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A Proposed Training Plan for Nature and Health Corporation


Introduction

The Nature and Health Corporation (NHC) is a 10-year old Australian-based company that caters to the needs of the local markets for alternative medicines and dietary protocols in these times in which so many prescription medications are suspect. In its bid to strengthen its position in the local herbal industry and to conquer the mainstream of global markets, it has invariably encountered aggressive competition over pricing issues and levels of market satisfaction for the past couple of years, exacerbated by the global economic crisis. Convinced that human resource development is a significant part of the solution, the management mandated me, being the head of the human resource management unit, to develop a training program that will address organizational challenges on pricing strategies and low customer satisfaction.


In an attempt to justify the workability and effectiveness of a proposed training plan, this paper presents the 1) strategic goals of the company, 2) intrinsic value and purpose of conducting a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) and the steps of this process, 3) assumptions made in the design of the training plan, 4) core features of the proposed training plan, and 5) the problems and challenges of implementing the proposal.

Strategic goals of NHC
The primary strategic goal of NHC is to become a 20 Billion Dollar foods and herbal company by 2015.

To achieve this, the following key business strategies were adopted:
1. Enhancing product quality
2. Widening the lead in key customers
3. Strengthening distribution system in all market levels (local and international)
4. Leveraging customer marketing practice and enhancing market recognition
5. Improving pricing policies and schemes

Concomitant to these business strategies are institutional requirements directed towards human resources and operations management. It should be noted that these business and organizational directions are inherently related to the organizational problem identified previously, i.e. aggressive competition in pricing and customer satisfaction levels. The challenge could very well be, albeit partially, addressed by a comprehensive training program. This important activity should start with a proper training needs analysis.

Nature and importance of Training Needs Analysis

Training Needs Analysis is a process commonly carried out by human resource departments to identify performance areas, skills and programs within an organization where training and development are needed in order to help direct resources that most closely relate to fulfilling the organizational goals and objectives, improving productivity and providing quality products and services (Kauffman, 1987). Simply, TNA examines the existing need for training within an organization (Mitchell, 1993), and specifically, aims to solve organizational problems on knowledge and skills of employees. It is the first step in the organization’s training process to achieve clearly defined objectives. For the human resource manager, the TNA maximized the benefits of the training process and prevents undue waste of organizational resources. Despite time pressures, a human resource manager should never skip the conduct of a proper TNA because it will lead to problems in the long run (Smith & Delahaye, 1983). TNA ensures that a training program is the right solution to an identified problem before the program is implemented and also guarantees that priority needs are not overlooked and that non-essentials are relegated. In effect, TNA is a response to the need for cost-effective solutions and higher positive returns on investments made on training programs. This captures the primordial importance of TNA in these times of global economic meltdown and amidst the imperatives of globalization and competitiveness to which the workplace and organizational goals should continually adjust.

Additionally, conducting a TNA only enhance the company’s progress towards investment in its human resources as it provides an authentic framework for improving and appraising performance (Mager & Pipe, 1984).

The TNA process goes through the following steps:
1. Identification of problem needs – evaluate the circumstance for training request (for the purposes of this paper, the challenges of aggressive competition in terms of pricing and customer satisfaction levels); examine skill and knowledge gap; and identify training objectives
2. Designing the TNA – set need selection criteria, identify appropriate analytical and research methods.
3. Collection of data – this will be explained in succeeding paragraphs
4. Data Analysis – use a variety of qualitative and quantitative analytical approaches to identify recommendations and proposed solutions.
5. Providing feedback – present a report of findings and determine if training is needed.
6. Developing the training plan using the results of the TNA (Rae, 1992).
The list below summarizes the principles (do’s and don’ts) of TNA.
DO

ü Take TNA as seriously as you do the delivery of training.
ü Make every effort to evaluate and compare your findings with those of others.
ü If necessary, work to persuade others of the benefits of collecting and collating data on training needs.
ü Remember to consider potential needs at the all organizational levels.
ü Scrutinize problems carefully, so as to avoid making false assumptions.
ü Include yourself as someone with potential training needs.

DON’T
× Arrange any training without first establishing that there is a clear need for it.
× Simply send everyone on the same training event that you found useful and enjoyable because individuals have different backgrounds and experiences, so they have unique training priorities.
× Concentrate on obvious training needs at the expense of those you need to look for. (Smith & Delahaye, 1983; Bartram & Gibson, 1994; Boydell & Leary, 1996).

The rigor of TNA requires an enormous volume of relevant information which could be sourced from the following:
1. Organizational vision-mission and strategic plans
2. Staffing and skills inventory, job descriptions and performance standards
3. Organizational reports on indices of organizational climate
4. Performance ratings
5. Corporate efficiency indices (labor costs, supply chain management, product quality, etc.)
6. Annual reports
7. Existing development plans

To supplement these data, the training specialist could conduct interviews and focus groups, instigate job observation and evaluation, gather data through questionnaires, and research best practices of competing companies (Zemke & Kramlinger, 1982).
Assumptions

This report assumes that the TNA has been conducted and led to three targets: the company as a whole, a particular activity that requires special skills, knowledge and values, and the employee as an individual. One key assumption is that the organizational training needs presented here were sifted to align with the strategic business strategies of NHC, with particular emphasis on how to improve knowledge and skills of employees on the principles of customer value management in terms of pricing strategies and increasing customer satisfaction. Objectives under each strategy were formulated based on the principles of strategic and competitive management (Porter, 1985; Aaker, 2008).

This paper assumes that there are knowledge and skill gaps that training should address. These are inherent in the recommended activities for each key business strategy.
1. Enhancing product quality
a. strengthening the research and product development unit,
b. sustaining technological and operational imperatives in compliance with product standards, and
c. enhancing production and operational processes.
2. Widening the lead in key customers:
a. development of new and effective business solutions to key customers by applying shopper marketing insights and information gained from joint business planning with customers,
b. conduct of customer value analysis and creation of customer-focused teams for strategic customers,
c. enhancing company servicing characteristics (customer care, quote response times, availability and responsiveness of inside sales, and effective complaint management),
d. improvement of store level operational skills and capabilities,
e. improvement of loyalty marketing programs to retain current customer base and attract more business partners,
f. improving product packaging and creating relevance building propositions, and
g. harnessing the corporate social responsibility portfolio of the company with emphasis on environmental projects and health benefits.
3. Improving and strengthening distribution system in various levels
a. enhancing trade and market presence not only for corporate customers but also for small-to-medium traders,
b. adoption of micro-marketing approaches and support different campaigns across different geographies for specific herbal and food products,
c. implementing an aggressive distributive trade strategy to maximize reach and strengthen the availability and visibility of NHC products, and
d. conduct of product monitoring.
4. Leveraging customer marketing practice
a. harmonizing marketing processes among different units to optimize trade investments and achieve favorable ROI, and
b. improving advertising campaigns and marketing strategies, and
c. conduct of massive best in class sampling activities.
5. Improving pricing policy and schemes
a. conduct of price/value analysis;
b. adjustment within elasticity for core NHC products,
c. narrowing gap index between product variants, and
d. parity pricing with competing products for brand promotion and profitability

The training plan
Based from the above theories and assumptions of knowledge and skill gaps and upon consultation with NHC management on prioritization of training activities and implementation, the following training plan is proposed. Though it is not specified in the strategic objectives, it is contended that any training plan should start with a proper orientation on the vision-mission and objectives of an organization, guidelines and policies because a sense of ownership intensifies commitment and loyalty. To serve as guideposts to the HRD, success indicators are also presented although not exhaustive.
Knowledge/Skill Gap or Training Objective Prescribed Activities Timeframe Persons/Units

Responsible Success Indicators
Orientation on organizational vision-mission and objectives -instructional media presentation; -pep talks-sitting on interviews of applicants as necessary (for existing employees) May, 2009 (a total of 48 hours for new hires and 8 hours for existing personnel)-2 hours for each employee - HRD- company executives -Employees exhibit understanding and appreciation of NHC mission-vision and objectives; -Keen understanding of company policies-Guidelines and policies are being followed-Higher job satisfaction

Research skills - send key research personnel to a reputable university for further education in product development-one-on-one mentoring (skilled researcher teaching unskilled personnel)-lectures on best practices and product standards 2010-2012Starting June, 2009 - a total of 150 hours for each employee8 hours for all employees of the unit -Research Department-Product development consultant to be approved by the unit head - Efficiency in undertaking research protocols- Improved product development approaches-compliance with quality control standards

Machine operation and work processes - modelling; actual job observation and demonstration-simulated exercises-applied practice For new hires, a total of 150 hours -Production Department-Unit Supervisors - reduced wastage and errors-more efficient production flow

Gathering marketing insights - hands-on training on basic principles and skills-scenario-building- visits to outlets, stores and display areas Starting June 2009 (a total of 150 hours) -Marketing Department -adoption of a practicable joint business planning venture with identified customer groups-ability to implement short- and long-term marketing strategies

Favorable servicing characteristics - lectures-drills; applied practice -simulation and modelling- hands-on training Starting June 2009 (a total of 150 hours) -Customer Service Department -less customer complaints-speedier response times-retention of loyal customers-better performance on a customer survey

Store level operational skills -drills-hands-on training and lectures Starting July, 2009 (a total of 150 hours) Employees in both NHC major and minor branches -increased sales
Implementing a viable loyalty program -planning workshops-study of best practices Starting July, 2009 (a total of 80 hours) -Sales Team-Marketing Team-Customer-focused Groups -retention of 95% of existing clients

Product packaging -lectures and workshops-study of best practices-self-study approach Starting August, 2009 (a total of 150 hours) -Research Team-Product development staff-Production Department -improved packaging- relevance building propositions for key products as well as low-performing ones-increased sales

Corporate social responsibility policy -lectures on corporate social responsibility imperatives-planning workshops Starting September 2009 (a total of 60 hours) -ManagementAll employees-External consultant -strengthened corporate social responsibility portfolio-more liaisons and partnerships with stakeholders and the community- recognition for socially sustainable achievements

Micro-marketing strategies -workshops-job aids-self-study Starting September 2009 (a total of 200 hours) -Marketing Department -enhanced trade and market presence-more sales contracts-increased visibility in previously neglected geographical areas

Product monitoring -workshops-visits to shops and outlets Starting June 2009 (this will be periodic, once a month) Sales DepartmentMarketing Department -regular updates and reports on product performance
Advertising skills -workshops-skill demo-e-learning-attendance in local and international conferences on advertising Starting June 2009 (a total of 200 hours) Advertising Department -more and better outputs (samples of advertisements)-increased visibility in all forms of media-recognition for advertising achievements

Pricing schemes -further training and education in price analysis-consultant-led in-house workshops and lectures on price monitoring and adjustments-self-study-visits to stores and outlets Starting July 2009(a total of 200 hours) ManagementCorporate SalesExternal consultant -pricing parity or narrowed price gap compared to competitors-improved sales

This prototype relies on the development of course materials and training guides that shall undergo tabletop review as well as pilot-testing.

Conclusion: Problems and challenges

Just as the actual training program, the TNA process also entails company resources in terms of time and energy to effectuate systematic planning and analysis and to ensure coordination among organizational units and the full involvement of those who need the training. The suggested training plan above is of course subject to availability of funds and the final approval of NHC management.
As in any program implementation activity, the human resource manager may find difficulty in convincing or “selling” management that the training plan is a timely and effective response to the perceived organizational problem, i.e., improving customer satisfaction and enhancing pricing policies. To address this threat, the sustained involvement of NHC management in all the phases should be ensured so that they will find it easy to delineate cause and effect between perceived training needs and organizational problems. Another threat would be situations of transition management or change of ownership. This will entail another round of “persuasion”. Revisiting the needs assessment process would also be necessary if senior leadership would decide to launch another priority initiative
In cases of job transfers or promotion, the revision of the training plan would be directed only on the identification of the target employees. Concomitant to active participation is that the enthusiasm of the trainee should match the enthusiasm of the human resource manager. To this end, their involvement in planning and analysis should be solicited.

The proposed training plan is not exhaustive but is a judicious attempt to address the essential needs for training as revealed in the TNA. Although some activities could be postponed, they should not however be totally cancelled. The proposed pilot testing would reveal areas for further improvement.
In conclusion, human resource managers should be reminded that good training doesn’t just happen. It is the result of much preparation and forethought. This is made possible through a proper training needs analysis. Whether or not the objectives of the program were achieved should also be assessed. Integral to the training program is an evaluation phase that should focus on response of the trainees, degree of learning, behavioral outcomes, and overall impact on the company’s business goals. However, this is a subject that could be enunciated in another discourse.

References:


 

 
    
 
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