“EVALUATING THE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES IN THE CORPORATE SECTOR:
LITERATURE REVIEW AND RESEARCH AGEND
Er. Ashish Kumar Saxena
Lotus Institute of Management Bareilly (U.P.), INDIA.
There is a decreasing willingness to spend money on faith and an increasing pressure to justify training and development costs. It is imperative for those in the field to focus on evaluation of training and development and to adequately and properly demonstrate and communicate to management that training efforts are making worthwhile contributions. The major purpose of evaluation is to determine the effectiveness of the various components of a training and development programme. The key issues discussed in this paper include training needs analysis and evaluation, purposes of evaluation, levels of evaluation, instruments, timing of evaluation, and evaluation design based on an extensive review of literature. Finally, the authors offer a few directions for further research in this field.
Interestingly, much of the existing literature on training and development has lamented the failure of organisational efforts to significantly improve the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of employees or affect business performance. Unfortunately, too often the evaluation process is not carried out with a sense of purpose, pride, and direction; or if it is, the bases or criteria for evaluation are unclear or inappropriate. Those who have professional, management, or administrative responsibilities for the training and development of others should operate on more than faith. The training and development literature to date has not proved to be very helpful in unravelling the nature of corporate training and development evaluation policies and practices in the Indian context. Partly, this reflects the predominant bias in most of the human resource management literature towards idealised, prescriptive models with little hard information about actual practices in real contexts. The primary task for future researchers is to probe those organisational conditions whose presence, or absence, may help explain the differential take-up of evaluation of corporate training and development by employing multiple case study research design.
Evaluating the Training and Development programmes in the Corporate Sector: Literature Review and Research Agenda
The new economy and business environment characterised by worldwide competition has influenced modern corporations in three profound ways. First, progressive organisations must achieve higher standards of productivity, quality, and effectiveness in order to survive, grow, and excel in the new environment. Second, companies must adapt or change their business strategies to take into account the new realities of intense global and domestic competition. Finally, corporate cultures, many of which were formed in a regulated monopolistic environment (e.g., Indian public sector), must be retooled for successfully facing the challenges of new environment. In this context, corporate Human Resource Development (HRD) function is recognised and valued by most of the successful organisations as a powerful competitive tool. Ashton and Felstead (1995: 235) regard the investment by an organisation in the skills of employees as a ‘litmus test’ for a change in the way they are managed. HRD carries the prospect of unleashing the potential that lies within all people, allowing employees to contribute to and indeed transform the business strategy.
Human Resource Development
Human resource development was originally conceived as a composite term specifically incorporating three types of vocational learning activity that would contribute to making individuals more effective at work: (a) training, focusing on immediate changes in job performance; (b) education, geared towards intermediate changes in individual capabilities; and (c) development concerned with long-term improvement in the individual worker (Nadler, 1970). In 1970, Nadler defined HRD as a ‘series of organised activities conducted within a specific time and designed to produce behavioural change’ (p. 3). In 1980, he defined the scope of HRD as ‘the entire range of educational, training, and development facilities available in an organisation that enhance the learning processes essential to an organisation’s capacity to change’ (Nadler, 1980). In response to the changing HRD practice, Nadler offered a revised version of HRD in 1989 as ‘organised learning experiences provided for employees within a specified period of time to bring about the possibility of performance improvement and/or personal growth’ (Nadler and Nadler, 1989).
McLagan’s (1983: 7) definition of HRD as the ‘integrated use of training and development, career development, and organisation development to improve individual and organisational performance’ and Swanson’s (1995: 208) definition of HRD as a ‘process of developing and unleashing human expertise through organisation development and personnel training and development for the purpose of improving performance’ are perhaps more focused but certainly narrower and more functional in scope.
While highlighting the role and relevance of HRD in positively influencing the learning processes of individuals and organisations, Stewart (1996:1) made the following observation: ‘Human resource development encompasses activities and processes which are intended to have impact on organisational and individual learning. The term assumes that organisations can be constructively conceived of as learning entities, and that the learning processes of both organisations and individuals are capable of influence and direction through deliberate and planned interventions. Thus, HRD is constituted by planned interventions in organisational and individual learning processes’.
HRD is any process or activity that, either initially or over the long term, has the potential to develop adults’ work-based knowledge, expertise, productivity, and satisfaction, whether for personal or group/team gain, or for the benefit of an organisation, community, nation, or , ultimately, the whole of humanity.
New technology, globalisation, drive for quality, cost containment, market volatility, workforce diversity, the importance of knowledge capital, and the speed of change acted as the precursors of HRD in progressive and result-oriented organisations of both developed and developing economies. These trends posed both challenge and opportunity for organisations to earn and sustain competitive advantage through developing multi-skilled, flexible, and committed workforces.
The economic realities of the 1990s and beyond, however, resulted in a closer scrutiny of training and development expenditures. An increasing number of organisations are raising questions concerning the return on these investments. There is a decreasing willingness to spend money on faith and an increasing pressure to justify training and development costs. In this context, it is imperative for those in the field to focus on evaluation of training and development and to adequately and properly demonstrate and communicate to management that training efforts are making worthwhile contributions.
Evaluation of Training & Development programmes
Evaluation of training & development programmes is normally used in a broad sense to mean any attempt to obtain information (feedback) on the effects of a training programme, and to assess the value of the training in the light of that information. According to some experts on the evaluation of training, a distinction is made between validation (the assessment of whether the training has achieved its laid-down objectives) and evaluation (the measurement of the total effects of the training programme). In practice, however, this distinction is not always meaningful, since it may be almost impossible to obtain information on the total effects of training (which may be extremely complex).
The process of evaluating training and development has been defined by Hamblin (1974) as: “any attempt to obtain information (feedback) on the effects of a training programme, and to assess the value of the training in the light of that information”. Warr (1969) defined evaluation as “the systematic collection and assessment of information for deciding how best to utilise available training resources in order to achieve organisational goals”. From these definitions it follows that evaluation leads to control which means deciding whether or not the training and development was
worthwhile (preferably in cost-benefit terms) and what improvements are required to make it even more efficient and effective.
Evaluation, in its crudest form, is the comparison of objectives (criterion behaviour) with effects (terminal behaviour) to answer the question of how far the training & development programmes has achieved its purpose. The setting of objectives and the establishment of methods of measuring results are, or should be, an essential part of the planning stage of any training and development programme. Evaluation can be difficult because it is often hard to set measurable objectives and even harder to collect the information on the results or to decide on the level at which the evaluation should be made.
While there is a growing body of conceptual work on how employees really learn, and a burgeoning body of case studies of innovative corporate initiatives, there has been little synthesis of these bodies of literature.
Not surprisingly, the yield from training and development initiatives will be maximised when employees perceive that desirable outcomes (or avoidance of undesirable outcomes) are attained as a result of their full commitment to a training and development program.
Review of Literature
Wexley and Baldwin (1986) criticised the traditional training and development for its lack of accountability. The lack of accountability and rigorous evaluation may be attributable in part to an unfounded belief that “training and development is good for the employees and the organisation; so let there be training budget and training programmes”. This target-based (e.g., a specific number of employees to be trained during a given year) or budget-driven (influenced by the availability of time, energy, and resources) training and development efforts will ultimately lead to the result that “training is only a paid perquisite or free time for the employees devoid of daily stressors and distractions of the workplace on the one hand, and a wasteful expenditure for the management on the other”.
Mumford (1988) observes that prior to participating in any training and development experience, participants implicitly ask themselves a variety of questions: Do I believe this training and development will help me or my subordinates? Are there risks for me if I perform poorly? How does this experience relate to my job performance? Not surprisingly, the yield from training and development initiatives will be maximised when employees perceive that desirable outcomes (or avoidance of undesirable outcomes) are attained as a result of their full commitment to a training and development programme.
Grider et. al (1990) Conducted a study to determine which training evaluation method were perceived to be the most effective by training professionals, and which methods were most frequently used . For this purpose they selected members of American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). The findings of the study suggested:
- Integrate T&D into the strategic plan of the firm.
- Provide necessary resources to evaluate the training activity effectiveness.
- Establish an information network to facilitate access to necessary data for before and after measurement
- The most important benefit to be gained from successful evaluation will be improvement in organisational performance and increased employee satisfaction.
Bramely (1992) believes that behavioural change is introduced through training evaluation presents a, three part approach:
- Evaluation of training as a process
- Evaluation of changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes and levels of effectiveness
- Various approaches to evaluation such as interviews, surveys, various methods of observing behaviour and testing.
Fuchsberg (1993) observed that many organisations base their training and development budgets on annual projections for new initiatives that link, optimistically, with business requirements. Now, the need to rigorously evaluate training and development initiatives in economic terms is becoming more apparent. As the training and development efforts in many organisations continue to expand and grow, many new competing programmes will be proposed, and senior management and board members will continue to ask hard questions about the projected value or likely financial impact of training and development investments. Evaluation of the economic and non-economic benefits, and the investments associated with the training and development programmes is absolutely critical to determining how training and development initiatives contribute to corporate performance. Many are currently struggling to evolve a valid, reliable and operationally viable model to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of training and development programmes (Phillips, 1997, 1999; Taylor & associates, 1993; Lawson, 1993, 1994; Cronshaw & Alexander, 1991; Crawford & Webley, 1992).
Sackett and Mullen, (1993) suggested a broader perspective on a variety of aspects of training process. The purpose of evaluation is to help organisations make decision about future training activities, and provide tools needed to assess the type of evaluation possible in a given situation, to conduct the most informative evaluation possible given the constraints of the situation, and to communicate to organisational decision makers both the strengths and the limitations of whatever evaluation data is obtained.
Kraiger et. al (1993) Proposed cognitive, skill-based and affective learning outcomes (relevant to training) and recommended potential evaluation measures. They integrated theory and research from a number of diverse disciplines and have provided a multidimensional perspective to learning outcomes and advanced the theory of training evaluation by providing a conceptually based scheme of learning constructs, measurement foci, and measurement techniques.
Toplis (1993) criticised Kirkpatrick model for three reasons:
- The implication that level 1 might be best carried out first and level 4 last; in reality it is advisable to take initiatives aimed at level 4 without delay, even if it is difficult to evaluate them.
- The individual words associated with each level (reaction, learning, behaviour and results) are easily confused if used on their own; it is important to use the full definitions of the levels to avoid confusion.
- The models do not give any indication of the importance of process in introducing and sustaining the use of the model.
A literature search based on Kirkpatrick’s name yielded 55 articles but only 8 described evaluation results and none described correlation between levels.
Lewis and Thornhill (1994) Examined the relationship between training evaluation, organisational objectives, and organisational culture. Explicit recognition of organisational objectives linked to an integrated approach to training evaluation will certainly improve the effectiveness of evaluation. The absence of or ineffective practice of training evaluation within so many organisational is directly related to the nature of organisational culture.
Pearce (1995) Evaluation tends to be a neglected part of training. If it is considered at all, it is usually at a last stage in the training process. The absence of at least some evaluation can lead to an enormous waste of resources.
Mann and Robertson (1996) conducted a study in Europe to answer the question ‘What should training evaluations evaluate?’ They selected 29 subjects (10 female and 19 male) from a three-day training seminar for European nationals run in Geneva. The results showed that the trainees did learn from the training sessions and, although they did not retain all they learned, they did know more one month after training than they did before training. They recommended that an effective way for practitioners to evaluate training is to measure self-efficacy regarding the trained tasks, immediately after training.
Saxena (1997, a.) cited a study conducted by American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) on the practice of evaluation. It was reported that the actual practice of evaluation did not often follow the strict recommendations of evaluation literature. This was largely explained by the fact that many training practitioners had not found the literature’s advice applicable or useful for their organisation. Most of the training managers who participated in ASTD’s research effort believed that there was value in a concerted effort to increase the practice of employee training evaluation.
All the organisations represented in the study evaluated some aspect of their training programmes. In terms of the four-level Kirkpatrick model, 75 to 100 per cent of them evaluated training programmes at the participant’s ‘reaction’ level. Virtually all of them also evaluated participant’s ‘knowledge gains’ in some of their training programmes. Twenty-five per cent of their training programmes were evaluated at the ‘learning’ level. ‘Behaviour’ change on the job was the least measured among companies surveyed, only about 10 per cent evaluated training at this level. Employee training was evaluated at the ‘organisational results’ level about 25 per cent of the time, despite new pressures on training practitioners to assess the economic worth of HRD activities. Sixty-six per cent of the training managers reported that HRD professionals were under increasing pressure to show that programmes produced favourable bottom line results. Although most training programmes were evaluated at the reaction and learning levels, these levels were not always consistent with the reasons for evaluation. ‘Impact on job performance’ and ‘economic gains within organisation’ were evaluated the least. Most organisations evaluated training programmes to meet the training department demands, employee demands, and management demands.
Saxena (1997, b.) undertook a study on the role of evaluation of training in designing training programmes in institutions of government, private, public and banking sectors. A total of 100 training and development programme participants were selected randomly by the investigator. They represented the four clusters: (1) Government training institutions, (2) HRD centers of private sectors, (3) HRD centers of public sectors, and (4) Training institutions of banks. Data were collected by administering the questionnaires. In addition, structured and unstructured interviews were conducted by the investigator with both the top managers of training institutions and the trainees. It was found that:
- the institutions and HRD centers defined the scope of training evaluation from trainee’s development level to the organisational effectiveness level;
- the training institutions were very clear about the purpose of evaluating the training programmes;
- ‘lack of adequate evaluation methodology’, ‘lack of expertise’ and ‘fear of exposure to weaknesses’ were cited as the constraints for obtaining and collecting evaluation data;
- ‘overall impact on the performance of organisations’, ‘change in skills and attitudes of trainees’, and ‘quality of subject matter in courses’ were cited as the most important indicators of course effectiveness;
- training institutions concentrated their evaluation efforts mostly on reaction and learning levels; and
- training institutions and HRD centers were found to have plans to improve the courses by effective evaluation procedures.
Campbell (1998) suggested evaluation can provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to the personnel associated with a course or programme. Every one needs feedback on how they are doing, and evidence that training is worthwhile is a source of pride. Apart from this, periodic evaluations are necessary to assure optimum training relevance, effectiveness, and cost efficiency.
Blanchard et al. (2000) studied training evaluation practices at both management and non-management level in Canada through a survey of 202 organisations, employing a total of over 4,70,000 employees, thus representing a significant portion of the Canadian workforce. The survey data indicated that only one-fifth of the Canadian organisations evaluated their training as suggested by academic standards. The researchers presented practitioner perspective as a supporting rationale for the survey results.
Yadapadithaya (2001) studied the current practices of evaluating training and development programmes in the Indian corporate sector on the basis of data collected from written questionnaires mailed to 252 respondent companies – 127 private, 99 public, and 26 multinational corporations (MNCs). The major findings of his study include the following:
- High pressure for increased quality, innovation, and productivity acts as a major driving force for the Indian corporate training and development programmes.
- Most of the key result areas of training and development function are related to the measurement and evaluation of training effectiveness.
- Nearly 86 per cent of the private sector, 81 per cent of the public sector, and all the MNCs evaluate the effectiveness of training in one way or the other.
- The major purpose of evaluation is to determine the effectiveness of the various components of a training and development programme.
- Organisations rely mostly on the participants’ reactions to monitor the effectiveness of training.
- An overwhelming majority of the organisations use “questionnaires” as an instrument to gather relevant data for evaluation.
- In most of the cases, evaluation was done immediately after the training.
- Majority of the private and public sector organisations use one-shot programme design and more than half of the MNCs also use single group, pre-test and post-test design for evaluating the effectiveness of training and development programmes.
- Absence of transfer of learning from the place of training to the workplace has been a major perceived deficiency of the corporate training and development system.
- Indian corporate sector is currently facing the challenge of designing and developing more valid, reliable and operational measures to evaluate the effectiveness of training and development.
Srivastava. et al. (2001) evaluated the effectiveness of various training programmes offered by the in-house training centre of Tata Steel, Shavak Nanavati Training Institute (SNTI), India. Effectiveness of training was measured in terms of various outcomes such as satisfaction level; reaction and feedback of participants; and change in performance and behavior as perceived by participants, their immediate supervisors, and departmental heads. The sample consisted of sixty departmental heads, fourteen hundred participants and thirteen hundred immediate supervisors from various departments. The data were collected through structured interview schedule. It was found that the satisfaction levels of participants, their superiors, and divisional heads were above average for all types of programmes. The participants were benefited from the programmes, but transfer of learning was not as expected from their supervisors. There were changes in the post-training performance ranging from 10 to 37 per cent. Training programmes could meet the objectives only to a limited extent.
Ogunu (2002) in his study titled “Evaluation of Management Training and Development Programme of Guinness Nigeria PLC” examined the management training and development programme of Guinness Nigeria PLC, Benin City with a view to ascertaining its relevance, adequacy, and effectiveness. A convenience sampling design was adopted, whereby the researcher used all the 50 management staff of the company’s Benin Brewery as subjects for the study. Data were collected by administering a questionnaire titled ‘Management training and development questionnaire’ (MTDQ) developed by the researcher. Hypotheses testing in the study revealed that facilities for staff training were adequate for effective training of management staff, training programmes for management staff were relevant to the jobs they performed, and the training programmes undergone by staff did indeed improve their performance and effectiveness at works.
Interestingly, much of the existing literature on training and development has lamented the failure of organisational efforts to significantly improve the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of employees or affect business performance (Campbell, Dunnette, Lawler, & Weick, 1970; Greiner, 1987; Hall, 1984). As Hall (1984, p. 159) pointed out more than a decade ago, “if strategic human resource management is rare in contemporary organisations, then the strategic development of managers is virtually non-existent”. Greiner (1987, p. 37) similarly concluded that “entertainment without development” accounts for about 75 per cent of the management development budget.
Conclusions and Future Directions
Training and development programmes are, undoubtedly, a costly investment which will yield rich dividends in the long run. Hence, the role and relevance of this most important human resource management function must be recognised and valued at all levels of the organisation. Accordingly, Training and Development programmes should be planned, developed, budgeted, conducted, and evaluated with great care.
As the training and development of human resource becomes a more important strategic issue for the Indian corporate sector in an era of liberalised, privatised and globalised industrial economy, rigorous processes for calculating ongoing costs and economic and non economic benefits of HRD programmes be devised, implemented, and monitored. Current methods used by the vast majority of private sector, public sector. and multinational enterprises for measuring and accounting for both the economic and non-economic benefits of HRD programmes are inadequate. Though new models of evaluation are conceptually appealing, the utility of almost all training and development still remains as much an article of faith as an empirical fact, and documented successes or descriptions of new approaches have been disappointingly low. Unfortunately, too often the evaluation process is not carried out with a sense of purpose, pride, and direction; or if it is, the bases or criteria for evaluation are unclear or inappropriate. Those who have professional, management, or administrative responsibilities for the 0training and development of others should operate on more than faith.
The HRD literature to date has not proved to be very helpful in unravelling the nature of corporate training and development evaluation policies and practices in the Indian context. Partly, this reflects the predominant bias in most of the human resource management literature towards idealised, prescriptive models with little hard information about actual practices in real contexts (Sisson, 1989). It is, therefore, both relevant and interesting to examine the trends and status evaluating the effectiveness of HRD programmes in the Indian corporate sector. Future research needs to address the following three research questions in this domain:
(1)What are the major purposes, levels, instruments, designs, and timing of measuring and assessing the effectiveness of various corporate Training and Development programmes ?
(2) What are the key deficiencies and challenges perceived to exist in the Training evaluation system at present ?
(3) What are the principal factors influencing the practices of evaluating corporate Training and Development programmes?
However, as one of the major limitations normally acknowledged by empirical studies (especially quantitative empirical surveys), the results can only reveal general trends in the HRD evaluation practices currently followed by the Indian corporate sector, and may not contain convincing logical explanations of the reasons for any obstacles to adopting particular training evaluation policies and practices. The primary task for future researchers is to probe those organisational conditions whose presence, or absence, may help explain the differential take-up of evaluation of corporate HRD programmes by employing multiple case study research design. It should be noted that the capacity of any individual firm to initiate and sustain human resource innovations is constrained by the extent to which these innovations are similarly adopted by other firms in its industry. Finally, similar quantitative (survey) and qualitative (case study) research studies should be replicated in other countries to assess the trends and status of evaluating corporate HRD programmmes in a cross-national context.
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