This paper will address the planning, design, delivery and evaluation of a training program. It will also explore some of the foundations of Human Resource Development (HRD), as well as addressing several HRD practices that are associated with the program.
Company: US Fortune 500 Company (the US Company)
Location: Chengdu, China
Training Group: Top Level Management
Requirements: International Business Terminology, Practice and Protocols
The US Company: is a Fortune 500 company operating globally. It has had an operation in Chengdu, China for a short time, and has trained its managers to satisfy its own corporate culture. However, there are still shortcomings, and the Training Company has not been entirely successful.
The Training Company: is one of the 50 largest foreign companies operating in China. It’s primary operation involves teaching English, but recently it decided to expand into Company Language Training. Its Chengdu operation has met with little success, attracting its clients by being the cheapest on the market.
The Trainer and Training Course Designer: is a career college and university lecturer, with previous experience in company training. He was contracted by the Training Company when the US Company expressed extreme dissatisfaction after the first training session with the Training Company.
Assessing HRD needs
The first step was to conduct a needs analysis (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 107). The Human Resource Section of the US Company had conducted a needs analysis, and wished to discuss the results with the Training Company. The Training Company saw no need to consider the needs analysis, believing that all English training is the same. They had accepted the needs analysis results, but later ignored it.
The trainer, upon taking over the project, had a private session with the Acting Asian Operations Manager, who was also one of the trainees. She explained she was in charge of all Asian Operations across eight countries, and would relocate to Singapore to take up this position permanently at the completion of the training. The other seven trainees were also being prepared for similar high level positions within the company. She explained that the first session had consisted of the trainer trying to teach business words via a rote learning strategy, and not addressing the needs of the trainees.
The trainer went through the prepared needs analysis with the US Company. The three levels of analysis, as outlined in Werner & DeSimone (2009, p 110), had been completed, as would be expected with a Fortune 500 company. At the Strategic/Organisational level, it was identified that meeting the organisational goals was the top priority. In this case it meant satisfying Chinese law by hiring domestic employees, but retraining them to meet the company’s culture. The organisation had financial resources for 18 months of training. The climate within the training group was quite harmonious, and all the top level managers were aware of the importance of the other members of the team. Many of the social problems had already been overcome by high level corporate trainers and motivational experts from the United States.
The task level required what must be done to perform the job effectively (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 100). In this case, it was decided that both language training and reinforcement of western business ideologies needed to be implemented. At the personal level, much of the work had already been done. The top level Asian operations managers needed not just language training, but corporate training as well.
The next step, the task analysis, involved the trainer looking at the employees job descriptions, then conducting a job analysis. Task identification within each trainee’s job description was also considered.
Because the training had already commenced without proper preparation, the trainer was under considerable stress, and had to largely accept the US Company’s analysis. This decision was made easier by the international reputation of the company, and the fact that the analysis looked complete. There was no time for conducting more individual employee person needs assessments, as described in Werner & DeSimone (2009, pp 124-127). These were instead conducted within the first few training sessions, as part of the session.
Prior to commencement of the second training session, the trainer identified a list of topics that needed to be covered, and listed them for the next step in the process, design of the training program. The trainer decided to break the program into three distinct training periods, based on priority of the topics to be covered (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 131). Each training period would consist of 12 weeks.
Designing the training program
The completed training plan is attached to this report. The three training periods cover three distinct needs identified. First is improvement of business English to deal in an international context. Second is Cross-Cultural Communication and Sales Techniques. The third is Advanced Written English to identify and prepare the appropriate written communication for individual tasks, and the best method of delivery.
Because of confidentiality clauses in the contract with the company, much of the content of the training package cannot be reproduced. However, the company did give permission for limited content to be used for this report that would not breach confidentiality requirements.
The first step was to define the objectives of the training (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 142-146). Performance, conditions and criteria were designed for each individual unit. As example, for the first unit on Trade, an objective was “Using information from a database, complete a chart comparing national wealth of countries trading with (the US Company)”.
The next step identified by Werner & DeSimone (2009, pp 146-148) involved deciding whether to create or purchase the training program. The US Company had decided to hire the Training Company to design a custom course.
At this point, the trainer would normally be selected, but because of mistakes by the Training Company, that step was taken out of order. The initial selection of the trainer was made by the Training Company, with no consideration of subject matter expertise, or previous corporate training experience (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 148-150). Following complaints after the first training session, the Training Company’s head office in Shanghai contacted the Trainer, based on referrals by other companies in Chengdu. The new Trainer had considerable experience in vocational and corporate training in Australia, USA and China, and expertise in the areas to be covered.
Likewise, the next step of preparing the training plan (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 150-153) had already been largely done. Because the training sessions had already commenced, the Trainer had to submit, within 24 hours of reviewing the needs analysis, a training plan to the US Company. In essence, the outline of the plan was the first step in the design, and the details added over the first few weeks.
Selecting the training methods and media, and preparing them for delivery, was relatively easy, considering the Trainer had 16 years experience in the field. The Trainer had relevant material in his training database, including training manuals, audio files and video files. It was decided that the complete training manuals and worksheets should be given to the trainees at the beginning of each unit. The first Trainer had simply handed out a list of words, and told the trainees to “repeat after me and memorise.” Interactive whiteboards and audio-visual equipment were also available. Hand outs are not wise in China, as they are simply thrown away. In this way, relevant and varied materials and media were used (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 154-157).
Again, the next step listed by Werner & DeSimone (2009, pp 157-160) state that, after the needs are assessed and the program designed, the training should be scheduled. However, because Program Director of the Training Company had no previous managerial or training experience, the schedule had actually been the first step he had taken. It was left to the Trainer to revise the schedule at this point, amazingly, with almost obsessive resistance and unwarranted disruption from the Program Director.
Implementation of the training program
Again, this was done out of step. The Training Company had already “implemented” the training, before considering the needs or designing a program. Also, before they had actually contracted a trainer. They had not considered the various training delivery methods outlined by Werner & DeSimone (2009, pp 165-167). The Training Company really knew only one training method, the classroom.
The topics required by the trainees required about 6 hours of training each. The Training Company, in its eagerness to underquote its competitors, had allowed only 90 minutes for each unit. The Trainer decided to use a mixture of several training methods and techniques (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 167-173).
First the Trainer developed a paper-based, self-paced training schedule for the trainees to prepare for the weekly 90 minute training sessions at home (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 183). This involved a flexible schedule of preparation exercises and case studies, with discussion to be conducted at the weekly training session. These were emailed to the trainees on the evening immediately following the training session, so that a permanent record could be kept, even if the paper materials were to be lost, which is almost always the case in China.
In addition, the US Company implemented a coaching and mentoring program at the workplace, whereby the more senior managers gave one-on-one instruction in real work situations, using the new skills introduced in the training room (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 171).
Most of the training conducted by the Trainer was in the classroom, outside the normal workplace (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 171). This was a training room in one of the three offices owned by the Training Company. It transpired that the first venue was grossly inadequate, being set in a classroom on Sunday morning, when all other classes in the Training Company’s school were utilised teaching Kindergarten and Primary School Children, who were prone to making quite a lot of noise. This also drew a lot of complaints initially. The Training Company was insistent that the blame lay with the US Company for agreeing to the rooms suggested by the Training Company. After some negotiation by the Trainer, the venue was changed to a venue that catered for adult English classes.
Because of the previous management training of the group, the discussion method (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 172-173) seemed the best choice for the majority of the face-to-face training sessions each week. The Trainer is a skilled facilitator who also works as a journalist, so has extensive experience recognising the correct question type to use at the correct time. Also, as suggested by Werner & DeSimone (2009, p 173), preparation material had been worked on in independent study time by the trainees prior to the classroom training session.
A variety of presentation materials were used, including audio recordings, with different English accents from around the world, PowerPoint presentations, film clips and interactive whiteboards and other technologies. Many of these were suggested by Werner & DeSimone (2009 pp 173-189).
In essence, the implementation of the training program was blended learning (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 189). This meant a combination of traditional classroom and technological strategies were employed. Additionally, the setting of the training room was considered important (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 189-191) so the training room had lecture chairs in a horseshoe arrangement, to allow the Trainer to be equidistant from all trainees, and no desks as barriers.
Each training session had a set format, beginning with an icebreaker relevant to the topic to be discussed (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 191-192). Second was a five minute Business Brief on the topic, which was a lecture-style presentation introducing new vocabulary and business situations. This would sum up all the weeks preparation, and set the pace for the discussions that would follow. Examples of the briefs and discussions will be given later in this paper.
Evaluation of the training program
The US Company was insistent that it would conduct all evaluation of the training program, in line with its established methods for ensuring that the training program produced a return on the company’s investment. The Training Company would not be privy to the internal training conducted, or the total monetary investment in training by the US Company.
The evaluation of training costs (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 220-228) is important to an organisation of this size, to show that the HRD Department also gets a return on investment, just as other departments do. This is crucial in justifying the shareholders and Directors the effectiveness of training in achieving the company’s objectives.
The Training Company, however, also felt they should have an evaluation of the training for their records, and asked the Trainer to devise a method to evaluate. The Trainer chose Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Framework (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 201-203). The reasons for this were simple. Firstly, the US Company evaluation was the one with most bearing on whether future training would be conducted, and whether the Training Company and/or Trainer would be utilised in the future.
Second, the Training Company did not know what any of the evaluation methods were, or what purpose they could be used for. There seemed little point in giving them detailed and complicated evaluation.
This was reinforced by the fact that the US Company stated to the Trainer that they would not be using the Training Company again, but would like to utilise the Trainer on a private basis, subcontracting directly to the US Company. The US Company stated that it would make available to the Trainer all the evaluation results prior to the next training program being commenced.
The Trainer also saw it as desirable to have some idea for himself of his own effectiveness, so also saw benefits for doing basic evaluation. The four criteria to be evaluated were reaction, learning, job behaviour and results (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 201-203).
The evaluation is ongoing, as the training has not yet completed.
Measuring reaction is limited to the satisfaction of the trainees. However, with this particular group, it is likely that they will not be satisfied unless they truly believe they have gained substantial results. In this case, the trainees are satisfied, so therefore the reaction level has been achieved to date.
Learning is measured by the trainee’s ability to satisfy the learning objectives and assessment criteria through a series of assessments, mainly written tests and quizzes, case studies and role plays. All the trainees show they have achieved competence in the units so far presented. Therefore, the learning level to date has been successful.
Job Behaviour is being measured by using a 360 degree approach. Feedback is given from the US Company’s HR Department, others in the training group and self-analysis by the trainee. To date, this has been positive, so therefore the job behaviour level has also been achieved.
Results are given as to the benefit of the training form the US Company’s HR Manager, and the Operations Manager. The US Company state that their desired results to date have been achieved with actual results, in accordance with their evaluation system.
Employee socialisation and orientation
While this particular program may not, on the surface, appear to be an orientation program, it does draw on some of the definitions used by Werner & DeSimone (2009). Many of these employees, while highly trained and skilled as managers in Chinese companies, have entered a new workplace culture. Many have been with the organisation for about six months, so are relatively new.
In this respect, this English language component of their training is an extension of their orientation. They are still in an unfamiliar work environment (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 250). This program focuses on changing and improving knowledge, skills and attitudes (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 10).
Additionally, as in Smith & Pilling (2008), most of the trainees don’t feel new any more, but unlike in that report, they still feel that the training program has tremendous importance for themselves and the company, as well as the staff under their control.
Even though they are the most senior managers in this operation, they are still new to the organisation, and to the western corporate culture. In that respect, many are still adjusting to socialisation within the organisation. Using Feldman’s Model of Organisational Socialisation (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 255), the Operations Manager, who has undertaken more intense training in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is probably at the change and acquisition stage. The others are still going through the encounter stage. This is because of the vastly different cultural perspectives in Chinese business culture compared to western corporate culture.
As example, in the first unit taught, about Trade, the Business Brief dealt with the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT). Discussion was made on how GATT was used to promote the importance of copyright law in the US. This in turn led to discussion on the rejection of copyright in Chinese corporate culture, and the essentiality of adhering to copyright laws in western corporate culture. There were no written texts; it was shared knowledge within the group.
Many such cultural differences in corporate culture exist, and it will take considerable time for employees in the organisation to come to terms with the multinationals requirements in terms of these differences.
Social Capital Theory or Social Learning Theory
Social Capital or Social Learning is the ability of the individual to learn by observing others (Werner & DeSimone 2009, p 51). This is commonly referred to as behavioural modelling, and can involve mentors, coaches and social networks.
Mentoring was used in this training professionally, as described by Ehrich & Hansford (1999). The more senior managers mentored the others in the group, based on their international experiences. The protégé would observe the mentor at work, and learn from the more senior and experienced worker. In this respect, the Trainer also served as a type of mentor. In this particular group, the benefits to both mentor and protégé are focussed on career advancement.
Coaching is an extension of mentoring, and again, cultural differences emerged as to styles of coaching. Werner & DeSimone (2009, p 314) refers to negative and positive approaches to coaching. The training group explained having difficulty adjusting from the traditional Chinese method of negative reinforcement, such as yelling and bullying, to positive reinforcement, such as was required of them under the US Company’s management techniques. In the training sessions, the Trainer was often looked to as the coach, because of his first hand experience in western business.
A third form of social learning is networking, generally seen as important in gaining promotions (Van Emmerik et al 2006). In this group, the concept of networking took on special significance because of the cultural contexts. Burgess and Dyer (2009) stated that cultural differences needed to be taken into consideration when mentoring Australian Aborigines and this is also true of mentoring and coaching in Chinese workplaces. However, when it comes to networking, the tradition of guanxi, or friendship networking, is strongly embedded in Chinese culture and history. Therefore, this group probably had a better understanding of it, in Chinese culture, then the Trainer did.
Management and development
Career management and development is a new concept in Chinese society. Werner & DeSimone (2009, p 381) describe the traditional role of staying with an organisation for life. This is very much embedded in Chinese society. However, with the establishment of multinational corporations in China, new employment relationships have emerged. The training group were aware of this, and had made it to top management because they quickly saw the advantages of it. They also see the training program as a step forward to eventually ensure their ability to compete on the international market.
Management development is seen by DNetto, Bakas & Bordia (2008) as important to attract and retain high quality employees. This program was contracted by the US company for exactly that reason. When evaluating the training program, the US Company will also being evaluating the management development effectiveness. This program, therefore, is enhanced by instilling in the Chengdu workplace the organisation’s learning culture, encouraging individual initiative, maintaining organisational level support, and linking the program to the corporate strategy. Busine & Watt (2005) also outline that such training is preparing managers for future higher position, referred to as succession management.
Organisation development and change in this group appears to have involved the Change Process Theory (Werner & DeSimone 2009, pp 464-466). The group had to first unfreeze, or accept that their acquired work practices in the Chinese corporate sector had to change. Next, training programs such as the group are currently involved in cause moving, or accepting new policies and practices. Third, in the future, will be refreezing, to make the new practices and procedures permanent. The intervention strategy has been designed by the US Company, and is an ongoing process.
Burgess, J. & Dyer, S. 2009, ‘Workplace mentoring for indigenous Australians: A case study’, Equal Opportunities International, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 465-485.
Busine, M. & Watt, B. 2005, ‘Succession management: Trends and current practice’, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 225-237.
D’Netto, B., Bakas, F., Bordia, P. 2008, ‘Predictors of management development effectiveness: An Australian perspective’, International Journal of Training & Development, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 2-23.
Ehrich, L. & Hansford, B. 1999, ‘Mentoring: Pros and cons for HRM’, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 92-107
Smith, R. & Pilling, S. 2008, ‘Supporting the transition from student to professional: A case study in allied health’, Australian Health Review, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 134–138.
Van Emmerik, I., Euwema, M., Geschiere, M., & Schouten, M. 2006, ‘Networking your way through the organisation: gender differences in the relationship between network participation and career satisfaction’, Women in Management Review, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 54-66
Werner, J. & DeSimone, R. (2009). Human Resource Development, 5th edition, Thomson South-Western, Ohio.