- Identifying Staff Development Needs and Priorities
- Staff Development Intervention Options
- When Is Training Not Appropriate as a Staff Development Intervention?
- Critical Skills for a Changing Workforce: Where Should Organizations Focus Future Staff Development Efforts?
- Making the Business Case for Staff Development: Measuring and Evaluating Program Effectiveness
- References / Notes
The skills and knowledge of the workforce are now at the heart of both organizational and national strategies for economic success in a competitive global economy. Facilities organizations in particular are challenged by changes in technological, legal, and environmental issues as well as workforce demographic shifts that can lead to shortages of skilled workers. This environment might be why the top actions that organizations are taking or planning to take in response to economic and employment trends involve education, learning, and training initiatives.1
The process of identifying organizational objectives and consequently the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by the employees of the organization to carry out those objectives is at the heart of the organizational and staff development discipline. Specifically, “organizational and staff development includes the process of enhancing the effectiveness of an organization and the well-being of its members through planned activities designed by an organization to provide its members with the necessary skills to meet current and future job demands and unite and advance the business objectives of an organization.”2 The scope of the organizational and staff development discipline encompasses education, learning, and training components, including organizational effectiveness and process improvement, organizational structure and job design, ongoing performance and productivity initiatives, and organizational learning. However, the primary focus of this chapter is on staff development, or how facilities organizations can provide staff members with the necessary skills to meet current and future job demands and support organizational outcomes.
Specifically, this chapter explores the what, when, where, why, and how of staff development:
- How are staff development needs identified?
- What types of staff development interventions are available?
- When is training not appropriate as a staff development intervention?
- Where should organizations focus future staff development efforts?
- Why make the business case for staff development?
When Is Training Not Appropriate as a Staff Development Intervention?Top
It is one thing to learn and possess knowledge of a topic, but applying that learning is another. Thus, learning has limited value unless it is put into practice. As philosopher and naturalist John Ruskin has said, “What we know, or what we believe, or what we think, is in the end of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”15
Employee performance is based on a variety of factors. Consider this scenario: A facilities director is concerned that more than 50 percent of work request forms coming from employees in the unit are completed incorrectly. The director hires a trainer to conduct training for all personnel processing work requests. The trainer spends four months developing and facilitating a course. During the next three months, the “problem” appears to be corrected, but by the fourth month, all progress is lost. Finally, the director asks an employee, “What’s the problem?” The employee replies, “The process is complicated and time-consuming. It can take nearly a month to get a work request processed. I’d rather you be upset with me than have the entire campus angry, so I cut corners.”
As mentioned previously, when evaluating performance gaps to determine an appropriate staff development intervention, supervisors can make the mistake of mandating or requesting training for nontraining issues. In the work request example, it is not that the employees lack the skills or abilities to complete the work request form properly, but rather that the process is cumbersome and interferes with the employees’ ability to provide what they perceive to be quality customer service to their constituents. It is the form and the process that should be evaluated in addition to the performance expectations of the employees. Training as a solution would not be warranted in this example.
Another question can help determine whether training or another more appropriate staff development intervention is required: Can the employee do the job in a life-or-death situation? If the answer is yes, education and training are not the solution. For example, an employee who at one time performed job duties successfully is now not meeting standards for work output. If the employee was at one time qualified for the position, the employee cannot suddenly become unqualified. Retraining the individual on job duties is not necessarily the answer. Other questions must be asked to determine what is preventing the employee from performing the duties that at one time were performed successfully: Has the person done the job well before? Is the employee physically capable of performing the duties, or does an accommodation need to be made? Is the job meaningful to the person? Are the expectations of the position clear, or have they changed? What are the consequences of not performing satisfactorily? What feedback is being given to the employee? Does the employee have the proper tools and equipment to perform the job duties? Is there an incentive for the employee to complete the job properly? Exploring the answers to these questions with the employee often can lead to nontraining solutions.
As most organizations know, training by itself cannot solve every performance problem, no matter what type of training is provided. If an organization is not getting the results it needs from its training programs, the programs must be evaluated to find out why. The organization should take a good look at processes for employee selection and performance management to ensure that they are adequate and that the employees being trained have the capacity to do what is expected of them.
Critical Skills for a Changing Workforce: Where Should Organizations Focus Future Staff Development Efforts?Top
Technological, demographic, and facilities-specific trends can have a large impact on the changing skill-mix needs of a facilities workforce. For example, employees who once vowed never to use a computer have found themselves required to utilize computers for a variety of work tasks. State and federal laws now require many facilities trades employees to be licensed or certified to carry out their normal work assignments. A dramatic shift in emphasis to issues of the environment, sustainability, and renewable energy requires organizations and the employees of those organizations to take a new approach to work performance and serving customer needs. Organizations that identify such trends can take a more proactive approach to staff development and better position employees to meet future challenges.
In keeping with the rapidly changing pace of technological and environmental trends, key findings of the joint SHRM and Wall Street Journal study indicate that, overall, employers placed the greatest weight on employee adaptability and flexibility and on critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. In response to such trends, the second most common overall action that organizations have taken is to invest more in training and development to boost employee skills. (The most common overall action was to offer tuition reimbursement.)
Critical-thinking skills have grown increasingly important as organizational planning and decision making become more distributed in organizations. Frontline employees are now expected to make good decisions that are in the best interests of the organization, sometimes with limited information. So, what options do organizations have with regard to providing staff development opportunities that will improve their employees’ abilities to analyze, reason, and communicate effectively? Although some might question the ability to teach or train things such as flexibility and problem-solving skills (nature versus nurture), as with any staff development intervention, the value is not just in the formal exchange of information. Rather, the value comes primarily from the application and practice of the topics.
A number of e-learning and Internet resources can help employees sharpen critical-thinking skills, react swiftly and positively in the face of organizational change, and so on. In addition, most organizations have access to a number of in-person and in-house facilitated training sessions on these topics. If supervisors and managers are willing to invest the time for employees to participate in training activities related to increasing adaptability and critical-thinking skills and then to give employees the opportunity to apply what is learned (and make mistakes along the way), such attributes can be developed. As always, if the activities are to add value, clear expectations and follow-up evaluations with regard to how employees are using these important skills must be established. A number of evaluative instruments and behavior-based interviewing techniques can be used during the recruitment and interview process to help supervisors evaluate these traits in new hires. The human resources staff can be consulted about the available tools.
Knowledge Retention and Capture for an Aging and Retiring Workforce
The large numbers of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) who are likely to retire around the same time continue to be a significant issue facing facilities organizations in particular. According to the SHRM workplace forecast “Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2013 and Beyond,” the issues of a shortage of skilled workers and a large number of baby boomers leaving the workforce at around the same time came in at numbers three and four, just behind the continuing high cost of employee health care coverage and implementation of health care legislation. Compared with previous SHRM and Wall Street Journal workplace forecast surveys, this issue moved up to number two on the “Top 10 Workplace Trends 2008-2009,” second only to the continued high cost of health care in the United States.
Although baby boomer retirement is certainly a large cause of employee knowledge loss (and a significant one), organizations also can see technology changes occur so quickly that even younger employees leaving an organization might take with them information that cannot be replicated easily.
With many facilities organizations facing the challenge of information walking off the job, the task of how to prevent valuable information accumulated on the job from getting lost in the transition has become a top priority. Many organizations are finding ways to retain employee know-how and best practices so that the information can be passed on to future workers.16
Strategies for tapping into or capturing and documenting employee knowledge can take a number of forms:
- Interview employees and keep written records of their answers
- Make employees stars of their own how-to videotapes
- Encourage workers seen as experts in special areas to mentor other employees or to remain on call after their departure dates
- Ask key employees to take notes on what they have learned during their tenures that was not already documented
- Structure interviews with departing workers to elicit employees’ soft knowledge
Taking the information gathered from long-term top performers in this manner provides excellent information for the future development of new and existing employees.
A note of caution should be made regarding what may be an overconcern with the loss of institutional knowledge as a result of baby boomer retirements. Although the departure of an employee with, say, 30 years of institutional knowledge can be difficult to recover from if not planned for in advance, the issue might not be as detrimental if the employee is a 30-year employee with 30 years of average (or at times below average) performance. In some organizations, employees with long tenures have become experts at getting the work done but not necessarily experts at getting the work done the right way, looking for new or innovative solutions, or keeping up with the latest in technological advances and processes. Long-term staff departures can provide opportunities for organizations to reinvent the work culture, redefine service expectations, and reemphasize staff development as a means to find new and innovative solutions to age-old problems.
As facilities organizations struggle with doing more with fewer positions, leadership development has become increasingly important. More and more, organizations are turning to existing internal staff to fill gaps in key leadership areas. Matching leadership development with organizational strategic initiatives should be a given, but relatively few organizations actually do it or do it well.17 The leadership talent and skills needed in an organization can be found by responding to three overarching questions:
- What are the critical skills, experiences, and talents we will need in our leaders to deliver results?
- Where do we have gaps between what we need and what we have today?
- Do we have the needed level of engagement and motivation?
Answers to these questions can help build an effective leadership development curriculum in an organization. A combination of job experience, mentoring, coaching, and formal learning is a commonly used approach to leadership coaching. In addition, many organizations that have implemented successful leadership development programs utilize a “thematically cascaded” training program. Such programs are designed to put all leaders on the same page with regard to general skills and expectations but then tailor training to each level in succession. Everyone is taught the same general concepts and content, but the curriculum is differentiated for the needs of senior, middle, and first-level managers. First-level managers might focus on increasing organizational capacity, team-building, and coaching skills while middle managers might focus more on orientation to business strategy (translating strategic initiatives into objectives for their work units) as well as development of communication, decision-making, and other management skills. Senior managers might become more involved in business simulation exercises to learn how to clarify strategic intent, drive organizational results, and understand customer and competitor economics.
In support of the cascaded approach to leadership development, Personnel Decisions International, a Minneapolis-based leadership consulting firm with more than 30 offices worldwide, conducted a study of 4,600 employees. The study revealed that specific developmental experiences best prepare leaders at different levels.18
First-level leaders are more likely to achieve success if they already have cross-functional experiences. Examples include the following:
- Standardizing processes and procedures within and across organizational units
- Improving the quality of products or services
- Redesigning or reengineering a major operating procedure or process
- Handling projects requiring direct participation of parties within and outside the organization
- Managing projects and teams that include participants from a number of units or functions throughout the organization
For mid-level leaders, previous challenging experiences that contribute to success include the following:
- Being involved in turning around a struggling organizational unit
- Playing a part in the negotiation of a labor agreement
- Helping an employee overcome performance difficulties
- Developing a team
- Managing an organizational unit in which a high level of distrust exists among managers and direct reports
- Phasing out a major function or unit within the organization
For directors and executives, previous experiences that affect success include the following:
- Making a highly visible, risky decision in a situation in which failure would have significant consequences, such as large financial losses
- Resolving a crisis situation
- Restructuring business investments
- Starting a new department, division, or function
- Taking over an organizational unit in which corruption existed
Employees engaged in leadership development activities tend to grow more from their experiences when the organization has an explicit focus on learning. Resources such as coaches and development programs can facilitate learning, encourage leaders to seek feedback and reflect, and foster success in developing leaders to their highest potential.
Experts agree that individuals who will become good leaders share common characteristics, including relating well to people, taking charge in difficult situations, being results oriented, and being open to feedback. A number of existing leadership development approaches can assist current and future leaders in acquiring and fostering these characteristics. Many university campuses have in-house leadership development programs to help organizations develop new and existing leaders. These programs can be a relatively inexpensive way to develop leadership skills.
Organizations that are able to develop current and future leaders and that allow these leaders to engage in opportunities to apply their strengths and the information learned through leadership development programs (such as those outlined previously) will be best positioned for future organizational alignment and success.
Making the Business Case for Staff Development: Measuring and Evaluating Program EffectivenessTop
In tough economic times when budgets are tight, it is especially crucial to be able to make the business case to support staff development activities. The budget cycles of many facilities organizations tend to have a significant effect on the delivery of staff development interventions. When there are pressures on budgets, travel and training expenses are seen as relatively easy targets because the consequences are not immediately apparent. Therefore, the value of aligning staff development needs with organizational strategic plans and initiatives is that it becomes more difficult to argue that cuts should occur in the training and development budget.19
For example, if an organization has an expectation that employees will obtain and maintain a certain number of certifications or licenses but subsequently cuts a percentage of travel and training from its budget, employees might not be able to maintain such licensure on their own. If a strong business case is made and strategic initiatives of the organization include aligning staff credentials with organizational success, then budget dollars for such activities can be protected.
To make the business case, managers and supervisors should have a clear understanding of where they are spending their budget dollars. Organizations must track whether the investments being made across the organization are being applied appropriately and whether they achieve effective and measurable results. Consistently reporting data on the positive effects that staff development activities have on organizational initiatives can support staff development expenses and better position managers to defend their budgets.
Consider obtaining the data to answer the following questions: How much did we invest in training and staff development initiatives? How much time did it take to conduct the training (total employee hours spent in training activities)? How much value was realized from each training dollar spent? Across all courses, what did participants think about the programs?
Ultimately, institutional benefit is the measure of all staff development interventions. Has the program increased productivity or reduced costs? The program might receive high presentation ratings; test scores might show that significant learning took place; and employees might demonstrate competent use of the new skills on the job — yet, for most administrators, if the program is not correlated with an institutional benefit (the so-called bottom line), then it might be seen as a failure. This lack of correlation can be caused by a flaw in the needs analysis or interference from other factors influencing performance outcome. For example, institutional benefits from a successful program involving personal protective equipment education and training would include fewer job injuries, lower worker compensation costs, and reduced insurance rates.
Other items to consider when looking at how to demonstrate a return on staff development investment include specific measures of returns and investments.
Sample returns include:
- Average value of increased production
- Decreased time to complete a project
- Increased quality of work or output
- Reduced occurrence of errors, accidents, waste, damage, repetition, and downtime
- Reduced absenteeism
- Reduced time spent by other personnel instructing or waiting for others
- Improved customer, employee, and public relationships
Sample investments include:
- Finances (cost of delivery and lost opportunities)
- Time (time invested versus time spent)
In circumstances in which budget reductions are inevitable, many organizations are faced with difficult decisions. Should they postpone plans? Should they cancel upcoming classes? Organizations should be analyzing the costs and benefits of current activities and seeking new ways to deliver necessary training — perhaps by identifying and consolidating multiple vendor contracts for training or by being more selective when deciding who will receive training and on what topics. In addition, organizations must remember, even during times of tight budgets, that required training programs cannot simply be removed from the budget. Organizations are not exempt from OSHA-mandated training, in particular, simply because they are looking for ways to cut costs. Staff development activities that affect the customer and that are safety related or government regulated should be protected.
Twenty-first-century facilities organizations have made many advances in their efforts to identify organizational initiatives and objectives and consequently to provide staff members with the necessary skills to meet current and future job demands and to support organizational outcomes. These improvements can be attributed in large part to managers and supervisors who recognize talented employees as an organizational advantage and who work to develop those employees accordingly. To be successful, greater emphasis must be placed on manager and leader accountability for the development of employees in their units through the performance management process. To do this, organizations must provide adequate support to organizational leaders through human resource and staff development expertise. Organizations need to make staff development a shared business and human resource responsibility in which leaders emphasize the importance of staff development, are actively engaged in the process, and hold themselves accountable for the development of their employees through the following:
- Creating a learning culture in which opportunities for formal and informal learning can occur among employees up and down the organization chart
- Ensuring that personal development remains a key performance objective for all staff members
- Building learning opportunities into every post-project evaluation
- Creating cross-disciplinary learning opportunities
- Matching the competencies needed for achieving organizational objectives against the skill inventories of incumbents
- Keeping the development and advancement of subordinates as a meaningful metric for the assessment of leaders
- Maintaining close ties between hiring managers and recruitment professionals; in cases in which core competencies are in short supply in the labor pool, considering that internal training programs might be an economical solution
- Monitoring performance appraisal tools for trends in employee development needs
- Considering the value of knowledge management programs to identify, harvest, archive, retrieve, and transfer organizational knowledge
Staff development programs are an integral part of any workplace. Facilities organizations that are proactive in identifying employee development needs look for innovative ways to broaden the knowledge and skills of their employees. The organizations that can tie their development efforts to organization strategic initiatives and can encourage an environment of learning and growth among employees will be in a better position to meet the organizational challenges that lie ahead.
References / NotesTop
1. Society for Human Resource Management. “SHRM Workplace Trends: An Overview of the Findings of the Latest SHRM Workplace Forecast.” Society for Human Resource Management: 2008.
2. Anderson, Charlotte, SPHR, GPHR. “Introduction to the Human Resources Discipline of Organizational and Employee Development.” SHRM online, May 15, 2008.
3. University of Iowa. “The University of Iowa Facilities Management Training and Development Policy.” University of Iowa: 2006.
4. Wilson, John P., ed. Human Resource Development: Learning and Training for Individuals and Organizations. London: Kogan Page, 1999.
8. Society for Human Resource Management and Wall Street Journal. “Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce.” Society for Human Resource Management and WallStreetJournal.com/Careers, June 2008. The study, which asked human resource professionals to respond to questions on a variety of topics to find out what issues they think will have the greatest impact on the workplace in years ahead, provides a useful snapshot of the staff development issues that organizations are currently focused on and reveals changes that have developed over time.
9. Sammer, Joanne. “TRAINING: Training & Development: Does it Make Sense for You?” SHRM’s HR Outsourcing Focus Area, December 2005.
10. Webster, Lois. “Two Models for Training Gain Popularity.” SHRM online, December 5, 2008.
11. Society for Human Resource Management and Wall Street Journal. “Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce.” Society for Human Resource Management and Wall Street Journal.com/Careers, June 2008.
12. Society for Human Resource Management. “2014 Future Insights: Top Trends According to SHRM’s HR Subject Matter Expert Panels,” 2013.
13. Tyler, Kathryn. “15 Ways to Train on the Job; In a Down Economy, Trainers Turn to Homegrown Help.” HR Magazine, September 2008.
14. Hastings, Rebecca. “Mentoring Done Right.” SHRM online, March 1, 2007.
15. Wilson, John P., ed. Human Resource Development: Learning and Training for Individuals and Organizations. London: Kogan Page, 1999.
16. Thilmany, Jean. “Organizational Development — Passing on Know-How.” HR Magazine. SHRM online, June 13, 2008.
17. “Building the Bench.” Human Resources Executive, June 2, 2008.
18. Owens, Donna. “Success Factors.” SHRM online, October 2008.
19. Wilson, John P., ed. Human Resource Development: Learning and Training for Individuals and Organizations. London: Kogan Page, 1999.