Training in organizations


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  • What we’re really talking about here is learning – the same kind of learning that people engage in every day. The kinds of things we’re going to discuss in this lesson relate, in many cases directly, to the kinds of things that get discussed in most introductory psychology courses in chapters on learning and cognition. When we put it into an I-O context, we end up talking about it in terms of “training.” In the year 2000, United States-based organizations spent $54 BILLION dollars on educating and training their employees. The key idea of training is to change the way people behave on the job in some fashion. It’s not just learning, it’s also behavior change. After the training is done, trainees should DO something differently than they did before. I-O psychologists are involved in every stage, potentially, of training programs. We assess the pretraining environment, we conduct needs assessments, we design training, we evaluate the training program, and, if the organization wants us to, we can administer it. Alternately, they can have one of their own employees actually “deliver” the training after it’s designed.
  • One of the things to emphasize here is that the learning objectives look fairly strenuous. That is because they were written the way we would write objectives for an organizational training program. You not only outline what you want trainees to take away from the program, but also how well they need to be able to do things. There have to be specific standards for performance. It’s also worth noting that while it’s certainly realistic to ask people to be able to list out the chronology of a training program, or to name two ways training allows for psychological ideas to be integrated, there are a multitude of different goals that can be established for any learning activity. A concept that is linked to providing learning objectives is the ADVANCE ORGANIZER. Psychological research shows that when you give learners an idea of what is to come - what will be expected of them - they have an easier time integrating information as they move toward their goals. In some senses, then, any time we offer learning objectives, we are providing advance organizers for our learners.
  • The basics of most training programs can be understood in terms of the above chronology. That is, we must first consider the pretraining environment - what is going on in the organization, or with respect to the individuals who are going to be in training, that might affect our outcomes? We then conduct a needs assessment and design our training program, utilizing a variety of techniques and psychological ideas. A “needs assessment” is a set of activities designed to collect data about what the organization needs out of the training program. This is where we can actually integrate a great deal of what psychologists in various disciplines talk about. Once that’s done, we implement the training - we actually run the training program (we don’t include a slide on this, because many of the details are covered in a general discussion of how training gets designed) and look at whether what we were attempting to train actually transferred. That is, did it get used outside the training environment? The final stage is training evaluation. Here, we’re looking at people’s reactions to training, how much trainees learned, and how capable they are of transferring what they have learned, and the skills they have developed, back to the job.
  • The things trainees bring in with them can have profound effects on whether the training works. These include things like cognitive ability (you design training differently for brighter trainees than you do for those who are less mentally adept), motivation (there is often more work getting trainees who are unmotivated to learn complex material), previous knowledge (do you need to cover basic material, or can you assume some level of knowledge on the part of trainees?), and expectations (what do they want to get out of training?). In a lot of cases, you will want to do some survey work before you begin designing the training program, so you know what you’re dealing with. This is dealt with more in the Needs Assessment phase. The other thing to be aware of is the extent to which the environment (in particular, the organization’s management) supports the training program. If there is little support for training, this is something the employees will note, and it will cause them to take the training less seriously, and will ultimately make them less likely to use the material back on the job, since their managers won’t encourage them to do so. Another way to think of this is in terms of reinforcement – if going to training is never reinforced, we know that the behavior is not likely to continue. How the training gets “framed” by the company is also important. If the company refers to training as “basic,” or “remedial,” that has the implication that individuals who go through it are less intelligent, or generally less sophisticated. If the company refers to training as “advanced,” this may lead people to be more motivated, since difficult goals tend to be much more motivating to individuals in organizational contexts, and to lead to higher performance.
  • In the needs assessment phase of the training process, we’re gathering detailed information about what needs to happen in the training program. This is a critical first step that is often (a) overlooked, and (b) under-funded. Think about this as a diagnostic stage - what is the current level of employee performance? Why is it where it is? There are three questions that have to be answered here. First, what are the organization’s goals? That is, what does the company think it needs to get out of the training program? Is it some sort of technological updating? Is it a certification program? What’s going on? Also, when you’re thinking about the organization, you need to be aware of what kind of resources it’s committing to training (in terms of money, time, and personnel) and whether the norms of the organization support people going through training (is there always training going on, of one kind or another, or is this kind of an odd thing for them? It makes a difference.). Second, what tasks need to be trained? Here, you need to be specific with respect to what is going to change as a result of training, and what performance standards you’re setting. Third, who is being trained? You need to make sure that the people you are targeting with the training are the RIGHT people. They must be the ones who are actually responsible for the tasks that you have made central. It’s a bad thing to design training for 400 people on a new computer program, only to find out none of them are ever going to have to use that program. You have to make sure you understand the discrepancy between the KSAs required for the job, and the KSAs people are actually bringing to training with them.
  • On-site designs… on-the-job training is simply training that occurs while the trainee is actually performing their duties, and often is re-training on something they already did, using new technologies. It is very popular, but is sometimes very badly done. Vestibule training takes the trainee out of the actual space where their work is done and puts them in a more isolated environment, where they use specialized equipment that is designed to mimic job performance (but which may be safer, for training purposes,and is certainly preferable when potential mistakes can cost a lot of money). In job rotation, trainees learn a variety of jobs within the company, moving from one to the next, so that they understand everything that goes on. Apprenticeships are intensive times of study under an expert (a mentor). DVD-ROM instruction involves training for individuals with computer workstations, where they can be given access to all the materials to go through training at their own pace, without ever leaving their own terminal. Off-site, we have traditional means like lectures (standard classroom formats), audio-visual presentations (videos and so forth), and conferences where lots of trainees have a chance to listen to and interact with the trainers, as well as each other. Computer-assisted instruction in an off-site environment is similar to DVD-ROM based instruction on-site, in that it allows trainees to progress at their own pace, but it is not done at the workplace. Finally, simulations and role-play exercises, where the trainees are put into the kinds of situations they will have to deal with on the job, to see if they have learned anything from training, can be very popular. Most training programs are a combination of two or more of the above techniques.
  • To emphasize - Training is a very interesting domain, because it has the potential to draw on research from a lot of disciplines within psychology, and USE it - immediately. We’ve drawn on the educational literature for things like goal orientation. Some people have strong mastery orientations, where they want to learn material and develop their own skills. Other people have strong performance orientations, where they want to look good in comparison to others. Knowing about these different approaches to learning allows us to create different kinds of goals. We have also learned a lot from educational psychologists about the importance of social interaction in the classroom, and what learners get out of those kinds of interactions. Cognitive psychology has contributed a lot to training as well. First, its focus on information processing has allowed us to model how individuals may deal with incoming information during training - how they encode it, what kinds of storage mechanisms they may use, and how they might retrieve it. It’s also contributed information on how problem solving gets accomplished, and how decisions get made - both of which are the kinds of things we are likely to need to be training in high-level training programs. Another example here is Social Learning Theory, Albert Bandura’s approach to understanding how and why people learn, which has allowed I/O Psychologists to design and implement role modeling exercises. KEY POINT: In a perfect world, all training programs would have some sort of theory as their foundation. This has not traditionally been the case. It is only within the last 20-30 years that trainers have begun to draw heavily on other domains, so when you’re thinking about training, and the theories that can be applied, don’t assume that something has already been done.
  • We know that behavior is difficult to change. You can put an addict through a treatment program, but it’s always possible that when they get back into their old environment, they’ll fall into the addictive behavior patterns again. The same kind of thing can happen with training programs, which forces us to ask this question: “Does the material that we taught the trainees actually get used back on the job?” If the answer is “No,” then the training program is a failure, no matter how good it may have looked on paper. We need to get that transfer back to the job in order for our programs to be successful. We talk about transfer in three ways. The first is initiation. That is, does the person actually start using the material back on the job. There are lots of things that can interfere with the initiation of the learned behavior, some of which are part of the job environment (lack of managerial support is one key example) and some of which are part of the person (a general resistance to changing how the job is done, after doing the same job for 5-10 years). The second way we think about transfer is in terms of maintenance. That is, does the person keep using the trained material once they get back on the job. Again, there are lots of things that can get in the way of maintenance. Finally, we have generalization. Here, we want to know whether the person can adapt or change what they learned, as the job changes around them. This kind of adaptability is very key for many training programs, since they want people to be able to keep using the skills when the job changes (and most jobs do) rather than having to re-train every time. In terms of raw outcomes, there are a number of things we may be looking to have transferred, including knowledge (do you know more than you did to start with?), skills (can you do something you couldn’t do before?), and attitudes (do you feel differently than you did before?).
  • To tell if our training program was a success, we must evaluate it. Whether transfer occurred is part of this evaluation. A more “classic” perspective is Kirkpatrick’s. He came up with a 4-level way to evaluate whether training “worked.” His most basic level was reactions - were the reactions of the trainees generally positive, or generally negative? Did they LIKE the training? Then there was learning. Did they learn anything from the training? Next came behavior, whether there was a change in the behavior of the trainees as a result of the trainees (this is where we come closest to the idea of “transfer” in his system). Finally, he had results as a criterion for success - and here, we were asking the question, “Was there a change in the bottom line as a result of training?” It could be asked of the organization - we implemented a new training program, are we making more money? - or it could be asked of the individual - I went through advanced training on how to wait tables, am I getting more tips? You can break Kirkpatrick’s standards down into criteria that are internal to the trainee - how did they react to the training, and did they learn? - and ones that are external - does the behavior change, and are the results different. We can argue pretty forcefully that for the company, the external standards are more important - but they’re also the hardest to “leverage” (that is, affect) and the hardest to develop. Recently, researchers and practitioners have started moving past Kirkpatrick’s criteria and talking more about a “holistic” approach to training effectiveness. At a broad level, did it work? This includes multiple perspectives. The trainer, trainees, organization, customers, and all sorts of folks are part of the assessment of whether training made a difference, and whether the goals of training were met.
  • The future of training is bright; the average job requires more knowledge and skills than in the past, because of increased automation. Simple jobs are now done by machines and computers, leaving more complex jobs, on average, for human employees. The workforce is changing, and the increased diversity - racial, ethnic, and gender - is something many employees have trouble with. They need training on how to interact. Many organizations adopt what is referred to as a “continuous learning” perspective. Here, it is not assumed that an employee is ever “done” learning, but rather, that they will be constantly updating their knowledge and skills to stay on the cutting edge. How to best do this is an open issue for trainers. Related to this is the notion of adaptability and flexibility. The skills of today are not necessarily the skills of tomorrow, so one of the things training needs to be able to do is provide skills that are malleable, that can change as the requirements of the market changes. We need to train people to be able to “roll with the punches.” Training has become a profitable market all its own, with many companies springing up to provide training design and evaluation services to businesses all over the world.
  • One way to break this down, if you have the time, would be to consider the exercise as a “building” discussion. That is, when you discuss needs assessment, have the students break out into small groups, discuss the needs assessment phase for college professors, then come back and talk about it. When you discuss training methods, you might have them consider what methods of training might suit different courses (large lecture courses vs. small seminar courses, for example). Finally, when you discuss training evaluation, you might have them talk about the different evaluation strategies, and which elements of, say, Kirkpatrick’s model might be best suited to different types of professorial training programs. Given limited time, utilize the above, and have different groups focus on different questions from the previous paragraph, so that you can get them thinking, and discussing, each of the various aspects of training in organizations.
  • Training in organizations

    1. 1. Industrial-Organizational Psychology Learning Module Training in Organizations
    2. 2. Learning Objectives <ul><li>At the conclusion of this module, you should: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be able to 100% accurately describe the basic timeline of a training program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be able to provide at least two examples of ways that training allows the use of psychological ideas from other areas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be able to critically evaluate and accurately list at least three ways to know if a training program was successful </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. A Chronological Approach <ul><li>Pretraining environment </li></ul><ul><li>Needs assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Training Design </li></ul><ul><li>Training Implementation </li></ul><ul><li>Training Transfer and Outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Training Evaluation </li></ul>
    4. 4. Pretraining Environment <ul><li>Individual Differences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What do learners bring to the training environment? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Environmental Support </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is training valued? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Framing of the Training </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is it basic or advanced? </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Needs Assessment <ul><li>Key Question: What does the training need to accomplish... </li></ul><ul><ul><li> terms of the organization’s goals? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> terms of specific tasks? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… in terms of the people involved? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Should result in learning objectives – like the ones for this lesson! </li></ul>
    6. 6. Training Design <ul><li>On-site </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On-the-job training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vestibule training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Job rotation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apprenticeship </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>DVD-ROM </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Off-site </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lectures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Audio-visual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conferences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Computer-assisted instruction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Simulation/role-playing </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. An Integrative Opportunity <ul><li>Educational psychology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goal orientation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social interaction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cognitive psychology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information processing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem solving </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decision making </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Training Transfer <ul><li>Does material from training actually get USED? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Initiation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintenance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Generalization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Outcomes… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge, skills, attitudes, etc. </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Training Evaluation <ul><li>Kirkpatrick’s standards for success </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reactions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Behavior </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Overall “training effectiveness” </li></ul>
    10. 10. Future Directions <ul><li>Increased automation </li></ul><ul><li>Diversity of the workforce </li></ul><ul><li>Continuous learning </li></ul><ul><li>Adaptation and flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Training as a market all its own </li></ul>
    11. 11. For Discussion... <ul><li>Divide into small groups, and discuss the following… </li></ul><ul><li>There are a lot of things that go into being a college professor. You’ve had some good ones, and some bad ones, I’m sure. How would you go about designing a training program to develop someone into a good college professor? </li></ul>