Week 3 Task 1

Description

Complete a posting about the attached article
in 100 words or more. There are 5 articles which are attached in print. Each
article needs a posting in 100 words or more.

The Role of HR in Organizational Development
and Innovation
Richard T. Rees
o say there is a plethora of theory,
research, and data regarding the importance of culture to an organization’s success
would certainly be an understatement. The
topic has been of great interest to theorists,
researchers, and practitioners for many
years, and the interest is not on the wane.
Of course, there are reasons for that. The
nature of an organization’s culture has been
shown to be critical to all aspects of its success. The key to measuring the effectiveness
of the organization’s culture is understanding the organization’s perception of itself
and how it behaves, including how its leadership behaves, its ethical posture, and how
it learns.
Too often, organizational cultures are not
well defined, creating conflicting views
about what the organization is really all
about. In fact, in some cases, there are competing cultures, leading to even greater internal confusion and adversely affecting the
way the organization functions. There is no
question that successful organizations have
well-defined cultures that are top-downdriven and that generate the expectations for
all members of the organization to understand and adhere to. However, successful
cultures that truly drive an organization do
not just happen; they are created and sustained by the organizations themselves and
are evidenced in the organization’s mission,
values, goals, and strategic initiatives. Absent
T
this, the organization will likely flounder in
terms of what it is and what it hopes to
accomplish.
FOUNDATION AREAS FOR HR
So, what is the role of human resources in all
of this? Although organizational HR activities
may focus on issues such as employee
relations, wages and benefits, performance
management, and related functions, HR
professionals can assume important and
innovative roles in leading the organization to
focus on its culture and to design approaches
to aligning HR strategies with that culture.
There are four important foundation areas
that the HR staff can center on to provide
the requisite leadership regarding the organization’s culture. They are the:
1. Underlying principles of the culture,
2. Organization’s cultural philosophy,
3. Organization’s conceptual framework
regarding its culture, and
4. Operational strategy for the organization’s
culture.
Some of these elements may exist in
whole or in part, but they are essential to the
structure of the organizational culture. If
they do not exist, or exist only in part, there
are several strategies that HR can implement
to be sure that the organization develops all
© 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/ert.20127
29
Employment Relations Today
of these elements and that they meet the fundamental needs of the organization.
TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING
ORGANIZATIONAL PRINCIPLES AND
PHILOSOPHY
J
The first step in the process is to identify the
best technique that will provide data with
which to develop each of the foundation
pieces. There are many techniques that are
available, but one of the following might be
helpful to your organization:
•
•
•
Using focus groups,
Conducting nominal group analysis, and
Conducting Delphi-type studies.
We offer the following suggestions for
each of the above-mentioned techniques.
The first step in the process is to identify the best technique
that will provide data with which to develop each of the
foundation pieces.
J
J
J
Focus Groups
Focus groups are essentially organized discussion sessions with selected individuals to
ascertain information about their views and
opinions on a defined topic. They are helpful
in obtaining several perspectives about the
topic. Some tips follow for making your focus
groups effective.
J
J Develop your objectives for the focus
group session. For example, your key
objective might be to identify the core
principles that will become the cornerstones of your organizational culture.
J Identify a list of participants. The list
should include, if possible, members of
J
J
your senior leadership team, members of
your governing board, and key members of
your management team. To give some additional diversity, you may want to identify
members of the general staff who are well
respected and would give you good data.
Develop three to five questions. Examples
may be:
• As you look to the future of this organization, what elements should be
stressed as part of our organizational
culture?
• Why are these elements important to
our organization?
• What learning opportunities should be
made available to staff in our organization to be sure that these elements are
present in our organizational culture?
Based on the number of individuals you
have identified, determine the number of
meetings you will need (five to seven persons per meeting).
Determine a comfortable meeting place to
conduct the sessions.
Invite the persons from your list, giving
them a choice of the sessions you have
identified.
As you conduct each session, be sure to
accurately record the responses. You can
ask the participants to review your notes
(on flip charts) to be sure of their accuracy.
Once you have completed the sessions
and recorded the responses, send a summation to all participants asking for corrections, additions, and the like.
Complete a final summation of all of the
responses to your questions.
Nominal Group Analysis
To begin, convene a group of key stakeholders, including members of the senior team,
30
Richard T. Rees
Employment Relations Today
DOI 10.1002/ert
Winter 2007
the governing board, and the management
team, and perhaps well-respected members
of the staff at large.
After the topic has been presented, participants should be given ample time for questions and comments so that they understand
what the issue is. Then, ask the participants
to respond to the topic. For example, if the
topic relates to necessary elements in the
organization’s culture, you would ask the
group for their opinions as to what elements
are important to the organization. The
responses are noted on a flip chart, and
duplications are eliminated. You may continue this process for one or two additional
rounds to be sure that all appropriate ideas
have been identified.
Following that, ask the participants to
rank the responses according to which they
think are the most important, with “1” representing the most important. The final step
is to aggregate all rankings to give you a
sense of which elements are most important
to your organization.
Delphi Studies
The Delphi technique is another widely used
approach to allow groups to prioritize and to
enhance their decision-making capabilities.
The Delphi technique was originally designed
by the Rand Corporation and the U.S. Air
Force to provide a mechanism for the generation and use of expert opinion. It is designed
to gain the most reliable ideas from a group of
organizational experts. It involves four steps:
1. Identify key stakeholders from your senior
team, the governing board, the members
of your management team, and, perhaps,
well-respected members of the staff at
large.
The Role of HR in Organizational Development and Innovation
Employment Relations Today
DOI 10.1002/ert
2. Ask the members of the group what they
see as the most important principles to
stress as the organization focuses on its
culture of the future and post these on
flip charts for easy review by the whole
group.
3. After the first round (be sure that everyone participates), ask the members of the
group to determine what other principles
could be added for completeness.
4. Once you have a complete list, you may
adjourn the group. You now have a
nucleus of cultural principles to use as you
move forward to develop your program.
As an alternative to the above, if it is
impossible to convene all participants in one
place at one time, you might want to consider
The Delphi technique is another widely used approach
to allow groups to prioritize and to enhance their
decision-making capabilities.
teleconferencing or mail. If you use teleconferencing, the process is essentially the same.
If you use mail, you would (from your initial research) develop a list of elements that
would be sent out to respondents asking
them to add to or delete from the list and
send their notes back to you. You would then
compile the results from everyone into a new
list that would be sent out again. If, after the
second round, you feel that you have adequate responses to move forward, do so. If
not, you might want to consider a third
round. We would not recommend more than
three rounds. Once you have compiled your
final data, you are ready to move forward to
the next step in the process.
The next key question is how you would
use the cultural elements you have identified
to collect data regarding the relationship
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Employment Relations Today
between what you would like the organization
to be and what it is currently. That will provide you with information regarding potential
interventions to reduce any gap you might
identify.
The next step in this process is to develop
your set of principles that will guide the evolution of your culture. Of course, the basic
principles for any organization’s cultural
development may vary and must be directly
linked to the data generated from focus
groups, nominal group techniques, Delphi
studies, or other selected methods. Some
examples of basic principles might include:
J The organizational culture is aligned with
the organization’s mission, values, vision,
goals, and strategic initiatives.
J The organizational culture reflects the
commitment of the organization to its
long-term success.
After you develop the draft set of principles, you can solicit
feedback from the same individuals that you used to collect
the initial data.
J The organizational culture emphasizes the
concept of teamwork.
J The organizational culture emphasizes the
importance of human growth and development.
J The leadership style in the organization
reflects a commitment to the concepts of
transformational leadership.
Of course, there can and should be many
more of these principles that will guide your
approach to centering on your organizational
culture. You want to be very sure that this
list is as complete as possible, because it
becomes the bedrock of future activities.
After you develop the draft set of principles,
you can solicit feedback from the same individuals that you used to collect the initial
data. This will keep key players in the organization in the loop, enable you to maintain
their commitment to the end product, and
ensure that you continue on the right track.
Once you have completed your list of fundamental principles that you would view as
critical parts of your organizational culture,
you are now ready to develop your organization’s philosophy of organizational culture.
This piece starts to move toward the operational stage of the process.
Using the examples provided above, here
are some sample statements as they relate to
your organizational philosophy:
J We believe that the organizational culture
should be aligned with the organization’s
mission, values, vision, goals, and strategic initiatives.
J We believe that the organizational culture
reflects the commitment of the organization to its long-term success.
J We believe that the organizational culture
emphasizes the concept of teamwork.
J We believe that the organizational culture
emphasizes the importance of human
growth and development.
J We believe that the preferred leadership
style in this organization is transformational.
Once you have completed this piece of the
puzzle, you are well on your way to defining
what your organizational culture should be.
One of the pitfalls of any organizationaldevelopment initiative is that the objectives
(what we want to be) are never well defined.
So, how do we know when we get there?
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Richard T. Rees
Employment Relations Today
DOI 10.1002/ert
Winter 2007
This initial foundation building might seem
time-consuming (and it is) and, perhaps,
tedious, but it is our position that without
these steps you will not have the requisite
focus for your organizational culture.
Once you have developed your philosophy
statements, they too should be checked with
key players in the organization before taking
the next step. As agreement on the philosophy
for your organizational culture is determined,
you are ready for the conceptual framework.
vision, values, and goals of the organization.
Now you have the key foundation pieces
that tell you how you want your organizational culture to be defined. From here, you
will need to develop an operational strategy
methodology that will enable you to collect
data as to where your organizational culture
is relative to where you would like it to be.
Using Surveys to Collect Data
CREATING THE CULTURAL FRAMEWORK
The conceptual framework is the next logical
step to putting some “flesh” on your principles
and philosophy for your organizational culture. The principles and philosophy provide
the broad guiding direction to your organizational culture, but the conceptual framework
begins to give structure to the process that
will be very helpful to you as you develop
learning interventions designed to move the
organizational culture from where it is currently to where you want it to be. Here are
some samples that could be included in your
conceptual framework:
What is a conceptual framework for your
organizational culture?
•
•
•
A structure for supporting the culture
A set of practices to be used to achieve
cultural objectives
The specific principles that will guide the
design of any organizational interventions
How does it relate to the mission, vision,
values, and goals of the organization?
•
All references to the culture will reflect
the language and intent of the mission,
The Role of HR in Organizational Development and Innovation
Employment Relations Today
DOI 10.1002/ert
One method is to develop a survey tool
made up of all of the key factors that you
have defined as important to your desired
organizational culture. By using Likert-type
responses to statements, you can give
everyone in the organization an opportunity
The conceptual framework is the next logical step to
putting some “flesh” on your principles and philosophy for
your organizational culture.
to indicate how they see the organizational
culture currently. A Likert-type scale consists of a series of items or statements. The
respondent is asked to indicate the extent
to which he or she agrees or disagrees with
the statement. Research has generally confirmed that Likert-type scales are reliable
relative to the measurement of attitudes or
opinions. Usually, respondents are provided
with five responses to a given item, ranging
from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” You may want to use abbreviations
for those responses, such as SA—strongly
agree, A—agree, U—undecided, D—disagree, and SD—strongly disagree. The scoring could be SA—5, A—4, U—3, D—2, and
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Employment Relations Today
SD—1. Participants should circle the
responses they consider to be most appropriate. Examples follow:
Incentives for participation could be provided
to increase data volume.
WRAPPING IT UP
1. The organizational culture is aligned
with the organization’s mission, values,
vision, goals, and strategic initiatives.
SA
A
U
D
SD
2. The organizational culture reflects the
commitment of the organization to its longterm success.
SA
A
U
D
SD
3. The organizational culture emphasizes
the importance of human growth and development.
SA
A
U
D
SD
4. The prevalent leadership style in this
organization is transformational. (You may
need to define transformational.)
SA
A
U
D
SD
5. The organizational culture emphasizes
the concept of teamwork.
SA
A
U
D
SD
Items such as these, along with others you
will have identified, would be put in a survey
tool to which all employees would respond.
The response sessions could be held in public
places such as auditoriums and cafeterias to
which employees could come on work time
at scheduled times. They would be able to
select the time they would like to attend.
After all of the responses are collected and
scored, the organization will then be able to
determine how its employees see the organization relative to what the organization sees
as important to its cultural framework.
Where there are gaps between where the
organization would like to be and where the
employees see the organizations, implementations can be designed to reduce those gaps.
Examples of interventions might include new
communication strategies, training and development, and a higher degree of employee
involvement in organizational activities.
The same survey can be taken about six
months following the interventions to see the
extent to which the culture gap has been
reduced. It is all based on the premise that
the closer the organization is to what it says
it would like to be, the more satisfied staff
and customers will be, the more productive
staff will be, and the more positive the workplace will be. These would seem logical goals
for the organization to set, led by the HR professionals in the process.
HR professionals have wonderful opportunities to provide leadership as the organization
looks to its future and what it wants its culture to look like. Helping to determine that
direction and the interventions that will allow
the organization to truly become what it wants
to become can place the HR professionals in a
very important position in the organization.
Richard T. Rees, EdD, FHCE, is president of Rees & Associates Inc., a private consulting
firm located in Lakeland, Florida, and centered on leadership development, performance
enhancement, team development, and organizational culture issues. He has been involved
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Richard T. Rees
Employment Relations Today
DOI 10.1002/ert
Winter 2007
with organizational development and leadership since 1980, has published numerous
articles in leading journals, and has been an organizational consultant to a variety of
organizations. For more information, visit www.reesassociates.net or contact the author
via e-mail at rrees@tampabay.rr.com.
Some concepts for this article have been excerpted from The Successful Leadership Development Program: How to Build It and How to Keep It Going, by Jo-Ann C.
Byrne and Richard T. Rees (San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, 2006). The article is intended to
merely be a catalyst that might encourage human resources professionals to take the lead
in their organization, to assist the organization to be sure that its culture is clear and
understandable to all members of the staff.
The Role of HR in Organizational Development and Innovation
Employment Relations Today
DOI 10.1002/ert
35
The Learning Function’s Latest Role: Organizational Change Agent
Morrison, Carol
Talent Development; Oct 2014; 68, 10; ProQuest Central
pg. 24
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organizational evolution requires successful CHANGE
Dougan, William R
Talent Development; Dec 2015; 69, 12; ProQuest Central
pg. 60
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
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CAREER DEVELOPMENT: Degrees of learning
Anonymous . Employee Benefits ; London (Sep 2008): 50.
ProQuest document link
ABSTRACT
When looking to improve their knowledge, benefits professionals have a number of options they can consider.
Some may prefer to network with experts in the field as well as peers, while others depend on gaining
qualifications and academic information gleaned from textbooks and the internet. Benefits staff should constantly
update their knowledge, as well as make themselves known to their peers. A degree in HR or management can be
advantageous, but will not always equip individuals with the specific skills needed to work in reward. The benefits
market is subject to rapid evolution in terms of legislative change and almost constant advancements in best
practice strategy. The best way for benefits staff to progress their career, therefore, is to keep on the ball using a
variety of methods. Particular books on employee benefits management are listed.
FULL TEXT
Academic qualifications are just one of the ways for benefits professionals to further their careers, so David
Woods assesses the merits of textbooks and websites versus networking and other learning
Part of the benefits industry’s appeal is its diverse and challenging nature, spanning topics from payroll and
pensions, to motivation schemes. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that newcomers to this profession and even
those who have worked in reward for years want to continue learning in order to improve on the work they do, and
maximise their potential for career progression. And they want it all without drowning in a sea of information.
When looking to improve their knowledge, benefits professionals have a number of options they can consider.
Some may prefer to network with experts in the field as well as peers, while others depend on gaining
qualifications and academic information gleaned from textbooks and the internet.
Martyn Sloman, adviser for learning, training and development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD), explains a key consideration for benefits professionals is to keep themselves interested in the
industry and appear interesting to other people. In other words, benefits staff should constantly update their
knowledge, as well as make themselves known to their peers.
Peter Reilly, director of HR research and consultancy at the Institute for Employment Studies, explains: “The
reward area does have an underpinning academic side but it is a practical subject in my view. People who have got
some understanding of psychology and economics will have an advantage but it’s the ability to put that into place
in a practical way [that is important].”
A degree in HR or management can be advantageous, but will not always equip individuals with the specific skills
needed to work in reward. The benefits market is subject to rapid evolution in terms of legislative change and
almost constant advancements in best practice strategy.
Textbooks can be a useful starting point for explaining some of the theories and ideas in HR and benefits
management. But however good they are, they will not cover everything about benefits. Rajeshree Bhovan, former
reward and benefits manager at retail firm BHS, says: “No textbook is the bible. There is no book you can use for
your whole career. In this area, it doesn’t really work that way.”
Books that provide up-to-date practical advice on benefits may be few and far between, so practitioners may be
advised to turn to specialist websites and magazines to supplement their knowledge, says Matt Brooks, group
manager of the reward team at HR recruitment firm Frazer Jones. This way, they can access comment from
thinkers on the ground who are reacting to current market changes.
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For staff who are working in a generalist HR or administrative position, an industry-based course may provide them
with the knowledge required to move into a more specialised role. Benefits staff may also appreciate the
opportunity to study for a professional qualification as it can help them with the challenge of keeping their
knowledge up to date, as well as learning new techniques and ideas.
The CIPD, for example, runs two-day long courses on benefits, pensions and share schemes, reward in context,
base and variable pay, and developing a reward strategy. It also runs a year-long course that results in an
Advanced Certificate in Reward Management that HR professionals can study for part-time. This is suited to
benefits professionals who want to become better equipped to work in pay and reward.
Some individual perks such as share schemes and pensions can also prove to be complex fields. Industry bodies
such as the Pensions Management Institute and professional services firms provide courses. For example, law
firm Linklaters has developed a certificate in employee share plans in conjunction with the Institute of Chartered
Secretaries and Administrators.
Additional advantages of attending a professional course such as these, means that not only can benefits
professionals pick up useful information and expand their knowledge, but it opens a door for them to network with
members of industry bodies such as the CIPD, as well as other benefits staff.
When it comes to sharing current thinking and practices on reward, networking can be invaluable. “In terms of
career progression [networking] is absolutely vital and I don’t think that [professionals] can get anywhere without
it,” explains Brooks.
By attending networking events, benefits professionals have the opportunity to meet with people who do a similar
job. They can discuss challenges and achievements, and share advice. As well as learning from others in a neutral
setting, benefits professionals can learn about projects that are coming up in other organisations and see what
roles or opportunities might become available.
Networking events can range from conferences lasting several days, to low-key drinks evenings. Jo Rackham,
head of reward and analysis at Whitbread, says: “I try to attend conferences or send someone from my team
because there are so many people there and it’s always a really good place to pick up tips.”
Such events also enable benefits professionals to gain an insight into how perks are structured and implemented
in other organisations, which may be outside of their own industry and experience.
According to Brooks, it is important for those attending such events to have some knowledge of the field before
they go, so they can build on their understanding and also offer insights to others. “Although qualifications are less
relevant than networking, someone can’t be invited into a network if they don’t have something to add to it,
whether that comes from focused qualifications or by proof of ability by working their way up,” he says.
One final way of gaining wider benefits and reward experience for those interested in furthering their career in the
field is to take on a series of short-term or interim contracts at a variety of organisations in order to learn how
different benefits departments work, and to gain greater exposure. This way, benefits professionals can broaden
their experience of different IT systems and resources, salary and bonus reviews, and benefits communication.
Bhovan says: “When you check out the environment at different employers you get a lot more rounded experience
than if you are stuck in one place.”
The best way for benefits staff to progress their career, therefore, is to keep on the ball using a variety of methods.
As Rackham concludes: “Career progression is about reading, networking and hard graft.”
Reading list
A Handbook of Employee Reward Management and Practice (2nd edition)
Michael Armstrong
Published by Kogan Press. This contains information on how to achieve the aims of reward, as well as detailed
chapters on specific benefits areas such as total reward, equal pay, recognition schemes, flexible benefits, share
schemes and pensions.
The Carrot Principle
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
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Published by Free Press
This is a guide on how best to engage staff through employee recognition. The title comes from the idea of giving
staff a tangible reward (carrot) rather than merely dangling a promise in front of them.
Reward Strategies: From Intent to Impact
Duncan Brown
Published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
This book outlines how to align an organisation’s reward strategies with overall business goals.
The HR Value Proposition
David Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank
Published by Harvard Business School Press
This puts HR principles into the context of external business realities and discusses the HR practices that add the
most value to businesses, as well as how to develop the roles of HR professionals.
Copyright: Centaur Communications Ltd. and licensors
DETAILS
Subject:
Employee benefits; Managerial skills; Professional development; Career development
planning; Human resource management; Business networking
Location:
United Kingdom–UK
Classification:
6400: Employee benefits &compensation 6100: Human resource planning; 2200:
Managerial skills; 9175: Western Europe
Publication title:
Employee Benefits; London
Pages:
50
Publication year:
2008
Publication date:
Sep 2008
Publisher:
Centaur Communications Ltd.
Place of publication:
London
Country of publication:
United Kingdom, London
Publication subject:
Business And Economics–Personnel Management
ISSN:
13668722
Source type:
Trade Journals
Language of publication:
English
Document type:
Feature
ProQuest document ID:
224679626
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Document URL:
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Copyright:
(Copyright (c) 2008. Centaur Communications Limited. Reproduced with permission
of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without
permission.)
Last updated:
2010-06-10
Database:
ProQuest Central
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Record: 1
Title: Kicking Up Cross-Training.
Authors: Arnold, Jennifer Taylor
Source: HR Magazine. Aug2008, Vol. 53 Issue 8, p96-100. 4p.
Document Type: Article
Subject Terms: *High technology
*Employee training
Behavioral assessment
Psychodiagnostics
Company/Entity: Dawn Food Products Inc.
NAICS/Industry Codes: 611430 Professional and Management Development Training
Abstract: The article talks about the use of high-tech online behavioral
assessment tools by Dawn Food Products to identify workers
likely to acclimate rapidly to new tasks, and to shape
employees’ training to best equip them for their assignments.
Employers find value in cross-training employees because it
is usually more efficient than bringing in new hires. Dawn
Food Products’ behavioral assessment system, provided by
The Solution Group, is a web-based application.
Full Text Word Count: 1900
ISSN: 1047-3149
Accession Number: 33933868
Database: Business Source Complete
Section: HR Technology
Kicking Up Cross-Training
Cross-training can component in developing your employees and your organization.
When leaders of the Jackson, Mich.-based bakery supplier Dawn Food Products decided to close a
production line at its California plant earlier this year, managers faced a challenge. It was not a job
separation issue–the plant’s other line offered plenty of work for the 17 affected employees. The
question was whether those employees could readily adapt to a new work environment.
“The old line was a cake mix line, [which is] very repetitive. Every employee had a single
responsibility, and it didn’t change,” says Tom Harmon, president of global human resources for
Dawn Food Products, with more than 4,000 employees worldwide. “The new one, a decorated-cake
line, makes 50 or 60 different products in a day, with different shapes, colors, decorations, flavors. It
moves much faster. And the four people on the line rotate responsibilities” during each shift.
Production lines have been around since the Industrial Revolution–and managers have been facing
issues like this ever since. In the old days, managers were likely to take a “sink or swim” approach.
Today, companies such as Dawn Food Products use high-tech online behavioral assessment tools
to identify workers likely to acclimate rapidly to new tasks, and to shape employees’ training to best
equip them for their assignments.
Doing More
Employers find value in cross-training employees because it’s usually more efficient than bringing in
new hires. Many managers take those efficiencies to the next level by leveraging technology to
improve cross-training efforts.
Employees appreciate cross-training because it allows them to broaden their skills. And, according
to experts, workers with a broad base of skills are becoming increasingly important as the pool of
skilled workers shrinks and budgets tighten. “By cross-training, with a limited pool of skilled workers
available, you’re getting the most done with the fewest employees,” says Ira Wolfe, president of
Success Performance Solutions, a talent management consulting company in Lancaster, Pa.
What’s more, cross-training can benefit employers and employees in any type of economy and labor
market. It’s “a good practice” in a “belt-tightening market,” says Eric Krohner, CEO and founder of
The Solution Group, an HR software technology company in Farmington Hills, Mich. “It impacts
employee engagement and prevents job stagnation. It’s something that induces candidates to join
the company and encourages employees to stay.”
Mind the Knowledge Gap
All cross-training should begin with two basic steps: identifying the knowledge and skills needed for
each position, and then cross-referencing that list with an inventory of current employees’
proficiencies to reveal gaps.
Today, various technology options make it easy to gather and analyze such information. In fact,
experts say, many companies already capture these data in their performance management or
talent management systems, although they may not be taking advantage of them. “There is a lack of
effective use of performance management systems,” says Bruce Fern, president of Bedford,
N.Y.-based Performance Connections International Inc., an employee and customer engagement
firm. “Everyone has one, but they are often ‘performance management’ in name only.”
While performance management systems are used to automate the employee review process, many
systems also include development plan functions that readily lend themselves to a cross-training
application. “When [performance management systems] generate active employee development
plans, those development plans will often contain cross-training components,” Fern says.
Managers currently using a performance management system should cheek the application’s data
fields and reporting capabilities. A few simple edits may be all it would take to segregate the
necessary data and create a report detailing gaps between existing and needed skills–with no
capital outlay. If not, contact the software vendor to check the availability of add-on functions,
upgrades or customization that addresses the need for additional data analyses at a relatively low
cost.
Selecting a System
For companies interested in purchasing a performance management system, options vary from
hosted web-based solutions that charge a low per-employee per-month fee, to licensed systems
installed on the corporate server. Depending on the number of employees, level of customization
and integration, and other factors, annual costs range from a few thousand dollars to almost $1
million.
As a general rule, hosted subscription-based applications are more affordable for smaller companies
with fewer employees, have few startup costs and can be deployed quickly. Licensed systems
require more setup time and more upfront costs, although they provide efficiencies over time for
companies with a large number of employees.
For smaller companies, a standard database program can often accomplish the same objectives.
At Auto-Valve Inc. (AVI), an aviation valve manufacturer in Dayton, Ohio, Operations Manager Bob
Hale recognized the need for cross-training among his 40 employees. “It became apparent to us that
when somebody wasn’t here, we suffered–especially in key positions that have [tasks] to be done
on a daily basis,” he says.
In response, Hale developed an Excel spreadsheet of the 150 necessary job functions, rating them
“A,” “B” or “C” to reflect how critical each was to daily operations, and compared it with employees’
existing skills. Hale then used these data to create a training plan.
Now, at least three people can perform each identified function, and conducting the skills
assessment and creating a training plan are annual events. As a result of the initiative, Hale says,
“our turnover is basically nonexistent.”
Keys to Success
As Dawn Food Products’ experience demonstrates, automated assessment technology also can be
a useful cross-training tool. In recent years, many employers have adopted this type of technology to
measure job candidates’ skills proficiency and the personality characteristics that are the best
indicators of whether the person will succeed in the job and become acclimated to the corporate
culture. With existing employees, assessment tools reveal skills gaps that need to be addressed
through training and can help identify employees best suited for cross-training. As with performance
management systems, costs for assessment tools vary widely depending on usage, customization,
complexity and integration. Expenses can range from $20,000 to $1 million.
Dawn Food Products’ behavioral assessment system, provided by The Solution Group, is a webbased application. It contains a custom database of the behaviors of Dawn’s top performers in each
position. Employees complete an online questionnaire that assesses their innate abilities in a variety
of areas. The system then allows managers to run cross matches to identify employees who have
high potential for cross-training success.
E-learning Options
Cross-training initiatives can be undermined by managers and employees wary of taking time away
from current job responsibilities. Technology can help address those concerns by providing access
to cross-training content at employees’ convenience, thereby minimizing the time spent away from
their current jobs.
As with any learning, experts say e-learning is most effective when it is used as one component of a
comprehensive cross-training program. “Technology is probably best utilized for cross-training when
it’s part of a blended solution,” says Fern. “It’s hard to get through on tech alone. You need some
dialogue.” Fern suggests that cross-training can be successful with 80 percent of content delivered
through various types of e-learning and 20 percent delivered in a personal, interactive way.
In U.S. Audi ear dealerships, sales and service personnel pursue certifications offered through the
Audi Academy for Sales and Leadership. Both the sales certification and service certification tracks
require course work in the other specialty, a cross-training approach that helps improve customer
relations and promotes team spirit.
The academy’s staff recognized one major challenge: “If salespeople are out of the store, they’re not
selling,” says Duncan Crook, manager of the Audi Academy. In response, the academy provides
about 25 percent of its curriculum through technology-enabled options, including web-based content
and modules distributed on CD-ROM. “Not everything needs to be instructor-led or sent out in a
binder,” Crook says.
E-learning doesn’t have to be sophisticated or expensive; in some instances, a PowerPoint
presentation can convey information effectively. Other affordable options include off-the-shelf
e-learning authoring software that costs $1,000 to $2,000. Content development vendors typically
charge several hundred dollars an hour for design and development, depending on complexity and
experience. At the Audi Academy, some e-learning content is developed in-house using Articulate
authoring software; more-complex modules are bid out to content development vendors.
At Dawn Food Products, food safety training is provided through a series of DVDs. This year,
Harmon plans to launch a web-based safety training module and make computers accessible to line
employees.
At AVI, most cross-training is hands-on and occurs on the job. But knowledge is technologyenabled: Hale’s skills matrix and the plant’s quality manual are accessible via the corporate intranet.
“All the job functions are identified in the quality manual,” Hale says. “If the inside salesperson is off
today, anyone can go to the quality manual and see who to go to.”
Some of Fern’s clients in financial services are turning to high-tech multimedia simulations to deliver
cross-training. Utilizing telephonic, video and web-based technologies, these simulations can place
employees in situations they are likely to encounter on the job and allow them to make decisions
and respond to the outcomes. Managers and trainers can review simulation exercises with
employees and discuss their decision-making processes. Periodic review ensures success.
Review Time
Identifying and addressing cross-training needs is not a “once and done” project. To make it
effective, the employee assessment process, cross-training content and delivery methods must be
monitored continually and updated.
For example, skills inventories need to be reviewed regularly to ensure that they reflect changes in
the work environment and in the employee. Building these issues into the annual performance
review function in a performance management system can automate and simplify the process. “At
least once a year, the manager is going to have a conversation with the employee,” Fern says.
Tying it to a performance review, he says, “links cross-training to a nonnegotiable event.”
Behavioral assessments also need to be refreshed regularly, although not as often as skills
assessments. “People don’t change that much over the years, but they do change,” says Harmon.
While Dawn Food Products has been using The Solution Group’s behavioral assessment tool for
only a few years, the plan is to update employees’ behavioral profiles every three to five years going
forward.
Delivery methods also need to be reviewed on a regular basis as technology evolves and more
options become available. For example, mobile learning delivering on-demand, just-in-time
information via smart phones and personal digital assistants is gathering momentum and is likely to
swell rapidly as hardware and telecommunications capabilities expand.
Similarly, Fern predicts that more companies will be using online virtual communities like Second
Life to provide training simulations in the future. These and other developments in technology may
provide convenient, cost-effective options for managers looking to reinforce cross-training efforts.
“People want to be challenged. They don’t want to do the same thing over and over again,” says
Wolfe. “The more they feel they have value, the happier they are.”
Today, technology makes it easier than ever to take advantage of the benefits cross-training offers.
Online Resources
For additional information about cross-training, see the online version of this article at
www.shrm.org/hrmagazine for links to:
• An HR Magazine article about long-tenured workers and the effects of cross-training and other
retention strategies.
• SHRM’s Career Development Toolkit.
• SHRM research on training costs per employee.
• The web site of the American Society for Training & Development.
PHOTO (COLOR)
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By Jennifer Taylor Arnold
The author is a freelance writer in Baltimore.
Copyright of HR Magazine is the property of Society for Human Resource Management and its
content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright
holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for
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