Training and development (T&D) activities identify and ensure, through planned learning programs, the development of key competencies that enable individuals to perform to the best of their ability, aptitude, and attitude on the job. The T&D functions have evolved to contend with and respond to social and economic events, as well as being highly influenced by changes in management trends and philosophies. Effective training provides opportunities for people to perform in new functions and to be promoted into new situations.
Training should be distinguished from education. Education is instruction in more general knowledge such as history, philosophy, economics, or mathematics. Training teaches the learner how to do a specific task or function (i.e., manage their time, change a behavior, or run a machine). Being more technically oriented, training is more applicable to the adult learner who brings different experiences and psychological predispositions to the workplace.
T&D has evolved from simple apprenticeship programs to a blend of instruments, including classroom-based instruction, systematic job instruction, team building, simulation, Web-based individualized instruction, and many others. Before industrialization, training focused primarily on direct instruction and apprenticeships. Initially, as factories began to emerge in the Industrial Revolution, the first-line supervisor was normally assigned responsibility for training the workforce. Rationalization of work, division of labor, and routinized production created workers who became the keepers of the machinery. Due to this specialization, apprenticeships and on-the-job training were the training methods employed.
As the Industrial Revolution gained momentum, the number of factories increased and grew larger, and it became necessary to hire more employees directly from the farming communities who had little or no manufacturing experience. Unable to keep pace through one-on-one apprenticeships or on-the-job assignments, training moved into the classroom with assigned “trainers,” enabling several people to be trained simultaneously with minimal disruptions to the production line. “Vestibule” training was developed for jobs requiring skill development on particular equipment away from the pressures of a production schedule.
By the first decade of the twentieth century, the United States had become a fully industrialized society with modern management, higher wages, and low unemployment. America’s involvement in World War I created a widespread labor shortage, especially in skilled worker categories, because of the sudden need for production of wartime armaments, draft to government service and the military, and restrictions on immigration. Training departments were established in many companies to answer the call for faster and more efficient training methodology. A just-in-time method was developed, consisting of a four-step process that enhanced the teaching of repetitive, manipulative skills in a fast-advancing, automated world.
In the four decades after World War I, especially after World War II, the United States experienced unparalleled economic growth. While the industrial world was in full development mode, philosophers and psychologists were in the wings analyzing group dynamics and the learning processes. In the training arena, it was quickly recognized that not all workers were equal in their ability to learn and retain information. Given the numbers to be trained, the classroom was still the training site of choice, although it became necessary to rethink the way training was delivered, to incorporate techniques that would allow for the disparity of abilities and not hold back the more advanced learners. Self-paced learning and individualized training programs were developed to meet these needs.
The three decades between 1960 and 1990 brought continuing prosperity, an increased demand for services, a growing use of information technology, and an opening of global markets and competition. This was an equally tumultuous time for training departments as they tried to stay on top of the computer age while realizing that service jobs are labor intensive and not particularly amenable to automation. Moreover, the skill sets needed in a service society were less mechanical and more intellectual and behavioral, hence more difficult to define in precise training terms.
One answer in an ever-changing work environment was the development of a training system called job support, which did not require the employee to learn every process step by step, instead, to know where to find the information. Second, communication issues and interpersonal concerns in a more diverse workplace became prime issues. A third development was the incorporation of behavioral role modeling, which stressed the use of observation, modeling, and vicarious reinforcements to change human behavior. Multimillion-dollar training facilities endowed with computer-based training and technological innovations were built to meet these challenges.
Business theorists recognized that employees represented a vital resource as important as capital and thus should be managed and developed to facilitate competitive advantages. Gaining a competitive edge by managing people more effectively became increasingly important, thus leading researchers to rethink old training theories and reframe them in a modern context. However, a diverse workforce facing more complex problems made this a difficult task. Teams— their size, composition, dynamics, diversity, and processes—became the central focus of training initiatives. The 22nd Annual Training Industry Report published by Training magazine indicated that the market was utilizing a cross array of training tools from the traditional classroom to computer-delivered instruction. The single largest growing training method was self-paced Web-based courses. The fluidity of the environment and the workforce created a challenge to increase the offerings of effective and intensive T&D programs.
Technology-based training will be the means of the future, that is, Web-based training (Internet, intranet, extranet), computerized self-study (CD-ROM, DVD, diskette), and satellite/broadcast TV (videoconferencing, audioconferencing, teleconferencing). An integrated approach of the many techniques that have been successful with new modern twists will be applied to training venues. The growing complexity of global markets and an ever-escalating number of “virtual organizations” will lead to an increased need for negotiation and interpersonal communication skills as diverse employees at all levels need to learn how to interact across organizational boundaries and treat each other with greater respect and sensitivity.
Since the beginning of time, training has been a primary way to reproduce knowledge and skills. As societies evolve and become more complex, the instructional paradigms and the skills needed by those trained must also change. Furthermore, as the pace of change accelerates, efficiency (speed and cost) must join effectiveness as criteria for successful training. T&D helps individuals and organizations meet the increasing demands of the global business arena. Successful companies in the future will be those that preserve and develop their human capital by providing high-value training and development activities within a challenging learning environment.
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