Change Management
Organisational Learning

Introduction

Today, the economic and business environment is changing fast, dynamic and turbulent. Due to the increasingly globalized and competitive business landscape, companies are forced to evolve and learn fast, to stay relevant and competitive in the respective industry. Due to such a situation, it can be seen that observers and researchers are arguing that it is important for people and organizations to learn fast to cope with the fast changing environment, in order to capture potential opportunities due to the changes or to avoid potential dangers or threats arise in the macroenvironment. Today, learning is no longer the responsibilities of students from schools or universities; but it is also imperative for practitioners, particularly managers as well as business executives to learn and adapt fast to stay relevant and competitive (López-Cabrales et. al., 2011). Under such a scenario, it is also increasingly important for managers, particularly the human resources director to plan for their own learning as well as organizational learning for the corporation under their management to evolve accordingly with the requirements and opportunities in the fast changing marketplace. For this, it is increasingly critical for the human resources director to plan for relevant and effective Training and Development (T&D) Program to enhance workforce and management competencies and capabilities to cope with the dynamic business landscape under the new economy era today.

There are many theories on how a person learns. There are effective way on which a person can learn fast and gain from the new knowledge acquired. In this article, it will be argued that the best way for a manager to learn is by practicing what they do. In other words, it is through actions and repetition that a manager can learn in the most effective manner. With such a concept, the best strategies for developing a viable and effective Training and Development Program for the senior and middle managers in an organization will be illustrated.

This essay is arranged as follow. Firstly, several basic theories and discussions on effective learning will be discussed. It will be argued that it is best for the manager to learn by practicing what they learn. Then, consistent with that assertion, the best strategies of effective Training and Development program for senior and middle managers for an organization will be illustrated. Then, an example on how the Training and development strategy document might look like will also be presented.

Best Practices about Learning

In a review of the many literatures regarding the subject of learning, it is found that researchers apparently agree that there are certain principles guiding the learning process. There are certain practices or behavioral attitudes that can make a learning process more effective. This is important because by following or adopting the effective ways to learn, a person can accelerate his learning and improvement process. In the workplace, this could mean better personal performance and organizational achievement.

In terms of psychology, learning is often perceived as a process in which a particular individual adapt to the external as well as internal influences or experiences, for his improvement or changes in terms of attitudes, mindset, skills, knowledge, or values. The subject of learning is particularly interesting as for any person to improve his capabilities and standard of living, it is essential that they learn and adapt fast to the new environment. As discussed above, those rules apply to organization as well.

Generally speaking, the many learning related theories can be categorized into three main philosophical frameworks, namely the behaviorism, cognitive and experiential. Specifically, behavioral related learning theories focus on behavioral change and observable aspects of learning; cognitive related learning theories focus on bran-based related learning; while experiential theories is about how learners build new ideas, mindset or behaviors in the learning process through experience (Loxley et. al., 2009). Of so many theories, it is one of the big challenges to researchers that develop learning methods to ensure the learners will have lasting behavioral change or impacts after the learning process. Very often, it is not hard to found that even after the many useful materials are taught to the learners, they may still remain in their old habits or old behavioral styles without really practicing the new knowledge learned. In the cases whereby the learners may start to practice the ideas or concepts learned, the behavioral change within them is no long term as well. Very often, the behavioral change is not lasting. However, if the behavioral change is not lasting, or the knowledge learned are not being applied, the person has actually not truly learned. This means the learning process is not effective, and the resources spent in the learning process are wasted (Staats et. al., 2011). Thus, it is argued that learning process must include a phase whereby the learners is somehow forced or motivated to apply the new knowledge, and from time to time, the new behavioral change intended should be reinforced. This can be done by ensuring the learners practice what they had learned, and through repetition of the applications of the knowledge learned, long lasting behavioral change is then possible. As such, as mentioned before, this article will utilize such assertion to argue how effective Training and Development program for senior and middle manager can be formulated. As will be demonstrated in the section below, any effective Training and development program should consider how to make lasting behavioral or mindset changes among the managerial staffs (Garavan, 1997), by ensuring that the managers attending to the Training and Development program practice what they learn, and to learn up new habits through repetition on what they had learned.

Training and Development Strategies for Effective Learning

There are many important roles whereby the human resources directors can affect the performance, profitability and growth of an organization. One of the important roles is about training and development of the workforce. Traditionally, there are many training and development methods widely applied in the organizational context, in order to enhance the workforce competency as well as for improvement of organizational performance. In the following section, the various training and development methods will be discussed, and how the concepts of ‘managers should learn by practicing what they do” will be incorporated into these discussion. To begin, the many traditional training and development methods in organizational context today include: (a) class room training methods, (b) website training methods, (c) on the job training, (d) role play and simulation, (e) job rotation, and (f) team building. A brief discussion on the limitation of these traditional training methods will be discussed, and the effectiveness of these training methods in making lasting behavioral changes to the senior or middle managers will be discussed as well.

Among the many training methods, class room training method is perhaps the most popular and cost efficient training method widely applied not only in organizations, but also in educational entities around the world today. However, such training method is not truly effective, as it can be found that people may simply forget what they learn after a short period of time, or do not engage in serious and long lasting behavioral changes after the class room training (McDowall et. al., 2010). This is because the training participants are not practicing what they learn, and the new desired behavioral changes are not reinforced among these training participants. Particularly for executives such as senior and middle managers, the skills required for becoming a great leader, such as leadership skills, interpersonal skills and personal character and habits, are not something can be learned in a simple class room training settings. Similarly, website training is also not very effective. Under website training methods, training materials in the text, audio or video forms can be uploaded onto the corporate intranet for executives to engage in self learning process (Kohl et. al., 2004). This is definitely positive efforts but too many people may not engage in real behavioral change from such a training methods as they may easily distracted from applications of the knowledge learned, by the complexities of the daily life (Pergola et. al., 2011). Thus, such a training method is not effective as it does not enforce the senior or middle managers to engage in repetition of learning up new habits and application of new knowledge learned.

On the job training is somewhat effective because a person is trained and supervised directly when they are performing the job. A mentor is often selected to train the training participants, and they are being guided and corrected in the process when they are performing the tasks delegated to them. Such a training method, however, is not relevant for training senior and middle management, because they are suppose to guide and training the lower level employees. In fact, the skills set and attitudes required by senior or middle managers are very different. They are supposed to be responsive to market changes, proactive in leading the organization towards viable strategic direction and be flexible and yet engage in continuous improvement to enhance their competencies as well as the attainment of organization’s competitive advantage. Thus, although on the job training is effective in training competent workforce in an organization, such training method is not relevant for senior or middle managers. Role play and simulation, however, can be more suitable for senior or middle manager. Under such a training method, various scenarios are designed (Jonick, 1998) and the senior managers are supposed to act in the different situations. Such a training method is useful to cultivate management awareness on their personal behaviors and thinking process. This is useful in starting behavioral change among the senior and middle level management, as they will learn from their experiences during the role play and simulation session. When such a training method is used in combination with other types of training methods, it is possible that effective training and development program specifically for senior or middle level managers can be formulated.

From another perspective, job rotation is also a viable training method. Such a training method is highly powerful to expose someone to various departments in an organization, allowing him to learn up the many aspect and functional areas in an organization. This is a very powerful way to prepare the many lower level workforces, or even the middle level managers to learn up the various knowledge required in managing an organization, before greater responsibilities are delegated to them (Morris et. al., 2009). These is because through job rotation, people can be exposed to various areas or department, and then learn to see the interconnection of these many functional areas, and thus having greater and more comprehensive view on how the organization functions as a whole. A holistic view on the organization is definitely important, particularly for the middle level managers before they can be trusted to take up more senior managerial roles in an organization. However, such a training method may not be relevant for senior management, as they have already the relevant knowledge on the various functional areas in an organization. For them, more emphasis should be placed on developing leadership capabilities as well as strategic senses in guiding the entire organization towards success in the dynamic and challenging business environment.

Lastly, team building is also an effective training method for all level of executives or managerial staffs in an organization. This is because team building training methods are often used to improve people skills among the workforce and managerial staffs. Besides, depending on how the team building program is organized, impactful behavioral change may be possible, provided that the team building is organized effectively. The training agendas for normal executive as well as the senior management should be different from that team building program designed for the lower level workforce. For the senior and middle managers, it is important more high level managerial concepts and philosophy be taught and delivered. Overall, it is no hard to understand that team building can be powerful to develop competent managerial staffs and be combined with other types of training methods in an organization.

Apart from the training methods, another critical area to be focused on in ensuring that long lasting behavioral change among the trained managers is to have proper follow up program to check the improvement process of the managers. Review sessions are necessary, whereby managers should have self-determined personal goals to be achieved. For example, the certain habits that should be learned by the management must be stated out clearly, and then the improvement or the relative behavioral changes should be measured and feedback to these managers from time to time. Proper procedures should be set to track the relative behavioral changes, and such process should be treated seriously so that the managers understand that to practice what they learn is critically crucial for their performance in the future. In fact, in many instances, effective training and development program is not possible without the support from the reward system in an organization (Pineda, 2010). Thus, it is then also crucial to ensure that the behavioral change as well as the relative applications of the knowledge learned should be tracked and rewarded. When the intended behavior changes are rewarded, then it is likely people will pay serious attention to such issues, and thus, more impactful and effective training program can be designed.

Apart from that, particularly for the case of senior management, it shall be understood that traditional training methods may no longer be relevant for improving their competencies and capabilities in coping with the real and complicated business world today. Instead, the real training ground for the senior management is the real competitive business landscape. It is important for them to have positive attitudes, and then to stay flexible and observant, and having a willing to learn from the ever changing business world. For the senior management, they shall determine they own learning agenda, as nobody can really help them to improve themselves other than their own self. Thus, certain self improvement technique, such a self reflection shall be applied. Specifically, for the senior managers, it is crucial for them to reflect upon their actions, mindset, experiences, learning process and behaviors daily (Brown et. al., 2010). They shall learn to cultivate awareness on how they can further improve, based on their awareness. It is also crucial for them to reflect if they are on the progress to cultivate effective managerial attitudes and habits in dealing with the complex business and organization related issues (Peltier et. al., 2005). Apart from that, the feedback from others is also potentially very important for them to improve. For example, a system should be develop for the senior manager to gather others feedback to evaluate how they have been successful in applying new knowledge or engage in positive behavioral changes. All these feedback should be crucial for the senior manager to further enhance their competencies and practicing doing or managing the organization in a more effective manner.

An Example of Effective Training and Development Program

In order to ensure the Training and Development (T&D) program for the organization to be effective, it is important that several strategies outlined as follow to be applied. All of these concepts and strategies outlined will be able to ensure that the impacts due to the training and development program be long lasting. To achieve this, the key ideas applied are that manager should practice what they learn and through repetition, they are more able to build up new behaviors and habits that are beneficial to bother the organization as well as their selves. The strategies are outlined as follow:

  • Training and Development program should ensure that the senior and middle level managers have the chance to practice what they learn. It is through repetition that they can cultivate long lasting habits or positive behavioral changes.
  • The suitable types of training program for managerial executives include: role play and simulation, as team building methods. For middle managers, job rotation can be effective for them to learn up the various functional departments in an organization. By enrolling the middle managers in dealing with the tasks in the many different functional areas, their knowledge can be enhances, and as they have experiences in completion of the tasks assigned to them in different functional areas, they will be more able to handle top level management of an organization in a holistic manner in the future.
  • Employing external consultants can be useful to develop important managerial skills among senior and middle level managers. The skills to be taught could be as follow: interpersonal skills, leadership skills, positive mindset, business management philosophy, and other important knowledge about business system and organizational success. External consultants can be very powerful mentor to the senior managers in an organization.
  • For senior managers, it is important that they able to learn by their own self, as they are suppose to lead the organization by adapting and thriving in the fast changing business landscape. They should reflect upon their own learning, and through the process of continuous learning and application on the knowledge learned, they will be able to adapt and thrive in the dynamic business environment.
  • Effective Training and Development program is not possible without strong support from the performance appraisal and reward system in an organization. It is important that the behavioral changes as well as the applications of knowledge learned be tracked, and be incorporated into the performance appraisal and performance management system. Senior or middle level managers showing positive and desired behavioral changes, as well as able to transform the learning to actions in workplace should be praises, awarded and compensated accordingly.

Conclusion

Organizational learning is becoming very important in a fast changing business world. Such a scenario is becoming increasingly prevalent in modern organizations today (Eijkman, 2011). In order to stay competitive, relevant and profitable, it is important for the top managers and leaders, as well as the workforce in a company to learn ad adapt to the upcoming changes. For this, human resources department is burdened with the duties and responsibilities to develop effective Training and Development program for the workforce. However, effective Training and Development program is nothing easy to implement, as people can simply not able to practice what they learn, if they are not practicing the knowledge learned in a consistent manner. Besides, true learning can only be achieved when people learn their way through the applications of knowledge repeatedly and adjust accordingly to the practical environment. It is important that the senior managers to learn by practicing the knowledge and adjust their habits, attitudes and mindset for impactful and positive behavioral changes. From such a perception, this article provides the various recommendations on how to formulate effective Training and Development strategies in workplace.

References & Bibliography

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