Skills acquisition and development and training

Skills acquisition and the need to remain relevant in a growing competitive global market in recent times are some of the vital reasons firms engage in Development and Training. By so doing, work force potential is boosted and increased productivity as well as better performance of the firm is achieved. Despite the knowledge of the positive benefits attached to training and developments, research has shown that most firms and individuals are still reluctant in engaging in Training and Development. This essay seeks to investigate the importance of Training and Development to both firms and employees and also discuss reasons for firm’s reluctance to invest in Training and Development despite the knowledge they have that Training and Development provides a range of individual and organizational benefits.

Training and Development is a necessary part of human endeavor and has always been in existence (Warren 1969:1). The term Training and Development are most frequently used closely and interchangeably because they are both similar in concepts, for this reason, they will be dealt together. Training could be seen from a perspective of a short-term learning process for present use, while Development is more of a long term learning process for which skills gotten from this process can be applied now or in the future.

Training is defined as ”the planned intervention that is designed to enhance the determinants of job performance” (Chiaburu and Tekleab, 2005:604).This refers to the development of skills available for better work execution. Goldstein (1993:3) supports this definition by referring to training as ”the systematic acquisition of skills, rules, concepts or attitude that result in improved performance in another environment”. Training is designed to provide learners with the knowledge and skills needed for their present jobs. It could either take the form of a formal training which is planned and structured where employees have to leave their work stations for a structured training program, or an informal training which could be on- the- job training, whereby, an individual learns job tasks by actually performing them. Also, on national level depending on the approach to be taken, training could either take the regularist approach on training or the voluntarist approach to training.

Development however, is a continuous process of progression and advancement which becomes continuously complex, and more elaborate by reason of learning (Collin, 1988).It is a continuous learning process of self development over a period of time, where acquired skills tend to build up for both present and future use. It is ‘a learning experience of any kind where by individuals and groups acquire enhanced knowledge ,skills, values or behaviors, with its outcome unfolding through time, rather than immediately'(Harrison,2000) as summarized by Armstrong(2006:234).

Development involves more of a continuity of several processes that tend to improve the potential skills of the workforce. It also involves learning on a long term basis, more of self development of personal skills, which helps keep employees or individuals at pace with not only their present jobs, but also with future jobs to come. Development in firms could be experienced in various forms, Madine (2010), categorizes these type of training as either Mentoring or Coaching, which is used mainly for disadvantaged groups such as women and black heritage to make progress in and out of organization, Secondly, through secondment this involves lending a staff or employee to another organization or department.

Ultimately, Training and Development are tools used in an organizational setting to cause a change in the behavioral pattern of the individual as well as the firm. Drost et al (2000:67) suggested that firms that have had success in recent times in the global markets are those who invested in acquisitions and development of employees. Yet, it is important to note that the rationale for training and development in firms is to link the training needs to the firm’s strategic goals. (Bradford and O’Grady, 2000:185).

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However, Warren (1969:3) argues ‘that training and development are not the only way of achievement of a maximized work force and organizational goals, it is one alternative amongst several such as work simplification which eliminates the need for skills, automation which can be used to replace human resources entirely and lastly, changes in work processes may make better use of skills within the firm’. He further explains that these alternatives asides their advantages of utilization of existing skill and reduction in manpower, there is also a change in behavior within firms leading to an overall achievement of higher productivity.

Wright and Geroy (2001) argue further that for training to be effective the training needs have to be identified and such needs must fit with the kind of training to be offered. In as much as Training and Development enhances skills, changes behavior towards work and increases career prospects, and not all training programs are helpful or useful.

Despite the criticism of the effectiveness and measurability of training and development, the truth remains that it is beneficial for both firms and individuals. The importance of Training to firms cannot be overemphasized. Firms that engage in Training and Development do these so as to increase competitiveness through the raising of skill levels and increase in knowledge of its employees. Mondy et al (2002) suggests that the firm’s workforce is its most important competitive advantage and so the competency of this work force should be sustained through training and development.

Secondly, Training and Development improves the productivity and high performance of firms, although, research has not being able to extensively gauge the correlation between productivity, training and development.

Thirdly, Firms that engage in Training and Development of its employees do these so as to increase overall effectiveness and achievement of organisational goals by the firm. Mondy et al (2002) suggests Training and Development as the crux of a continuous effort designed to improve employee competency, effectiveness and increase the organizations performance. Training and development also allows for easy adaptations of firms to different changes in the environment. (Grugulis,2007). With complexities in job functions, technological advancement and complex organizational structure, the way people work could be affected and so provision of Training in such a situation would reduce such chances as skill to perform a certain duty is made available through Training. Hillage et al (2002) as summarized by Grugulis (2007:119) suggests that organization with skills shortages report difficulties in introducing new products and working practices.

Subsequently, when firms carry out training and development programs, it positively affects the image of the firm; this is a form of positive symbol or prestige for firms and also the employee. It also builds the confidence or trust the employees have in the firm and could lead to a high level of commitment and motivation by employees. Keep (1989) as summarized by Grugulis (2007:119) suggests that investment in training reassures employees that they are valued by their employers. By training, employers invest in the workers on a long term basis by improving the skills of the work force making the employee have better career prospects and loyalty to the firm. (Heyes and Stuart 1996) as summarized by Grugulis (2007:3). However, these raises assumptions of the uncertainty of the employee’s loyalty after training, the employee might leave for better paying jobs, and increasing individual marketability at the expense of the firm.

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Similarly, Training and development for individual’s help improve interpersonal skills , prepares employees for future jobs, acts as a reward to employees , Allow for better performance through team work within the firm, helps improve on performance, Provides employees with skill to perform different jobs and help employees to have a better understanding of the firms through knowledge of new technology and competitors, and also, Improves technical job abilities.Grugulis (2007) opines that training and development equips employees with skill that empower them in the labor market, improve their career prospects and add considerably to their life earnings. Training and development equips workers by increasing skills levels which enables them to carry out tasks, monitor quality and manage complex products and services, therefore, in highly skilled industries, training and development of workers will keep employers abreast with recent changes in technologies, which is vital especially if the firm is competing on a quality basis level and not a cost based level.

Reiterating this opinion, Fonda and Guile (1999:38) suggest that employability results from investment in human capital skills and reputation, through continuous learning and development processes, an individual can update skills and also acquire others skills which will be useful in future such as a current job or other jobs in future.

However, as important as Training and Development is, in reality, not all firms engage in Training. Some issues have been addressed by research on the reason for a reluctance to engage in training .Lloyds (2002:66) relates this gap to the inability of individuals to invest in themselves and limited economic returns on training. From an economist view point, it’s seen that under investment in training by firms is as a result of ”Market Failure” (Booth and Snower 1996) as summarized by Lloyds (2000:66). Failure by individuals to invest in their own skills reduces possible chances of a demand for them. Becker(1964) opines that the higher the investment an individual makes in themselves, the greater the expected returns on the long term, which comes through better earning ,reductions in unemployment and better opportunities. Steven (1996) has suggested the movement of labor and skills and market power of employers to pay more for these skills has led to firms poaching workers (in Lloyds, 2007:66.).Most firms find it cheaper to poach trained workers and so would rather cut cost by not training and either buy or hire skills for available markets. In other words, market failure has encouraged poaching by firms and so many firms have gained from these by recruiting from the labor market with previously trained people thereby, benefitting from training costs previously incurred by other organizations (Nordhaug, 1989).As individuals invest less in themselves, firms will also tend to invest less in training as a result of mobility of labor, firms would rather focus on recruiting skills from the labor market (Lloyds, 2002:66).Reason being that when skills are either bought or hired, it saves the costs of training as the individual has already being pre-trained.

Slow rate of return on investment in training could be a reason for not training as well. Blundell et al (1999:3) suggests that wages reflect the performance or a marginal product of employee, so the more trained or productive you are, the higher your wage earnings. But in reality, the implementation period before result of trainings could actually take a while. It is difficult to identify and demonstrate the results that training produces. Training seldom produces quick results with tangible pay -off. (Torrington and Hall 1991:404)

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Yet, another reason why some firms do not engage in training is because in some organizations, training is seen to be out of place. (Madine, 2010). This means that some firms do not necessarily have to invest in formal training as the costs incurred will be too much, Small Medium Enterprises fall into these category, in organizations like the SME’s, informal training such as on the job training will suffice for skill acquisitions of individuals there, as there are less complexities in the nature of jobs carried out there. Depending on the organization competitive strategy; a plan on training could be drawn. This simply means that for organizations competing on the basis of high job complexities and quality, highly skilled workers are essential; but for those competing on cost then, they are unjustifiable extravagance’. (Bach and Sisson 2000) as summarized by Grugulis (2007:5), Organizations that compete on quality such as the highly skilled sectors as aviation and manufacturing industries will need a lot of skilled work force and so engaging in formal training of these employees will be of the firms benefit.

Similarly, firms seem not to train due to the fact that Most” jobs are tightly controlled with employee discretion and with its skill taken away’ (Grugulis, 2007:5), this is a situation where by decision making processes are stripped from employees, and employees are to strictly adhere to instructions such that their intuitive contributions are not regarded but their labor is of more importance. Working in such an environment could be alienating and de-skilling as well. Supporting this reason, monitoring the performance of workers may deskill jobs, reduce workers discretion and eventually narrow the training that is available to them. In such a situation, the need for training would be disregarded as work becomes monotonous and nothing new and challenging to look forward too.

In Conclusion, for firms to remain relevant and have a competitive edge in the market, Training and Development is important. Also, for the achievement of better skilled workforce and the overall improvement in the organizations goal through increased profits and reduced costs, firms are left with the choice of either training and developing their employees or hiring skills. Firms that invest in buying job specific skills from the labor market, spend little or nothing on training because most firms find it cheaper to poach trained workers than to train their own, because these workers come into the organization pre-trained. Alternatively, if a firm decides to build its own employees, then the firm is at a risk of ‘poaching’ by other firms, a situation where trained employees leave for a more desirable job.

Training is good, and should be carried out when a need for it has been identified, Decision to train should be based on the need for certain skills, knowledge and attitudes. . Hence, most firms today prefer the option of hiring or buying skilled employee in whom they would spend little or nothing to train as against training and developing employees whose chances of remaining in the firm after being trained are slim. Hiring from the markets could be advantageous to the firm as it presents an opportunity for firms to tap into new ideas and different methods of goals achievement. Similarly, training and developing employees creates an avenue for consistency as well as commitment.

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