Informal And Formal Training, Development Essay, Research Paper
Informal and Formal Training and Development
Informal Training and Development
Informal training and development is rather casual and incidental. Typically, there are no specified training goals as such, nor are their ways to evaluate if the training actually accomplished these goals or not. This type of training and development occurs so naturally that many people probably aren’t aware that they’re in a training experience at all. Probably the most prominent form of informal training is learning from experience on the job. Examples are informal discussions among employees about a certain topic, book discussion groups, and reading newspaper and journal articles about a topic. A more recent approach is sending employees to hear prominent speakers, sometimes affectionately called “the parade of stars”.
Informal training is less effective than formal training if one should intentionally be learning a specific area of knowledge or skill in a timely fashion. Hardly any thought is put into what learning is to occur and whether that learning occurred or not. (However, this form of training often provides the deepest and richest learning because this form is what occurs naturally in life.)
Formal Training and Development
Formal training is based on some standard “form”. Formal training might include:
a) declaring certain learning objectives (or an extent of knowledge, skills or abilities that will be reached by learners at the end of the training),
b) using a variety of learning methods to reach the objectives and then
b) applying some kind(s) of evaluation activities at the end of the training.
The methods and means of evaluation might closely associate with the learning objectives, or might not. For example, courses, seminars and workshops often have a form — but it’s arguable whether or not their training methods and evaluation methods actually assess whether the objectives have been met or not.
Formal, Systematic Training and Development
Systematic, formal training involves carefully proceeding through the following phases:
a) Assessing what knowledge, skills and /or abilities are needed by learners;
b) Designing the training, including identifying learning goals and
associated objectives, training methods to reach the objectives, and means to carefully evaluate whether the objectives have been reached or not;
c) Developing the training methods and materials;
d) Implementing the training; and
e) Evaluating whether objectives have been reached or not, in addition to the quality of the training methods and materials themselves
A systematic approach is goal-oriented (hopefully, to produce results for the organization and/or learners), with the results of each phase being used by the next phase. Typically, each phase provides ongoing evaluation feedback to other phases in order to improve the overall system’s process.
Note, again, that not all formal methods are systematic. Some courses, workshops, and other training sessions have goals, methods and evaluation, but they are not aligned, or even integrated. The methods, in total, do not guide the learner toward achieving the training goal. The evaluations are too often of how a learner feels about the learning experience, rather than of how well the learning experience achieved the goal of the training.
Self-Directed and “Other-Directed” Training
Self-directed training includes the learner making the decisions about what training and development experiences will occur and how. Self-directed training seems to be more popular of late. Note that one can pursue a self-directed approach to informal or formal training. For example, self-directed, informal training might include examples of informal training listed above (book discussion groups, etc.), as long as the learner chose the activities and topics themselves, either for professional or personal reasons. Self-directed, formal training includes the learner’s selecting and carrying out their own learning goals, objectives, methods and means to verifying that the goals were met.
Other-directed, formal training includes where someone other than the learner specifies the training goals will be met in training, how those goals will be met and how evaluation will occur to verify that the goals were met. This form of learning is probably the most recognized because it includes the approach to learning as used in universities, colleges and
training centres. This form of learning typically grants diplomas and certificates. Note that this form of training, although readily available in
universities, etc., is usually somewhat “generic”, that is, the program is geared to accommodate the needs of the most learners and not be customized to any one learner. Therefore, a learner may pay tuition fees to learn knowledge and skills that he or she may not really need.
Another form of “other-directed’, formal training is employee development plans. The plans identify performance goals, how the goals will be reached, by when and who will verify their accomplishment.
“Other-directed’, formal training can be highly effective for helping learners gain desired areas of knowledge and skills in a timely fashion. A drawback is that learners can become somewhat passive, counting on the “expert” to show them what they should be doing and when.
Many managers, including human resources directors, mistakenly believe that employee motivation can be won through monetary rewards or other perks. They learn soon enough that such perks are taken for granted and that money is not the key to employee motivation. A professional and unified management, in a good work environment, is the basis on which to build employee motivation.
While high employee turnover reflects on low morale and lack of motivation, when seen from another angle, the absence of turnover quickly results in de-motivation since the possibility of motion and forward-motion is taken away from employees. It is against human nature to remain static, performing the same duties day in, day out, without expectations of change in routine or opportunities for advancement. Following a reading or lecture on the subject, managers sometimes implement “job enrichment” in a misguided manner, adding un-rewarded responsibilities on the shoulders of their supervisors and employees. This results in a feeling of exploitation and has the reverse of the intended effect.
An effective training technique, which results in motivation, is cross training, when implemented horizontally, upward and downward. Department heads, assistants and employees can cross-train in different departments or within the department itself. With background support, employees can have a one-day training in the role of department head
(”King for the Day”). When a General Manager is away, department heads can take roles replacing him, which is a form of cross training.
This technique achieves the following objectives:
? Prevents stagnation
? Offers a learning and professional development opportunity
? Improves understanding of the different departments and the company as a whole
? Leads to better coordination and teamwork
? Erases differences, enmity and unhealthy competition
? Increases knowledge, know-how, skills and work performance
? Improves overall motivation
? Leads to the sharing of organizational goals and objectives.
Sending people to work in another department at a moment’s notice is not what cross training is about. This has to be an effective planned process. Employees must “buy” into the idea, be encouraged to give feedback and make suggestions for improvement. They become “partners”. Departmental communications meetings can be used to share lessons learned. When employees think “the grass is greener on the other side of the lawn” they soon realize their mistake after exposure to other departments. They return to their job with a better attitude.
Cross training can be used to “shake up” supervisors or employees who have lapsed into poor performance. Upon being moved to a different position or department, albeit temporarily, they hear “warning bells”, shape up and usually return to their positions as exemplary performers.
Depending on the budget at hand and the objectives to be achieved, the time for cross training can vary from one day to a week or more. Details must be coordinated with the “receiving” department head. The trainee is incorporated within the department’s activities for the duration of the cross training (briefings, meetings, or obligations).
A more sophisticated form of cross training is job rotation, which usually involves extended periods (from one month to six months). With job rotation, the employee’s role is of a different nature. He is not considered as trainee, but is responsible over certain job functions, for which he has to prove himself.
Both cross-training and job rotation create a team of workers who are more knowledgeable, can easily replace each other when needed and who gain new confidence regarding their professional expertise. These two techniques lead to great motivation throughout the company.
Motivation comes from within, from a person’s own psyche, the innermost recesses of the soul, secret desires and deep-rooted needs which motivate, “push” us towards their satisfaction. What a manager can do is create an environment in which employees can feel motivated.
Many people go through life obscuring their intrinsic nature, unaware of their “true calling”, their “motivations”. People abandoned early dreams to deal with life’s realities and vicissitudes. They had to conform to society, family, the corporate world and other circles, each of which dictates its code of conduct: how to think, feel, eat, speak, behave and dress. Their true selves disappear, and get buried. It is only by triggering and bringing out into the light people’s intrinsic nature, gifts and secret desires that we give them the opportunity to feel motivated. This is no attempt at playing the psychologist, but a rough explanation of some basic precepts.
However deep and complex human nature is, all humans share basic needs that must be addressed, ranging from shelter to more sophisticated drives. In his hierarchy of needs, Abraham Maslow shows the gradual escalation of workers’ drives and motivations in this pyramid:
MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
Applied to workers, it translates as follows:
Basic physical needs: the ability to acquire food, shelter, clothing and other basics to survive
A safe and non-threatening work environment, job security, safe equipment and installations
Contact and friendship with fellow-workers, social activities and opportunities
Recognition, acknowledgment, rewards
Realizing one’s dreams, using one’s gifts, talents and potential.
Once basic needs are satisfied, people want more. Progress is the essence of human nature. When people’s basic needs are addressed, their mind and soul, free of threat and insecurity, open up to some of their innermost drives. People are often confused between “superficial wants” and “inner drives.” Some individuals are in pursuit of material luxury, while others pursue their thirst for knowledge, artistic expression, a need to lead or help others, play the hero or shine in society.
We cannot play the role of psychologists or psychoanalysts. However, it benefits the company if we discover who every worker is, his/her drives, special gifts, abilities, hopes and plans for the future. If we take time to discover this, understand what makes this person “tick”, we will be able to utilize this worker in the position, which is the best “fit”, a step ahead towards employee motivation. We must also clarify management values, design and implement effective policies and techniques.
Every employee has a need for self-expression, entertains plans for professional development and career advancement, and wishes to be
accepted as “family member”, feel respect towards management and pride in his/her work, receive acknowledgment and reward, be listened to and trusted. Through strategic communications (including meetings) our duty is to share with employees’ company goals, market, industry and business information and future plans, and invite employees to give feedback. We must learn how to place people in a role where they can use their abilities
and make progress towards the realization of personal goals. Misplacements can cause a company substantial financial loss due to turnover, accidents, lawsuits, rebates, refunds, loss of customers and sales.
We must learn how to create a corporate culture and a supportive work environment. This is done through leadership and management excellence, a human approach, effective human resources strategies, “positive discipline”, fair and just treatment to all, clearly defined policies, career and personal development training programs (including cross-training and job rotation), career pathing, organizational communications, tools to facilitate communication, team assignments, reward programs, objective appraisals, adequate pay, benefits and company activities.
It is important for employees to know that management is aware of their existence, recognizes them, remembers their names and greets them. Managers who fail to greet employees or respond to greetings lead to a high degree of de-motivation, lack of trust and loyalty.
Individuals and departments need to be thanked for hard work and special feats and be rewarded for contributions. Managers who encourage employees to use initiative and set higher challenges for themselves achieve more positive results than those who cause employees to compete with each other. Personal accomplishments at the expense of others defeats teamwork and negatively affect service to customers. Managers can win over employees’ loyalty and best input by treating employees as “partners” by showing care, listening and sharing.
In order to achieve long-term results through training, we must broaden our vision to include people development as part of our strategic planning. Although training covers a broad range of subjects under the three main categories (skills, attitude, knowledge), using the term “training” without linking it to “development” narrows our concept of the training function and leads us to failure.
When we limit our thinking, we fall into the trap of:
? Classifying people into lots and categories
? Thinking of “trainees” as robots expected to perform a job function
? Dismissing the individual characteristics of people and the roles they play
? Focusing only on “what needs to be done” without adequately preparing the trainees involved to accept and internalise what is being taught.
We are dealing with human thoughts, feelings and reactions, which must be given equal (if not more) attention than to the skill itself. We thus create a double-focus: people development and skills training. These two simultaneous objectives will give us the right balance and guide our actions to reach our goal.
To clarify our training and development objectives, and identify our criteria for success, we must ask ourselves a few questions:
? Do we expect an automatic, faultless job performance?
? Does attitude count?
? Does goodwill count?
? Do loyalty and dedication count?
? Does goal-sharing count?
? Does motivation count?
? Do general knowledge and know-how count?
? Do people-skills count?
? Does initiative count?
? Does a learning attitude count?
? Does a sense of responsibility count?
? Do team efforts count?
? Do good work relations count?
? Does creative input count?
? Do we want employees to feel proud of their role and contribution?
How can we expect such qualities and behaviour if we consider and treat our personnel as “skills performers”? However, we could achieve the desired results if we address the personal development needs of the employees involved.
When we plan for both “training” and “development”, we achieve a proper balance between the needs of the company and those of the trainees. The synergy created takes us to new levels, to a continuing trend of company growth.
Our consideration of the people involved results in work motivation, goal sharing, and a sense of partnership. Not only do the employee-trainees perform at the desired levels, but they offer to the company and its customers their hidden individual gifts and talents, and this reflects itself in the quality of service. Customers feel and recognize efficient performance, motivation and teamwork. They become loyal customers.
We can learn from the case of a small restaurant operator who had become desperate at the negligent attitude of his servers, resulting in customer complaints. He decided to seek professional expertise to help him replace his employees with “motivated, trained” people fresh out of a waiter’s training school.