Characteristics Of Formal And Informal Learning Management Essay
In todays knowledge-based, fast changing economy more than ever before, the skills, motivation and activation of employees are crucial preconditions for the sustainable success, productivity and innovation of enterprises.
Training is a set of activities that helps people to acquire and improve job-related skills to meet changing job requirements. Organizations committed to their employees invest in extensive training and development programs to ensure that everyone has always the capabilities needed to perform wellÂ Â .
However, the situation of SMEs with regard to training is characterized by a paradox. On the one hand, continuous training and lifelong learning (both for workers and managerial staff) are regarded as crucial elements of competitiveness against the backdrop of globalization. On the other hand however, statistics show that continuous training and qualifications are less likely to be available to employees working in SMEs than to those in large companies, particularly in the Iranian context. The overview of current training status in Iran indicates that Iranian government more than ever is ready to support SMEs in terms of training. There are number of institutions which provide training both for workers and managerial staff. Moreover, many of them provide training services free of charge. However, in spite of the availability of training opportunities the inadequate workforce and staff training remain one of the most problematic factors for doing business in Iran. It is obvious that there should be other reasons that keep employees from training. For the current research paper we have chosen lack of motivation as the main obstacle against training. If organizations motivate their employees by satisfying their needs, the employees will be willing to learn more and perform better.
In addition, ten-year statistics of Iranian SMEs indicate poor performance with low production and profitability indices. Therefore, it is urgent to find new ways of increasing training motivation of employees which may result in continuous improvement of their knowledge and skills, consequently of business performance.
The object and the subject of the research
The object of the current study is Small and Medium Enterprises in Iran, and the factors preventing them from staff training and performance excellence. The subject of the study is an innovative training model the application of which may lead employees to life-long improvement through learning and SMEs to sustainable development.
The goal and problems of the research
The goal of the current research is to introduce an innovative training model which will lead to business performance improvement.
To achieve the goal of the paper we have put forward and solved the following problems:
To identify the training status of Iranian SMEs
To reveal the factors applied by SMEs to motivate their employees
To measure SMEs performance from financial, customer, and internal perspectives
To explore the impact of the factors, applied by SMEs for motivating employees, on training
To explore the impact of training on business performance of SMEs
To introduce an innovative training model for performance improvement based on the analysis results
Theoretical, methodological and informational basis of the research
The scientific works of international organizations and researchers related to the current research subject, as well as publications about different training programs applied in developed countries have been used as theoretical basis for the research.
To find the solutions to the problems suggested by the current research the selected methodological basis are Maslow’s Theory of Motivation and Balanced Scorecard. Maslow’s theory of Motivation has been used to identify the motivation factors for the surveyÂ Â and the Balanced Scorecard System was used to identify the indicators for measuring the performance of the surveyed companies from, financial, customer and internal perspectivesÂ Â .
The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications, and monitor organization performance against strategic goals. Recognizing some of the weaknesses and vagueness of previous management approaches, the balanced scorecard approach provides a clear prescription as to what companies should measure in order to “balance” the financial perspective.Â Â The balanced scorecard suggests that we view the organization from four perspectives, and to develop metrics, collect data and analyze it relative to each of these perspectives: learning and growth, internal-business, customer and financial.
After identifying the corresponding motivation factors and indicators for measuring SMEs performance, the survey questionnaire has been formed.
Finally, the collected data from 714 SMEs have been analyzed. The following hypotheses have been formulated and tested by SPSS 16 (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences):
Hypothesis one: Each of the studied motivation factors has impact on training.
Hypothesis two: All the factors together have relationship with training.
Hypothesis three: Training has impact on business performance from financial perspective.
Hypothesis four: Training is related to business performance from customer perspective.
Hypothesis five: Training has impact on business performance from internal perspective.
Hypothesis six: Training has relationship with the overall business performance.
The effect of motivation on training has been tested by applying Multiple Linear Regression Model. Furthermore, the impact of training on business performance has been tested. First, Chi-square test of independence has been applied to analyze the relationship between training and performance from separate perspectives (financial, customer, and internal) and finally, the effect of training on overall performance has been measured by Simple Linear Regression Model.
The main scientific results and novelty of the research
The main scientific results and novelty of the current research consists in the following:
Justified, that motivation has a positive impact on training. It should be noted that very little research has been done that reveals the link between training and motivation, and the factors that are studied in this work are left out of researchers’ attention.
Analyzed the impact of training on customer service and internal-business performance, which has been ignored by the previous scientific research works.
Based on the analysis results a new three-dimensional model has been introduced, which indicates that the motivation factors, identified by the current research, lead to training which in its turn leads to the overall business performance improvement.
Practical significance of the research and its application
Considering the fact that the skilled workforce is a crucial problem in Iranian SMEs today in spite of the availability of training services including those free of charge, the application of the model proposed by the current research may increase the motivation of employees to improve their knowledge and skills continuously. Further, taking into account that both profitability and productivity of Iranian SMEs have tended to decline in recent years, the application of the mentioned model will also lead to SMEs performance improvement through employee training.
The testing and publication of the research results: The main results of the research are reflected in three articles published by the author.
The structure of the thesis: The structure of the thesis reflects the subject, the goal, the problems and the results of the research in the corresponding chapters and sections. The thesis consists of introduction, three chapters, conclusion, reference and three appendices, composed on 112 pages. The reference includes 129 literature items.
1.1 Training as the Main Component of HRD
Human Resource Development (HRD) is defined as a process for developing and unleashing human expertise through organization development and personnel training and development for the purpose of improving performanceÂ Â .
While Human Resource Development is a relatively new term, training the largest component of HRD can be tracked back through evolution of the human race. Anyway, we will not go so deep into studies of history. It is important to recognize the massive development effort that took place in the United States during World War II as the origin of contemporary HRD. Under the name of the “Training within Industry” projectÂ Â , this massive development effort gave birth to systematic (1) performance-based training, (2) improvement of work processes, and (3) the improvement of human relations in the workplace contemporary HRD.
The philosophy undergirding the TWI Service was a clear distinction between education and training. Dooley stated, “Education is for rounding-out of the individual and the good of society; it is general, provides background, increases understanding. Training is for the good of plant production it is a way to solve production problems through people; it is specific and helps people to acquire skill through the use of what they learned”.
Today training is defined as the planned and systematic modification of behavior through learning which enable individuals to achieve the levels of knowledge, skill and competence needed to carry out their work effectivelyÂ Â .
Learning is the process by which a person acquires and develops new knowledge, skills, capabilities and attitudes. As Williams defined it, “learning is goal directed, it is based on experience, it impacts behavior and cognition, and the changes brought about are relatively stable”Â Â . Honey and Mumford explained that: “Learning has happened when people can demonstrate that they know something that they did not know before (insights, realizations as well as facts) and when they can do something they could not do before (skills)”Â Â . Mumford and Gold emphasized that: “Learning is both a process and an outcome concerned with knowledge, skills and insight.”Â Â
There are four types of learning:
Instrumental learning – learning how to do the job better once the basic standard of performance has been attained, helped by learning on the job.
Cognitive learning – outcomes based on the enhancement of knowledge and understanding.
Affective learning – outcomes based on the development of attitudes or feelings rather than knowledge.
Self-reflective learning – developing new patterns of understanding, thinking and behaving and therefore creating new knowledgeÂ Â .
The aim of the learning policies and programs of an organization is to provide the skilled, knowledgeable and competent people required to meet its present and future needs. To achieve this aim it is necessary to ensure that learners are ready to learn, understand what they need to know and be able to do, and are able to take responsibility for their learning by making good use of the learning resources available, including the support and guidance of their managers.
Learning is a continuous process that not only enhances existing capabilities but also leads to the development of the skills, knowledge and attitudes that prepare people for enlarged or higher-level responsibilities in the future.
Effective learning is more likely to be achieved if learners have learning goals. They should have targets and standards of performance that they find acceptable and achievable and can use to judge their own progress. They should be encouraged and helped to set their own goals. The learning outcome must be clear. Learners need a sense of direction and feedback on how they are doing. They should receive reinforcement of correct behavior. Self-motivated individuals may provide much of this for themselves, but it is necessary to have a learning facilitator, e.g. a mentor, who is available to encourage and help when necessary. Learners usually need to know quickly how well they are doing. In a prolonged program, intermediate steps are required in which learning can be reinforced. The content of the learning program may therefore need to be broken down into small modules or elements, each with an objective.
The learning goals and the particular needs and learning style of the learner should indicate what learning method or methods should be used. Specific goals and understanding of individual needs help to select appropriate learning methods. It should not be assumed that a single learning method will do. A combination of methods is likely to produce better results. The use of a variety of methods, as long as they are all appropriate, helps learning by engaging the interest of learners. Learning is “personal, subjective and inseparable from activity”Â Â . It is an active, not a passive process. As far as possible, therefore, the learning process should be active, although this may take more time than passive methods in which the learner is at the receiving end of some form of training, e.g. instruction.
The more complex the skill to be mastered, the more active the learning methods need to be. Learning requires time to assimilate, test and accept. This time should be provided in the learning program. Different levels of learning exist and these need different methods and take different times. At the simplest level, learning requires direct physical responses, memorization and basic conditioning. At a higher level, learning involves adapting existing knowledge or skill to a new task or environment. At the next level, learning becomes a complex process when principles are identified in a range of practices or actions, when a series of isolated tasks have to be integrated, or when the process is about developing interpersonal skills. The most complex form of learning takes place when learning is concerned with the values and attitudes of people and groups. This is not only the most complex area, but also the most difficult. Blending different but appropriate types of learning produces the best results such as mixture of informal and formal learning.
Informal learning is experiential learning. Most learning does not take place in formal training programs. People can learn 70 per cent of what they know about their job informally, through processes not structured or sponsored by the organization. A study by Eraut et al established that in organizations adopting a learner-centered perspective, formal education and training provided only a small part of what was learnt at workÂ Â . Most of the learning described to the researchers was non-formal, neither clearly specified nor planned. It arose naturally from the challenges of work. Effective learning was, however, dependent on the employees’ confidence, motivation and capability. Some formal training to develop skills (especially induction training) was usually provided, but learning from experience and other people at work predominated. Reynolds notes that: “The simple act of observing more experienced colleagues can accelerate learning; conversing, swapping stories, co-operating on tasks and offering mutual support deepen and solidify the process. This kind of learning – often very informal in nature – is thought to be vastly more effective in building proficiency than more formalized training methods”.
The advantages of informal learning are that: learning efforts are relevant and focused in the immediate environment; understanding can be achieved in incremental steps rather than in indigestible chunks; learners define how they will gain the knowledge they need – formal learning is more packaged; learners can readily put their learning into practice. The disadvantages are that: it may be left to chance – some people will benefit, some won’t; it can be unplanned and unsystematic, which means that it will not necessarily satisfy individual or organizational learning needs; learners may simply pick up bad habits.
Formal learning is planned and systematic and involves the use of structured training programs consisting of instruction and practice. The comparison of informal and formal learning is presented below.
Table 1.1 Characteristics of formal and informal learning
Highly relevant to individual needs
Relevant to some, not so relevant to others
Learners learn according to nid
All learners learn the same thing
May be small gar between carrent and
May be variable gaps between current and target knowledge
Learner decides how learning will occur
Tranee decides how learning will occur
Immediate applicability Just-in-time learning
Variable times, often distant
Learning readily transferable
Problems may occur in transferring learning to the workplace
Occurs in work setting
Often occurs in non-work setting
Source: Armstrong, M. A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice, 2006.
As mentioned earlier, learning is a continuous process, and much of it arises from day-to- day experience in the workplace. But this learning may be haphazard, inappropriate and fail to meet the short and longer-term needs of either the individual or the organization. A laissez-faire approach by the organization could be highly unsatisfactory if it does not ensure that these needs are met by whatever means are available. Experiential learning will be enhanced if the climate in the organization is supportive, and an important aspect of a learning and development strategy will be creating such a climate. But it will also be extended if individuals are helped to identify their own learning needs and provided with guidance on how they can be met using various means. As described below, the learning program can concentrate on making the best use of workplace learning opportunities, ensuring that people are aware of what they need to learn and providing them with encouragement and support, and enhancing learning through coaching or mentoring. These activities should be used as part of a blended approach, which is discussed below.
Learning opportunities occur all the time and the challenge is to ensure that people make the most of them. Some will need no encouragement. Others will have to be helped. Line managers or team leaders have a crucial role in encouraging and supporting learning. They can do this within the relatively formal setting of a performance and development review. Or, better still, they can consciously promote learning from day-to-day events when they discuss how a task might be done, when they analyze information on outcomes with individuals, and when they ask individuals to tell them what they have learnt from an event and what it tells them about any additional learning required. But it is necessary to ensure that line managers are aware of the need to promote learning and have the will and the skills to do it. It is necessary to ensure that people are aware of what they need to learn to carry out their present role and to develop in the future.
This starts with induction and involves the specification of learning programs and the planning of learning events, with an emphasis on self-directed learning accompanied by a blend of other learning approaches as appropriate. It continues with performance and development reviews that identify learning needs and define how they will be met, again by self-managed learning as far as possible but making use of coaching, mentoring and formal training courses as required.
Self-directed or self-managed learning involves encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own learning needs, either to improve performance in their present job or to develop their potential and satisfy their career aspirations. It can be based on a process of recording achievement and action planning that involves individuals reviewing what they have learnt, what they have achieved, what their goals are, how they are going to achieve those goals and what new learning they need to acquire. The learning program can be “self-paced” in the sense that learners can decide for themselves up to a point the rate at which they work and are encouraged to measure their own progress and adjust the program accordingly. Self-directed learning is based on the principle that people learn and retain more if they find things out for themselves. But they still need to be given guidance on what to look for and help in finding it. Learners have to be encouraged to define, with whatever help they may require, what they need to know to perform their job effectively.
They need to be provided with guidance on where they can get the material or information that will help them to learn and how to make good use of it. They also need support from their manager and the organization with the provision of coaching, mentoring and learning facilities, including e-learning. Self-directed learning can also be described as self-reflective learningÂ Â , which is the kind of learning that involves encouraging individuals to develop new patterns of understanding, thinking and behaving. It is a process which was described by Argyris (1992) as double-loop learningÂ Â , which is based on an examination of the root causes of problems and can create a new learning loop that goes far deeper than the traditional learning loop provided by “instrumental learning” (i.e. learning how to perform a job better) which tends only to focus on the surface symptoms of a problem.
The Industrial Society defines coaching as: “The art of facilitating the enhanced performance, learning and development of others.”Â Â It takes the form of a personal (usually one-to-one) on-the-job approach to helping people develop their skills and levels of competence.
Hirsh and Carter state, that coaching is aimed at the rapid improvement of skills, behavior and performance, usually for the present job.Â Â A structured and purposeful dialogue is at the heart of coaching. The coach uses feedback and brings an objective perspective. The need for coaching may arise from formal or informal performance reviews but opportunities for coaching will emerge during normal day-to-day activities. A common framework used by coaches is the GROW model: “G” is for the goal of coaching, which needs to be expressed in specific measurable terms that represent a meaningful step towards future development. “R” is for the reality check – the process of eliciting as full a description as possible of what the person being coached needs to learn. “O” is for option generation – the identification of as many solutions and actions as possible. “W” is for wrapping up – when the coach ensures that the individual being coached is committed to action. Coaching will be most effective when the coach understands that his or her role is to help people to learn and individuals are motivated to learn.
They should be aware that their present level of knowledge or skill or their behavior needs to be improved if they are going to perform their work satisfactorily. Individuals should be given guidance on what they should be learning and feedback on how they are doing and, because learning is an active not a passive process, they should be actively involved with their coach who should be constructive, building on strengths and experience. Coaching may be informal but it has to be planned. It is not simply checking from time to time on what people are doing and then advising them on how to do it better. Nor is it occasionally telling people where they have gone wrong and throwing in a lecture for good measure. As far as possible, coaching should take place within the framework of a general plan of the areas and direction in which individuals will benefit from further development.
Mentoring is the process of using specially selected and trained individuals to provide guidance, pragmatic advice and continuing support, which will help the person or persons allocated to them to learn and develop. It has been defined by Clutterbuck as: “Off-line help from one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.”Â Â Hirsh and Carter suggest that mentors prepare individuals to perform better in the future and groom them for higher and greater things, i.e. career advancement. Mentoring can be defined as a method of helping people to learn, as distinct from coaching, which is a relatively directive means of increasing people’s competence. It involves learning on the job, which must always be the best way of acquiring the particular skills and knowledge the job holder needs. Mentoring also complements formal training by providing those who benefit from it with individual guidance from experienced managers who are “wise in the ways of the organization”. Mentors provide people with:
advice in drawing up self-development programs or learning contracts;
general help with learning programs;
guidance on how to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to do a new job;
advice on dealing with any administrative, technical or people problems individuals meet, especially in the early stages of their careers;
information on “the way things are done around here” – the corporate culture and its manifestations in the shape of core values and organizational behavior (management style);
coaching in specific skills;
help in tackling projects – not by doing it for them, but by pointing them in the right direction: helping people to help themselves;
a parental figure with whom individuals can discuss their aspirations and concerns and who will lend a sympathetic ear to their problems.
There are no standard mentoring procedures, although it is essential to select mentors who are likely to adopt the right non-directive but supportive help to the person or persons they are dealing with. They must then be carefully briefed and trained in their role.
Blended learning is defined by Sloman as: “An approach to training design that involves the use of a combination of delivery methods and in some cases learning methodology.”Â Â Schramm describes it as: “The combination of different modes of delivery that take into account the learner’s environment, motivation and learning styles with different theoretical approaches. This creates a multi-layered and richer palette of learning methods.”Â Â Blended learning aims to make the different parts of the learning mix complementary and mutually supportive in meeting learning needs. Recognition of the need to blend learning avoids the pitfall of over-reliance on one approach. It means using conventional instruction, e-learning and self-directed learning as well as experiential learning. The aim is to inspire and motivate learners over extended periods of time and through an appropriate mix of inputs and outputs, individual and collaborative study, formal and informal processes, and a blend of face-to-face and virtual contact. Focus on the learner is achieved by taking special care to provide them with support and guidance from their managers, coaches and mentors and to complement this with the provision of e-learning material. A blended program might be planned for an individual using a mix of self-managed learning activities, e-learning facilities, group action learning activities, coaching or mentoring, and instruction provided in an in-company course or externally.
Generic training for groups of people might include e-learning, planned instruction programs, planned experience, and selected external courses. Within a training course a complementary mix of different training activities might take place; for example a skills development course for managers or team leaders might include some instruction on basic principles but much more time would be spent on case studies, simulations, role-playing and other exercises.
1.2 The Impact of HR Practices on Firm Performance
The assumption underpinning the practice of HRM is that people are the organization’s key resource and organizational performance largely depends on them. If, therefore, an appropriate range of HR policies and processes are developed and implemented effectively, then HR will make a substantial impact on firm performance. The goal sought by many commentators on human resource management is to establish that a clear positive link between HRM practices and organizational performance exists. There has been much research over the last decade or so that has attempted to answer two basic questions: “Do HR practices make a positive impact on organizational performance?” “If so, how is the impact achieved?”
Ulrich pointed out that: “HR practices seem to matter; logic says it is so survey findings confirm it. Direct relationships between investment and attention to HR practices are often fuzzy, however, and vary according to the population sampled and the measures used.”Â Â Huselid, states that productivity is influenced by employee motivation, while financial performance is influenced by employee skills, motivation and organizational structures.Â Â According to Patterson et al. HR practices explained significant variations in profitability and productivity. Two HR practices were particularly significant: (1) the acquisition and development of employee skills and (2) job design including flexibility, responsibility, variety and the use of formal teams.Â Â After surveying 623 UK aerospace establishments Thomson concluded that the number HR practices were the key differentiating factors between more or less successful firms.Â Â
Purcell et al. surveyed twelve companies to find out the impact of HRM on firm performance and came to conclusion that clear evidence existed between positive attitudes towards HR policies, practices, level of satisfaction, motivation, commitment, and operational performance.Â Â Policy and practice implementation (not the number of HR practices adopted) is the vital ingredient in linking people management to business performance. In Guest et al. the relationship between HRM and performance was modeled as shown below.Â Â
Figure 1.1 Model of the link between HRM and performance
Source: Guest, D E, Michie, J, Sheehan, et al. Effective People Management: Initial Findings of the Future of Work Survey.
The implications from research especially that carried out by Purcell et al are that HR can make an impact by leading or contributing to:
the development and successful implementation of high performance work practices, particularly those concerned with job and work design, flexible working, resourcing (recruitment and selection and talent management), employee development (increasing skills and extending the skills base), reward, and giving employees a voice
the development of a positive psychological contract and means of increasing the motivation and commitment of employees
the formulation and implementation of policies which, in the words of Purcell et al meet the needs of individuals and “create a great place to work”
the provision of support and advice to managers on their role in implementing HR policies and practices
the effective management of change
Furthermore, the literature does not agree about the reason why, once these practices have been implemented, they are not always successful. This raises the question of whether human resource systems have the capacity to generate competitive advantages by themselves or they must be sustained and reinforced with other variables.Â Â Ferris et al. suggest that perhaps one of the most integral issues for our understanding of the human resource practices – firm performance relationship is that of the “black box”.Â Â More specifically, if there is indeed an impact of human resource systems on firm performance, how does this effect occur? What are the mechanisms by which these practices exert their impact on organizational performance measures? These questions call for the refinement and the development of more comprehensive theoretical models of the human resource practices – firm performance relationships that include intermediate linkages and boundary conditions. An attempt to articulate these intermediate linkages and processes was proposed by Snell et al., who begin by noting the lack of any theoretical explanation as to how human resource systems influence organizational effectiveness.Â Â They argue that human resource practices may be crucial for developing organizational learning, which in turn is ultimately related to competitive advantage.
While theorists have been addressing the issue of organizational learning for some time, a clear definition of the concept has been elusiveÂ Â 3132.
Since the article by Cangelosi and DillÂ Â , organizational learning has been described at three different levels: individual, group and organization. For the most part, researchers generally agree that organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning, but without it no organizational learning occursÂ Â 35. Thus, it is suggested that some of the more traditional personnel functions of HR practitioners may be tailored to encourage a focus on learning and thus to help achieve organizational goals. Human resource practices have accordingly been expanded in some companies to encompass the facilitation of individual, group and organizational learning.Â Â
In Snell et al it is stated that employees contribute to learning when they have the knowledge and abilities that the company needs, and the motivation to make use of them.
Employees’ cooperation and motivation are two aspects widely emphasized in the economic and strategic literature. Thus, Wayne et al state that employees are more encouraged to work and innovate when they notice that managers take their needs into account, are worried about their interpretations and value their contribution to the organizationÂ Â . Likewise, Porter points out that personnel highly involved in the organization contribute to the fulfillment of their commitments and thus help to build a more efficient organization that produces greater value for clientsÂ Â . A greater emphasis on motivational programs to the detriment of traditional programs focusing on technical abilities reveals the fact that firms aim to adapt their personnel to the changes taking place in the organization, encouraging cooperative behavior from the employees.Â Â The use of job rotation and multifunctional teams constitute knowledge transfer processes with a strong tacit component, which is difficult for competitors to imitate.Â Â
In relation to compensation systems, first, it is considered that these must promote equality among employees. Organizations must set up incentive schemes linked to the achievement of goals, also encouraging flexibility, risk assumptions, team working and knowledge creation among employees.Â Â 42Moreover, in order to encourage individuals to share their knowledge and discourage them from using it to their own benefit, it is necessary to set up incentive schemes linked to global organizational objectives.Â Â
Finally, the organization must provide individuals with enough incentives for them to use and develop knowledge effectively. Employee participation, through greater implication of the employee in the decision-making process, will improve performance for two reasons. First, if employees possess more information about the procedures performed by the organizations, they will be better able to identify and solve problems as soon as they arise. This will lead to an improvement both in their performance and the performance of the firm.Â Â Second, the sharing of information on questions such as financial performance, strategy and operational measures conveys to the organization’s members that they are trusted.Â Â Furthermore, financial performance (i.e. profitability, ROI) is said to be enhanced by an organization’s ability to learn.Â Â 47
Ellinger et al report an empirical study whose results suggest a positive association between the learning organization concept and the firm’s financial performance.Â Â Firms that are able to learn about customers, competitors and regulators stand a better chance of detecting and acting upon events and trends in the marketplace. Also, learning organizations are better versed in strategies for dealing with customers and competitors alike, which, in turn, should lead to superior profitability.Â Â Sales growth is another performance indicator that is said to be enhanced by a firm’s ability to learn. A firm that actively learns about its customers is in a position to offer more appropriate and finely targeted products. This should result in a higher level of sales growth. And, finally, profit/sales margin can also be linked to organizational learning. Here again a firm’s ability to learn and target customer wants and needs more precisely is thought to result in higher levels of customer satisfaction, which should lead to superior profit/sales margin.
Nevertheless, the relationships between HR practices, particularly learning, and firm performance tend to be relatively small in statistical terms. Furthermore, the firm performance is limited to financial performance. Most of the researches focus on the relationship between financial performance and learning, while performance from customer and internal perspectives is not much considered.
1.3 Motivation and Training
All organizations are concerned with what should be done to achieve sustained high levels of performance through people. This means giving close attention to how individuals can best be motivated through such means as incentives, rewards, leadership and, importantly, the work they do and the organization context within which they carry out that work. The aim is to develop motivation processes and a work environment that will help to ensure that individuals deliver results in accordance with the expectations of management. Motivation plays significant role in learning.
Individuals must be motivated to learn. They should be aware that their present level of knowledge, skill or competence, or their existing attitude or behavior, need to be developed or improved if they are to perform their work to their own and to others’ satisfaction. They must, therefore, have a clear picture of the behavior they should adopt. To be motivated, learners must gain satisfaction from learning. They are most capable of learning if it satisfies one or more of their needs. Conversely, the best learning programs can fail if they are not seen as useful by those undertaking them.
In spite of the significance of motivation in learning, researchers have only recently turned their attention to training motivationÂ Â . Kanfer defines training motivation as the direction, intensity, and persistence of learning-directed behavior in training contexts.Â Â
The training literature has generally recognized that training motivation can be influenced by both individual and situational characteristics.Â Â 53
Personality refers to the relatively stable characteristics of individuals (other than ability) that influence their cognition and behavior. Personality is found in many motivation theories because it creates differences in self-set goals and the cognitive construction of individuals’ environments, both of which go on to create between-person differences in behavior. Research linking personality to training motivation has examined narrow traits.Â Â Mathieu, Martineau, and Tannenbaum showed that trainees high in achievement motivation were more motivated to learn.Â Â Webster and Martocchio linked anxiety to reduced training motivation.Â Â Noe proposed that individuals with an internal locus of control have more positive attitudes toward training opportunities because they are more likely to feel that training will result in tangible benefits. This relationship was confirmed in Noe and Schmitt.Â Â Although these three narrow traits have been examined with some frequency, other traits have been explored in only one or two studies. These include cognitive playfulnessÂ Â , positive and negative affectivityÂ Â , need for dominanceÂ Â , and competitiveness.Â Â
Aside from personality, past research has shown that training motivation is a function of variables related to one’s job and career. Such variables include job involvement, organizational and career commitment, and career planning and exploration. Job involvement is defined as the degree to which an individual identifies psychologically with work and the importance of work to a person’s total self-image.Â Â 63
Researchers have suggested that people who are highly involved with their jobs are more likely to be motivated, because participation in training can increase skill levels, improve job performance, and increase feelings of self-worth.
Organizational commitment refers to an individual’s involvement in and identification with an organization. Organizational commitment includes acceptance and belief in the organization’s goals and values, a willingness to exert effort for the organization, and a desire to maintain membership in the organization.Â Â Meyer et al (1993) noted that the same type of commitment can be referenced to a person’s occupationÂ Â , termed career commitment.Â Â The higher individuals’ levels of organizational or career commitment, the more likely they are to view training as useful for themselves and the organization. Researchers have shown that commitment is positively related to motivation to learn and reactions to training.Â Â 686970
Career exploration refers to self-assessment of skill strengths and weaknesses, career values, interests, goals, or plans, as well as the search for job-related information from counselors, friends, and family members.Â Â 72Because it helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, and interests, persons who have high levels of career exploration are likely to have high training motivation, because they can more clearly see the link between learning and the development of their strengths and weaknesses.Â Â
Career planning refers to the extent to which employees create and update clear, specific, plans for achieving career goals. Career planning might relate to training motivation, because individuals who engage in planning see more potential benefits to training, a relationship that was supported by Facteau et al.
Other career variables have been examined with less frequency, including career identity and resilience.Â Â Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments”.Â Â Self-efficacy has been shown to be positively and strongly related to job performance.Â Â Self-efficacy also relates to task choice, task effort, and persistence in task achievement.Â Â In a training environment, such results are likely to translate into a positive relationship between self-efficacy and training outcomes. Indeed, research has consistently shown positive relationships between self-efficacy, motivation to learn, and learning.Â Â 7980
On the basis of expectancy theoryÂ Â , researchers have suggested that valence, or individuals’ beliefs regarding the desirability of outcomes obtained from training, is related to training success. For example, Mathieu et al found that motivation was a function of perceptions that increased job performance (facilitated by training) led to feelings of accomplishment, higher pay, and greater potential for promotion. Colquitt and Simmering found that trainees who valued outcomes linked to learning showed increased motivation levels.Â Â
Research also suggests that situational characteristics play a key role in influencing individual behavior. Forehand and Gilmer provided an early discussion about how characteristics of the organization (i.e., size, structure, systems complexity, leadership pattern, and goal directions) influence individuals’ attitudes and performance.Â Â They suggested that organizational-level characteristics define the stimuli that individuals regularly confront, place constraints on behavior, and reward or punish behavior. James and Jones discussed how organizational characteristics influence individuals’ perceptions of the organizational context and also how this psychological climate influences individuals’ subsequent affect and behavior.Â Â RousseauÂ Â and others have suggested, however, that influential situational factors can also reside at the level of the department, jobÂ Â , leaderÂ Â , or work group.Â Â 8990In the context of training studies, situational characteristics occurring at many of these levels have been examined. For example, Tracey, Tannenbaum, and Kavanagh recently examined an organization’s climate for transfer, which refers to trainees’ perceptions about characteristics of the work environment that influence the use of training content on the job.Â Â The main features of a positive climate may include adequate resources, cues that serve to remind trainees of what they have learned, opportunities to use skills, frequent feedback, and favorable consequences for using training content.Â Â Tracey et al. found that such a climate predicted the extent to which employees engaged in trained behaviors on the job. Similarly, Rouiller and Goldstein found that a positive climate was associated with transfer of managerial skills in the fast-food industry. Other researchers have examined the perceived presence of manager support or peer support for participation in learning activities.Â Â 94Facteau et al argued that both managers and peers can help trainees, particularly in transferring learned skills on the job. Their study of 967 managers in departments within state government agencies showed a positive link between peer support and transfer and a positive link between manager support and motivation to learn. Birdi et al. linked manager support to increased learning, increased development, and increased career planning. Finally, Clark et al provided results that suggest that supportive managers can emphasize the utility of training to the job, thus impacting trainee motivation.Order Now