Exploring the Role of On-the-Job Training in Innovation Culture

Introduction

Nowadays, innovations have become one of the central and most common elements of everyday life, and business is not an exception to the overall trend of innovativeness. Innovating companies turned into the major trend in doing business regardless of the industry of operation due to the fact that implementing innovations in the workplace is inseparable from improving business outcomes and benefiting organizations. Therefore, numerous companies around the globe without regard to their size and scope of activities tend to allocate resources for creating innovative cultures in order to be labeled as innovative companies and maximize profits. The foundation of this process is the development of the so-called innovative human capital – the initiative aimed at enhancing four critical constituents: willingness, education, training, and job satisfaction (McGuirk, Lenihan & Hart 2014). Implementing it fosters creativity of the employees, thus potentially benefitting the company that invested in its workers.

In order to realize the criticality of innovations, it is essential to become familiar with the essence of this concept. In general terms, innovation stands for the implementation of new ideas in the workplace and commercial application of newly generated knowledge (McGuirk, Lenihan & Hart 2014). From this perspective, it does not necessarily incorporate the introduction of the newest technologies, even though, in most cases, they are the foundation of innovating companies. In other instances, innovation may refer to changing the approach to the existing working practices and currently deployed equipment in order to enhance productivity and increase economic and business outcomes of common operations. All in all, the ground for the benefits of innovating companies is the ability to differentiate offers firms and organizations can make to potential customers, thus creating more successful products and desirable services as well as optimizing formal processes (Michaelis & Markham 2017). Summing up, innovations are beneficial for the majority of companies. However, it is true only in case of addressing all challenges and issues that are connected to altering currently deployed business strategies and shifting to an innovative approach to doing business and arranging working activities and processes.

Research Problem

Regardless of the obvious benefits of building innovative culture in the workplace, it is of significant importance to highlight the fact that this process is a matter of significant concern because it is associated with the need to train employees so that they are familiar with the operation of the innovative system and realize the criticality of implementing organizational changes. Still, even though the process is promising, there are risks of the natural opposition to change that is common for all people. The ground of this risk is the common unwillingness to work on personal development and elaboration of new skills and knowledge although they could benefit the company.

Therefore, in order to cope with the most common challenge, organizations grow increasingly creative in launching different on-the-job initiatives and training. The rationale for this choice is the belief that training employees in their working environment and during their working hours is the foundation for decreasing the abovementioned risks because workers are not forced to spend their free time on developing new knowledge that is not needed in their everyday life. In this way, it is imperative to investigate the perception of on-the-job training and speculate on the role it plays in building innovative culture in companies and organizations. Achieving this objective will make a contribution to the existing knowledge in creating innovative companies and addressing main issues arising in the process of building innovative cultures by focusing on organizational efforts.

Research Questions

In order to achieve the research objective mentioned above and address the research problem in a proper and detail manner, it is essential to focus on the following research questions:

  1. What is the perception of the existing connection between on-the-job training and innovation culture?
  2. What it the level of readiness of becoming involved in building innovation culture through on-the-job training?

To assure that the mentioned research questions are answered comprehensively, it is imperative to reach the following research aims:

  1. Determine the overall impact of on-the-job training on building innovative culture in different companies.
  2. Identify the most critical characteristic of innovative culture.
  3. Locate differing types of on-the-job training that may affect the effectiveness of building innovative culture.
  4. Describe the international experience of implementing on-the-job training initiative with the aim of developing innovative culture in the workplace.
  5. Focus on individual perception of on-the-job training and innovative culture.
  6. Compare study results with the international experience in order to check the consistency of findings.
  7. Pay attention to people occupying varying positions when investigating individual perceptions of the connection between on-the-job training and innovation culture.

Literature Review

The Essence of Innovation

There is a common belief that innovation is associated with the implementation of the newest technologies in business operations in order to increase their effectiveness and outcomes. Even though technological advancements are beneficial for boosting the growth of companies and organizations by contributing to their economic development, the concept of innovations goes beyond the use of the newest technologies. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that is based on the ability to reframe ordinarily faced business-related problems and to generate creative strategies for coping with them in a cost- and resource-effective way (Gaul 2016).

Regardless of the simplicity of the concept, becoming innovative is associated with the need to maximally deploy the benefits of several critical factors. First and foremost, firms can become innovative only in case of possessing opportunities for growth and development (Sahay & Gupta 2016). It means that they should have enough resources – both financial and human – and potential to implement innovative initiatives. In addition, it is advisable to formalize the innovative process. In other words, individual effort may be advantageous for individual innovative performance, not company-wide. In this way, organizations should focus on developing innovative strategies and guarantee that all employees are informed of the new objectives and directions of organizational development (Sahay & Gupta 2016).

More than that, it is of critical importance to determine such types of innovation, as process and product innovation. Based on the type of novelty, innovation focuses on modifying either a process or a product (Tan & Nasurdin 2011). In addition, there is as well organizational innovation – a set of strategies that aims at human capital development in order to create innovative culture based on new behaviors (Tan & Nasurdin 2011). It is a comprehensive combination of activities that focus on altering workplace and the company’s current business culture.

The Novelty of Innovative Human Capital

Human capital is the foundation of driving the establishment of innovative culture in an organization or company (Michaelis & Markham 2017; Olsen 2016; van Uden, Knoben & Vermeulen 2017). It is associated with the fact that these are people that contribute to any changes in businesses, so it is impossible to alter business operations without their involvement. In general terms, human capital is a collective concept that incorporates knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the workplace that are inseparable from individual performance, fulfilling job duties, and achieving strategic organizational objectives (Aguinis & Kraiger 2009). In order to develop innovative human capital, it is of critical importance to pay attention to several factors. First and foremost, it is the level of education among employees. In fact, it is closely connected to training people in the workplace – the level of schooling within the organization or firm (Tsai 2011; van Uden, Knoben & Vermeulen 2017). Some researchers break this element into two interconnected ones: education and training – the combination of both firm-level and individual effort (McGuirk, Lenihan & Hart 2014).

Another major constituent is willingness. It is a broad concept, incorporating readiness to embrace change as well as the desire to benefit the company or organization that invests in the development of its employees (McGuirk, Lenihan & Hart 2014). Finally, job satisfaction is one more key determinant of innovative human capital. It is associated with the fact that those people who are not satisfied with the working environment or their occupation within the company commonly tend to ignore firm-level initiatives, even in the case the latter aim at the personal development of employees (McGuirk, Lenihan & Hart 2014). All in all, the factors mentioned above may be used in two ways: to foster the development of the innovative human capital as well as measure the level of the innovativeness of human capital.

Benefits of Innovating Business Operations

Based on the specificities of innovations mentioned above, they are beneficial for companies and organization. The main advantage is the ability to maximize competitive advantages and deploy them at their fullest (McGuirk, Lenihan & Hart 2014). The ground of this benefit is the fact that the more innovative the company is, the more competitive it becomes because it can minimize the volume of resources – material, financial, and human – maximizing, at the same time, outputs and incomes. In addition, because the implementation of innovations is commonly associated with training, it is inseparable from improved communication between team members that enhances the overall atmosphere in the workplace as well as contributes to bettered problem-solving skills that is helpful for improving performance and productivity of employees (Wolf, Kaudela-Braun & Meissner 2011).

Speaking of the benefits, it is critical to highlight that all of them are long-term ones due to significant internal changes in the operations of the company and its business processes (Tan & Nasurdin 2011). The ground of the identified benefits is the fact that, in most cases, innovations result in creating a new product – unique and modified – or developing an extraordinary working process that boosts both individual productivity and company-wide performance (Sahay & Gupta 2016). All in all, it contributes to the creation of a unique innovation-focused culture in the company or organization.

More than that, innovating particular companies is beneficial for industries as a whole. It is connected to the fact that other companies within the industry become motivated to innovate their activities in order to cope with the pressure of rivals as well as focus on developing their competitive advantages (Dobni 2008). Furthermore, they are helpful for employees because becoming an innovative worker is the foundation for increased wages and, as a result, higher standards of living and satisfaction with one’s life (Meijer et al. 2014). Finally, innovations are of critical importance to customers because they are offered better products and services (Iorgulescu & Ravar 2013).

Strategies for Boosting the Creation of Innovative Culture in Companies

There are two main strategies for building innovative cultures in companies and organizations: on-the-job training and slack time. On-the-job training stands for firm-level effort to educate employees and assist them in developing skills necessary for coping with job duties and increasing productivity. Another strategy – slack time – stands for free time during the working hours that can be dedicated to the development of new and creative ideas for improving business practices and process – become an innovative employee (Chua, Roth & Lemoine 2015; van Uden, Knoben & Vermeulen 2017). The criticality of slack time can be explained by the fact that granting employees some free time is connected to higher levels of job satisfaction and willingness because people feel valued, thus becoming driven to benefit their company or organization.

Types of On-the-Job Training

There are two common types of on-the-job training: formal and informal. Formal education stands for schooling and vocational education. In case of on-the-job training, it includes launching firm-wide educational initiatives, such as courses and lectures that involve the control of acquired knowledge. In this instance, the company provides employees with theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary for becoming innovative formally – by allocating additional resources, – so it can demand the adequate level of knowledge and skills (Bauernschuster, Falck & Heblich 2009; Dostie 2017). Formal training is critical for developing the minimal level of knowledge and skills essential for creating innovative culture.

Speaking of informal learning, it involves any other ways of obtaining new knowledge and elaborating new skills. It may incorporate asking for professional advice or learning during collective sessions of teams, such as meetings or brainstorms (Boring 2017). In general terms, informal learning is any initiative that is not connected to formal educational effort. It means that it does not involve control of knowledge and skills. Still, it is helpful for developing tacit skills that are essential for improving individual performance (Aguinis & Kraiger 2009). Regardless of the visible differences existing between the two types of on-the-job training, it is critical to point to the fact that only a balanced combination of the two is the ground for innovating companies and their activities, thus building innovative culture and developing innovative human capital. Here, it is paramount to assure that the main objective of training is to develop talent (Gaul 2016). In other words, sole elaboration of skills and knowledge is not enough for boosting creativity. Instead, the focus on talent development is an adequate and effective tool to becoming a more creative and innovative employee.

In addition to formal and informal training, it is essential to focus on several kinds of adults learning because it is advisable to deploy them as the ground for developing training programs. They are the following: implicit, reactive, and deliberative. Implicit learning stands for drawing lines between currently possessed knowledge and skills and innovations that are or will be implemented in the company or organization. In fact, the foundation of this type of adult learning is the focus on past experience and knowledge, not the development of new. The second type, reactive learning, is associated with reflections on experiences and actions in order to understand their impact on innovating companies and organizations. The foundation of this approach is asking questions in order to note facts and observe ideas. Finally, deliberative adult learning stands for discussions and reviews of events, experiences, and knowledge. It is essential for learning opportunities for growth and innovation as well as enhancing problem solving and critical thinking beneficial for personal development (Olsen 2016). All in all, the connection of all three types of adult learning, just like the combination of formal and informal training, are likely to benefit the companies and organizations in their innovative efforts.

The Role of On-the-Job Training in Building Innovative Culture

In most cases, on-the-job training is the ground for innovating firm’s activities and developing innovative culture in companies and organizations (Aguinis & Kraiger 2009; Kesen 2016). In fact, innovative organizations are commonly referred to as learning organizations because their senior management recognizes the criticality of learning for fostering creativity and development (Olsen 2016). The contribution of training to building innovative culture is obvious – it fosters creativity of employees, thus helping them find new ways to cope with job duties more effectively that is the foundation of innovativeness (Boring 2017). However, in order to maximize benefits of on-the-job training for creating innovative cultures, it is paramount to formalize training (Michaelis & Markham 2017). Even though it was mentioned above that the combination of formal and informal training is critical for becoming innovative, only formal training is the ground for innovativeness because informal training is not connected to significant changes in the volume of knowledge and quality of skills.

The main challenge in building innovative culture through on-the-job training is that investing in the development of human capital is commonly underestimated or even ignored (Gonzalez, Miles-Touya & Pazo 2016; Michaelis & Markham 2017). In other words, organizations fail to understand the criticality of training employees, thus increasing the risks of failure in developing innovative culture. Therefore, it is imperative to pay attention to the way people and organizations perceive the link between on-the-job training and innovative culture in order to develop adequate recommendations and answer research questions in a detailed and accurate way.

Methodology

Significant attention was paid to quantitative aspects of the connection between on-the-job training and building innovative cultures. Therefore, the proposed research will not focus on what is already represented in modern literature. Instead, the idea is to investigate individual perceptions of the existing link and come with a conclusion whether people are interested in training and becoming more innovative. For this reason, qualitative research method is selected instead of the quantitative or mixed one. The rationale for this choice is the fact that it corresponds with research questions and research objectives. More than that, unlike mixed or quantitative research methods, it does not imply the need for calculations of testing hypotheses – establish cause-and-effect relationships (Bazeley 2015). Instead, it focuses only on perceptions and experiences that are essential for obtaining a comprehensive apprehension of the considered problem (Sutton & Austin 2015). Due to the focus on reflections, perceptions, and experiences, qualitative research method is consistent with research questions and objective.

In addition to the value for understanding the matter under investigation, the use of qualitative approach is inseparable from the focus on the small sample so that all of the people involved in the research are paid relevant attention to and it is possible to achieve the stated research objective and aims. Here, it is essential to mention that research questions and goals were elaborated based on the gaps in reviewed literature. From this perspective, laying stress on personal perceptions and experiences is helpful for drawing adequate and accurate conclusions. More than that, the qualitative research method is valuable because all information is collected from the context of the events under consideration (Basri 2014; Symon, Cassell & Johnson 2016). Therefore, the contribution to understanding the investigated issue is significant.

Based on the specificities of the selected research method, a small sample is a relevant choice. As mentioned earlier in this research proposal, the choice is explained by the assumption that smaller samples grant opportunities for the better understanding of the studied issue. From this perspective, it is proposed to create the sample of fifteen people employed by one company that currently works on creating innovative culture through investing in on-the-job training. In order to form the sample, people occupying different positions within one company will be involved. In particular, it is planned to seek cooperation with managers (including senior managers, who made the decision to implement training in order to estimate their motivation) and ordinary employees.

Here, it is as well significant to focus on sampling strategies. Convenience and stratified sampling will be selected. According to convenience sampling, only those people who are easily available are asked to become involved in the research. From the perspective of this research, only those occupied in one company will be involved because they are easy to reach. Speaking of stratified sampling, it stands for selecting those respondents who comply with several major features referred to as strata. Within the context of this research, occupied position is the main stratum. That being said, only those occupying either management or non-management position will be asked to become involved in the research. Based on everything mentioned in the subsection, the sample will be made of 5 managers (2 senior managers, 2 middle-rank managers, and human relations (HR) manager) and 10 ordinary employees. The rationale for selecting HR manager is the assumption that ordinary employees communicate with them, so it may be possible to reveal any challenges or issues of dissatisfaction with the novelty of on-the-job training and innovation that other respondents chose to ignore or not to mention.

Qualitative Research Methods

There are several commonly used qualitative research methods. However, within the context of this research, preference will be given to interviews as the main source of data necessary for making research conclusions. The information collected during interviews will be helpful for estimating the diversity of perception of and attitudes to the issue under investigation as well as obtain a better understanding of the studied problem. Except for the value of interviews for collecting necessary data, the rationale for this choice is the opportunity to communicate with respondents face-to-face and, in this way, make an attempt to be friendly, so they are open when communicating with the researcher.

Speaking of the interviews, it is essential to state that they will be conducted once senior management, as well as all other respondents, sign the informed consent forms, so the risks of dissatisfaction with the cooperation within the framework of this research due to misunderstanding research objectives are minimized. As for informed consent forms, they will as well guarantee the anonymity of respondents and safety of their personal information.

At the same time, it is paramount to mention that preference will be given to face-to-face communication in the environment natural for managers and employees – at their working place. Unlike e-mail and telephone interviews, those conducted in the physical presence of the researcher are more valuable due to the opportunity to observe the arrangement of the working processes and workforce as well as pay attention to different aspects of the investigated issue by asking additional questions when necessary.

All of the interviews will be made up of open-ended questions. Compared to close-ended questions, they are the ground for estimating respondents’ perceptions because they grant and opportunity to reflect on experiences. In addition, unlike close-ended questions, open-ended questions are appropriate for collecting information about past experience and knowledge that as well may be helpful for addressing research questions and achieving research objectives. More than that, open-ended questions are subconsciously associated with valuing the respondents because they are granted an opportunity to share their feelings and experiences. Therefore, it is easier to obtain relevant answers to research questions.

Furthermore, it is paramount to mentions that all interviews will be phenomenological. The rationale for selecting phenomenology as the framework for this research is that fact it is naturally linked to the qualitative research method. More than that, the main focus is made on perception of on-the-job-training and its role in building innovative culture, and the stress on the perceptions and lived experiences of respondents is the foundation of the phenomenological approach.

Finally, the interviews will be structured. It means that all open-ended questions that will be included in the interviews will be developed before conducting the interviews themselves (Stuckey 2013). This choice can be explained by the fact that because the interviews will be conducted individually, it is critical to guarantee that all respondents address the same questions in order to avoid inconsistency or gaps in findings (Stewart, Gapp & Harwood 2017). Still, the choice of the structured interview does not necessarily imply the need to answer the questions in some fixed volume of information and details. Throughout the course of the interview, it is still possible to ask additional questions to help the respondent answer the question properly as well as pay different attention to different questions.

Keeping in mind everything that was mentioned in the subsection, the interviews will be arranged in the following manner: 1) collect some personal information, such as name, an occupied position, and number of years working for the selected company; 2) focus on the knowledge of innovative strategy deployed by the company; 3) estimate the effectiveness of training; and 4) identify the role of on-the-job training in building innovative culture. The planned length of the interview is 30 minutes that is considered to be enough to avoid situations when respondents are bored or tired but still enough to address main questions.

Study Design

Within the context of this research, cases study is selected as a study design. The motivation for this choice is the fact that it naturally goes with the qualitative research method. In addition, case studies are significant and valuable when it is imperative to obtain a better understanding of a very peculiar concept in a particular environment. It can be explained by recalling that, in this case, actions, choices, perceptions, and experiences are connected to exterior factors (for instance, senior management decisions to launch educational initiatives) instead of researcher’s interventions. All in all, the case study is beneficial for apprehending changes in the working environment that were triggered by alterations of strategies and approaches to doing business and arranging working process and workforce.

In order to arrange the case study properly, it is of critical importance to pay attention to several constructs – main assumptions that will be the key topics of interviews. Within the context of this research, the major focus will be made on logical and expressive constructs. Logical constructs stand for reasoning and knowledge, while expressive ones are directly connected to feelings and perceptions.

Ideas about Anticipated Results

It is expected that the proposed research will make a contribution to understanding the role of on-the-job training in creating innovative culture in the selected setting. The idea is that the research will demonstrate that training is an effective instrument for fostering innovations. From this perspective, the main assumption about anticipated results is that it will be possible to develop recommendations for promoting on-the-job training by drawing attention to its benefits for companies and organizations as well as employees. Finally, it is believed that the research will help to measure the current level of innovativeness of human resource of the selected setting by focusing on four determinants mentioned earlier in the proposal – willingness, job satisfaction, education, and training.

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