Training Programs, Essay Example

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Essay

Strategic Learning

There is no better way to unlock employee potential than through strategic training in the Apple, Inc. It is an ongoing process. If the company is in a stable situation, new employees must bring in to speed and existing ones developed for future roles at higher levels. If the company is changing its culture or strategy or both, it needs to assimilate new skills and values. A strategic training is a core necessity, if the goals set by management with regard to human resources are to be fully realized, and to ensure that the right people, with the requisite skills, are in the appropriate positions within the Apple, Inc.

In the competitive environment, strategic management of Apple, Inc. must look beyond functionality and towards a support system for innovation, developing basic competencies and knowledge-based skills. Breaking from the traditional mindset to incorporate a strategic plan that is focused on encouraging employees knowledge-based value often includes training, reward systems, and encouraging risk taking (Harrison & Enz, 2005, p. 45). The recommendation is to develop a process of training so that management will be able to understand how to encourage employees through rewards and motivation. This will reinforce positive new behaviors by establishing an acceptable initiative for growth and innovation. It is important to develop towards the characteristics of strategic management by stating the intent, in this case the intent is to encourage entrepreneurial thinking, that is comprehensive and opportunistic with long-term goals built on past experiences, present situations, and future possibilities (Harrison & Enz, 2005, p. 20).

Of course, in the maelstrom of today’s globally competitive environment, organizations are faced with a number of alternative strategies in an effort to overcome uncertainty and risk effectively. Because of the existence and promotion of alternative strategies within Apple, Inc., the involvement and influence of the strategic training function is strongly advocated. To date, however, this has not been the case in many organizations, and very often training experts are excluded from vital strategic decision-making. Indeed, their function is often perceived as one of relatively low influence in the running of the organization.

To counteract this perception, a strategic role for the training must be supported at the highest level of Apple, Inc. It must be emphasized that support in this context means active commitment to the principle that the training is an integral part of Apple, Inc.’s activities. Furthermore, the basis for this commitment must be acknowledgement of training as a major factor in establishing and maintaining level of effectiveness and a central component of Apple, Inc.’s operating system – its human resources. Failure to acknowledge this fact, at the highest level, means that the effectiveness of an organization will inevitably be curtailed, thereby casting a shadow over its level of productivity and competitiveness, and consequently over its future success.

The research indicates that effective training is riveted to the organization’s mission and goals, and displays a constant awareness of ongoing organizational needs (Nick, 2008, p. 1-10). Adopting this approach situates the training in the vanguard of business operations, focusing on providing relevant training solutions and making a continuous contribution to effectiveness and excellence. Thus, by identifying and fulfilling immediate training needs, the development and implementation of training plans interlock with corporate master plan.

Needs Assessment

Upon entering the Apple, Inc. a systematic needs assessment has to be conducted to determine the exact learning issues involved as well as identify the appropriate intervention. An hour-long semi-structured interview must be conducted with each member of the Apple Inc.’s executive team to clarify the rationale for introducing a new strategic vision for the company and pinpoint desired outcomes from the change effort. The semi-structured interview must ask these questions: What factors are driving your company’s need to change? What was the “right” thing to do five to ten years ago, but needs to be done differently today because of current business trends? What have been some critical shifts in the company that require the company to change how it operates? Who are your promising customers? How are the customers influencing the organization’s need to change? What specific things do employees need to attract and retain these valued stakeholders? Who are your company’s competitors? How are the competitors influencing the organization’s need to change? What is your company doing right to distinguish itself from its competitors? What could your company do better to make a distinction? What specific changes do employees need to make? What changes can employee make to improve service? What change can employee make to improve bottom-line profitability? What resources are available to help employees make these changes? What will happen if these changes are not successfully implemented? What might happen if these changes are successfully implemented? What might employees resist making these changes? How can resistance be minimized? What obstacles might employee come across while making these changes? How to overcome these obstacles? Other thoughts you would like to share?

Data collected during this assessment revealed the Apple, Inc. had been struggling for a number of years. Perhaps the biggest competitors of Apple on computer hardware are Dell, Compaq, and HP. Apple’s earlier switch to Intel forced her to be more competitive on price, and when it did sales raised (O’Grady, 2008, p. 155). For the very first time, users of Windows were heavily defecting on Mac platform (p. 155). When it comes to computer software, one of the biggest competitors of Apple is, of course, Microsoft. Competition has arguably been good for both.

Apple’s key market segments are comprised of a diverse consumer base, including a variety of income levels. In addition, a much younger series of consumers continues to latch onto Apple’s core products, including the iPod and iPhone for personal use. These key demographics have been integral in Apple’s successful journey in recent years, as the business has watched many of its products outsell the competition at exponential rates (Lee et.al, 2007). On the other hand, Apple’s global business market segments are relatively weak in comparison, as the compatibility of the Mac continues to cause many problems in office environments. It is necessary for Apple to consider how its most popular products continue to attract ever increasing numbers, while attempting to balance these needs with that of its profitability. In particular, Apple’s iPhone product has created new opportunities to attract market segments that might not have been discovered in the past. Specifically, business organizations have gained an interest in the iPhone as a possible form of internal and external communication for employees.

While it has been clearly seen the need for and urgency of organizational change, Apple, Inc. did not. This problem is not unique to Apple, Inc. In fact, there is typically a knowledge gap between members at the top of the organization and those below during organizational change (Russ, 2009). This knowledge gap is likely to influence employees’ alignment and engagement as well as mitigate their motivation to implement top-down change. In the past, leaders at the organization had used traditional communication methods (for example, speeches, memos, and videotapes) to close this gap. However those efforts fell short of producing the desired results. Therefore, the leaders were keen on using innovative training and communication techniques to bring about the necessary changes they envisioned for the organization.

First, Apple, Inc. defines the key management skills and styles essential for managers in the organization to succeed in implementing the business objectives of the company. Second, they access the current skills level and managerial style. Third, they identify the gaps between current and desired skill levels. Completion of these three tasks allows the setting of training program objectives and content.

Training Program

Apple, Inc’s goal is to design a program that creatively meets training objectives. All key players are involved, including top management, to ensure the program design responds to international client as well as national client needs and to build “ownership” for the program in all stakeholders. The consultancy works to determine the skills to be developed, the appropriate programming of the sessions, and the most effective pedagogical approach. They also develop the materials, in particular a company course manual. This manual helps integrate into an organization’s culture the skills deemed essential for a company’s success.

Apple, Inc. coordinates programs and helps in finding the particular expertise necessary to meet objectives. It identifies key players, trainers, participating senior managers, and guest speakers and briefs them on program objectives, and on their roles. It then conducts evaluations to determine the effectiveness of program in order to make any necessary changes in the design and delivery. Apple, Inc. evaluates each module and program by getting reactions from both trainers and members. A subsequent evaluation is done a few months after the program has been completed when participants have returned to their workplace, to measure performance improvement.

The program length and content depend on the program objectives and the needs of the trainers. Apple, Inc’s approach assumes that good trainers and coaches must be “trainable and coachable”. Therefore, in the train-the-trainers programs, Apple, Inc. builds skills in giving and receiving constructive feedback, developing clarity, and optimal approaches to differing learning styles. For some programs the trainers being trained will first experience the program as a participant and then review it as a trainer. In this way they get firsthand experience of the content from the participant’s viewpoint and of the strength of the methodology. As necessary, an Apple, Inc. consultant can co-facilitate the programs with the trainers initially and organize skill-building sessions to provide additional coaching. Varied methodologies are used, including formal lectures, role plays, discussions and tasks in small groups, exercises and presentations, and personalized feedback.

Managers from diverse cultural backgrounds must work and manage people. Apple, Inc.’s goal is to deepen participants’ sensitivity to the impact culture can have on daily life, interpersonal relations, and management practices. Also, Apple, Inc provides guidelines for better understanding of cultural differences. Finally, Apple, Inc. plans what individuals can do to manage understandings and facilitate adaptation to different communication and management styles. Cultural awareness usually includes a two- to three-day program dividing general preparation for understanding and dealing positively with cultural differences in values, attitudes, customs, and behaviors. Varied methodology is used including presentations, films, guest lecturers, exercises, and case studies.

International negotiation is a two- to three-day program that can be general or country-specific. The sessions combine presentations on how culture influence negotiations (for example, negotiator selection criteria, concern with protocol, nature of persuasive arguments, basis of trust, risk-taking propensity, etc.) and extensive negotiation practice based on a model for negotiating effectively and for building long-term relationships. The negotiations are filmed, so that in addition to analysis by the consultants and feedback from other participants, each person can evaluate his or her own strengths and weaknesses in negotiating. Apple, Inc. can develop cases specific to a company’s situation. Varied methodology can be used including presentations, exercises, films, role-plays, case studies, negotiations, and personalized feedback.

Training Evaluation

Training evaluation procedures should include assessment of whether participants are being adequately screened to ensure they can benefit from the training. Evaluation should also include tracking and analysis of the extent to which those who attend training make additional attempts to learn the same training content.

Raymond A. Noe (2010, p. 232) referred threats to validity as “believability of the results” and “generalizability of the study results”. The internal validity can be threatened by several factors, including “history, maturation, regression, testing, and instrumentation” (Noe, 2010, p. 232). They are likely to arise in poorly controlled studies. Some issues unfavorably affect external validity as well. The external validity of organization results increases as it applies to other people, places, and times (232). Striving to maximize both internal and external validity in Apple, Inc. remains a laudable goal, even if optimizing both can sometimes prove unrealistic. Certain things can be done to improve and increase validity in general, depending on the training evaluation. Pretests and posttests are one of the ways to improve validities of the study results. Noe (2010, p. 233) stressed to include “pretraining and posttraining measures” to achieve best results. Another methodology is to use “Random Assignment” (p. 233) in employees training. Such techniques can enhance prospects for internal validity and increase the ease and speed with which external validity can be achieved as well.

Although it can sometimes be difficult to do, Apple, Inc. should try to evaluate the results of any training provided. Some of the ways of doing this, as described by Cushway (2011, p. 111) include: using questionnaires before and after the training, to test improvements in skills and knowledge; observing trainees while on the training program and after their return from it; using tests of various kinds; interviewing trainers to assess what they have learnt from the training; and measuring changes in a range of performance indicators such as productivity, quality of delivery and achievement of targets.

For certain types of training, such as management development, it may be particularly difficult to measure effectiveness directly. However, if the training has been successful Apple, Inc. should notice longer-term improvements across a range of indicators such as lower absenteeism, fewer grievances, lowered staff turnover, improved motivation, and higher productivity.

Training evaluation is often an afterthought consisting of a simple form distributed at the end of the event as participants are on their way out the door. Taking a more strategic approach to training evaluation can lead to insights regarding actual transfer of knowledge and application of skills learned. Philips et al (2004, p. 1-10) suggest that four levels of evaluation must be considered:

Reaction. At this level Apple, Inc. should seek to evaluate participants’ feelings, thoughts, and perceptions about the training session itself. There are a number of specific factors on which Apple, Inc. can solicit reactions: perceived usefulness of what was learned, the physical environment, participant materials, learning aids, activities used, the trainer, times, and content.

Learning. Here Apple, Inc. should attempt to gauge what participants have actually learned during the event. Comparing behaviors demonstrated during the training with the learning objectives will help determine whether or not the event has been successful. “Tests” conducted at the end of the event will help reveal whether the participants have developed new skills. Additionally, focus groups or interviews after the event may be used to evaluate learning.

Behavior. Apple, Inc.’s aim here is to measure whether the new skills are being applied on the job or on the team. The challenge of course is isolating the relationship between the workshop learning and on-the-job performance. Also, timing is important since this evaluation is necessarily done after the training event.

Results. With this item, Apple Inc.’s essentially evaluates the workshop’s “return on investment” (ROI). In other words, what was the impact of the training on overall organizational objectives?

Typically, the simplest level to capture in evaluation forms is reaction. Unfortunately, most of us tend to solicit reactions after the training event has ended. This, of course, provides Apple, Inc. great feedback for future sessions, but does little to quell issues raised by the current group. Apple, Inc. should consider tracking reactions through the event. For example, at a break, company should do a “spot check” of participants to gauge their reactions to the session. Or have participants write their comments on index cards, and hand them in as they leave for a break. Making “course corrections” and showing company’s ability to adapt to meet learners’ needs is a great way to win their trust and support.

Employee Development

Apple, Inc, with thousands of employees serving in multiple locations, must have a centralized goal and mission that all employees can relate to and understand. Primarily, Apple, Inc. must decide what those shared values should be. In an industry plagued by paper work, policies and top-down management strategy, the organizational strategy should move away from what is known, and develop towards what is unknown. Thereby, the Apple, Inc. should envelop a culture of entrepreneurial change that challenges the status quo. To do so, the emphasis should lend towards cross-functional involvement rather than top-down management. The shared values of Apple, Inc. can then become one of growth and opportunity. The impact to employees is the changes in communication and expectations. The standpoint on growth “facilitates companies to develop their scope to create enterprise-level value from activities related to human resources development and to knowledge-management” (Kaplan & Norton, 2006, p. 105).

The strategy for changing shared values towards an entrepreneurial culture is to develop the growth perspective by creating a vision of change that focuses on human development.

Structure: The shared values above create a structure of entrepreneurial leadership. The effective entrepreneurial leadership strategy focuses on four key points, as outlined by Kouzes and Posner (2002): “seize the initiative, make challenges meaningful, innovate and create, and look outward for fresh ideas”. An entrepreneurial leader seizes the initiative through enthusiasm, determination and desire (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p. 170). This includes embracing obstacles and challenges as the environment changes.

Leaders in entrepreneurial programs are committed to the opportunities and possibilities with the ultimate goal to make a difference in themselves, the business, and those surrounding them. Entrepreneurial leaders recognize that employees have goals, in as much as the business has goals, and strive to relate those goals together. An entrepreneurial leader is extremely proactive by investing time not only in opportunity development and implementation, but also in recognizing and overcoming adversity (Kouzes & Posner, 20002, p. 175).

System: In the entrepreneurial leadership strategy, the challenges arise from the information systems (and dissemination of information in top-down management structures). The system of management itself must be challenged if Apple, Inc.’s is to incorporate a stronger organizational strategy that focuses on human development rather than policy and procedures. This is not to say that policies and procedures should be ignored, in fact they remain one of the most important concepts of the new organizational strategy. The assessment of current skills in relation to dependent skills for new techniques to be integrated into the sales spectrum with the final goal to maintain knowledgeable solutions based sales staff.  The end stage goal requires that sales force move from product applications to an intricate knowledge in regards to issues in regulations and standards, to the conclusion that the employee must understand regulatory, safety, legal and ethical issues that affect the service industry in various settings.

Staff: The staff should, based on the entrepreneurial strategies above, be involved in the processes that make the Apple, Inc. works. The leader’s responsibility is to move from formal processing to incorporate informal ideas. This does not necessarily mean an increase in training and meetings, but that the ideals of those training and meetings should change. The concept is that bilateral management, where each employee has a valuable input in the training and meetings, is the focus. The business should encourage improvement as well as inspire innovation and creation of new ideas in customer service. It is important then to develop change management strategies that focus on exploring vision, discipline and business goals within the competitive industry. The entrepreneurial culture is the process of managing a growing organization’s culture while institutionalizing structural changes, with the impact of successful growth management. This means that the consequences of an extremely formal bureaucracy have the consequence of diminishing innovation and necessary transformations to achieve a business goal.

Style: To encompass entrepreneurial ideals into strategic management, the organization should chart the strategy beginning with the current situation (Pearce & Robinson, 2004, p. 120). In this case, employees do not perceive there is motivation to create new ideas, and there is no support from management regarding resources for innovation. The charting should include barriers to the strategy, here, the exploration of the company culture and effect of top-down management on employee morale and innovation is recommended. The next component is to disseminate what core competencies are required to develop the resources—effectively, how does the company train people to become innovators?

Learning: Theories

Intensified competition has made firms devise strategies to successfully penetrate markets and establish credible reputations. Part of the goals of firms is to learn the methods of building lasting relationships with customers (Webster, 1992). In connection to this observation, de Gues (1988) commented that the most viable source of competitive advantage is the learning that the employees obtain. Since production process and products are prone to piracy, learning is being targeted as a mechanism to deliver competitiveness in Apple, Inc. Learning enables employees to closely relate with the customers and this strategy becomes the basis for identity that all firms try to establish in competitive markets.

Lumpkin (2005) stated that organizational learning is an effective method for strategic renewal. As learning is promoted, firms encounter different perspectives on business. Basically, upgrading the skills of the workforce will allow the employees to satisfy the demands of their responsibilities as well as their task to build customer relationships. In truth, the emphasis of firms in organizational learning builds flexibility and credible reputation.

Casey’s (2005) theoretical model was designed to analyze the breakdown and flaws of earlier models which result to failure in organizational learning. One of the examples provided narrates the tendency of employees to be removed from organization without valid organizational action. This reality is clearly illustrated in companies that use politics as gauge for promotions. The model simply defines the individuals and organizations as learning systems and uses questions linked to adaptation and integration that seeks to determine the specific learning needs.

Teo et al. (2006) conducted a study on the impact of learning in guiding employees towards successful adjustments in complex technology situations. Based on empirical evidences, the learning approach used by firms can assist the employees to adjust in complex situations. Most important, the study discussed the extent of organizational learning manifested in firms. Accordingly, the learning capacity affects the performance of companies.

Indeed, the development of organization learning has created several models. Chen (2005) introduced a systemized method to promote organizational learning. Basically, the system has adapted some conventional models developed by several theorists. The system emphasizes on the continuous process of gaining knowledge and incorporating the information in the operations using management tools. Moreover the system is designed to ensure that the learning initiatives are flexible enough to adjust with the uncertain changes in the environment. Finally, the system focuses on maximizing the dimensions that make learning processes function with efficiency.

The process in which learning organizations evolve has been linked with technological changes. According to Tahir (2004), using electronic learning can serve as investment for organizations. It is imperative to identify the role of electronic learning in the initiatives of organizations to gather, disseminate, share, and store knowledge. Since learning requires training, using electronic mechanisms appear to be logical. Aside from the effectiveness, electronic learning has been viewed to be cost-effective. All these aspects are crucial in bringing success to organizations. A number of major companies have transformed their organizations and eventually improve to higher levels. Examples include IBM, which was successful in changing from a traditional business machines firm. Also, ICI extensively used science and technology to gradually move out of bulk chemicals. Without underestimating the extent of the problems firms face when attempting to learn, Apple, Inc. can manage to move in essential new directions through higher level learning.

References

Casey, A. (2005). Enhancing individual and organizational learning: a sociological model. Management Learning, 36(2): 131-147.

Chen, G. (2005). Management practice and tools for enhancing organizational learning capability. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 70, 1/01/05.

Crushway, Barry. (2011). The Employer’s Handbook 2011-12: An Essential Guide to Employment Law, Personnel Policies and Procedures. Kogan Page Publishers. ISBN: 0749463163.

De Gues, A. P. (1988). Planning as Learning. Harvard Business Review, 66(2): 70-74.

Harrison, Jeffrey, & Enz, Cathy A. (2005). Hospitality Strategic Management, 1e. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. NY. ISBN: 0471478539.

Kaplan, Jack, & Norton, J. (2003). Patterns of Entrepreneurship, 1e. John Wiley & Sons, Inc N.Y. ISBN : 0471203823

Kouzes, James, & Posner, Barry Z. (2002). The Leadership Challenge, 3e. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. N.Y. ISBN : 0787956783

Lee, L., Burrows, P., & Woyke, E. (2007). A bruise or two on Apple’s reputation. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_43/b4055070.htm?chan=search

Lumpkin, G. (2005). The role of organizational learning in the opportunity-recognition process. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 29(4): 451-472.

Nick, Blanchard, P. (2008). Effective Training: Systems, Strategies and Practices. Pearson Education India. ISBN: 9788131724194

Noe, Raymond A. (2010). Employee Training and Development. Fifth Edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

O’Grady, Jason D. (2008). Apple Inc. ABC-CLIO Press, pp. 150-160.

Pearce, Jack, & Robinson, Richard (2004). Strategic Management: Formulation, Implementation, and Control, 9e. The McGraw-Hill Companies EAST PATCHOGUE, NY, U.S.A ISBN : 007289024X

Philips, Jack J., Philips, Patricia Pulliam, & Hodges, Toni Krucky. (2004). Make Training Evaluation Work. American Society for Training and Development, pp. 1-10. ISBN: 1562863495.

Tahir, N. (2004). E-learning in public organizations. Public Personnel Management, 32(4): 79-88.

Teo, H., Wang, X., Wei, K., Sia, C. & Lee, M. (2006). Organizational learning capacity and attitude toward complex technological innovations: An empirical study. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(2): 264-279.

Webster, F., Jr. (1992). The changing role of marketing in the Corporation.  Journal of Marketing, 56(4):1-17.

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