Sunday, September 28, 2008

How to Design Corporate Training Programme Modules

‘Training’, ’learning’, and ‘development’ are terms that are often used interchangeably. This leads to some confusion, especially as the way the terms are used has changed gradually over the years.

Managers in small and medium sized organisations have responsibility for developing their employees among a host of other activities. Similarly, managers in larger organisations are increasingly responsible for developing staff and need to understand the terms and techniques used, not least to help them in discussions with their colleagues who are involved full-time in learning and development and training.

Definition of training
Training is defined as ‘an instructor-led and content-based intervention leading to desired changes in behaviour’, and which, unless it is on-the-job training, involves time away from the workplace in a classroom or equivalent. In some contexts and (the armed forces are a notable example), it implies teaching specified skills by practice. Until relatively recently, the implicit assumption was that most, if not all, development of employees would be of this nature.

Definitions of learning and development
Since the mid-1990s, there has been a gradual shift in the techniques and language used to describe the steps taken by employers to help employees to perform their jobs more effectively. Until the closing years of the last century, ‘training’ would have been the word most frequently employed, whether to describe a job (‘training manager’) or a development technique (which would probably have been a classroom-based event). Now ‘learning’, often linked with ‘development’, is the key term. The shift from the use of ‘training’ as a catch-all term to ‘learning and development’ has followed the realisation that there is no one route to learning; different individuals have different learning preferences. For example, some may prefer to read books, others to attend courses. Most learn best from experience.

The definition of learning is ‘a self-directed, work-based process leading to increased adaptive capacity’; in other words, an environment where individuals ‘learn to learn’ and possess the capabilities that enable them to do so to help their employers to build and retain competitive advantage. Various authors have somewhat different definitions, but what the definitions have in common is that they link the enhancement of the performance of individuals with that of organisations.

The term ‘development’ is usually used in a wider context than either ‘learning’ or ‘training’ and covers both of these. It tends to refer to a longer process of learning, acquiring skills or knowledge that may include a number of elements such as training, coaching, formal and informal interventions, education or planned experience. It can be structured by HRD professionals, or created as a personal plan. For example, ‘career development’ is a planned process of different learning experiences that may last for some months or years, and ‘management development’ is the entire structured process by which managers learn and improve their skills. But ‘development’ may be also used as a synonym for training, for example in senior management training, where it can be viewed as a more acceptable term for those who still view ‘training’ as a rather basic or even remedial activity.

Training as part of learning
Training has an important complementary role to play in accelerating individual and organisational learning alongside other, less directive, activities like coaching, mentoring and peer group learning. Training (that is, an activity which is instructor-led and content-based) is therefore part of learning and development, and various types of training are among the tools available for developing people. But other tools are available. All this has become increasingly recognised, with the result that there is now a much greater variety of what might be called ‘learning and development (rather than ‘training’) interventions’ than there was in the past. (An ‘intervention’ can be defined as any event that is deliberately undertaken to assist learning to take place.) The shift from training to learning is the progressive movement from the delivery of courses to the development of learning capabilities as a people development strategy. This makes the job of the developer more complex and challenging than it was, but it also provides the possibility of better outcomes.

Although education is normally defined as consisting of those activities which develop knowledge, skills and understanding required in all aspects of life, not simply work, for young people in particular, there is an overlap with training (and of course learning). For example, are people doing a bricklaying course at a further education college or studying medicine at a university being trained or educated? The answer, clearly, is a bit of both, probably with the training element (especially the practical, on-the-job component) increasing as the courses advance.

Title of the project
Designing modules for training interventions

Need and significance of the study
For decades the focus of management was on the so-called "hard" skills. That is, the emphasis centered on the technical skills necessary to effectively perform within the organization. These skills tended to be more job-specific or more closely related to the actual task being performed.

Today, employers crave managers with the critical soft skills. These skills tend to be more generic in nature. In other words, these are skills key to effective performance across all job categories. And these soft skills have come to play an even more crucial role in management positions in today's environment. As the world has changed and the nature of work has changed, the skill set required of managers has changed.

Without doubt, for decades the business world placed a great deal of value on traditionally masculine traits for managers. With the increase in the number of women in the workforce for the past two to three decades, more attention has been given to the traditionally feminine characteristics. There was then a move to develop the androgynous manager - one who embraced the best of both the traditionally masculine characteristics and the feminine characteristics. This has evolved today to the recognition of placing more importance on the soft skills.

At first considered "soft," some are now referring to these skills as life skills thereby conveying the more global aspect of this skill set. Some researchers have also suggested these skills are really the "hard stuff' of management.

The soft skills are in demand. Unfortunately, these are the skills that are in short supply today. Topping the list for most businesses are skills such as communication skills, interpersonal skills, team player skills, ethics, creativity, an ability to value diversity, responsiveness and a willingness to change.

Many of these soft skills are interdependent. That is, as one skill is developed, one or more of the other skills are also being developed. The true value to the organization is in having the complete package in as many employees as possible.

Self-awareness is critical. All employees are responsible for their own career development today. This means every employee must know what they can and cannot do. A complete inventory of knowledge, skills and abilities (referred to as KSAs) should be performed on a regular basis. This should then be compared with the KSAs considered critical to success in the workplace.

While many employers feel they can train employees in the technical skills needed to perform the job, there is more concern with the ability to teach the softer skills. Therefore, more companies are seeking job applicants that already possess these soft skills.

Employees of the twenty-first century must be committed to the soft skills. And this commitment doesn't begin the first day on the job. This is a commitment that starts even prior to entry in the workforce and stems from the dedication to become a lifelong learner -- constantly updating and revising skills to better meet the needs of the changing marketplace.

Objectives of the study
  • To design classroom training module.
  • To design semi-outbound training programmes.
  • To design an Assessment Development Centre.
Aspects Studied
  • Designing the Powerpoint Presentation.
  • Designing the Pre-Workshop Material.
  • Designing the Workshop Material.
  • Designing the Post-Workshop Material.
  • Designing the Activities and Games.
  • Scheduling the entire Training Programme.
  • Designing the Feedback Forms.
Research Hypothesis
The developed Training Modules will prove to be helpful in improving the soft-skills of the participants and the designed ADC shall be used in assessing the participants for the specified competencies.

Research Design
This is a descriptive form of research. The objective of this study is to understand the designing process of a training module. For this, a soft skill is selected. The trainer then explores what the organization would expect from its employees with regards to this skill. Then he tries to contemplate what is the existing level of the employees is with respect to this skill. The trainer then designs the training module understanding the difference between these two levels and aims at bridging the gap by the same.

It is most essential to design a training module keeping the participant in mind. What should be considered is what would the participant find interesting and what would be useful for his daily activities. A trainer cannot design a module based on what he thinks is necessary. He has to design one based on what the participants’ requirements are.

Designing a training process would have been very simple if people had a very focused and concentrated approach towards the training session. But unfortunately, the human mind is prone to distractions and this could pose a problem to the trainer. For this, the trainer tries to incorporate games into the module to keep the session appealing to the participants. But irrelevant games would only be a means to having extended the session beyond the required time. Hence, it becomes essential to develop games based on the topic. In fact, playing games which demonstrate the significance of the soft skill could help the participant understand the importance of the specified competence in a more practical sense and in an easier and impact-ful way.

Operational Definitions of terms used
Training Module:
This is an entire folder consisting of the powerpoint presentation, the pre-workshop material, the workshop material, the post-workshop material, the activities material, the feedback forms and the roadmap.

Visual Aid Presentation:
The trainer uses a powerpoint presentation for the purpose of classroom teaching.

Pre-Workshop Material:
Some topics require the participant to have some knowledge prior to the commencement of the programme. This information is imparted to them by the pre-workshop material. The participants are expected to read this module before they come for the programme.

Workshop Material:
This is a printout of the powerpoint presentation having 3 slides on a page with lines drawn to the right if it. This is done so that the participant doesn’t waste time copying down everything shown on the slide. Instead, he could scribble down whatever he deems important from what the trainer speaks. This material also contains handouts which the participants would be required to use during the course of the training programme.

Post-Workshop Material:
Sometimes the powerpoint presentation isn’t sufficient. For this purpose, the main points from the presentation are elaborated to prepare this module. The participants could then refer to this module whenever they need any clarification with regards to the topics covered in the training programme.

Activities Document for the Trainer:
This is the written description of the games and activities to be executed in class. It is important to ensure that these activities are directly related to the topic of the training programme. These could be role-plays, case-studies, pencil-and-paper activities, outdoor games, etc. generally outdoor games are not executed in a classroom training session.

Activities Handout for the Participants:
A good training course will actively involve the learners throughout. They may be asked to complete tasks, or to sequence list of options, or do other interactive activities. It would be of value if these tasks very accumulated together in one place.

Feedback Forms:
It is very essential for the trainer to know what the participants thought about the training session conducted. A feedback form is a questionnaire which is given to every participant. It contains open and closed ended questions about the topics covered, the manner of presentation, the activities, the trainer and even the scheduling of the programme. This feedback is useful to the trainer as he could improve himself in the next training programme that he does.

This is a planned timetable of the entire training programme. It is of two types: internal roadmap and external roadmap. The internal roadmap is for the trainer’s purpose; it helps him know when and where each activity is to be performed. It also gives him an idea as to which topic he is required to concentrate on. Also, the time required to be covered by each topic is also mentioned in the internal roadmap. The slide numbers required to be covered in a particular session are also mentioned. The external roadmap is for the organizer’s purpose. He would get an idea as to when and where any particular topic would be presented and how much time would be required for the same.

Outbound Training (OBT)
This is a traning programme which is not conducted in the office or office environment. The participants are taken away to some exotic location and they are made to do activities like river rafting, mountain climbing. By way of such sports, the participants learn soft skills like team building and leadership.

Semi-Outbound Training (SOBT)
This is a training programme which is not conducted in the conference room. There is no classroom teaching in this programme. The participants are made to do activities within the office premises. Every activity is debriefed for its relevance to the topic and also how the learning could be applied to the office environment. This type of training is used for soft skills like team building and leadership.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Project on Active Vibration Control

Problem Statement
To build a model in MATLAB© based on FEM analysis in ANSYS© for a simply supported beam and identifying the significant modes for the design of controller.

A given structure can vibrate with many modes. The design of controller for all the modes is very difficult. However, all the modes do not contribute significantly to the overall disturbance. Hence, we filter out the modes which cause the maximum disturbance. Hence a controller can be designed to control only these modes.

MATLAB© model was extracted from ANSYS© model. Displacement v/s Time plot for all modes included model and reduced model shows no visible difference for settling time and nature of curve. Hence, by controlling only the significant modes, controlling objective can be achieved. An attempt is made to control the first mode and the second mode of vibration in ANSYS©. Better results can be obtained by varying patch size and location.

Future Scope
Designing controller based on the MATLAB© results for reduced model and controlling the significant modes of vibration. An experimental setup can be fabricated based on this analysis.

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