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Such training can be effective, but it depends on the learning style of the trainees. This is an area where training design can be particularly challenging. Many people have different learning styles, so group training is likely more effective with some people and less effective with others. Many people require a more hands-on approach to their training, the result being that they might struggle with classroom training. It is important in training design that the predominant learning style of the trainees is taken into account.
Transfer to the Job
Experiential training is often favored because it is believed that this form of training is easier to transfer to the job. When people have walked through a scenario, they find it easier to see that same scenario when they are working. Group training is also fairly effective at this, because other members of the group can correct one's behavior, when they identify that a person is not following through on the training. Group members are often willing to help and to enforce the norms and practices that were in the training program.
Grossman and Salas (2011) found three key variables were highly correlated with transfer to the job -- support, opportunity to perform and follow-up. Group training is effective because it is tied to support. The group acts as a support for the employees. Management can serve this function, but there are often few managers per employee so there are fewer opportunities to provide support. The nature of the support also matters -- employees need to feel support more than just occasionally, and it helps if it comes from peers rather than bosses.
The opportunity to perform is also important. When you train somebody you have to give them the opportunity to put that training into practice. If this does not happen, transfer will be poor, if there is a lag between the training and the point where they employee can actually put that training into practice. It would be expected that the employee would lose some of that knowledge over the lag time. Giving the employee an opportunity to put his or her training into practice right away is important.
Lastly, transfer is more effective when there is follow-up. The follow-up does not need to take the same formal format as the initial training, but there should be some follow-up. It is important to understand that transfer is unlikely to be 100% complete just based on training alone - managerial follow-up provides the opportunity to identify where transfer is less than 100%, and to remedy that, and also to provide an opportunity for the employees to give feedback.
There are a number of ways for companies to evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs. For this there are formalized models such as the Kirkpatrick model, which consists of evaluating the employee reactions to the training (or they excited, confused, disenchanted?), learning, behavior and results. The learning can be tested, for example at the end of the training to understand the degree to which the lesson have sunk in. Behavior is a deeper level of evaluation, because it tests not only how much was learned but how much of that learning was actually transferred to the job. The behavior is therefore a function of both learning and transfer, and knowing both learning and behavior allows companies to measure the effectiveness of their knowledge transfer programs. The final component of the Kirkpatrick model is in the results. For some forms of training this is easy -- the company needs to find the right metrics, but it should have been training to specific objectives from the outset. Thus, training evaluations should consist of direct feedback from trainees, testing at the end of the training, follow-up feedback from employees and managers and finally an examination of the outcomes to see if the training program helped the company to meet its needs.
Succession planning is a training issue, in particular at the upper levels of management. These roles can be quite complex, and it is necessary that the people who are being groomed for this roles are fully trained on the skills they will need. Many academics and practitioners therefore argue that succession planning needs to be a formal practice within the organization. Finding the right successor appears to be the most important variable. In many organizations, it is found that push from the successor rather than pull from the incumbent is critical to succession (Sharma, Chrisman & Chua, 2003). This means that the successor needs to be given the key training well before they are slated to take over. Doing so provides an opportunity for the successor to put some of that training into practice -- opportunity to perform -- and for the successor to receive feedback from the incumbent -- follow-up. By incorporating the classic training and development processes to succession planning, a company can ensure a smoother transition between leaders.
Managerial Development Programs
In contrast to basic training program, managerial development programs are less focused on skills and more on attributes and traits. This relates to leadership trait theory. In most companies, there is the belief that leaders have certain traits and most companies today recognize that those traits can be taught or trained. There are a number of different managerial development interventions that are used in business, including feedback, developmental relationships (mentoring), on-the-job experiences, and formal training. On the job experiences might include giving somebody a job that they have never done before and allowing them to take charge and work out the problems.
The most effective of these has been found to be training programs, especially those with knowledge outcomes (leadership theory, motivation, etc.). Such programs help prospective managers to build the skills that they need (Collins, 2002). While the other forms of training all contribute, there are limitations that constrain their effectiveness. For example, mentoring is usually done between senior and junior personnel -- the junior people gain from this but they cannot directly apply all that they have learned because their roles within the organization are quite a bit different from those of their mentors. Feedback is too ad hoc to be as effective as a well-designed training program. It is difficult to measure the role that on-the-job experiences play, and they are not part of any training and development program anyway.
Training and development is increasingly recognized as a key source of sustainable competitive advantage for organizations. As a result, these organizations are instituting formal training programs. The most effective of such programs are those that teach employees in a way that best fits with the employees' learning style. Moreover, managers need to be aware that an effective training and development program is not just in the training design. The program needs to have methods for transfer to the job -- knowing the pitfalls that exist that can undermine such transfer is an important element in ensuring the most effective transfer. Furthermore, evaluation is another critical element of training. It is imperative that companies are able to understand whether or not their training programs are effective so that they can improve on these programs if necessary. Lastly, an organization is likely to be successful if it can apply these lessons across the entire organization, even to leadership succession and managerial training programs.
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