Challenges in management and leadership

Opportunities to strengthen organizational strategy with the help of training interventions

Seminar Paper 2006 19 Pages

Leadership and Human Resource Management - Management Styles


List of contents

1. Training interventions as a special need in globalizing markets

2. Definition of ‘training intervention’ and ‘organizational strategy’ 2.1 Organizational strategy 2.2 Training as a special form of learning and teaching

3. Training interventions 3.1 Role playing 3.1.1 Experiencing new ways to act in role playing 3.1.2 Improving organizational efficiency 3.2 Problem solving groups 3.2.1 Problem solving groups used as on-the-job training 3.2.2 Cost-effective method for improving organizational efficiency 3.3 Coaching 3.3.1 Adoption to the individual problems of an employee 3.3.2 Highly individual, but also expensive 3.4 Project work and project learning 3.4.1 Developing social competencies 3.4.2 Main influence on human resources 3.5 E-Collaboration 3.5.1 Combination of traditional training methods with new media 3.5.2 Efficiency and cost control

4. Training interventions help to strengthen organizational strategy


1. Training interventions as a special need in globalizing markets

“Training is one of those departments that gets dollars thrown at it when times are good and loses funding when times are lean. It is seen as a perk rather then as an integral part of business.”

HRfocus 10/1998, page 2

During the 20th century several theories about organizations were made up. In 1911 in his book The principles of Taylorism, Frederick W. Taylor wrote about his idea of man. In his notion, most people (building the working class) were egoistic and could only be motivated with money. At this time, level of education was often very low and training did not play any role.

In the following 30 years, education became more important, and Taylor’s popular theory took a back seat. In the 1940s, a new theory, adjusted to the changes of technology, came up. Its best-known representatives are Marschak, Simon and March. Systems and environment became more dynamic. They recognized that human beings were necessarily rational but adaptive. Over time, learning and training got more important for organizations (comp. Bea / Göbel 2006, pages 72 et seqq., pages 123 et seqq.).

In 2001, the results of HRfocus’s new 2001 Issues Survey showed that strategic planning had become “a way of life in HR.” Many companies wanted to enlarge the role of HR. In this survey, companies were asked “what they think are the most critical issues for the upcoming year.” ‘Training’ came out on second place between common concerns like ‘Expanding HR’s role within the company’ (place 4), ‘Hiring’ (3) and ‘Retention’ of staff (1). Companies recognized that training and thus the development of soft skills could be an important method to strengthen organizational strategy: “Training is our key issue. We survey our stuff to find out areas of need and interest for training purposes. In this way, we can present training that is relevant to employees.” Vice president of HR at a 250-employee health-care company. (HRfocus 01/2001, page S1 et seq.).

Clearly a re-assessment of training is taking place in many organizations. They recognize a need for action to survive in a more global world. The competition of markets is becoming more intensive, product life cycles are getting shorter, and technical progress is accelerating. These changes make it necessary for companies to adapt.

The science of human resources management started at the beginning of the 20th century. Training, especially relating to organizations, is a field of research which had not been intensive explored before the last ten to twenty years. This changed with the beginning of the above described development of markets and technology. Fundamental analyses about reorganization and also possible training interventions have taken place. To survive the following years, organizations have to acquire the recent findings of scientific research to gain a competitive advantage.

In the following paper, opportunities to strengthen organizational strategy with the help of training interventions will be discussed. First, the terms of ‘training intervention’ and ‘training’ as well as ‘organizational strategy’ will be defined in the next chapter. Afterwards training methods and their utility for organizations will be discussed, and a conclusion will be made.

2. Definition of ‘training intervention’ and ‘organizational strategy’

2.1 Organizational strategy

Organizational strategy is defined in many different ways. Several authors prepared complete studies about it – from the middle of the 1960ies until this day (comp. Nickols 2004, web resource; Coghlan / Rashford 2006, page 97 et seqq.).

Alisch et al. define strategy in their encyclopedia for economics (and thus organizational strategy) in following way: Corporate planning: Strategy is the basically long-term behavior of venture and relevant sub areas compared to their environment to realize long-term ambitions. A strategy makes conclusions to following four areas: (1) business operating area, i.e. the dimension of relation to environment of companies (scope/domain), (2) the resources of the company and in order that, the combined abilities to reach strategic aims (distinctive competence), (3) the competitive advantages and (4) the synergy which develops through strategic decisions (comp. Alisch et al. 2004, page 2833).

Pascale and Athos describe strategy in a similar way: It is a “Plan or course of action leading to the allocation of a firm’s scarce resources, over time, to reach identified goals.” (comp. Pascale / Athos 1982, page 81).

Contrary to this conclusion other authors, like Roger Mansfield, divide organizational strategy in sub areas: corporate strategy, business strategy and functional-area strategy (comp. Mansfield 1986, page 52). These definitions are for the following work too detailed and the encyclopedia one (in dependence on Pascale and Athos) will be used.

2.2 Training as a special form of learning and teaching

Training is hard to define because its usage is partially different in the various areas of science and economy. Today this term is often seen to be similar to schooling, workshop, or seminar (comp. Knoch 2001, page 24).

In our context, the following definition will be used: Training is a special form of learning and teaching. Learning and teaching are interdependent factors (comp. Knoch 2001, page 26). Typical elements are training and tuition. Both are closely connected, but play different parts in the learning process. During tuition, people are supposed to acquire knowledge and social competencies by theory-based teaching. Training has its main focus on learning by doing practical exercises (comp. Döring 1997, page 22). Active participation is meant to make participants familiar with new methods to solve daily problems at work, whereas they will normally stay inactive for the most time during tuition.

An additional goal is to motivate the employees to organize individual learning at work by themselves. Accordingly, there will be less guidance the longer the training continues, while the focus shifts to self-learning and independence. A higher level of proficiency is the result for the employees (comp. Bergmann 1999, page 13 et seq.). Pallasch describes in detail the importance of transferring the training situation to the field of work during training. He writes that trainings first have to point out methodical knowledge to the trainees, or rather the way they have to proceed. As a second step, knowledge needs to be transferred to practical situations (comp. Pallasch 1996, page 9). This means that trainings have to be adapted to the relevant field of work in order to be effective and to reach the aim of higher proficiency.

To guarantee the efficient adoption of training interventions, many organizations hired Chief Learning Officers (CLO) or Chief Knowledge Officers (CKO). They are responsible for the successful combination of training interventions and organizational strategy (comp. Graf / Mathis 2003, page 26). The Human Resources Performance Model (HPM) is a possibility for HR management to control HR-tasks according to organizational strategy. The model evaluates HR-tasks on three different levels: (1) effects on the particular employee, (2) effects on cooperative workings and (3) effects on the chance of survival of the organization. HR-tasks will be realized when all three levels are fulfilled (comp. Pennig / Vogt 2005, pages 30, 32). This guarantees the continuous efficiency of HR-tasks (HR i.e. human resources).

3. Training interventions

In the following section, a number of training interventions and their potential to strengthen organizational strategy will be set out.

A citation may reveal the general importance of learning for modern societies in one sentence:

“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

This means that learning, and thus training, are some of the most important processes in life. People have to learn during their whole life, and especially during their working life. It is a consequence of rapidly accelerating technological change, and the need to adapt to it.

3.1 Role playing

3.1.1 Experiencing new ways to act in role playing

Role playing is a group training method. Groups are a widespread social form for trainings. Normally they are made up of three to seven persons. The problems they need to solve can range from simple to complicated tasks. During group training the teacher has to be prepared to help the group member in complex situations (comp. Maeck 1978, page 41).

Krämer gives the following definition: role plays simulate real life situations and give the participants the possibility to experience their own behavior in different roles (comp. Krämer 1994, page 102). It is a type of game where people can make experiences in an informal atmosphere.

Role playing is one of the most common training methods. People often get in contact with it for the first time in school, albeit in a simplified way. Teachers put them into day-to-day situations. The primary aim may for example be the use of vocabulary that pupils have learned before. As a secondary aim, motivation and group solidarity are meant to be strengthened.

The science distinguishes between two types (comp. Knoch 2001, page 85; Krämer 1994, page 102):

- Participants simulate their behavior in real life situations. They can improve their performance with the help of role playing, for example in conflict situations for HR managers. The aim is to acquire communication skills for difficult situations.



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Title: Challenges in management and leadership