt different training methods to cater for different types of learners.
Many a times, trainers will prepare themselves well before conducting the training. They will ensure that they rehearse the session, check the facility and equipment, and know more about the participants’ backgrounds. They forget to prepare the learners or participants and that could have a major impact on the effectiveness of the training. If learners are not prepared, they will not take an interest in learning the important aspects of the training program.
Another important consideration about developing a learning culture in the organization is to ensure that employee is engaged and understands the importance of the training before the training which many organizations have failed to do so.
Pre-training engagement involves the effort the organization put into stimulating the employees prior to their attending a training program. Some of the pre-training engagement activities are as follows:
- Training Needs Analysis
Trainers must ensure that the learners or participants are attending the training as identified by their training needs analysis and it is part of their learning plan.
It is common for employees to attend training in areas that they are already competent and comfortable in as they want to keep abreast of their knowledge and skills while neglecting their areas of weaknesses. Hence, it is critical that employees improve their weaknesses first before strengthening their strong areas.
- Briefing of the Training Objectives
Always ensure that the manager briefs his/her employee on the objectives of attending the training before they attend the training. This is to ensure that the employee understands why he/she is attending the training and what outcome or result is expected from them after attending the training.
The discussion between the manager and the employee before the training is also to put in place the action plan for the employee to apply his/her newly acquired knowledge or skill on the job as practice is one of the better methods to retain the newly acquired knowledge.
- Preparation Activities
Trainers should start engaging their learners prior to the training with activities that will help to stimulate the learner’s interest in the subject or topic. Some examples of the activities are quizzes on the topic to establish the degree of understanding prior to the training, short articles or case studies of the topic, surveys on learners’ expectations of the training and queries or questions that they have on the topic, etc.
Managing the Training
During the training, there are a few areas for the trainers to take note of which will help or facilitate with the learning.
Besides what has been mentioned above, the trainer should also take into consideration the following:
• Learners or participants’ characteristics and learning style
• Training methodologies and assessment requirements
• Classroom layout plan or virtual breakout rooms
• Training materials and schedule (timetable for the day)
• Training aids – charts, games, quizzes, Q&A, etc.
It is critical for all trainers to project a high standard of professionalism in training the learners. They should be:
- Enthusiastic and friendly during the training session
- Aware of diversity and/or special needs
- Respect one another and avoid discrimination or sensitive issue such as religion, race, gender, nationality, etc.
- Approachable and ready to help and/or provide advise
- Principled and aspired to set a good example or role model for learners
To ensure that learners or participants retain the knowledge and skills taught during the training, trainers should be aware of Instructional Design Principles such as:
- Break learning content into manageable segments (or bite-size)
- Present the training program in a logical sequence (example, work process flow)
- Incorporate a variety of activities such as games, quizzes, storytelling, experience sharing, case studies, role play, etc.
- Recap and debrief the main points at the end of each segment
- Provide learners opportunity to ask questions
- Provide additional resources or links for learners to acquire additional knowledge and skills after the training
- Ensure learners evaluate the training and provide feedback at the end of the training
- Follow-up on each learner to endure that the transfer of knowledge and new skills is applied at the learner’s workplace.
Evaluation of Training
Evaluation of training is to measure and assess the effectiveness of the training which is carried out and it must be seen as part and parcel of the entire training process. The main three reasons for the need to evaluate training are:
• To justify the existence and budget of the training programs and how they contribute to the organization’s objectives and goals.
• To decide whether to continue or discontinue the training programs.
• To gain information on how to improve future training programs.
Four Levels of Evaluation
The four levels of evaluation represent a sequence of ways to evaluate training and each level is important and has an impact on the next level. As the evaluation of the training program moves from one level to another, the process becomes more difficult and time-consuming, but the information collected become more valuable. None of the levels should be bypassed.
The four levels of evaluation are:
- Learner’s Reaction
Evaluation at this level measure how well the learners react to the training. Learners’ opinions and feedback are collected either during or at the end of the training program about the followings:
- training content – relevant, amount of information and usefulness
- method of presentation – stimulating, participative and reinforcing
- trainer – knowledgeable, entertaining, and professional
- administrative – material, classroom layout, equipment, and schedule
- Learning Gained
What principles, facts, and techniques were learned by the participants? This can be done or achieved by learners giving feedback, doing exercises, taking an assessment or a test/examination, on-the-job application and/or interaction with others.
- Job Behavior Change
What changes in the job behavior of the learner after the training? Evaluation at this level is especially important because training would be of no use if knowledge, skills, and attitudes acquired are not put into practice.
- Performance or Result
What are the tangible results of the training program in terms of reduced costs, improved quality, higher productivity, improved workflow, increased quantity, less wastage or errors, and so on.
A Few Tips
One of the common issues faced by organizations providing learning and training opportunities to their employees is the departure of the employee immediately or soon after the training thereby causing financial losses to the company as well as the opportunity to transfer the knowledge to other employees within the organization.
One way of preventing such occurrences is to impose a training bond on employees who are sponsored to attend training programs. However, if an organization would like to develop a learning culture within itself, then, implementing a training bond may not be readily acceptable to employees and may destroy the learning culture in the organization.
My recommendation is that a training bond can be instituted in an organization wanting to develop a learning culture, but it must be done with great care. It should not be for each employee who is required to attend a training. Training bonds should only be for new employees who have not been confirmed in the organization but are required to undergo training, and the training costs must be a significantly high amount. Existing employees should be exempted from the training bond as they have proven their loyalty to the organization through their length of service.
A matrix can be drawn to institute the training bond.
A sample of the training bond is below.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who should be doing the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) for each employee?
It should be a joint responsibility between the employee’s manager and the Training personnel in-charge. The Training personnel’s responsibility is to ensure that the employee’s manager does the training needs analysis objectively and to assist the line manager to identify suitable training programs for the employee after the TNA has been completed.
Training needs analysis should be done at least once a year before the budgeting process commences.
2. How do we select the appropriate training program for the employees?
There are many training vendors available in the market and many of them offer a variety of different training programs from a specific technical or functional area to a soft skill program.
However, the best training vendor is internal employees if they are subject matter experts and have an interest in training others. Having internal employees as a trainer will enable them to continue their learning as teaching others is one of the training methods to upgrade and retain knowledge and skills.
When selecting external training vendors, please take into consideration the followings:
- Content of the training program
- Activities and assessments during the training
- Trainer’s background and knowledge of the subject
- Training methodology
- Past participants’ feedback and reviews.
3. What is the budget or training hours to allocate to each employee annually?
There is no fixed answer to this question as it very much depends on the financial standing of the organization and the commitment of the employees. The median annual training hours per employee in Singapore for professional, managerial, executives and technical is about 26 hours.
However, it is the quality of the training that is important rather than the time spent on training. There are many organizations that may have less than the medial annual training hours because the hours on employee’s self-learning are not recorded. For example, on-the-job learning through coaching, reading a book, watching training video during rest period, etc.
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