Many companies frequently face the necessity to reconsider their approach to the system of HR training, since far not always the invested means lead to positive results. For successful enterprise activity it is not sufficient to direct employees on training and to hope, that they will learn something. Companies which always ready for changes and overcoming difficulties should actively, but rationally develop their most valuable resource – human. The efficiency of the company’s activity depends not only on the quantity of human resources, but also on the correspondence of the qualifications and skills of the employees with the taken positions.
Training personnel in modern organizations became a vital necessity, as the industry, the knowledge and the technology are developing so fast that it becomes impossible in the process of career development to use only the knowledge acquired in schools or higher educational institutions. In that sense, the continuous personnel training in modern management can be considered not only and not as much as a retraining, due to their qualifications becoming old, rather than a planned process of a systematic professional development, based on development predictions, and a transition to more difficult, and multisectoral professional activity.
In that sense, such transition would be discussed in this paper, in the context of the case study of Ford Australia, where the potential learning strategies will be presented as recommendations to help establishing the learning progression for engineers of Ford Australia seeking senior management positions.
Assessing strategic management it could be said that it is directed toward an effective and efficient usage of the company’s recourses to achieve long-term goals. In that sense, the aforementioned statement deals not with a definition of strategic management, but rather with its main goal, i.e. the provision of the material, technological, informational, financial, and human resources which will provide the solution for these strategic tasks.
Taking human resources as the main aspect of this report, it can be seen that the strategic task of Ford Australia could be assumed to be reducing the cost of managerial expenses for the whole production. In that regard training need should be established in order to fulfill the strategic plans of the organization. In that sense two needs can be identified in the organization, one of which is the training need of the organization, i.e. “the requirements to meet the organization’s objective, which in the case of Ford Australia can be characterized as reducing the reducing the managerial expenses to increase profit and loosening cost constraints.
Another training need is the training need of individual employees, which can be both organizational and individual, is the training for engineers seeking managerial positions. It can be seen that both needs coincide in perspective where the desire to reach managerial positions by engineers will meet the objective of reducing the costs of having two separate job positions.
As the needs are associated with human resources, and there is an existent gap in the KSAs of engineers for those positions, a method of assessing and identifying this gap is Human Resource Development Needs Identification (HRDNI). A training need analysis (TNA) could be implemented to assess the skills and the knowledge available within the engineers’ current field of work and the skills and the knowledge require for managerial positions. Relating HRDNI and TNA, it can be outlined that TNA is one of the tools according to which HRDI can be used.
In general, management can be identified as “a set of competencies, attitudes, and qualities broadly distributed throughout the organization.” Assigning the set of managerial competencies, they are based on the same set in both technical and managerial positions, i.e. knowledge skills, and attitudes. The knowledge field consists of a particular theoretical framework, i.e. observations, concepts, principles, and theories, which can be outlined in management as a discipline.
The field of skills is more specific consisting of such groups as administrative, technical, and interpersonal. Interpersonal skills include, but not limited to leadership, motivation, communication, coaching and appraising performance, handling power and conflict management.
The attitude field might be summarized as strong will to manage, strong need to power, and strong capacity for empathy. By conducting a survey as a technical need analysis, the predicted outcome is the gap in interpersonal skills as well as the difference in the knowledge base of technicians and managers. The surveys were based on a task analysis process, where the major task of managers working with people, providing planning, organization and control which unlike pure technical positions should be provided even with inexact and incomplete input. Accordingly, the objectives can be established as following:
- Developing interpersonal skills
- Developing according attitude
- Expand the knowledge base.
Analyzing and identifying the development needs, is a choice that should be made of the strategy that should optimally promote the set objectives of the company. The learning activities can be divided between different profiles. Structured learning can be defined as a learning that takes place “in a classroom, facilitated by trainers, controlled by experts and structured. Unstructured learning can be defined as a liberal learning program where individual workers create their set of learning objectives. A semi-structured learning can be defined as a combination of the previous two, where some of the tasks are learner’s responsibility while others remain within the trainer competence, where examples of semi-structured strategies might include discussions, role play, case studies and etc.
Accordingly, different learning objective will require using different learning strategy within a different profile. Taking the objective of expanding the knowledge base, it can be seen that theoretical framework are more of a set of objectives that can be put for the engineers which they should accomplish.
In that sense the structured approach can be appropriate, as it does not consider individual characteristics of the employees, rather than a general curriculum. In that regard the trainer consequently is free to implement various strategies within the aforementioned approach. As the theoretical work should be implemented in practice, adult learning should be emphasized during the process, where the basic principles of adult learning can be summarized as:
- Relevancy to real life situations where the motivation of the learner could be enhanced by linking to real life situations. In the context of Ford Australia, these real cases might be of a technical nature.
- Utilizing the adult knowledge. In the case of the engineers, this can be explained through the apparent difference in teaching students and people who already have a degree, knowledge and work experience that should be utilized in the process.
- Emphasizing responsibility in returning the received knowledge to the operational site.
Interpersonal skills, on the other hand might be taught as semi-structured approach where the responsibilities can be divided and the diversity of semi-structured strategies can be effectively utilized. Such diversity can be implemented through games, role play and simulations, where each of the mentioned can “provide an environment in which learners can acquire and practice skills in decision making, communications, interpersonal behaviours, problem solving and so forth…” In that regard, role play can be specifically outlined as they are often “used in management development and people-related HRD for the purposes of interpersonal skill development. “
For the attitude development the unstructured approach can be more appropriate serving on an individual basis for each learner. In that sense, coaching as learning strategy can be implemented, where each learner will proceed through an assessment procedure after which an action plan will be developed base on individual characteristics of each of the engineers. Coaching can be defined as the “process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to develop themselves and become more effective.” (Bartlett, 2007, p. 91)
The action plan will consist of conducting a series of interviews in order to discuss and develop the areas which would be outlined in the assessment. “The one-on-one interview is a powerful and important coaching skill, because it sets the scene for most of the coaching that will follow.” The conversation that should be held over several sessions will be concerned on the areas of attitudes outlined previously, i.e. strong will to manage, strong need to power, and strong capacity for empathy.
In general, the approaches might be intersected and varied within each objective, where for example some of the semi-structured learning strategies can be implemented during structured training sessions and vice versa.
In order to justify the costs associated with the implemented training and development, evaluative methods should be applied in order to assess the outcomes on the personnel and the benefits for the organization. Usually, in evaluating training, it can be said that the company tends to establish a particular pattern influenced by the choice of the strategies and methods used. Upon the termination of the learning process it is important to evaluate its efficiency. In that regard, it is necessary to understand, whether the established objects were reached, to examine the quality of the learning, to calculate the efficiency of expenses on learning and define its practical value – how successful are the new knowledge and skills applied in the workplace.
The results of the evaluation are important for perfection of the program of a concrete training, and also for further planning of professional training of the employees and the further development of the system in the company as a whole.
If prior to the beginning of the training accurate techniques and criteria of its evaluation were not developed, the training most likely will prove inefficient. Techniques and criteria are prepared by the HR developer (direct heads of the future participants are often involved as well); it is necessary to acquaint the employees chosen for the training, and their direct heads with these techniques and criteria. For today, as an initial basis for the construction of many systems of the evaluation of a learning efficiency is Kirkpatrick’s four levels model proposed by the author in 1959. The researcher allocated four levels of estimation:
- Reaction – at this level assessing the strong and the weak sides of the training implies receiving a feedback, which might include but not limited to surveys, group discussions, and etc.
- Learning – The key question is what the participants has learned, and thus at this level the degree to which the skills and the knowledge were developed is evaluated. This level might imply such methods as tests, quizzes, observations, and etc, where the evaluation might be conducted both as group and individually.
- Behaviour – at this level the evaluation is concerned with the effectiveness form using the knowledge and skills at the work place. Methods of evaluation might include assessments, examinations, and others.
- Outcomes – the key question at this level is: what are the business outcomes for such training, which in the case of Ford Australia can be related to the established strategy of reducing costs; “Effective evaluation processes including cost-benefit analysis need to be introduced.” It will be difficult to isolate a particular influence of the training programs; nevertheless, many indicators can be analyzed in terms assessing effectiveness of the program.
Proceeding through the levels, the process of evaluation can become more difficult and consuming. The fourth level can provide more information and accordingly is the most consuming of other levels, where depending on the company, assessing effectiveness can be performed on the first level. For the case of Ford Australia it can be said that the levels that should be considered are two and three.
Summarizing the report, it can be seen that the predicted outcome of implementing the training program for the engineers in Ford Australia is positive. Human resources are a competitive advantage in the growing market, and in that sense, the field of HDR is directed toward protecting this advantage by investing in its learning and training. From the presented study, the need for training was a necessity where keeping the same amount of personnel the company could increase its revenue and invest in the staff. Thus, setting the definition for HDR in terms of its purpose and outcomes, it is a process of developing and/or unleashing human expertise through organization development and personnel training and development for the purpose of improving performance.
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