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We will now consider how people should be trained and the various techniques or strategies that may be used.
The systematic training cycle
All the people who are involved in training and development at work need to be aware of the key stages in the training process. This is referred to as the training cycle.
The training cycle
Stage 1: Assessing the training needs;
Stage 2: Planning the training;
Stage 3: Carrying out the training;
Stage 4: Evaluating the training.
Assessing the training needs
It is important for organizations to plan the training that employees may need. While there is much to be gained from training in terms of improved skills and productivity for the workforce, it is nevertheless a costly activity, so it is important to provide training of the right type for the people who need it.
An understanding of how the individuals or groups learn, and their preferred styles of learning, is important to identify first whether training is needed at all. There is little point in designing a program that will suit the individualsâ€™ learning styles if there is no need for training.
This stage of the training cycle is referred to as assessing training needs. Training needs can be assessed in many ways, but one of the easiest ways is to examine the job that has to be done and the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to do it.
Job analysis needs to be undertaken to establish what is involved in the job. The usual result of job analysis is a job description, and a training specification can be written from this.
Once the organisation knows the standard of work it needs from the employee, the next stage is to assess the work of the employee concerned and see the extent to which they meet those standards. This can be part of the appraisal process, where the employee and their manager have together identified an area where further work is needed.
It could also be assessed by asking the person/people concerned what training they feel they need, by using questionnaires, or by an analysis of mistakes. If there are any gaps where they do not meet these standards then there is a possible need for training to help to close the gaps, and so a training need has been identified.
Planning the training
Once a training need has been identified, there are a number of choices to be made about how the training should be carried out. Firstly, should the training be carried out in the organisation or by an external organisation? Secondly, the trainer needs to consider which training techniques should actually be used, and thirdly, the training program needs to be designed.
Once the decision has been made about where the training is to take place, it is also important to decide on the most appropriate training techniques to use. The training method used must be chosen to be appropriate for the particular training need that has been identified.
Trainers and individual learners now have a choice of using e-learning techniques. E-learning includes computer-based training and learning, technology-based training and learning and web-based training and learning.
It may be integrated alongside traditional learning as a support mechanism, or be used totally separately as part of distance learning/open learning course. Some courses are delivered totally by e-learning methods and this makes them easily accessible to people in any part of the world at any time.
One advantage is that individuals, so long as they have access to the technology, should be able to choose when, where and what they learn and this should increase opportunities for learning. Support is provided by chat rooms, discussion groups and on-line tutoring with everyone involved able to respond at a time is convenient.
Other approaches include virtual classrooms, audio-visual conferencing and two-way live satellite broadcasts provide immediate feedback so trainers and trainees can interact with each other as almost as quickly as they would in a more traditional classroom situation.
Other training techniques
- Lecture: this is suitable when a large amount of information needs to be given to a large number of people at the same time. The information can be prepared in advance but a disadvantage is the lack of preparation from the audience;
— Role play: here a small group of people have the chance to act as if they were in a real work situation. They have a problem/situation to deal with which would be similar to a situation that they might experience at work. They can practice their responses and receive help and support from the trainer and from others in the group. This can help in developing awareness of interpersonal skills and can give confidence, as there is an opportunity to practise skills in a protected environment where it does not matter if mistakes are made. There can sometimes be a problem if the role play is not taken seriously or if trainees are too nervous or embarrassed to perform their roles;
— Group discussion: this can lead to a free exchange of knowledge, ideas and opinions on a particular subject among the trainees and the trainer with the opportunity to air various viewpoints. It can be useful when there are varying opinions about an issue, or a range of ways in which as situation could be handled. There is a danger that the trainees may wander too far from the subject if it is not handled skillfully by the trainer, and that important points may not get discussed;
— Video or film: these can be used to show a real situation, or to give information to several people at once. They can show examples of good and bad use of interpersonal skills to a large number of people at once and be used as the basis for a group discussion. They do not demand much involvement from the audience although the trainer could add to this by use of discussion or questions after each showing;
— Project: normally a task is set by the trainer which will give an individual/group general guidelines to work to, but will also leave a great deal of scope for them to show creativity/initiative. This is a good way of stimulating creativity/initiative but, in order to do so, the project has to be about something that will interest the trainee;
— Case study: a case study is a history of some event/situation in which relevant details are supplied for the trainee to get an overall picture of the situation/organisation. Trainees are then asked to diagnose the problems or suggest solutions. A case study provides the opportunity to examine a situation in detail yet be removed from the pressures of the real work situation. This allows for discussion and provides opportunities to exchange ideas and consider different options. Since a case study can limit the number of factors/issues that should be discussed, it may sometimes seem too easy and trainees may not fully appreciate that in the real-life situation there may be other more complex issues to take into account;
— Computer-based training: this allows the trainee to work at their own pace through a series of questions/exercises using a computerized training program. The trainee get immediate feedback from the computer program and can cover a range of work in a short space of time, going back over exercises if necessary and learning at a time that is convenient for them. Trainees can learn without the need for a trainer to be present, although since some trainees may be nervous of the technology or may experience difficulties, it is normal to have easy access to help/advice via telephone;
— Guided reading: a series of recommended reading is provided on topic, perhaps graded according to difficulty. The trainee is able to work at their own pace through this. Since the reading has been selected by someone else to highlight points on that subject, this can save the trainee time, since they know that the materials will be relevant to the subject. It doesnâ€™t encourage the trainee to research further around the subject or seek materials for themselves;
— In-tray exercise: trainees are given a series of files, memos and letters similar to those that they might have to deal with in a real work situation. They need to decide on the appropriate action to take and the priority for action. This gives an opportunity for trainees to experience the sort of issues that can arise, but it is important that the contents of the in-tray are realistic;
— On line discussion groups;
— Audio or video conferencing.