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Monday, November 20, 2017

Training in Businesses: What its Success Calls for

No doubt, it is hardwired in us that we are eager to acquire knowledge and skills that will help us grow be it in the organizational context or otherwise. Taking advantage of this concern of employees for individual growth, organizations offer training to its employees to hone up their job-related knowledge and skills so that they become more efficient in their execution of the assigned tasks as also to advance in their careers. This in turn is hoped to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

But this seldom happens in the real work-situation. For, study after study—beginning with Ohio State leadership studies of the 1950s— found that trained-employees often regress to their old ways of doing things in absence of a context for the changed behaviour.

It is of course a different matter that even after such findings, organizations keep spending enormous sums in training their employees but pay least attention to create a context for the trained employees to look at their jobs from a changed perspective as learnt from the training school. The reason is simple: employees returning from training charged with right skills and right attitude find it difficult to implement the change, for their units are so deeply entrenched in the established ways of doing things that they simply resist change with all their might.  To put it otherwise these newly trained people have no power to change the system around them.

The underlying reason for this failure is: organizations are not mere ‘aggregation of individuals’ but are ‘systems of interacting elements.’ It is the organizational structure, processes, leadership styles, organizational culture and HR policies which define the roles and responsibilities of individuals that ultimately drives the organizational behaviour and performance. And unless this very system is changed, the change contemplated through training cannot be brought in sustained.

So, what is first required for changing the performance of organizations is changing the organizational practices and policies by the top management and then only improvement in individual deficiencies set right by training can give results that are sustainable for long. 

The study carried out by Michael Beer, et al (2016) identified certain ‘silent-killers’ that come in the way of making a chang n the organizatuon: one, unclear direction on strategy and values of the organization; two, senior executives seldom work as  a team nor do they exhibit the required change in their own behaviour; three, a top-down style of leadership that allows honest movement of the knowledge of problems that the unit is infested with  to the top; four, no coordination across the organization owing to poor organizational design; five leadership paying scant attention to talent issues; and six, employee’s fear to share their understanding of the problems that come in the way of organizational effectiveness to the top-management.

And the authors of the study opine that unless these obstacles are addressed first, nothing tangible can be accomplished from training and educational programs.  It’s a different matter that people are eager to acquire new knowledge and skills that will help them improve their capabilities and thereby advance in their careers.  Indeed, employees evince great interest in building up their knowledge base. But, mere acquisition of knowledge by individuals would mean nothing for the organizations. Unless, they couple this acquired knowledge with the passion to apply it in the organizational context, the newly acquired knowledge remains as idle rescore.  Again, individual passions may not matter at all, unless the leader of the unit takes initiative in creating right atmosphere for the new knowledge to bear fruits.  

So, the sum and substance of the research of Michael Beer, Magnus Finnstrom and Derek Schrader (2016) is: senior executives must first attend to organizational design—both at the top and unit by unit—to create a fertile ground for the learning imparted through training to bear fruits.   


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