Employee development was traditionally thought of to be merely a job function of the human resources department. The role of training and development has broadened beyond the design of training programmes for employees. Businesses today compete in the global marketplace and there is increased diversity in the workforce. Companies need employees who are motivated and productive and has the ability to learn new skills to cope with changing consumer demands and business needs.
The first step in developing employees is to confirm that a training need exists via a process known as the training needs analysis. Doing so is necessary as training may be incorrectly prescribed as a solution to a performance issue such as a lack of motivation in employees or miscommunication in job expectations. Money may also be spent on training unnecessarily as they are not closely tied to business strategy. In the past, only trainers were involved in the training needs analysis. However, in today’s world, needs assessment involves the input of various stakeholders such as the employees going for training, their supervisors and the trainers themselves. Managers are also helping their employees in targeting the appropriate training through career planning and designing an individual learning plan.
On the Job Training
Employee development has also transitioned from being a one-off event such as attending a training course for 2 days or a half-day seminar to creating the conditions for continuous learning at work. On-the-job training is an attractive method of training to develop employees because it requires less investment in terms of money such as the trainer’s salary or instructional design. Job rotations and stretch assignments are some examples of what companies are implementing to allow their employees to learn new skills without attending formal training outside of the workplace. Companies are also able to tap on the skills and expertise of older and experienced workers to guide the inexperienced and younger colleagues. These mature workers are then given the opportunities to transfer their knowledge by serving as mentors and coaches, making it a win-win situation for everyone in the organisation.
Formal and Informal Learning
Employees are learning constantly and at all times. When employees google to find answers, read books or watch Youtube videos for help related to their work, it demonstrates that training is not limited to just attending workshops or a planned course. The above are examples of informal learning which are becoming popular due to their relevancy and immediacy with problems faced at work. Research revealed that most working professionals believe that 40 to 60 percent of the knowledge and skills relevant to their profession come from informal learning. Despite these statistics, formal learning is still essential. Formal learning in the form of organised classroom based learning or e-learning modules has well-defined learning outcomes and allow mass groups of people to be trained at a single time. Therefore, there is a need to strike a balanced between formal and informal learning in the workplace.
There are certain forces affecting the workplace to make employee development a crucial ingredient in business success. It is important to build up a culture of learning and for employees to view your organisation as a learning organisation. For this to happen, a supportive learning environment, managerial support and learning processes and practices have to be enhanced. Learning not only occurs at the individual level, but involves groups and organisational levels. When employees are encouraged to go for training and apply their knowledge at work, they are more motivated to learn.
Transfer of Knowledge and Knowledge Management
In addition, knowledge transfer and retention is a concern of those at management level. How can they ensure that employees apply what they have learnt to their work? This is where knowledge management comes in. Knowledge management is about both existing knowledge in the organisation together with new knowledge or skills gleaned from training. Companies have to implement systems to share knowledge such as a company intranet or communities of practice. There should also be opportunities for employees to support the application of news skills or behaviours.
Succession Planning and Assessing Potential
This leads to the issue of succession planning where companies have to manage employees who have valuable knowledge and skills before they leave due to unforeseen circumstances or planned retirement. Coaching and mentoring are ways to allow older and more experienced employees to pass on their knowledge to the younger generations of workers. Identifying potential individuals to take over the reins is a task that many companies do not implement a proper system for it. In fact, managers should consider possibilities such as stretch assignments, delegating work and job rotations to assess who in their pool of employees are capable of taking on more responsibility.
All in all, companies need to change their perspective of treating employee development as a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have”. A study has shown that the total loss to a business from ineffective training is a staggering $13.5 million a year, per 1,000 employees. In order to stay competitive, companies have to start investing in their employees to reap huge returns in business success and continuity.