support a goal
of constant improvement
If executives have the goal of constant improvements for their organizations, they make training for employees a central part of their planning.
Decisions about training programs follow an organizational needs assessment. Answers are sought to questions such as these: What are we doing well? In what areas should we improve? In what areas is our competition outperforming us? Given the increasing demands of our customers and clients, are we serving their needs?
Areas that require improvement are identified from answers to these and similar questions. If improvement is needed in employee and executive attitudes, skills and behaviors, then a training program could be one part of the change plan. Training programs are special events that go beyond the day-to-day activities of an organization. They are carefully planned, staffed and budgeted. Program participants take leave of their regular duties so that they can attend the training program. All these steps mean that there is a considerable investment on the part of management. The trainers must be paid, and the regular duties of the program participants must be assigned to others so that the organization continues to function smoothly.
There are fewer training programs in the United States than there should be. There are more training programs in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Singapore. A major reason is the typical number of years that employees stay with companies in these countries. While the expectation of lifetime employment with the same company has diminished in Asia, employees engage in less job-hopping than in the United States. Americans change jobs for a wide variety of reasons: better pay, more challenges, desire for a more attractive community, better opportunities for their spouses, more skilled colleagues from whom they can learn and so forth. Americans read about and have sometimes experienced company downsizing. They believe that their first loyalty is to themselves and to their career development, not to a company whose executives may give them a pink slip at any time.
Employers complain that if they invest in training, there is no guarantee that people will stay with the company. There is no assurance that employees will remain to use the benefits of their training five and six years into the future. Further, the executives complain that employees will rub salt into the wound. They will list the training they received at company A and the skills they developed when they update their resumes as part of their application for a position in company B.
Training can involve a significant investment of organizational resources. It is indeed frustrating to see one's well-trained employees now working for a competitor. But as one wise executive said: "Yes, it is expensive to train employees who later leave the company. But given that potential customers have many choices of where to do business, it is more expensive to have untrained employees who stay with the company."
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The purpose of this column is to increase understanding of human behavior as it has an impact on the workplace. Given the amount of time people spend at work, job satisfaction should ideally be high and it should contribute to general life happiness. Enjoyment can increase as people learn more about workplace psychology, communication, and group influences.
Richard Brislin is a professor in the College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii. He can be reached through the College Relations Office: firstname.lastname@example.org