Training methods are most readily classified as formal or informal and on-the-job or off-the-job.
Historically, training meant formal training. It’s planned in advance and has a structured format. However, recent evidence indicates that 70 percent of work place learning is made up of informal training unstructured, unplanned and easily adapted to situations and individuals for teaching skills and keeping employees current. In reality most informal training is nothing other than employees helping each other. They share information and solve work related problems with one another. Perhaps the most important outcome of this realization is that many managers are now supportive of what used to be considered ‘idle chatter’. At a Siemens plant in North Carolina, for instance, management now recognizes that people need not be on the production line to be working. Discussion around the water cooler or in the cafeteria weren’t, as managers thought, about non-work topics such as sports or politics. They largely focused on solving work related problems. So now Siemens’ management encourages such casual meetings.
On the job training includes job rotation apprenticeships, understudy assignments, and formal mentoring programs. But the primary drawback of these on-the-job training methods is that they often disrupt the workplace. So organizations invest in off-the-job training. The $51 billion for allocated for training costs was largely spent on the formal off-the-job variety. What types of training might this include? The most popular continues to be live class room lectures. But it also encompasses videotapes, public seminars, self study programs, Internet courses, satellite beamed television classes and group activities that use role plays and case studies.
In recent years, the fastest growing means for delivering training is probably computer based or e-training. Kinko’s for instance, has created an internal network that allows its 20,000 employees to take online courses covering everything from products to policies. Cisco Systems provides a curriculum of training courses on its corporate internet, organized by job titles, specific technologies and products. Although more than 5,000 companies now offer all or some of their employee training online, it’s unclear how effective it actually is. On the positive side, e-training increases flexibility by allowing organizations to deliver materials anywhere and at any time. It also seems to be fast and efficient. On the other hand, it’s expensive to design self paced online materials, many employees miss the social interaction provided by a classroom environment online learners are often more susceptible to distractions, and clicking through training is no assurance that employee have actually learned anything.
Individualizing formal Training to fit the employee’s learning Style:
The way you process, internalize and remember new and difficult material isn’t necessarily the same way others do. This fact means that effective formal training should be individualized to reflect the learning style of the employee.
Some examples of different learning styles are reading, watching listening, and participating. Some people absorb information better when they read about it. They are the kind of people who can learn to use computers by sitting in their study and reading manuals. Some people learn best by observation. They watch others and then imitate the behaviors they have seen. Such people can watch someone use a computer for a while then copy what they’ve done. Listeners rely heavily on their auditory senses to absorb information. They would prefer to learn how to use a computer for instances by listening to an audiotape. People who prefer a participating style learn by doing what they want to do. They want to sit down, turn on the computer and gain hands-on experience by practicing.
These different learning styles are obviously not mutually exclusive. In fact good teachers recognize that their students learn differently and, therefore provide multiple learning methods. They assign readings before class; give lectures; use visual aids to illustrate concepts and have students participate in group projects; case analyses role plays and experiential learning exercises. If you know the preferred style of an employee, you can design a formal training program to take advantage of this preference. If you don’t have the information, it’s probably best to design the program to use a variety of learning styles. Over-reliance on a single style places individuals who don’t learn well from that style are at a disadvantage.–