Employee perceptions and their in uence         on training effectiveness         Amalia Santos, Royal Botanic Gardens, Ke...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessstudy are the n reported. These suggest that management p...
Amalia Santos and Mark StuartWarr et al (1976) recognise, however, that the cause-effect chain is often dif® cult todemons...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness        ...it may not be worthwhile and could be misleadi...
Amalia Santos and Mark Stuartto use new skills and the availability of res ources are all thought to in¯ uence the process...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessusable replies were received ± an overall response rate o...
Amalia Santos and Mark Stuartemployees, managem ent began to place an increasing emphasis on notions ofemployee involvemen...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness   The survey results reveal that the majority of staff (...
Amalia Santos and Mark Stuart       un d e rgone or is it attributable to other concurrent fact ors? It is not       somet...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessTABLE 1 Line management support for HRD (% of sample)    ...
Amalia Santos and Mark StuartTABLE 2 Perceived bene® ts of training (% of sample)                                         ...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness38                             HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ...
Amalia Santos and Mark Stuart       Training is not always transferable to the job, mainly due to two proble m s.       Tr...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenesswith old ways of doing things ± and content not being suf...
Amalia Santos and Mark Stuartof them mentioned a lack of opportunity to use skills as the primary reason affectingtraining...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenesswith managers. This suggests that companies embarking on ...
Amalia Santos and Mark Stuart   The results of this study have several possible implications for increasing theapplication...
Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessAsht on, D . and Gree n, F. (1996). Educati on, Training ...
Amalia Santos and Mark StuartNoe, R. A. and Schmitt, N. (1986). `The influence of trainee attitudes on training   e ffecti...
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  1. 1. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness Amalia Santos, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Mark Stuart, University of Leeds Human Resource Management Journal, Vol 13 No 1, 2003, pages 27-45 Studies of the bene® ts of human resou rce development (HRD) for organisations have assumed a direct connection between training strategy and a hierarchy of performance outcomes: learning, behavioural change and performance improvement. The in¯ uence of workplace practices and employees’ experiences on training effectiveness has received little attention. This study investigates evaluation strategies designed to elicit greater training effectiveness, and explores the influence of trainees’ pe rceptions and work en vironment factors on this. Drawing on detailed case study findings, the authors highlight the importance of management practices, trainees’ perceptions of the work environment and systems of reward in explaining behaviour change after training. Contact: Amalia Santos, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB. Email: amalia_santos@yahoo.co.uk or ms@lubs.leeds.ac.uk (Mark Stuart)C onventional wisdom suggests that investments in training and development are associated with a range of individual and organisational benefits. The HR liter ature, for example, posits training as the `vital component’ in organisationalprocesses of cultural change and an important behavioural device in terms of securingworkfo rce commitment and in realising the latent potential of employees (see Keep,1989). Similarly, economic studies identify training and development investments askey determinants of organisational performance and economic growth (Mason et al,1996; Prais, 1995; Romer, 1993). The clear assumption is that more is better. In practice,h o w e v e r, the issue of demonstrating the `effectiveness’ of training has pro v e de xtremely complex. While practitioners can draw on a range of prescriptive evaluativemethodologies to guide them in this endeavour, such frameworks are often overlydeterministic, are insensitive to workplace context and typically obscure as much asthey reveal. Probl ematically, the mainstream HR literature has devoted little empiricalattention to the issue of how companies evaluate the effectiveness of traininginvestments and, in particular, the way in which employee perceptions, attitudes andexperiences might have an impact on training effectiveness. Against this backdrop, this article presents evidence from a detailed case studydesigned to explore the effectiveness of training at the workplace. The article has twocentral empirical objectives. First, it aims to evaluate employees’ experiences of, andattitudes towards, training activity and the organisation context of traininginvestments. Secondly, it assesses how these experiences of training shape the`tran s fe r’ of training into the workplace and thus mediate effectiveness. The ® n d in g ssuggest that by taking into account the actual recipients’ views of training ourunderstanding of the factors affecting training effectiveness can be enhanced. Webegin with a review of the HR, economics and psychology literature on the evaluationof training outcomes, revealing the intractable problems organisations face inevaluating the effectiveness of training investments. The main ® ndings from the caseHUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 27
  2. 2. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessstudy are the n reported. These suggest that management practices, trainees’pe rceptions of the work environment and systems of re w a rd are antecedents ofbehaviour change after training. EVALUATING TRAINING EFFECTIVENESSLevels of outcomesThe HR and training literatures emphasise the organisational bene® ts to be gainedfrom adopting a systematic approach to HRD whereby the ongoing development ofemployees’ skills underpins broader business objectives (Keep, 1989). Core elementsof a systematic approach to training often include identifying needs, planning,delivery and evaluation. The evaluation stage is arguably the most problematic partof the training process (Reid and Barrington, 1997). Thus, even though the bottomline for most training and development programmes is an improvement in overallorganisational performance, organisations often devote little attention to evaluatingtraining effectiveness. In 1989, for example, only 3 per cent of UK establishmentsundertook any cost-benefit analysis of their training (Deloitte Haskins and Sells,1989: 46). Wh e re training effectiveness is evaluated, the outcomes of training are usuallyassessed hierarc h i c al l y. The widely used Kirkpatrick (1967) model, for example,proposes four levels of training outcomes: trainees’ reactions to the programme contentand training process (reactions), knowledge or skill acquisition at the end of theprogramme (learning), behaviour change in the job (behaviour) and improvements intangible individ ual or organisational outcomes such as turnover, accidents orproductivity (results). This model has been highly in¯ uential. A c co rding to a re c e n tsurvey by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), it is still themost commonly used evaluation framework among their Benchmarking Foru m 1Companies (Bassi and Cheney, 1997). The model is also widely accepted in the ® eld ofindustrial/organisational psychology (Cascio, 1987) and underpins the UK Investors inPeople standard. Most commentators follow this general framework, albeit with rather diffe re n tcategories. Warr et al (1976) suggest the acronym CIRO. This stands for evaluation ofcontext, input, reaction and outcome. Context evaluation focuses on factors such as thec o r rect identification of training needs and the setting of objectives in relation toorganisation culture and climate. Input evaluation is concerned with the design anddelivery of the training activity. Reaction evaluation looks at gaining and usinginformation about the quality of trainees’ experiences. Outcome evaluation focuses onthe achievements gained from the activity and is assessed at three levels. Immediateevaluation attempts to measure changes in knowledge, skills or attitude before a traineereturns to the job. Intermediate evaluation refers to the impact of training on jobperformance and how learning is transferred back into the workplace. Finally, ultimateevaluation attempts to assess the impact of training on departmental or organisationalperformance in terms of overall re sults. Typically, the evaluation process is organised in a sequential, linear manner. Thus,higher level outcomes can only be understood if evaluation has taken place at all lowerlevels. Hamblin (1974: 15), for example, argues that the impact of training is linked by aca us e -a nd -e ffect chain, whereby `training leads to reactions, which leads to learning,which leads to changes in job behaviour, which leads to changes in the orga ni sa tion,which leads to changes in the achievement of ultimate goals.’ Kirkpatrick (1994) and28 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  3. 3. Amalia Santos and Mark StuartWarr et al (1976) recognise, however, that the cause-effect chain is often dif® cult todemonstrate, especially with reg ard to ultimate level evaluations. Easterby-Smith (1986), by contrast, argues against such causal assumptions. Basedon an extensive review of the literature and resea rch, Easterby-Smith puts forward theCAIPO framework as an alternative: context, administration, inputs, process andoutcomes. Context evaluation focuses on factors outside and beyond the trainingp rogramme: for example, the level of support for learners at the workplace.Administration evaluation is concerned with the mechanisms of nomination, selectionand brie® ng before any training starts, and any follow-up activities eg debrie ® ng by theline manager or post-course evaluation. Evaluation of inputs examines the content andmethods of training. Process evaluations focus on what actually happens during atraining activity and how the participants experience it. Finally, outcome evaluation isconcerned with establishing the outputs or outcomes of employee training anddevelopment. The focus may be on individuals and changes in their knowledge, skills,attitudes and behaviour, individual and/or organisation performance or on shifts ino rganisation culture and climate. Methods used in applying the CAIPO frameworkmay be similar to those used in others. However, this model provides a series ofchoices for evaluation, since the areas considered are more independent and are notlinked by cause-effect relations.Evaluation issuesThe widespread acceptance of conventional evaluation models has much to do withtheir simplicity and prescriptive appeal. Positive reactions of trainees, learning,behaviour change and improvements in job performance are expected from well-designed and administered training programmes. Pro bl ematical l y, there is not muchevidence to support this. In a meta-analysis of previous training evaluation studies,Alliger and Janak (1989) found only 12 articles in which attempts had been made toc o r relate the various levels advocated by Kirkpatrick. No relationship was foundbetween reaction measures and the other three levels of criteria ± ie good reactions didnot predict learning, behaviour or results any better than poor reactions ± andrelatively small correlations were found between learning and behaviour and betweenbehaviour and organisational results. Likewise, Noe and Schmitt (1986) found limitedsupport for Kirkpatrick’ s (1967) hierarchical model of training outcomes. The limited correlational support for the hierarchical model may be due to `noise’from intervening variables such as motivation, context of transfer and trainee attitudes(Clement, 1982). Nevertheless, the lack of causal connections between diffe rent levels oftraining outcomes implies that evaluation should be done at all levels because eachlevel provides a diff e rent kind of evidence (Bramley, 1996). Unfortunately, while alllevels of evaluation are important, such data are rarely collected. Many training anddevelopment programmes are monitored only at the reactions level (Bramley, 1996)and articles regularly appear lamenting the lack of evaluation efforts (Goldstein, 1993).This means that few companies, despite their investment in training, are actuallydetermining whether the training provided was effective. Why should this be? From ananalytical and managerial perspective, there are major dif® culties in ® nding measure sof training effectiveness in terms of bottom-line results. Indeed, assessing the rate ofreturn from training may be an `unrealisable ideal’ (Green, 1997: 3). Green claims thatcompanies are not in a position to carry out such an assessment, due to uncertaintiesover the bene® ts of training and because of the dif® culty in accounting for its true cost.Evaluation strategies may, in certain circumstances, even prove self-defeating. A sAshton and Green (1996) note:HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 29
  4. 4. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness ...it may not be worthwhile and could be misleading to draw up a balance of the advantages and disadvantages that can actually be measured. Such an accounting mentality could itself be the cause of low training, if training programmes were obliged to demonstrate a suf® cient measurable re turn on investment. Ashton and Green, 1996: 59Trainee attitudes, motivation and expectationsAt the individual level, Keep (1989) argues that training investment constitutes apowerful signalling device to re a s s u re employees that they are valued by theiremployers, which in turn enhances employee motivation and commitment to theorganisation. Such propositions receive support from the Employment in BritainSurvey which, drawing from a dataset of 3,855 employed individuals, found that 94per cent of respondents felt that training received had been beneficial (Gallie andW hite, 1993). Th is was mo st commonly quantified in terms o f achieving aq ua l i ® cation, gaining a promotion or a better job, an increase in earnings and othernon-financial benefits such as job satisfaction and commitment. These findings areinformative but the actual means by which investments in training and developmenttranslate into a more competent, better motivated and a more self-reliant workforc eremains an under-developed area of enquiry. Indeed, the re s e arch designs discussedthus far downplay the social and political processes mediating training outcomes. Ye t,as a number of commentators note (Green, 1992; Heyes and Stuart, 1994; Heyes, 1998),training outcomes are best understood as a socially constructed process. In this regard,evidence suggests training is more likely to have a positive effect on employeeattitudes (e g motivation and job satisfaction) where employers develop formal,s tru ctu red approaches to training which link skill formation to job tenure, caree rprogression, recognition and rewa rd (Heyes and Stuart, 1996). Likewise, ethnographic investigations reveal that the impact of training provision onperformance outcomes is dependent on how and in whose interest skills are deployedat the workplace (Heyes, 1998). The relationship between training and performanceoutcomes (eg productivity and co-operative employee attitudes) should not, there fore,be treated in a predetermined way, since skill formation is not automatically used byemployees to pursue management goals. As Heyes (1998) suggests, social and politicalprocesses at the level of the workplace shape the distinction between skill acquisitionand skill deployment ± a distinction conventionally re fe r red to as the problem of`transfer of training’ (Easterby-Smith, 1986: 53). It is widely accepted that learning andthe transfer of learning to the workplace will only occur when trainees have both theability and motivation to acquire and apply new skills (Wexley and Latham, 1991; Noe1986). Yet, as Noe (1986) observed in a seminal intervention, the in¯ uence that trainees’attributes and attitudes may have on the effectiveness of training has been a re lativelyneglected concern. A wide variety of trainee characteristics likely to affect the transfer of training can beiden ti® ed. Noe (1986) identi® es personality and motivational factors and develops anexpectancy model that hypothesises the process by which trainees’ attitudes concerningtheir jobs and careers and their perception of the work environment in¯ uence trainingoutcomes. Testing the model, Noe and Schmitt (1986) found that trainees with high jobinvolvement were more motivated to learn and transfer skills to the work setting. Theeffectiveness of a training programme can also be in¯ uenced by events prior to training(Baldwin and Magjuka, 1991) as well as post-training activities (Baldwin and Ford,1988). Supervisor and peer support, goal setting, feedback mechanisms, the opportunity30 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  5. 5. Amalia Santos and Mark Stuartto use new skills and the availability of res ources are all thought to in¯ uence the processof transfer (Noe, 1986). While the logic behind Noe’s model is clear, its applicability andusefulness remains underdeveloped. Empirical investigations of ability, personality,motivational and work environment effects on training and transfer outcomes are stillquite limited (Baldwin and Ford, 1988; Orpen, 1999). The re s e a rch eviden ce discussed so far suggest s that determ ini ng traininge ffectiveness is a complex process. The effect of training on performance outcomesappears, theref ore, to be unresolved. Signi® ca ntl y, if training and development are notalways applied to pursue management objectives, this raises questions about whetherand how organisations are seeking to assess the effectiveness of their training anddevelopment interventions. In other words, what steps, if any, are being taken todetermine whether these objectives are being achieved? Secondly, what factors arelikely to in¯ uence the effectiveness of training? Finding answers to these questionswill be important if we are t o und erstand how, and w he ther, perform anceimprovements will result from training interventions. Further re s e arch is needed inthis area to identify what trainee attitudes and work environment factors in¯ uence thetransfer and effectiveness of training. A cc ord in g ly, the remainder of the article focuseson the issue of assessing training effectiveness, which seems to depend not only on thequality of the training process but also on the interaction of trainee attitudes andmanagement practice. METHODOLOGYThe article is based on a case study conducted between June and September 1999. Thesetting for the study was a single case, a ® nancial services organisation, based in the northof England, which we refer to as FinanceCo. The company was at the frontier of goodpractice in HRD, moving towards implementing many of the people managementprocesses that Tyson and Doherty (1999) describe as `best practice’. A key component ofthis was an increased emphasis on training and development activities. The organisationtherefore provides an ideal case for examining the issue of training effectiveness. The re s e a rch utilised a multi-method approach combining qualitative andquantitative methods. At a qualitative level, 10 lengthy semi-stru ctu red interviewsw e re carried out at FinanceCo’ s head office in Yor k s h ire to investigate the formalstructures, processes and general background of the organisation and the training anddevelopment function in particular. Interviewees had an average service of 11 years,comprised ® ve women and ® ve men and re presented a cross-section of functions fromwithin management and supervisory grades. To actually uncover training outcomes interms of the adoption of new and diffe rent attitudes and practices ± ie training transfer± it was necessary to analyse training provision from the stance of the intended recipients ± both managers and employees. Thus, a questionnaire was designed to gather extensive data on three broad issues: employees’ experiences of training and development, employees’ perceptions with re g a rd to training outcomes, and work environment factors affecting training transfer. The target population was limited to the 4,055 employees working in the core ® nancial services business. The population was strati ® ed by dividing respondents into head of® ce (45 per cent) and branches (55 per cent) and by dividing the branch network into geographical regions. A re presentative sample of 350 employees was randomly selected from the company’s computer system. Questionnaires were posted directly to individuals through the company’s internal mail system and a pre-paid envelo pe was enclosed, addressed to the re s e a rcher to guarantee anonymity and confidentiality of responses. A total of 167HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 31
  6. 6. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessusable replies were received ± an overall response rate of 47.7 per cent (comprising 66per cent female and 34 per cent male). TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT AT FINANCECOBackgroundFinanceCo operates within the confines of a highly and increasingly competitivemarket ± consumer ® nancial services. In the 1980s the UK government’ s liberalisationpolicies and commitment to free markets led to banks and other ® nancial org anisationso ffering mortgages ± once the privilege of building societies ± to their clients.Encouraged by market opportunities FinanceCo expanded and diversified. In May1997, for example, a specialist business-to-business mortgage operation with no branchnetwork was acquired, followed by a 370-branch network in April 1998. FinanceConow covers the country, with nearly 1,000 branches and agency outlets. In 1998 thegroup’s post-tax pro® ts grew by 33 per cent to £84 million and the customer base grewto more than 4 million. The organisation employs more than 7,900 staff, embracing adiverse set of skilled, white-collar employees. The appointment of a new chief executive in 1996 had major change implications formanagement and staff. As a manager explained: The change of senior executives led to a quick and immediate change of c u l t u re, reflected, for example, in more open communication with employees. Pre v iously, senior managers had been working for FinanceCo for all their lives... The majority has been replaced with people with a more diverse commercial experience in big multinationals... and they will probably not stay with FinanceCo fore v e r... This has made a huge difference to the organisational culture. This process of cultural change witnessed the reshaping of the business around astrategic customer focus. The increased customer focus re qui red new ways of workingsuch as telephone banking and teamworking, with all the attendant challenges ofcultural reconciliation and implications for training and development. Managementwas hoping to strengthen ¯ exibility and adaptability of employees to change, as well astheir ability to become multi-skilled. A ccording to a training manager: In today’s working environment, if they [employees] want to stay with the organisation they would move among roles... We cannot do anything about change but we can help people be better pre pa red to cope with change, to have a ¯ exible workforc e.HR strategyHRM took on a considerable role in supporting and nurturing organisational change. Ino rder to transform its perso nnel function into an active business partner, HRprofessionals were organised between group HR ± a centralised function, wherepolicies and proc e d u res were defined ± and line HR ± geographically dispersedpersonnel specialists within each core business area delivering day-to-day services toline managers. Many proce dures formerly attached to the personnel role were handedover to line management, a process that was facilitated by a major managementdevelopment programme. Furthermore, in recognition of the fact that a customerorientation strategy was vulnerable to the threat of withdrawal of co-operation by32 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  7. 7. Amalia Santos and Mark Stuartemployees, managem ent began to place an increasing emphasis on notions ofemployee involvement and empowerment. A competency framework was also introduced to support FinanceCo’s strategicobjectives by de® ning the skills, knowledge and behaviour that were important forsuccess within each particular role and level. Competencies were formally linked intothe main HR policy areas ± i e re c ruitment, perform ance appraisal, traini ng,development and promotion ± in an attempt to produce a coherent and cohesive HRsystem. This was enshrined within a broader performance management system whichwas based on goal setting and put as much emphasis on performance goals anddeliverables as it did on the competencies needed to achieve those goals. All employees were covered by a formal appraisal scheme which was linked intothe re w ard system through performance-related pay, salary increments and bonuses.Training needs were identi® ed by the individual and his/her line manager withinthe appraisal process, although the acquisition and application of new skills andcompetencies were not directly recognised or re w arded ® na n c i a lly. The ability andwillingness of employees to achieve competencies was to be assessed through theperformance appraisal process, but the link was under-utilised in practice, dueprimarily to the past and continu ous focus on financial result s. As an HRp rofessional explained: It takes some time [for appraisers] to accept that things such as teamwork, internal quality of work etc are part of the performance criteria of a person since it is difficult to assess and measure objectively. The use of the competency framework in the performance management process has to be constantly re inforced.Training and development strategyH i s to r i ca l l y, FinanceCo had a large training and development department that wasdescribed by one of its members as `paternalistic’ and `traditional, with an emphasis onin-house training and development, and no evaluation of training effectiveness beyondthe happy sheet’ . At the time of the study, most training was provided by outsideconsultants. Technical, operational and sales training responsibility resided within lineHR, with support from the central organisation development (OD) function for them ore professional and ideological dimensions of training. Management was increasingly concerned to use training to aid the changemanagement process. In management’s view, FinanceCo was fully committed to thevision of a learning organisation and, as such, recognised that development rested withthe individual. As a training manager noted: FinanceCo very much supports continuous learning and development of employees. We are trying to encourage a culture of self-development. That is part of the strategy. The organisation provided the res ources and support but it was up to the individualto explore their needs and make informed choices about personal development. Thiswas supported by the establishment of a distance learning library comprising a rangeof books, videos, audio, computer-based training, CD-ROMs and other materials,which was free for all staff to use at their own convenience. As a line manager noted, training provision had increased in recent years: I have had more training in the last 12 months than in the last ® ve years! FinanceCo has woken up to investing in its future, at last.HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 33
  8. 8. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness The survey results reveal that the majority of staff (99 per cent) had experiencedtraining at some time since joining the company. Forty-one per cent stated that they hadreceived training within the past 12 months and 47 per cent within the last three months.Current participation in training activity was relatively lower at 24 per cent. Traditionaltraining methods such as learning through the job, courses, workshops or lectures werethe most frequently used and were considered the most effective by trainees.Training evaluationIn an environment of increased training investment, management was concerned tomonitor the costs and determine the effectiveness of such investment. In the past, theevaluation of training courses was limited to an immediate post-course questionnaire,with the purpose of improving the efficiency of content and delivery. It was thusassumed that if needs were carefully analysed and the interventions designedapp ropriately effective training would follow. By contrast, at the time of this study therenewed purpose of training evaluation was threefold: to generate feedback for qualityc on trol of the design and delivery of training activities, to ensure that investmenti m proved individual performance and to redefine the responsibility for learningbetween trainers, trainees and managers. The design of the new training evaluationprocess re¯ ected that purpose and, to some extent, resolved the evaluation dilemma byadopting a pragmatic approach; evaluation was individually focused and a decisionwas made not to evaluate at departmental and organisational levels. Within this process, evaluation started before the training event with both theparticipant and the line manager documenting the intended, mutual bene® ts. Trainingspecialists then assessed the documentation forms as part of the nomination procedure. Acourse evaluation form was to be completed by the trainee immediately after. Six monthsafter the end of the programme the agreed bene® ts of the event were followed up. Thistook the form of a structured self-report, completed by participants but strangely withoutline manager involvement, which focused on the achievement of the stated bene® ts andassessed the transfer of learning from the classroom back to the workplace. Training evaluation was thus made the responsibility of the delegate and the linem a n a g e r, aiming to encourage in divid uals to take owne rship of their owndevelopment, as well as management ownership for staff development. Overall, thenew evaluation process was more cost-focused, re p resenting a switch from anassessment of the actual training event to broader organisational effectiveness. Thedelayed evaluation approach overcame the problem of a possible action gap betweenthe euphoria at the end of training and what happened when participants returned tothe workplace (Currie, 1994). Experimental proc e d u res and control groups wereeschewed. Nor was quantitative evaluation of learning and transfer to the workplaceconducted before and after the programme. A qualitative approach was used whichrelied on individuals’ self-assessment and judgement in order to measure the bene® tsof training. In the absence of quantitative measures such as financial performance,training benefits were articulated in terms of `improved customer service’ , `betterinterpersonal relationships’ and so forth. However, it was impossible to say whatproportion of the improvements were attributable to the training given and whatproportions to other factors such as better performance management, feedback oncustomer complaints or improved planning. This seemed unavoidable, as a trainingmanager eloquently explained: Could you actually say that the improvement in performance of a unit or a branch is directly attributable to any development that [staff] had34 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  9. 9. Amalia Santos and Mark Stuart un d e rgone or is it attributable to other concurrent fact ors? It is not something that we do not want to do. But I think if we are going to spend any time and money on it, we want to be fairly safe that the evidence we can draw from that could be substantiated. The evaluation pro ce d u re adopted was also politically motivated. Conductingevaluation studies to overcome the methodological dif® culties outlined above wouldbe highly re s o u rce-intensive. The central OD function lacked such re s ou rces andt h e re f o re dev olved res ponsibili ty to the line and ultimately the indi vidual.Furthermore, given that FinanceCo had an operational emphasis, where customer careand financial results took priority, a method for gathering information re g a rd i ngtraining effectiveness would only be successful if it was seen as not con¯ icting withoperational objectives. It made sense, in these circumstances, to minimise time spent byparticipants and line managers on training evaluation. EMPLOYEES’ PERCEPTIONSThe training environmentA c co rding to management, training at FinanceCo was integrated within a strategic,long-term approach to the development of human re s o u rces. Most managersinterviewed determined employees’ development needs via the appraisal process andplanned what training was re q ui red. The survey revealed that 72 per cent of staff haddiscussed a personal development plan and 81 per cent currently had personaldevelopment goals. Of those employees with the latter, however, only 51 per cent hadreceived any training to help them achieve their development needs. This seems to bethe result of inconsistency of approach. The criteria for selecting and supportingparticipants on training courses varied widely across diff e rent departments of thecompany and it was described as `not suf® ciently tailored and focused on the needs ofthe individual’. It was suggested that often the availability of a course triggered thenomination of an employee to attend, rather than being built in as part of thatperson’s development. T he re are also instances when practice fell far short of the espoused policy. Manyrespondents, for example, felt that line managers did not see personal development asa priority. On average, as Table 1 (overleaf) shows, they perceived a moderate-to-lowlevel of line management involvement in discussing training needs, setting andreviewing development goals and providing coaching and guidance. Poor relationships with management can negatively affect development. Thoserespondents encouraged by management were more likely to be receiving training.Of those who stated that their line managers encouraged them to train, 58 per centw e re currently receiving training, as compared to 24 per cent of those who claimedno or little management encouragement. Eighty-nine per cent of those re ce i v i n ghigh management support for HRD also had a personal development plan; thosewithout one were signi® cantly more likely to perceive a low level of managementsupport for personal development. This suggests that employees’ perceptions ofFinanceCo’ s commitment to HRD may be positively associated with the existence offormal pro c e d u res to monitor and focus training. Such proc e d u res were, statistically,far more like ly to influence res ponde nts ’ perceptions of the degree of linemanagement support for HRD than broader contextual or contractual factors. Thus,no correlation was found between the various aspects of line management supportHUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 35
  10. 10. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenessTABLE 1 Line management support for HRD (% of sample) To a To a To a great moderate limited extent extent extent My manager encourages and supports me to take 42 29 29 advantage of training and development opportunities* My manager regularly discusses my training 23 36 41 and development needs with me* My manager jointly sets tasks and development 35 28 37 goals with me** My manager jointly reviews progress on tasks 38 28 34 and development goals at timely intervals** My manager coaches and guides me effectively*** 25 33 42 * N = 165, ** N = 164, *** N = 166and gender, contractual status (full time, part time or temporary) or prof e s s io n a llevel within the company.Perceived outcomesIn an effort to clarify what trainees believed were the re w ards of training, participantsw e re asked whether their involvement had contributed to certain outcomes. Thefindings suggest that individua ls at FinanceCo benefited from training thro u ghi m proved knowledge and skills and also through improved con® dence, self-ef® ca cy,less need for supervision and general enjoyment. Managers also stressed the linkbetween individual advantage and organisation gain. As a training manager explained: If people feel they have been invested in, automatically their trust in the organisation increases and that has an indirect bene® t for their work and ultimately for performance-related issues. Table 2 summarises employees’ perceptions on the likely individual benefits oftraining. The ® ndings reveal a general split between intrinsic and extrinsic rew ards.Most respondents saw training as having a positive impact on their job satisfaction,motivation at work, ability to do their jobs and personal growth. Employees were lesslike l y, however, to see training as leading to higher pay, better promotion prospects orc areer prog ression. This re ¯ ects the fact that, as noted earlier, competency and skillacquisition were not consistently recognised and re w arded per se. Further analysis reveals little correlation between the perceived bene® ts of training andthe sex, contractual status or position within the ® rm of respondents. The sole exceptionwas with regard to pay. Women were signi® cantly less likely to report that training wouldmake an appreciable difference to their pay than men. The perceived bene® ts were farm o re likely to be influenced by the incidence of training, the existence of personaldevelopment plans and the degree of line management support. Where respondents werecurrently receiving or had received training during the last three months, they were farmore likely to associate it with higher job satisfaction, better promotion prospects and thedegree to which they felt valued by the company. Personal development planning was36 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  11. 11. Amalia Santos and Mark StuartTABLE 2 Perceived bene® ts of training (% of sample) Agree Neutral Disagree Training leads to higher pay 20 32 48 Training leads to higher job satisfaction* 79 14 7 After training, I feel more motivated at work 78 17 5 Training helps me to do my job better 90 7 3 Training improves my promotion pros pe cts 42 32 26 After training, I feel valued by the company** 37 40 23 Training enables career progress 54 27 19 Training helps me to grow as a person 80 16 4 * N = 164, missing = 3; ** N = 166, missing = 1also positively correlated with respondents’ attitudes towards the impact of training onjob satisfaction and the degree to which they felt valued by the company. Those respondent s who had received active encouragement and support forpersonal development from line managers were more likely to think that theirpromotion prospects would improve as a result of training. The propensity of staff tofeel valued by the company and identify job satisfaction, motivation and personalg rowth as potential bene® ts arising from training was also related to line managementsupport for HRD. However, employees’ views concerning the potential impact oftraining on job performance or pay appeared to be unrelated to the extent to whichthey had been supported by line management in their development. Employees’ motivation and commitment towards their own personal developmentwas found to be signi® cantly associated with the perceived impact of training on non-monetary re w ards. Those who associated training with better promotion prospects andc a reer pro g ress were far more likely to engage themselves in proactive behaviourtowards personal development such as continuous improvement, requesting feedbackon performance or career exploration. Likewise, the perceived impact of training on jobsatisfaction, motivation, personal growth and job performance was signi® cantly relatedto the individual’s commitment to personal development.Transfer of trainingThe re s e arch found that training had many bene® ts. For most individuals, trainingincreased con® dence and self-ef® ca cy, it improved competencies and skills and peoplerecognised that they had been invested in. Yet some interviewees found it dif® cult totranslate these cognitive insights into behavioural changes: During a training course, everything makes sense. But after training, you go back to the office and realise that it is difficult to apply what you learned to the real job. T h e re was also a concern about the extent to which trainees were suff i c ie n tl ymotivated, con® dent or able to apply what they learnt back on the job. As a businessmanger noted:HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 37
  12. 12. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectiveness38 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  13. 13. Amalia Santos and Mark Stuart Training is not always transferable to the job, mainly due to two proble m s. Trainees do not make enough efforts to change the way they do things; they are not pre pared to adopt change. And, sometimes, trainers are detached from the workplace, are not aware of how things work, so the training is not designed to be applied. Table 3 presents a more systematic assessment of the perceived importance of, andsatisfaction with, pre and post-training activities on the transfer of training. The majority ofrespondents considered the pre-training environment important in helping them apply thelearning to the job. On average, activities such as analysis of training needs, involvement indeciding about training content and methods and setting objectives for performanceimprovement were the most highly rated. This ® nding suggests that training interventionsfocused on individual needs and, embedded in a purposeful performance improvementframework, may encourage training transfer. Post-training activities were, however,considered more in¯ uential with regard to the transfer of training. Not surprisingly, thevast majority of respondents stated that having the opportunity to use new skills andhaving the necessary resources were important for effective training transfer. Coaching and feedback from line managers were also important factors in helpingemployees apply the learning to their jobs. A supportive environment is key to traininge ffectiveness and it was clear that, as a group, the respondents both valued and neededcoaching and feedback on an ongoing basis. Yet the survey revealed that more than aquarter of respondents were not receiving coaching and feedback to the extent thatthey wished. It was noted that when employees returned to work after training themost common experience was to be asked, `How did it go?’ or `Have you had a goodtime?’ by their line managers, during a brief ® ve-minute chat. A difference also emerged with re ga rd to respondents’ degree of satisfaction withp re and post-training activities. In general, post-training activities revealed higherlevels of satisfaction than pre-training ones, although a satisfaction score of above 50per cent was re corded in only one case. Thus, 62 per cent of respondents reported thatthey were satis® ed with the opportunity to use any new knowledge of skills, comparedwith just 18 per cent who were unsatisfied. In terms of post-training activities,respondents were least satis® ed with line management follow-up and the levels ofres ource supports needed to effectively transfer training. At the pre-training level, lowlevels of satisfaction were most marked with re ga rd to the opportunities available todecide about the content and methods of training and the amount of release time toprepa re for a training course. As we shall demonstrate, the degree of satisfaction withpre-training activities has a signi® cant impact on transfer. To further explore the issue of transfer, participants were asked whether they hadever reverted back to the old ways of doing things `on the job’ after training and forwhat reason. Forty-seven per cent reported not having applied new knowledge orskills at some point. No signi® cant relationship was found between actual transfer oftraining to the workplace and the age, gender or employment status of participants.The immediate application of skills was, however, less likely among managerial thannon-managerial staff. Sixty-four per cent of managers reported having reverted back tothe old ways after training, as compared to 39 per cent of non-managerial staff.Immediate application was less likely on `soft’ skill programmes and interventions thatinclude development activities aimed at changing organisational culture andbehaviou r, such as management development. The primary reasons cited by managers for not applying training content to theworkplace were lack of time to practise new behaviour, habit ± it was easier to stickHUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 39
  14. 14. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenesswith old ways of doing things ± and content not being suf® ciently tailored to theirpractical demands. For non-managerial employees training transfer was more likely tobe inhibited by the need to produce results, insuf® cient re s ources (eg IT or staff) and alack of management support. Changing behaviour and ways of working re q u i re dongoing practice but, with the pressu re to deliver services, there was often insuf® ci en ttime for changes to be achieved. These ® ndings suggest that training activities mightnot be having the desired results because work environ ment factors hindere dparticipants’ ability to implement learning. The relationship between the transfer of training and the degree of satisfaction with 2pre and post-training activities is examined in Table 4. The ® ndings reveal a signi® cantassociation between employees’ satisfaction with the pre-training environment and theextent to which they returned to the old ways of doing things on the job after training.Those managers and employees who felt dissatis® ed with the pre-training activitiesdetailed above were signi® cantly more likely to revert back to old working practicesand job behaviour. Likewise, individuals who were dissatis® ed with the post-trainingactivities reported lower levels of behavioural change after training. However, therel ationshi p was only statistically signif icant with re g a rd to the provisio n ofopportunities to use new skills. This ® nding con® rms interviewees’ views, since manyTABLE 4 Training transfer by satisfaction with pre-training and post-training activities (%) Ever failed to Satisfaction with Satisfaction with transfer training? pre-training activities* post-training activities# Low Moder at e High Low Moder at e H i gh Yes 47 61 28 60 47 39 No 54 40 73 40 53 41 * Chi-square = 11.48; sig = .003 # Chi-square = 3.38; sig = .185TABLE 5 P erceived impact of training by training transfer (%) Ever failed to transfer training? Does training have an impact on: Yes No PAY* St rongly disagree 69 31 Disagree 51 49 Ne utr al 45 55 Agree 40 60 Strongly agree 0 100 PROMOTION# St rongly disagree 86 14 Disagree 54 46 Ne utr al 51 49 Agree 35 65 Strongly agree 40 60 * Chi-square = 9.28; sig = .05 # Chi-square = 8.25; sig = .0840 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  15. 15. Amalia Santos and Mark Stuartof them mentioned a lack of opportunity to use skills as the primary reason affectingtraining transfer. As one supervisor noted: I think the worth of training all depends on what opportunities you have to actually use those skills when you get back to your desk. The survey also revealed that training activities might not be having the desire dresults because those who went through them did not feel they were beingadequately re w arded and so had no motivation to apply new skills and knowledge.Thus, those who perceived training as leading to higher pay or better pro m oti onp rospects were more likely to transfer training (see Table 5). No relationship wasfound between the perceived intrinsic benefits of training ± such as incre a s e do rganisational commitment or motivation ± and the likelihood of transfer. Thisindicates the importance of re w a rd systems, whether ® nancial or career development,to improvements in training effectiveness. DISCUSSIONOur case study has presented a detailed examination of the complex issue of trainingtrans fer and effectivene ss. It clearly demonstrates the way that employees ’experiences of training, and attitudes towards broader situational factors, mediate thetr a ns f er, and hence effectiveness, of training investments. At FinanceCo, managementwas sensit ive to the difficulties of quantifying the benefits of org a n i s a t i o n a ldev elopment, and thus developed an evaluation pro c e d u re that focused onindividual behaviour and the transfer of training rather than on achieving `ultimategoals’. This was in part a pragmatic response to the complexities of evaluatingtraining effectiveness but the approach was also politically motivated as the amountof time and re s o urces managers could devote to the process was circumscribed byoperational imperatives. At the level of the individual, previous experiences of training and situationalconditions mediated its effectiveness and transfer. The exposure to and attitudestow a rds training were generally held to be positive, but there was a concern amongrespondents that line management demonstr ated inconsistency with re g a rd todevelopmental issues. At one level this is to be expected, given the pragmatic nature ofthe evaluation strategy and the primacy of operational imperatives, but managementbehaviour was found to influence access to training, perceptions of its benefits,proactive behaviour towards personal development and, most signi® cantly of all, thetransfer of training. A c co rd i n g l y, where line managers were highly involved indiscussing training needs, setting development goals and reviewing pro g ress andp roviding coaching and guidance, training was more likely to have a favourableimpact on employees’ motivation, job satisfaction and personal growth. The perceived importance attached by respondents to pre and post-trainingactivities offe red some support for FinanceCo’s strategy of evaluating investmentsboth before and after training, yet it was also clear that employees were far froms a ti s® ed with the process. Thus, those respondents who were dissatis® ed with suchp re and post-training activities were more likely to revert back to establishedpractices and behaviour after experiencing training. This was most signi® cant withre g ard to pre-training activities, a finding that is perhaps unsurprising given theemp ha sis Fina nc eCo p ut on line mana ge ment inv o lvem ent at t his st age.Dissatisfaction was most pronounced over the degree of involvement employees hadin deciding training content and methods and the utility of the pre-course brie® n gHUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 41
  16. 16. Employee perceptions and their in uence on training effectivenesswith managers. This suggests that companies embarking on widespread investmentsin training activities and pro c e d ures should ensure that any training provided ispe rceived to be of worth to both the individual and organisation. This should becentral to any evaluation pro ce d u re, since from the individual perspective evaluationis important in revealing attitudes towards training and also the perceived value thatis attributed to any investment in it. Sending employees on training courses justbecause they are available is not likely to be effective in the longer term. While theimpact of post-training activities on effective transfer was less marked, transfer wasnonetheless found to be conditional on the opportunities and re s ources available touse new knowledge and skills. At a much broader level, respondents who perceived training as leading to higherpay or better promotion prospects were signi® cantly more likely to transfer training tothe workplace. This is an important ® nding as it suggests that the establishment ofevaluative pro cedures pre and post-training will not be enough in themselves to ensureeffective transfer to the workplace. Rather, such activities need to be enmeshed within awider set of enabling supports. Well-developed systems of appraisal and personaldevelopment planning have a particularly important role to play here, not only interms of identifying the most relevant forms of development (pre-training) andreinforcing training experiences (post-training) but also in terms of establishing moreexplicit links between personal development and career progression and re w ard. Thiscan also contribute towards a more grounded and mutually bene® cial psychologicalcontract around training inv estm ents. The inconsist ency of approach amongFinanceCo’s line managers towards appraisal and personal development planning wasclearly problematic in this respect. While no definitive reasons were identified toexplain this inconsistency, the potential impact of such activities on line managers’workloads would clearly be a contributory factor (see Sisson and Storey, 2000: 20). Thedegree of support from central and line HR to line managers also played a role. As oneline manager noted: The problem is that each department runs so diff e re n t l y, with no systematic approach. Some units don’t ... have someone specificall y looking at training. Reinforcing the value of training and staff development to line managers is thus ofcrucial importance. To this end, the fact that the appraisal system covered reward andthe identi® cation of training needs, but with no direct recognition or rew ard for theacquisition and application of new skills, was also potentially pro blematic. Returning to the extant literature on the evaluation of training effectiveness, our caseoffers little support for the widely used Kirkpatrick model which is focused solely onpost-course evaluation and traces a prescriptive cause-and-effect chain from training toorganisational performance. Following Easterby-Smith (1986), our analysis suggeststhat any evaluation of training effectiveness must take into account both pre and post-training activities. Most important, however, is a recognition of the social and politicalforces that shape organisational training practice and investment and the re s ul ta n ttraining experiences of employees. Thus, the extent to which employees are able, andwilling, to transfer training into the workplace will be mediated by a wide range ofsituational factors such as line ma nage ment commitmen t and involveme nt,organisational re s ou rces and opportunities and re w a rds. In this respect our studyprovides strong empirical support for Noe’s (1986) contention that trainees apply newknowledge and skills on the job depending on the instrumentality of training toprovide rewards.42 HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003
  17. 17. Amalia Santos and Mark Stuart The results of this study have several possible implications for increasing theapplication of trained ski lls to the workplace. Enro lling employees to attendp rogrammes in a non-supportive working environment may waste training funds.Training provision will be more effective if attention is given to ensuring that the workclimate and manage ment practic es encoura ge persona l deve lopment, sincebehavioural change ± a proxy measure of performance improvement ± after trainingseems more likely to occur where management encourage and re w a rd trainees forusing new skills. Clearl y, we must be wary about the potential to generalise from a single case study,but we would argue that our ® ndings have signi® cant analytical importance. As wenoted in the introduction, the mainstream HR literature has devoted little empiricalattention to date to the complex issue of training transfer and effectiveness, focusinginstead on the nature of employer strategy and practice towards training. This neglectis somewhat surprising, given the significance commentators often attach to theperformance-enhancing benefits of training. A g reater consideration of the actualrecipients of training offers much in this respect. Certainly, our study has helped toreinforce the ® ndings of previous studies that have utilised the individual as the unit ofanalysis (see Antonacopoulou, 1999, 2001), particularly Heyes and Stuart’s (1996)analysis of the positive impact that formal stru ctures of training provision can have onemployee attitudes. Most signi® c a ntl y, though, our analysis of the perceptions andexperiences of employees towards training activities has helped to develop ourunderstanding of the range of factors that mediate and impact on the effectiveness oftraining. Further res e arch is clearly needed on the complex question of training transferand effectiveness, particularly in terms of the in¯ uence of the wider HR enviro nmentand the dynamics by which enterprise training translates into positive outcomes forBritish organisations. Such re s e a rch would need to examine the financial andproductivity bene® ts (Green, 1997), as well as the long-term bene® ts for the companyand the workforce in terms of cultural and behavioural change.Notes1 The ASTD Benchmarking Forum is made up of 55 large, multinational companies such as American Express, AT&T, Ford Motor Company and IBM. The latest survey revealed that 67 per cent of organisations that conduct evaluations use the Kirkpatrick Model.2 The means of individual items were summed to give an overall score for pre and post-training activities and then orde red into low, moderate and high levels of satisfaction.AcknowledgementsWe are grateful to three anonymous referees for their helpful and constructive comments. REFERENCESAll i g e r, G. M. and Janak, E. A. (1989). `Kirkpatrick’s levels of training criteria: thirty years later’. Personnel Psychology, 42: 2, 331-342.Antonacopoulou, E. P. (1999). `Training does not imply learning: the individual’s perspective’. International Journal of Training and Development, 3: 1, 14-33.Ant ona co poulo u, E. P. (2001). `Rec onciling in dividual and o rg a n i s a t i o n a l development: issues in the retail banking sector’ in Training in the Workplace: Critical Perspectives on Learning at Wo rk. H. Rainbird (ed). Basingstoke: Macmillan Press.HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, VOL 13 NO 1, 2003 43
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