Sharpening your human resources via training

MBA Forum

Dr Kenroy Wedderburn

Saturday, February 06, 2016

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“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” — Derek Bok

People need maintenance and upgrades even more than machines do. Retraining is maintenance. Training is an upgrade. Development is the next generation model. “If you bought a million dollar machine, would you use it continuously without inspections, maintenance and upgrades? Of course not! Do you care as much about the upkeep of your people?”

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“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

Jack Welch, the famous chief executive who made General Electric the most valuable company in the world, at one point is said to have pronounced that it is the responsibility of the company to provide the tools and the training employees need to perform their jobs better. As a matter of fact, potential employees should stay far from organisations that are unwilling to train and develop. Deliberate, precise training should start right at the employee’s entry into the organisation, and continue periodically throughout the entire time that the employee is associated with the organisation.

Last week we discussed performance appraisal. Well, that important activity is totally useless unless the requisite training has been factored in and properly executed at the appropriate points.

Why is training so important? “Training is crucial for organisational development and success. It is fruitful to both employers and employees of an organisation. An employee will become more efficient and productive if he is trained well.” (

One of the quickest lessons that a young manager will learn is the value of an excellent employee, or even better — the value of a team of highly trained, excellent individuals. If you have done or read anything on strategic nanagement (watch for it as the MBA Forum will review in the future), you will realise that one of the most powerful ways that an organisation can achieve sustainable competitive advantage is through a fairly intangible resource called “organisational capability”. This is the output being produced by a well-oiled team of trained individuals whose synergistic whole is several multiple times greater than the sum of each individual’s contribution.

Organiational capability is one of the hardest resources to copy. Tangible assets can be copied fairly easily. A company’s apparently unique strategy doesn’t stay unique for very long, and even sophisticated supply chain management expertise — like that mastered by Walmart, can be fairly easily duplicated with our access to advanced technology. But what will trump the competition is that team of highly trained employees focused on common objectives. We have been focusing on the team, but similarly, one excellent, well-trained employee can easily be worth a dozen mediocre ones!

Training and development is absolutely critical for any organisation. From day one on the job, the orientation that the new employee experiences will set the tone for their tenure on the job. Let us look at the recommended steps to design and execute a generic training programme.

The training programme

According to Gary Dessler in his text, Human Resource Management, the typical training and development process includes five steps:

Needs analysis

This is the typical gap analysis you need to perform like when you are resolving a generic problem. What are the “specific job performance skills needed?” It may sound simple, but many organisations do not stop to determine precisely what level of skills and performance is necessary on the part of the employee to successfully complete a job task. Next you need to objectively determine the employee’s current skills and abilities. You would then have the information to design the training to move the employee from the present to the desired state.

Instructional design

The information gleaned from the previous step is used to design the appropriate content for the training programme. If you have carefully read this far you would (or should) be snickering! When last have you seen the content of a training programme being prepared based on an assessment of the trainees’ current skills vis-à-vis where you require them to be? Nope… most training programme contents are… well… just designed! No wonder sometimes it all passes over the trainees’ heads or alternately puts them to sleep!


This step is recommended but not mandatory. You may want to do a pilot of your training programme on a small group to iron out any deficiencies or enhance aspects of it. Get feedback on the effectiveness of the programme and make adjustments to enhance it. For example, many people are resistant to online, self-directed training and still prefer in-class, face-to-face training. Migration to the more efficient modes is cost-effective, but it has to be balanced with the fact that the expected result is trained employees!


During this step you actually do the training. There are many useful tips to remember. One is that the training should happen just before you need the employees to use the skill. If you train, then realise that if the skill is not needed for another three to four months, you may need to retrain! Of course, the appropriate training mode should be used, as mentioned before.


This is when “management assesses the programme’s successes or failures”. Most of the negative impact should have been ironed out during the validation, but this step is still useful.

Dr Kenroy Wedderburn is an MBA part-time lecturer. Send your e-mails to

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