Knowledge and skill

The process of training and development is most effective when each individual takes responsibility for his or her own learning. This includes taking an active role in planning one’s own personal development, undertaking agreed development activities, and evaluating the effectiveness of these. Self assessments of training needs help build employee commitment to the training programme. Workers’ training needs will be examined by individuals and their line manager.

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Together they must analyse the worker’s capabilities and decide whether the requirements of his / her specific position is currently being met and what training and development opportunities would enable him / her to work more effectively. The knowledge, skills, and abilities and other characteristics that a worker needs to perform a specific job effectively are closely examined. The information is obtained from a detailed job description then translated into basic components of knowledge and skill that can be incorporated into a training programme. Individuals should be encouraged to be proactive in identifying their own development needs and in seeking help and support to achieve these. This will in turn improve the quality of the training they receive.

There is a need to address the range of performance issues that can arise at various stages of a member of staff’s working life within the organisation e.g. induction, probation and later stages. Support is required both for the individual member of staff and at a higher level for the manager / leader. It is important to remember that individuals at all levels throughout the organisation need developmental support. Managers should be given appropriate levels of support when undertaking a management / leadership role. ‘People Management Skills’ are required in order to ensure realisation of all staff and organisational performances. Those at the head of the organisation may find it necessary to receive outside supervision and training.

Effective staff development policies embrace all aspects of personal and professional development and training for its workers. Staff development should enhance the ability of individuals and teams within the organisation and enable staff to develop skills beneficial to their current and future roles. Support and promotion of training and development for all staff, paid and unpaid, is essential and improves the quality of services provided by the organisation. The policy should be constructed with input from all staff members and service users. It should also act as a conduit to discussions and subsequent decisions about future staff development opportunities.

Formalised and systematic appraisal schemes enable a regular assessment of the individual’s performance, highlights problems and identifies training and development needs. The basic objective of performance appraisal is to improve the performance of individuals leading to improvement in the performance of the organisation as a whole. (Mullins, 2002). It is important to remember that staff development policies should benefit the individual as well as the organisation. If this is the case, commitment to the training will be greater than if the individual sees no development, either career or personal, for themselves.

Training needs identified during an appraisal or assessment of an employee’s work are essential when analysing a staff development policy and are a way of development for the member of staff and the department. Individuals within an organisation will normally find training opportunities encouraging and essential to their personal and professional growth. Nicholson and West (1988) describe how important it is for individuals to update their personal and professional skills in a society where the aims of organisations are constantly changing. ‘There is a constant pressure to update skills and knowledge…How can one be sure that ones lifetime accumulated skills will be needed tomorrow as they are today?’ It is a significant point which confirms the importance of evaluation and reassessment in organisations.

An additional analysis can be done at the demographic level by determining the specific training needs of various demographic groups such as employees of different age groups, men and women, and certain ethnic minorities. Access to training and development will be given to all staff members regardless of their ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, disability, age, employment grade, part-time status or any other irrelevant factor. Staff with disabilities should be encouraged to identify any particular requirements they may have to enable them to fulfil their role and also to participate fully in all staff development events offered, such as materials in alternative formats, sign language interpreters and ergonomic seating.

The above analysis helps to accurately identify the training needs of the employees and provide information to guide the development of specific training techniques. It has been strongly argued that effective training programmes should be based on the analysis of training needs on many levels rather than simply focusing on one level. In addition the organisation must consider the impact of a proposed training programme in terms of both the potential benefits such as increased efficiency and productivity and the potential costs of the programme itself. All data collected at organisation-level, department level, and job level as well as feedback on individual performance, both from worker and supervisor, is collated into a report showing the training needs that have arisen, the extent of these needs and any other issues that have become evident.

A report analysing the organisation, its departments, individual job roles and workers needs along with evaluation of existing practices, allows a policy to be constructed which will provide effective training and development beneficial to both the organisation and its workers. It reviews any current staff development policies and their effectiveness, using the strengths and weaknesses evident to develop a framework for future staff training and development. This report is based on input from all those involved with the organisation including staff members, service users and funders, consultation with formal and informal educators and an analysis of sector needs.