Training Essay

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Training provides the skills, knowledge, and proficiency required to perform a task or excel in a position. Quite often, especially in positions expected to lead to a career, the business world requires training of its employees that goes beyond what was provided in school or college, or that updates the knowledge gained there. Sometimes this is required in order to keep up with developments in the field, or developments in the software applications, relevant legal codes, industry conditions, or other external changes that have transpired since the end of the employee’s degree program.

On Or Off The Job Training

Training can be on the job or off the job. On the job training is conducted in the workplace, usually in a “live” situation—this is the modern descendant of old systems of apprenticeship, in other words, and is used in modern systems of same. Someone moving to a new position may be designated a trainee for a certain period of time, shadowed by or shadowing an employee who has already been through the training, in order to perform the necessary tasks and have immediate feedback and the opportunity to ask questions. When possible and practical, this is often the most effective form of training. On a wide scale, it is also resource-intensive, consuming company time and extra labor, and it isn’t appropriate for all skills. Learning a new computer programming language, for instance—or a new spoken language, for that matter—is difficult to accomplish this way, as are more abstract skills like management philosophy, supply chain management, information systems, or a legal professional learning a new branch of law.

Off the job training is conducted off-site, with the trainee’s efforts not contributing to the business’s production during his training period. This is necessary for some forms of training, practical for others; in some cases the business may simply lack the resources to provide the training, while in others there may be some reason in the larger hierarchy of reasoning why off-site training is preferable. McDonald’s managers, for instance, all receive training off-site from the same training facility, not because it would be too difficult to conduct on the job training, but because it is a way of ensuring consistency of performance across all franchises’ locations.

Physical training is less common in the business world, but could encompass the calisthenics performed by employees at some factory jobs in Asia and Europe, or the stress reduction courses prescribed by companies from time to time.

Taylorism And Human Resources

Training is essentially the purview of the Human Resources (HR) departments. HR departments developed in Western businesses at the end of the Industrial Revolution, when Frederick Winslow Taylor updated the managerial and psychological aspects of conducting a business to reflect the technological upgrades that had occurred over the previous century. His Principles of Scientific Management (1911) was so influential—providing a foundation for discussions of the division of labor that assembly lines had made attractive—that approaches to management that depended on the analysis of business processes with an eye toward improving labor’s productivity became known as Taylorism, even if they referenced nothing specific from his books. There have been a number of stages and fads in the study of management and business philosophy, but Taylor’s ideas continue to resurface, shined up to reflect modern conceptions. On top of that, similar ideas were adopted in Japan and the Soviet Union; even the Soviet Union’s central planning owes a significant debt to Taylorism.

Out of Taylorism came the human relations movement from the 1920s on, which refined scientific management by incorporating into it the aspects of psychology (then a young discipline) that had become part of social scientific consensus, and the recognition that workers were not interchangeable parts, but rather had to be considered in terms of psychological compatibility and the possibility of having a natural knack for one role more than another. Out of this same school of thought came the development of public school guidance counselors who help students find the future career that is “right for them,” an idea that in Taylor’s view would have been novel, or perhaps entirely foreign, and which in the 100 years since Taylor’s writings has become inseparable from discussions of long-term career planning and the lives of employees.

The primary purpose of HR departments is to put human capital—workers—to its best use, with the understanding that this means not exploiting them, but rather finessing a situation so that their needs and the company’s needs are best met, without being put into opposition. To that end, HR is key in the development of corporate culture, and emphasizes training in part because it helps employees stay invested in the good of the company, while finding the ideal position to put their skills and potential to use. Larger HR departments often include trainers and training facilitators, instead of or in addition to an apprentice-like approach. HR trainers may also focus on specific kinds of training, like leadership, diversity management, IT, standards compliance, sensitivity, and change management.

Change management focuses on managing people and institutions in transition, which can be positive (as a result of mergers, expansions, new business ventures, promotions) or negative (in the aftermath of downsizing or other negative restructuring). Many change management techniques borrow from the work of psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, whose landmark book On Death and Dying provided a framework for the stages of grief, which are arguably applicable not just to the death of a loved one but to any negative change in one’s life, personal or professional. Change management trainers can act as much as counselors as skills trainers.

Continuation Of Training

Continued training is sometimes required by a particular profession. For instance, accountants, lawyers, doctors and nurses, and teachers are all required to take particular development and training courses periodically over the course of their careers, in order to stay current; no one wants a pediatrician who is not aware of the rubella vaccine, or an accountant who isn’t current with tax code. While market forces alone should be sufficient to prevent either of those things from happening, these industries have been self-regulating long enough to put such requirements in place, for the sake of the reputation of the accreditation their governing bodies provide.

Such requirements are often a matter of state law, but were originally sponsored and supported by professional associations such as the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Medical Association (AMA). Specific training requirements vary from state to state, both in frequency and in content; some states have specific courses for teachers of various grade levels to attend during the summer or spring breaks, while others require a certain number of credits from a particular course list. Other industries may have mandatory periodic training required by licensing agencies or professional associations in order to retain membership—although such membership may not be necessary to legally operate in the field.

Professional development courses may include semester-long courses at accredited universities, or may take the form of a weekend workshop, with a good deal of variety in between. Some are purely technical in focus, covering new developments in software, procedure, and other objective, empirical material. Others may be discussion-oriented, focused on the underlying philosophies of the profession, such as managerial philosophies or medical ethics. Recent developments in the industry may be the subject of discussion, or the possible ramifications of events on the horizon.


  1. Fred E. Fielder, A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness (McGraw-Hill, 1967);
  2. Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers (Harvard University Press, 1994);
  3. John K. Hemphill, Situational Factors in Leadership (Ohio State University, 1949);
  4. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources (Pearson Education, 2008);
  5. Elwood F. Holton II and James W. Trott, Jr., “Trends Toward a Closer Integration of Vocational Education and Human Resources Development,” Journal of Vocational and Technical Education (v.12/2, 1996);
  6. B. Miner, Organization Behavior: Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership (M. E. Sharpe, 2005);
  7. Scott Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (Princeton University Press, 2007).

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