Learning and Development Strategies at Workplace

Executive Summary

The unpredictable nature of work and the consequent challenges that follow it are some of the biggest problems organizational managers have to deal with today. To overcome the challenges of the dynamic business environment, organizations ought to have a knowledgeable, skillful, adaptive, and flexible workforce to counter this environment. In this regard, concerned managers recognize the need to improve and develop their organizational workforce.

To achieve this goal, organizations ought to employ the best learning and development strategies. This study identifies that the best learning and development strategies incorporate the process of management development, career development, and basic skill development. Complimentarily, the study identifies that employee mentorship, case study exercises, management coaching, training by role-playing, and outdoor learning activities are effective ways of undertaking learning and development strategies.

Introduction

Businesses and organizations in today’s economic environment are usually faced with unprecedented challenges and opportunities by operating in a turbulent and unpredictable business environment. This situation has forced many companies to adopt useful strategies that best deal with a shifting work force, intense business competition, technological progression, and the scramble of the few economic resources available1. Due to these factors, it is now more important than ever that businesses adopt prudent employee learning and development strategies through the support of all relevant stakeholders.

A learning and development strategy essentially outlines how employees will progress from being educated in the organization and how the organization or company will cover such needs in the first place2. This strategy must therefore include a thorough knowledge of how the organization operates and how it strives to achieve its productivity targets so that knowledge can be availed in critical areas of support.

This sort of strategy is also set to provide the metrics through which the organization can advance knowledge on important areas of operation and get feedback at the same time so that improvements can be made in areas that fall short of expectations.

The adoption of learning and development strategies is an important exercise because human capital creates value for the organization. Human capital leads to the development of intellectual capital which ensures all organizations meet the needs of their stakeholders. In this regard, it can be said that people and the way they are managed essentially provide value to the organization and such a process encompasses a continuous development strategy; which in its absence, ultimate return on stakeholders will not be sustainable3.

Due to these reasons, organizations and businesses must understand the elements and features that lead to the development of an effective learning and development strategy. This study identifies that in the formulation of a prudent learning and development strategy, management development, basic skill development, and career development ought to be considered.

Management Development

Management development is essentially supposed to be upheld by organizational managers and is also supposed to link the skills of the workforce to the attainment of organizational goals. In any organization, management development goals are supposed to be broad and encompass many skills and knowledge that can be applied to several jobs in the organization. The overarching goal in this context rests on the managers’ ability to develop crucial skills and competencies to lead the organization in this direction.

The human resource department is supposed to provide managers with the necessary tools to do so while establishing a performance benchmark criterion to evaluate the performance of managers and supervisors. The provision of a comprehensive management toolkit will also ensure managers are up to date with the needs of today’s dynamic business environment.

The principle that is known to control the provision is the inclination towards encouraging the growth and career development of the employees; improving the level of skill and knowledge to be applied in the organization; increasing the level of motivation and job satisfaction among employees; creating a network of employees to support them and promoting communication and planning throughout the entire organization and indeed in all functional areas4.

To uphold these areas of improvement, management development ought to be supported by all members of the organization. First of all, managers should be at the forefront in modeling the behavior they expect their employees to follow; through their development in the first place. Secondly, they should deliberate with other concerned individuals on the creation of a performance plan when coming up with a comprehensive blueprint for benchmarking performance. Thirdly, management should be able to endorse employees who take a proactive effort in attending classes and lastly provide more opportunities where employees can develop through mentoring, cross-training activities, and the likes5.

Career Development

Career development ought to be upheld in learning and development strategies because it involves the refining of skills and knowledge in career planning. At the same time, it involves the mastery of careers and the development of professional skills in dealing with day-to-day organizational tasks6. Professional development skills are essential because they assist employees to go beyond what is expected of them in the organization while job mastery skills are only essential to succeed in the performance of the job.

Because career development is an ongoing process, it becomes essentially important that managers assist the employees in assessing and reassessing their goals to ensure they are constantly on the right track7. This incorporates the provision of valuable feedback and the availing of learning activities and resources. Starting formal classes out of the organizational context is a good start in doing so but experienced employees also need to develop some new skills as well. This should be effectively done at departmental levels.

Basic Skills Development

Skills requirements needed in today’s organizations are more demanding than they have ever been in the recent past. Considering research studies point out that many employees today are struggling with skills requirements, employees must improve their skill expectations so that they stay relevant8. Most importantly, this needs to be done in the context of technological improvement.

In the learning and development strategy framework, managers must establish separate wings in the organization so that employees who come forward to be assisted in the development of their basic skills can get the necessary help. This should be done in a manner that is quite flexible for the employees and employers alike. The organization should also ensure the personnel assisting the employees are competent enough.

Employee Mentoring

Many organizations in today’s business environment have acknowledged the need to have a mentorship program because it increases employee retention and makes it quite easy for new and existing employees to settle into their work environments9. Employee mentorship programs are diverse but comprehensively, they enlighten the employees on the dos and don’ts of the organization; in addition to helping them learn the responsibilities of their new environment. Examples of mentorship programs are seen in day-to-day business life and more especially when organizations seek the services of external agents, with extensive knowledge and experience, to mentor new and existing employees so that they can excel in their jobs or careers10.

Training by Role Playing

Training by role-playing is an important technique in orienting new employees to adapt to organizational norms and be able to effectively take up new challenges in the organization11. This fact cannot be underestimated because role-playing assists new employees see how veteran employees deal with organizational challenges and how they go about their duties to achieve maximum productivity.

Additionally, during role-playing, an employee has the room to make mistakes which will be quickly identified and corrected in due time12. Through the above strategy, employees can be able to know how to handle the day-to-day challenges and demands of the work environment. Examples of organizations that have widely adopted training by role-playing include sales companies that train new salesmen by assigning them with veterans in the business who teach them the tricks of the trade13.

Case Study Exercises

Case study learning is one of the most controversial methods of employee learning in many organizations because it is widely misunderstood and misapplied14. However, some observers have noted that case studies are not essentially appropriate. They do not leave much room for innovation because they usually follow a given predetermined precedent15. However, the truth of the matter is that case studies are as effective as any other method of training16.

Some of the biggest advantages to case studies are that they can be able to solve a given problem, create new knowledge, or test certain conventional methods of practices with new techniques of operation. Research firms are the most prominent organizations which incorporate case studies in the evaluation of their research studies17.

Management Coaching

Management coaching is a relatively new technique in most business circles. It is majorly aimed at enabling employees to find their true mark in achieving career progression18. This concept has been majorly adopted by small businesses across the globe and success is becoming the order of the day for such organizations when it comes to employee performance. Management coaching is best used when adapting to new business environments and when the organization is undergoing a restructuring process or when it has employed new and inexperienced employees19.

In less demanding environments, it has been proved by many researchers that employing the services of a management coach is more economically prudent than replacing underperforming managers20. The biggest challenge in management coaching arises from the fact that the relationship is usually for a given set of time and upon expiry of this period, the benefits associated with it are no longer derived21.

Learning Outdoor Activities

Businesses and organizations across the globe are just beginning to realize the importance of team building and the impact it has on employee performance22. Teambuilding is essentially facilitated through learning outdoor activities. What is unique about it is the fact that it provides a different business environment from the conventional office environment23. Outdoor training enables employees to develop special bonds that can be used to improve productivity in the workplace and at the same time, it easily exposes common topics of conversation which can be used to build future relationships among employees24.

Learning Style Models: (Kolb, Honey, and Mumford’s Model)

Kolb’s experiential learning style engages its learners in four discrete styles of learning and they include concrete or immediate skills that offer the basis for reflections and observations. The four distinct styles form some sort of cycle that can make managers or organizations understand the dynamism of people’s talent and can be applied to a great number of people in the organization25. The observations and reflections identified above can be best conceptualized through the process of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting which also forms the abstract trail of thought for the four distinct styles in this model.

In other words, the immediate or concrete experiences harbored by employees can be able to be transformed into observations and reflections which are thereafter absorbed and translated into abstract concepts26. To make this happen, the Kolb model employs the concepts of assimilation, accommodation, diversion, and conversion of key concepts for the model’s four pillars to work.

The Honey and Mumford’s model modifies Kolb’s model by changing key terms in its application to come up with a cycle that involves having and experience, reviewing the experience, concluding from the experience, and ultimately, planning the next step from the process27.

The Honey and Mumford model also goes further ahead to align employee-training processes to the stages in the cycle through the activist, reflector, theorist, and pragmatist concepts that are more flexible to the changing business environment rather than being confined to employee personality28. The questionnaire to be used in this model is quite distinct in the sense that it seeks to interview managers on work-related behaviors but does not however probe how the managers learn the behaviors. In so doing, managers are better placed to improve on their shortcomings. The Honey and Mumford style has been widely used in the United Kingdom, according to recent surveys29.

Conclusion

Concerned managers recognize the need to improve and develop their organizational workforce to achieve maximum productivity. This is by the philosophy of human management which is applicable universally and states that organizations should “Encourage growth and career development of employees by coaching, and by helping employees achieve their personal goals in the organization and beyond… (you can develop) human resources by providing adequate training… encouragement of staff development, and opportunities for growth”30.

Knowledgeable managers observe the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach in effecting learning and development strategies because it incorporates the input of the organization, employees, and any other external party. To be able to achieve this, managers need to employ the best learning and development strategies. Observance of the above-outlined strategies in this study is a sure way for organizations to utilize the best that human capital can provide.

References

Arold, E. Importance of Role playing in Sales Training. 2010. Web.

Baillie, C. Effective Learning and Teaching in Engineering, Routledge, London, 2004.

Consalvo, C. Experiential Training Activities For Outside and In, Human Resource Development, London, 1993.

Driver, M. Coaching Dynamics: Effective Coaching and Management of Top Level Teams, Reedswain Inc., New York, 2004.

Dunham, J. Developing Effective School Management, Routledge, New York, 1995.

Fulbrook, J. Outdoor Activities, Negligence, and the Law, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., New York, 2005.

Gaebler Ventures. Management Coaching. 2010. Web.

Garger, J. Using the Case Study Method in PhD Research. 2010. Web.

Haan, E. Coaching With Colleagues: An Action Guide to One-To-One Learning, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2005.

Jackson, T. Career Development, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2000.

Jerling, K. Education, Training, and Development in Organization, Pearson South Africa, Pretoria, 1996.

Klasen, N. Implementing Mentoring Schemes: A Practical Guide to Successful Programs, Butterworth-Heinemann, London, 2001.

Mayo, A. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy. CIPD Publishing, London, 1998.

Mayo, A. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: The HR Business Partner’s Guide to Developing People, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2004.

McLeod, D. The Zero-Turnover Sales Force: How to Maximize Revenue by Keeping Your Sales Team Intact, AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn, Los Angeles, 2010.

Patton, W. Career Development Programs: Preparation for Lifelong Career Decision Making, Aust Council for Ed Research, New York, 2001.

Remenyi, D. Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2006), Trinity College, Dublin, 2006.

Schneier, C. Performance Measurement, Management, and Appraisal Sourcebook, Human Resource Development, London, 1995.

Smith G. Coaching and Mentoring: The Importance of Having a Good Mentor. 2010. Web.

Wiebe, E. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research, SAGE, New York, 2009.

Weston-Green, M. The Importance of Outdoor Team Building Activities. 2010. Web.

Wohlking, W. Role Playing, Educational Technology, New Jersey, 1980.

Williams, G. Handbook for Distance Learning In Tourism, Routledge, London, 2005.

Woodall, J. Management Development: Strategy and Practice, Wiley-Blackwell, London, 1998.

Footnotes

  1. by Mayo Andrew. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: The HR Business Partner’s Guide to Developing People, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2004.
  2. Mayo Andrew. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: The HR Business Partner’s Guide to Developing People, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2004.
  3. Mayo Andrew. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy. CIPD Publishing, London, 1998, p. 3.
  4. Mayo Andrew. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: The HR Business Partner’s Guide to Developing People, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2004.
  5. Mayo Andrew. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: The HR Business Partner’s Guide to Developing People, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2004, p. 6.
  6. Jackson Thomas. Career Development, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2000, p. 2.
  7. Patton Walter. Career Development Programs: Preparation for Lifelong Career Decision Making, Aust Council for Ed Research, New York, 2001.
  8. to Jackson Thomas. Career Development, CIPD Publishing, New York, 2000, p. 2.
  9. Klasen Newton. Implementing Mentoring Schemes: A Practical Guide to Successful Programs, Butterworth-Heinemann, London, 2001, p. 263.
  10. Smith Gerald. Coaching and Mentoring: The Importance of Having a Good Mentor. 2010. Web.
  11. Wohlking Werner. Role-Playing, Educational Technology, New Jersey, 1980, p. 29.
  12. McLeod Dalton. The Zero-Turnover Sales Force: How to Maximize Revenue by Keeping Your Sales Team Intact, AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn, Los Angeles, 2010, p. 80.
  13. Arold Elvis. Importance of Roleplaying in Sales Training. 2010. Web.
  14. by Wiebe Earnest. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research, SAGE, New York, 2009, p. 997.
  15. Williams George. Handbook for Distance Learning In Tourism, Routledge, London, 2005, p. 1.
  16. Baillie Calvin. Effective Learning and Teaching in Engineering, Routledge, London, 2004, p. 55.
  17. Garger Johnston. Using the Case Study Method in Ph.D. Research. 2010. Web.
  18. Schneier Charles. Performance Measurement, Management, and Appraisal Sourcebook, Human Resource Development, London, 1995, p. 196.
  19. Haan Eugene. Coaching With Colleagues: An Action Guide to One-To-One Learning, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2005, p. 153.
  20. Driver Martin. Coaching Dynamics: Effective Coaching and Management of Top Level Teams, Reedswain Inc., New York, 2004, p. 14.
  21. from Gaebler Ventures. Management Coaching. 2010. Web.
  22. Consalvo Cedric. Experiential Training Activities For Outside and In, Human Resource Development, London, 1993, p. 2.
  23. Fulbrook John. Outdoor Activities, Negligence, and the Law, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., New York, 2005, p. 1.
  24. Weston-Green, Milton. The Importance of Outdoor Team Building Activities. 2010. Web.
  25. Jerling Kennedy. Education, Training, and Development in Organization, Pearson South Africa, Pretoria, 1996, p. 136.
  26. Woodall James. Management Development: Strategy and Practice, Wiley-Blackwell, London, 1998, p. 99.
  27. Dunham Johnston. Developing Effective School Management, Routledge, New York, 1995, p. 99.
  28. Remenyi Davis. Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2006), Trinity College, Dublin, 2006, p. 176.
  29. Remenyi Davis. Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2006), Trinity College, Dublin, 2006, p. 176.
  30. Remenyi Davis. Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2006), Trinity College, Dublin, 2006, p. 176.