The objectives of training include enhancement of knowledge, skills and attitude. Knowledge is the body of facts and principles accumulated my mankind in course of time. It is a complex of several related ideas. According to a working definition, knowledge is the matrix of impressions within which the individual situates newly acquired information (Clarke, 2001). From a business perspective, knowledge supports people to analyze situations, make judgments and take decisions, in the process telling what is to done, why, how, where, when and who should perform the actions towards achieving organizational goals. Skill is the ability to transform knowledge into action; it refers to the ability of people to use knowledge effectively and readily to perform desired actions and specific tasks. Skill is also defined as the ability to do something well from talent, training or practice.
The essential difference is that knowledge is to know about things, while skill is the ability to perform a specific task, which arises from the knowledge related to the particular task. Attitude is defined as a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways. According to Psychologist Allport's widely used definition, attitude is "a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual's response to all objects and situations with which it is related." (Defining an Attitude) The central concept of attitude, unlike knowledge and skill, is that it is related to some emotional, perceptual, motivational or cognitive aspect of individuals. In other words, attitude is part of the general way an individual experiences and reacts to the work and imply evaluation and feeling. (Defining an Attitude)
Learning organizations and its components:
Learning organizations consistently look to improve the levels of knowledge, skills and attitudes among its workforce. A formal definition of the term learning organization has often proved to be elusive. One definition suggests that the learning organization has "an ingrained philosophy for anticipating, reacting and responding to change, complexity and uncertainty (Malhotra, 1996). In a better definition, "learning organizations are not only capable of learning, but also of learning to learn. They are not only able to become competent but also have the ability to remain competent." (Swieringa & Wierdsma, 1992). The term learning organization gained popularity, thanks to its extensive treatment by Senge (Senge, 1990), who propounded that the organization is becoming a new religion by itself and it is imperative that members give their heart and soul for the cause of the organization.
Learning organizations differ from traditional ones in many aspects and it requires fundamental changes in behavior and attitude. For example, a learning organization takes risks, adapts working practices, learns from mistakes, encourages experimentation, promotes devolution of power, encourages questioning from workforce, works across departmental boundaries, depends on trust, promotes learning for everyone and views staff as resource. Many of these traits are the very opposite of traditional practices and hence, it takes a lot to attain the status of a learning organization. Continual change is the essence of developing a learning organization, which stems from structural as well as cultural changes at all levels, including the top management. (Lassey, 1998)
The five components of a learning organization are systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building a shared vision and team learning (Senge, 1990). Systems thinking are the conceptual framework that provides links between the units and members. This approach considers the organizational system as a whole and covers the results that flow out of the members' ideas and actions. Personal mastery is the ability of the individuals to enhance performance by raising their job performance levels depending on the requirements. A learning organization will attach great importance to personal mastery and promote conditions for individuals to reach their maximum potential and become experts. This also opens up avenues for creative thinking, leading to innovative solutions and practices and hence better performance.
Mental models approach focuses on how the members approach their work and the social aspects of work life. It deals with the relationships of individuals with colleagues, customers, vendors and the organization itself. The typical learning organization makes effort to align with the social relationships of the members and by doing it right, can reap the benefits in terms of enhanced image. Shared vision is the collective vision of members, which binds them to act and perform as teams and share the benefits. This approach recognizes the contribution of individual members and is thus a motivating factor for individuals to improve performance levels. Team learning is about providing the platform for individuals to work and learn together and try innovative practices for improving performance and results.
It is one of the key factors leading to the development of successful learning organization. (Lassey, 1998). It is an external human behavior and refers to the willingness to do some action and is conditioned by this action's ability to satisfy some needs for the concerned individuals. It is believed that people who are "motivated" exert a greater effort than those who are not. Motivation is about participation in decision making, working in groups, greater responsibility and is driven by the need for achievement, rewards and recognition. Hence, it is one of the factors that can hence performance and hence is an important part of training. Motivational techniques can be either negative or positive.
The negative approach is to reinforce the need for change in behavior or attitude by inflicting punishment. The positive approach is to appreciate or reward the employee for exhibiting certain types of behavior at the work place. Both the techniques have their own pros and cons. However, it is generally conceded that positive reinforcement promotes motivation and provides long-term benefits to the organization. Negative technique may produce instant results, but can lead to disagreeable situations at a later point in time. This is illustrated by the following examples:
As the Sales Manager of a leading Fast Moving Consumer Goods company, I was responsible for the sales of an entire region. I had six sales representatives reporting to me; they were generally good and experienced in their territories. For a certain period, I noticed that one employee was not performing at his usual level as he failed to make the required number of calls. However, he just managed to meet the minimum target level and thus gave no room for official action. After some days, I called him to my office and reprimanded over his recent actions, telling him in clear terms that he should stick to the schedule that I had made for him. I did not want to hear his explanations and expected immediate corrective action. To reinforce the fact, I assigned him new targets and also cut down his performance allowance for the next three months. In the next month, the salesman turned up better sales figures but in the second month, he sent in his resignation note. I was shocked to lose a good salesman and knew for certain that my action of punishing him was responsible for his drastic action.
As the competition was growing, I started focussing more and more on high volume customers who contributed to bulk of the sales. This meant that I had little or no time for customers who bought in small lots or new customers who did not guarantee a minimum volume. While I did manage to increase sales, I could not develop new customers for want of time. One day, as I was in a meeting with my General Manager, my assistant called in and told me that a particular customer had visited to see me. I knew his requirement was not large and hence instructed my assistant to meet him and send him off.
As the assistant prepared to leave, the General Manager called out and said that he would meet the customer along with me. We met him for a few minutes, discussed his requirements and promised to support him. The General Manager later pointed out that all customers must be treated equally and none should suffer for want of our attention. He also sent me to a training program on customer relationship management, which gave me deep insights on customer development and retention. I was armed with better knowledge and skills to handle customers and from then on, I never ignored any customer.
Training Needs Analysis:
It is an accepted fact that knowledge, skills, attitude and motivation can be enhanced by training. However, one of the import and often difficult tasks is to assess the training needs and requirements. Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is the search for solutions in a systematic manner regarding how to influence and to improve upon the performance of organizations. It usually comes into the picture, when organizations are forced to investigate the nature of unresolved problems and identify satisfactory solutions. The need for TNA primarily arises when there is a skill or performance gap, that is, when…