Design and deliver training
About Mia Dragostin
In this paper I explore the literature related to the training strategy employed by small firms, and identify the main theories and methodology used for designing and delivering a training strategy in a small firm. This paper will identify the rationale, the business strategic decisions made when a need for training appears. This will be analyzed from two perspectives: the perspective of the firm’s management and the second one regarding the external trainer’s approach to training. We conclude that for small companies the training relates mainly to operational realities and requires a customized approach, oriented towards solving specific problems.
1.1.Training in small companies
West (2002) identifies that one of the most important reasons that determined in Western companies in 1960s to adopt a decision towards change was the threat of bankruptcy. To survive two solutions were available: on short-term to learn new skills, which enabled them to face the present market challenges; for a long term competitive advantage, the second solution for survival consisted in continuous learning and change. We can conclude that learning is a short-term and long-term solution that enables companies’ existence.
Tyson and York (1996, p.141) place on learning the same high importance when indicate that ‘employers depend on the quality of their employees’ performance to achieve organizational aims and objectives.’
Matlay (1999) finds that the contribution of small business to economy, particularly to British economy, is important in terms of flexibility and adaptability to change, competitive advantage, and employment. More, Sambrook (2004) indicates that in fact the small companies are those that provide the largest opportunities of employment. The entrepreneurship generated by small companies gathers much interest for European Union agenda (Sadler-Smith, Lean, 2004).
As the small companies prove to be so important for economic life, it is interesting to explore the following question: how do the most dynamic components of economy i.e. small businesses, adapt to change? How do they learn to perform better, to enhance their flexibility reflected into the bottom line benefits? What training strategies do small businesses adopt in order to achieve desired efficiency?
Analysing the results of recent research, we find out from Rigg and Trehan’s study (2004, p.50) that in many of small companies, HRD (Human Resource Development – HRD- being as an exterior shell containing training strategies) is ‘inferior, disorganise, if non-existent’. Taylor, Shaw and Thorpe (2004, p. 26) suggest as well ‘that training and development practices in smaller organisations are characterised by ‘lacks’”, being these lacks of ‘money, time or market knowledge’.
Trying to identify why is this situation in a domain which can survive only by learning and adaptation, I tried to identify what drives the provision of training in a small company. Matlay (1999) found two categories of factors: in the first category were included market conditions and the availability of required training. The second category contained budgets to be allocated (in money in time) and the general absence of in-house trainers. Hill’s study (2004) reveals the same goal of training towards generating solutions for diverse business needs. Tyson and York (1996) suggest that when training is used as a tool has to generate increased work performance, otherwise is perceived as a waste of resources (time and money).
Garavan et al. (2004) indicate that the HRD activities in a small firm are driven mainly by the operational needs of the company and are kept under a tight budgetary scrutiny( as generally the financial resources are low), therefore they are short-term oriented and rather reactive than pro-active. Generally the owner-manager is the determining the strategies for training, and there is much less input from a HR specialist. The authors suggest that a small firm has little concern for the concept of employability or career development, which would enable employees to enhance their skills. The strategic planning of the company is limited, and authors find that owner managers prove that they do not relate the role of HR with gaining competitive advantage on the market.
1.2. Approaches to training in small companies: Systems Approach to Training (SAT)
Tyson and York (1996) presents HRD interventions (training) as being a collection of four interdependent systems: analyze of needs, design of training, deliver training and evaluate training, also called by Sadler-Smith and Lean (2004) as the ‘analyze-plan-do-check’ cycle, described in figure 1.
Figure 1. The systematic approach to HRD (Sadler-Smith, Lean, 2004, p. 125)
In order to ensure a cost-effective training, Tyson and York (1996) identify following stages:
1. identify training needs – find out if poor performance is generated by skills gap or by other causes, unrelated to training
2. design the training – determine what type of training is meets the purpose of acquiring desired attitudes, skills or knowledge (ASK). The result is training objectives
3. implement the training : the training methods generally belong to one of the following categories: training at workplace, at training centers, and combined.
4. evaluate the training - determine if the training had the desired effects on acquiring new ASK. The evaluation is done after the training session and after some time from training’s completion.
If Tyson and York (1996) find SAT a mean of generating a cost-effective training, Sadler-Smith and Lean (2004, p. 127) find this approach ‘atomistic and reductionist’, but largely used as main framework in small firms HRD.
Bailey (1999) has a similar approach to training planning, emphasizing the need of specifying the outcomes of the training.
· Aims of business with which the training is linked: the result of training will enable business to connect with a new market segment, highly profitable and previously neglected
· Training purpose – what will be different if training is successful: the company will benefit of advertising material when needed, in a highly flexible and customized way – if there are specific problems identified as a feed-back from customers, can be given quick and cost effective answers
· The learning to be achieved – learning objectives: what should they know to do? To produce a video which explains non-professionals how to solve a certain problem
· How effects and results will be measured – evaluation objectives – after each sell in the next month from using videos- to ask if /how new development helped customers to make such a decision for buying.
Training of the team to undertake new roles was designed (as per Cartwright, 2003).
It was made a plan which identified:
· the goal of the organization: to enhance the market share by engaging in a new type of advertisement - addressing the less skilled/non – professionals, old aged – good segment overviewed by previous type of marketing= profitable
· assess the current skills of the people in the department: this generated the information that people had the skill of creating a message, of getting feed-back from customers, and found out that people have technical and IT transferable skills (even if never revealed so far) which could help in learning new video production skills.
· predict the skills that organization needs in future based on the analysis of the external environment – this generated the view on the expanding interactivity, so the IT skills should be used to increase the number of questions/ answers with customers
· decide how the gap between the current and future skills will be bridged – the shareholders decided to train these skills with the existing staff – as the methods engaged by them have a great competitive advantage, it is essential that people learn to apply the techniques and stay with the company, not transferring these skills to another competitor; the TD has a component of retaining as well.
· set success criteria for the strategy: the board found that the strategy is successful if some numeric criteria are achieved but as well the motivation and retention of staff has been included in the success criteria
· ensure that there are adequate resources for the strategy – boar analyzed and based on the figures presented, chose the third option of training in-house
· ensure that the strategy does not cause a culture conflict within parts of the parts of the organisation
· gain agreement for the strategy from all stakeholders
2.1. Rationale for training
ABC is a small company which sells via internet office consumables and IT gadgets.
The company has 23 employees, out of which 4 are engaged in daily marketing operations.
The shareholders of ABC Company decided at the end of 2007 that they should expand their market share.
The owner-manager together with the heads of sales, purchasing and marketing departments identified an opportunity in the market which could help achieving the above new business objective: there is the possibility of increasing the market share and the sales volumes if they are going to use a new trend in the communication with customers using the multi-media presentations delivered via internet.
This new trend requires the company to present the communication materials (advertisement and informational/instructional newsletters) using video media.
So far the company has used newsletters to advertise new products, new prices and to instruct customers to use the IT gadgets sold by the company.
Now they have decided that a video approach is more capable to increase the customer database and the final sells. In the same time, another benefit of the video when compared with written messages, is that the video image could generate increased brand awareness through the visual aids embedded in it. This new approach is expected to generate increased post - selling customer satisfaction and the number of return customers with 27%.
The company undertook their own survey to make sure that this new approach matches to their own customers expectations. The aim of this new type of communication is to keep customers updated with latest products offered by company and to answer to customers’ needs for technical assistance. One internal marketing survey revealed that if customers would be instructed how to use the products sold by company, their decisions for buying would increase in number. The marketing team tried the approach using instructional newsletters. But the text was found difficult to follow by customers, especially for the aged customers (an important part of the potential market). After some testing, it was revealed that instructional videos replacing the text newsletters would increase the interaction with customers, increase post – selling customer satisfaction and generate return customers.
In order to access this new approach were presented three solutions: the outsourcing of the video production to a specialized company, the in-house production of the videos – by hiring specialist, or by training for the required skills some members of the marketing department.
The first option presumed costs that exceeded the financial availability of the company.
The second option of in-house production was preferred. After a careful analyze of the costs versus volume of production, it was revealed that to hire a team of professionals for in-house production was equally dear as the first solution.
The third option sustained by HRD department gained the acceptance of the board, this meaning that it was decided that the production to be undertaken by a team of marketing department members.
To increase the sales, customer base, retention and return using a new marketing approach
Option 1: outsource totally the marketing function
Benefits of professional approach
Not enough flexibility
Option 2: produce in-house the videos by hiring a team of video professionals
Expensive, as when the video production is not required, the team is paid without producing anything
Option 3: produce in-house the videos by training the existing team to undertake the required roles for producing the videos
Good knowledge of the products
Good knowledge of the customers
Fast training – 2 sessions
Need to invest in camera and software
Need to allocate a new room as video studio
2.1.1.Training Needs Analysis
The CEO called for a strategy re-assessment all the managers. Analyzing the above opportunity they decided to reshape their marketing campaigns, and to switch from text to multimedia communication.
It were discussed the available options in order to attain this new business objective.
“To enable marketing team to produce customized video clips, targeting different customers and created by internal demand, according to monthly updated programmes”
2.1.2. Design the training
Using the Tyson and York (1996) framework, ABC generated the training objectives.
Objective: at the end of the training, the team is able to produce a three minutes instructional video clip (from script to final video movie). Top management strongly emphasized the need of an approach to training which enabled the team to perform as a whole.
As training methods, the top management decided for a mix of e-learning and training at workplace under the facilitation of an external trainer, as there could not be found inside the company the required technical expertise.
If Sambrook (2004) identifies as barriers of e-learning the technology in itself, the fear of technology and the isolation of the trainee, all these barriers are inexistent in ABC, where all participants are computer literate, and isolation is not an issue, as e-learning is only one method of transferring the knowledge, which is then reinterpreted and discussed in group settings.
So the training is in fact divided in two phases: in the first one the team members learn by e-learning how to operate the camera and other necessary devices, during a one week period. The process of conceiving production of a video from script to final movie is the focus of the second phase of training, which takes place under external trainer’s guidance, in two 4 hours sessions. This mix of training methods has some potential advantages:
· facilitates in the same time the acquiring of specific skills and creating a new team where new roles are born from new tasks.
· the training takes place in the newly designed video studio. This way at the end of the training the team can start immediately their work, with no other preparations.
· As there is a time pressure, the training sessions will take place in two consecutive working days, 4 hours each day. This time arrangement would make the interruption of daily activities less disruptive for team members. More, the team members could perceive the training as being integrated in the daily programme, so that any possible negative experience of new beginnings is absorbed by the relaxed daily routine.
2.1.4. Implementation of training
This stage of training required the purchasing of e-learning licenses, as well as tooling up the new video studio. As the task of training the production process is commissioned to an external trainer, ABC decides to support the e-learning with daily group discussions of the team members, in order to overcome the technical difficulties.
2.1.5. Evaluation of the training
At the end of the 7 working days specific training of the marketing team, the top management will evaluate the result of the first instructional movie realized during the training. The team will receive a real task and after three days is expected with another video movie. This would be the formal test. But as Tyson and York (1996) recommend, the subjective opinions of trainers and trainees could contain interesting views on evaluating deeper the learning process.
3. Approach to communication of a training plan to stakeholders
Why the existing team members of the marketing department should be trained for new skills: because they already know the products and can easily present/identify the benefits for the new segment.
They are loyal to company and have a certain level of ownership, as they feel they influence directly through their intervention the financial results. Getting trained represents for them a new tool to improve the results. They have a good perception on training and on possible results.
Due to the characteristics of ABC company, the flat hierarchy and small size enables a rapid communication and the members of the marketing department embraced easily the need for training for new skills. This is from their point of view a way of achieving the business objectives and a career developmental opportunity.
After a discussion with the team and an evaluation, was decided that is better to engage the members of the team in training the required skills. The team knows exactly what the objectives are, have the expertise of elaborating the content, they just need to learn to express the content using another medium
The stakeholders in this case are all part of the decision making and the idea is not required to be sold. As customers are stakeholders as well, they will be announced in a newsletter that the decision of changing the format aims to enable them better access to information.
4. External trainer’s approach to training
The external trainer designs the 6 steps training intervention using the process described by Reid et al. (2006):
1. identifies the training requirements
2. sets the training objectives
3. selects the appropriate strategy
4. designs and plans the programme
5. delivers the programme
6. evaluates the impact of training
His training approach is described further.
Step 1: The trainer wants to use the already existing skills of the group members and adjust them for producing a video. The trainer identifies the training needs of the group
1. there is needed a script writer, Jim will be in charge with this
2. All of them need to learn to take relevant video shoots, how to use light, sound, teach how to edit the filmed material.
Prerequisites necessary for structuring the content of the training:
· The type of video required: instructional, not artistic
· Uses budget camera: cheaper technical option are preferred
· Message of the video: should be suitable for old/ non-technicians’ understanding
Format of the final movie product: should enable internet streaming (reduced time to download, suitable to different browsers and band- widths, and software.
Step 2: In the pre-planning stage: determines the training objectives.
The trainer has the predetermined objective from ABC top-management: to enable the team to produce a three minutes video movie from script to final movie.
Trainer’s objective: On completion of the training the team would be capable of conceiving and producing a 3 minutes instructional video clip, using the video production process.
Step 3: The trainer determines the mix of training methods
After understanding the demands of the client, the trainer decides what method of training to use.
His trainees are adult learners, who need to use their skills in a new way (Jim’s case), or to learn new skills (Joan, Jane’s and Jack’s case).
The trainer begins with assessing the skills of each member of the team.
Currently Jim is the copywriter, Joan is responsible of the Internet technical issues, Jane is the liaison with customers and finds out what are the topics of interest for customers and Jack evaluates the results of the campaigns.
In order to acquire the skills needed to accomplish the project, there will be required a mix of training methods.
a) the main part of the training is based on planned in-house learning experiences (Reid et al., 2004). The same opinion regarding the enhanced learning transfer is claimed by Butterfield and Nelson (1989) when the training and workplace have identical settings. The main purpose of this method is to ensure a high level of learning transfer, and is exactly what the marketing team needs.
b) in order to transfer the technical knowledge required, the trainer uses e-learning method. Thus, trainees learn how to use the camera and adjacent devices through educational videos and thus benefit of the possibility of acquiring the knowledge off-site. But this is a self-directed learning, done prior to beginning of the training intervention, as a prerequisite of the training.
In our case the method could prove efficient as all the members of the team are computer experts and this learning method is internalized by each participant and frequently used. The possible drawback noted by Sims (2006) that this method requires trainees to self-direct their learning, is neutralized by the fact that trainees support each other’s learning by working in group and having the target of finishing the project.
c) a great deal of such a task requires the constant reflection and group discussion, therefore the trainer has to consider as an essential part of the training the discussion session, reflecting on how the new media (explanatory image) expresses ideas previously expressed with other means (explanatory words). Even if this method is time consuming from trainer’s point of view (Sims, 2006), in the end the trainer achieves two results: receives a feedback of the level of learning and the group gains a common perspective, extremely important for the efficiency of the work in post-training period.
The trainer evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of the methods and decided what the best match with the objectives would be a mix of lecture and a project task:
· Lecture for the theoretical issues regarding how to write and organize the script, combined with analyzing a case study
· After the script writing issue is discussed, the trainer decides to engage the team into creating a video project. This is an experiential approach.
Step 4: Planning designs the implementation of training (Reid et al., 2004)
For each session the trainer specifies
· The training objectives of the session
· The learning activities:
· Time schedule
· Prepares the material and equipment
The external trainer’s programme
Ø Training objectives: the marketing team to be able to create an instructional video.
Ø Who – in training process is involved the marketing team: the writer, the one with customer connection, the IT web specialist
Learning activities take into account the learning styles of the trainees, therefore the trainer is using a mix of methods, which can accommodate the Jim (reflector); Joan (activist) and Jack and Jane (pragmatist).
As trainees are adult learners, this training is for them a problem solving tool - a way of increasing the efficiency of their department by increasing the interaction/response with specific targets of customers
Ø The delivery method: workshop which delivers a project
Ø The evaluation will be made by examining a final product- video
Ø Time required – 8 hours in two sessions
Ø There might be required ongoing training, at request – for new IT developments and new ideas
Learning outcomes: as a result of learning activity the team of learners will be able to create a video and publish it on internet/ communicate with their target customers using this media.
Type of learning engaged: self-directed and experiential mode.
The training method chosen by trainer is a hands on instruction in the form of a project (delivered through a mix of lectures and workshops).
Step 5: Delivery of the training programme
Session one: From 1 to 5 the trainer delivers the script writing skills
Session two: from 1 to 5 the trainer delivers the workshop which achieves the production of the three minutes instructional video, using the future set-up of the video studio.
Step 6: evaluation of training. The external trainer is using Hamblin and Whitelaw model (Reid et al., 2004, p.200) to evaluate the training of the team (figure2)
Figure 2. Questions that help in evaluating the training according to Hamblin and Whitelaw (Reid et al., 2004)
The trainer embeds the evaluation criteria in the objectives description from the design stage, so that the efficiency of the training to be easily determined.
5. Resources needed for training programme
In order to be delivered the training programme, the following resources are needed:
· Need to arrange a new office as video studio
· Equipment required: camera, light and sound devices, software program and consumables
· Trainer’s fee
· Time spent by team in training during 8 working hours divided into 2 sessions
· Total budget allocated for this training: £5045
Resources needed for training programme
· Light devices
· Sound devices
New studio room
Time spent by team in training
The present paper explored the literature on training in small firms, revealing on one hand the characteristics of HRD activities in these firms and, on the other hand, the approaches to training design and delivery. The case study presented has the reveals the customized approach that has to be undertaken when dealing with specific operational objectives of the small firm. The achieving of the objectives represent a matter of survival on the market and the specificity of training approach is tailored taking into account the reduced resources of the company. The trainer needs to deliver a content which enables learning and especially the rapid transfer of learning into workplace. After following the steps of the systems approach (SAT), the trainer uses as implementation and evaluation method realization of a project.
Any limitations of the training are overcome mainly through the commitment of both top management and of the marketing team to make the training succeed.
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