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What is Training?

Updated on May 26, 2010


Training is a process of learning that involves the acquisition of knowledge, sharpening of skills, concepts, rules, or changing of attitudes and behaviours to enhance the performance of individuals.

Today, it is believed that an organisations competitive success is achieved through people (Pfeffer, 1994). Therefore, it is safe to say, that the skills and performance of the staff is critical. For example, from 1997 to 2007, American organisations with over 100 employees, spent $58.6 billion a year rising steadily to over $200 billion (Holton et al).

There is a strong consensus which states that the acquisition of knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes through training is of little value if the new characteristics are not generalised to the job setting and is not maintained over time (Kozlowski et al, 1997). In other words, if training cannot be translated into performance, the entire process will be useless. According to Swanson (1995) transfer of training is a core issue regarding to linking individual change to the requirements of the organisation. In order to believe that training makes a difference in organisational and individual performance, it must be understood how to support the transfer of training.

Traditional approaches to the transfer of training tend to consider it as a horizontal link between training and performance. Baldwin (**) classified each of the affecting factors into 3 categories;

1) Trainee Characteristics and Environments,

2) Learning and Retention,

3) Generalization and conditions of transfer.

All 3 sets of training are linked in the sense that it is a top down process. As Holten found, learning is to the organisation unless it is transferred in some way to performance. Kuchinke (1995) also argued that learning is a means, not a primary organisational outcome.

So the question is, “what is the best way for an individual to learn by training?”.

Goldstein’s (1986) idea of the principle theory suggests that training should focus on the general principals necessary to learn a task so the individual can apply theory to solve the problems in the transfer environment. This suggests that it is in fact possible to design a training environment without excessive concern about the similarity of the transfer situation, just as long as it is possible to utilize the underlying principals of the task.

A study by Roher & Pashler (2007) conducted a study into the area of reinforcement and retention. It was believed that if an individual continuously uses a machine or rehearses exam information, the more secured the information will be. However, the results showed that ‘overlearning’ can have highly diminishing affects over time. An example of this would be Cog Erg CA1 brain training. At times, users became so accustomed to the training tasks that silly mistakes were made.

The idea that “practice makes perfect” is correct, but it must be understood that there is a time to stop! Football players would train once or twice a week in order to remain at peak performance. If they trained every day, by the time they play a match they would be exhausted. It is the same idea when it comes to occupational training.

One of the ways to increase ability and performance is to factor for cognitive load. Imagine your brain as a wheelbarrow, each time a brick (new piece of information) is added to the wheelbarrow, the harder it is to lift it. If you set a target goal, “I will study the mechanism of the machine, then test it and repeat twice and then stop”, it will allow the individual to pace the workload and reduce the cognitive load.

Jung once said “mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge to know what it is not”. The idea of completing a task and receiving instant feedback on whether the task is right or wrong is a fantastic way to increase efficiency. A good way of doing this is through guided training or shadowing. Both of these methods allow an individual to learn by the instructor’s example and how specific situations are normally dealt with. It gives the individual some experience and can help reduce tension when the individual starts working by themselves.


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