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Organisations survive, grow and earn profits by meeting the needs and requirement of customers. In order to survive in the changing environment, it is critical for any organisation to satisfy the needs of the customers (Mullins, 2007). Consumers’ decision to buy this product also depends upon the service or treatment provided by the company. That’s why companies put a great emphasis on its employees training of skills as well as continuous development over the years; especially for the ones which provide service directly or interact with customers often. Organisations have started emphasising on soft skills importance for services and they are laying a great importance for employees to acquire soft skills. Training of employees in soft skills is vital for any organisation as it aid in employee development (Guirdham, 1999).
Customer oriented market and changing environment is influencing the organization structure and leading to increased reliance on skills development. Organisation structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees (Armstrong, 2008). It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities. Organisational structures are influenced by customer oriented market and constantly changing environment that is leading to more dependence on soft skills training for employees. Culture of an organization also plays an important part in assessing the needs and requirements for training and development. It also puts a positive pressure on organizational behavior and influences it. It also helps in producing high level of business performance. Change and training is worthless if employees are not involved properly (Armstrong, 2008). Employees are regarded the most valued assets especially which are skilled in soft skills, as the business nature organization itself changes. The role of managers and leaders are very important in development of employees. Leadership is necessary for creating change and can produce orderly change. Leaders are expected to focus on taking the organization forward. To get an accurate picture of the service quality delivered; an organisation measure customer satisfaction and experience (Bratton and Gold, 2001). Training is also evaluated to measure the employee work performance and effectiveness (Beardwell et al. 2007).
2.2. Training and Development
Armsrtong (2008) defines employee development as a process to prepare organization employees for future responsibilities related to job.This may include training (formal or informal, mentoring, education, coaching etc. Training and development is a HRM activity. HRM is concerned with management and development of persons in a company and is normally carried out by HR professionals e.g. HR managers (Armstrong, 2006). The nature of work HR carries out differs from one business to another and is effected by size and structure of the company (Bratton and Gold, 2001). Talented pools of workers are always required by an organisation to compete successfully in today’s highly competitive market (Wilson, 2006). Company can achieve and maintain this competitive advantage by regularly upgrading the workforce skills. Training and development is a never ending challenge that a company must address (Wilson, 2006). The development of employee skills is one of the most important tasks in which an organisation can engage (Molander and Winterton, 2006). Effective training is paramount for survival and growth of a business. Training is not just about developing people but serving them to become more positive and capable in their jobs as well confident in their lives. The field of training is a fast growing sector of human life and has come of age as a profession. There are many motives for training and developing employees. It can be started for a variety of reasons for employees e.g. to facilitate an employee to be qualified for a planned change. It can be carried out as part of an employee‘s professional development program or performance improvement (Rae, 1999). The training need has always been present in every walk of life and today the need is so much greater. There could be any reason but important are probably: the pace at which change is happening in every field of business life, and the employers’ attitude and the attitude of the individuals (Pont, 2003). Training is not only essential to create skilled force but also needed to maintain a high level of skills required by the constantly changing work environment and to equip employees to meet future demands (Stewart, 2996) (Pont, 2003). HR professionals do recognise training and development of an employee is an ongoing process but it speed up in case of organisational, cultural or environmental change. This training process involves continuous adjustment to adapt which is gained from improved skills and increased knowledge that in turn helps in adapting to any kind of change. This also allows for new outcomes and possibilities from conditions the organisation face (Beardwell et al 2007). The new working system demands completely new approach of thinking and extensive training in new skills (Beardwell and Claydon, 2007). The importance of training has long been recognized. The need for training is more prominent given today’s business climate which affects the economy and society at large. The most simplistic definition of training is that it is an activity that changes people’s behaviour.
Training is defined by Wislon (2006) as a planned process to change and modify employee knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour through learning to achieve performance. Employee is trained to make sure that organization’s current or future needs are met. Training can equip employees to do their jobs, carry out tasks and manage complex products and services. In Bramley’s (2003) words, training involves learning and educating employee to do something so that the things are done differently. He and (Wilson, 1999) further explains that training process is planned to facilitate education to help employees become more effective and efficient in carrying out their work. According to the CIPD, training is expected to equip employees to help them become strategically unique, in addition to the provision of skills, attitudes and knowledge required to attain operational efficiency. The foundation for training remains the traditional training process system. This involves: 1. identifying the needs for training and development of the company; 2. Planning training or devising a learning plan; 3. Carrying out or delivering training and 4. Assessing and evaluating outcomes/results. A training-need-analysis is the first step in identifying the types of programs that will further organisation’s goals, which helps to decide whether training is appropriate at all. The organisations have to assess why they need training. Is the current organisational deficiency that the training seeks to address really due to lack of skills and knowledge or some deeper problems? Frequently, organisations implement training program because a HR professional identifies an individual or business need (Smith and Mazin, 2004). Then plans are made on how to deliver the program and by which method.
Although the terms training and development are often linked, these address slightly different needs. Training focuses on learning the necessary skills and acquiring the knowledge required to perform the job. Training deals with the design and delivery of learning to improve organization performance. Development focuses on the preparation needed for future jobs; it should be considered investment in the work force since its benefits are long term (Buhler, 2002). Training inclined towards focusing on short term results. Development may be inadequately focused on the workplace. It is very important for the business to review its training to a broader picture (Bryans and Smith, 2000). According to Armstrong (2006), people are learning and will continue to do so throughout their career, whether taught formally or as an experience. Mullins (2007) observed that people learn within the organisation and in everyday life situations. Competition, technological advances and organizational development, all necessitate the creation of knowledge that leads to constant advancement. That directs oganizations to take more interest in employee development within evolving organization. Training is the main area of the HRM function of particular importance and relevant to the management effectiveness. There are not many scholars who argue in opposition to the importance of training as a foremost influence on the organization success. Leading writers have recognised the importance of training as fundamental for management (Bratton and Gold, 2003). Many believed that training employee development is a key factor of human resource management within organization. Keep (1989 cited by Wilkinson, 2006) describes training as litmus test against which other characteristics of management practices can be measured. Other advantages of employee training and development includes: increased morale, motivation and job satisfaction among employees, increased efficiency and effectiveness, increased capacity to adopt new methods and technologies, enhanced company image , reduced employee turnover, risk management. The right employee training at the right time provides big payoffs for the employer in increased productivity, knowledge, loyalty, and contribution (Web 3). Training let the organization to develop and promote its own business culture. It also permits organizations to adapt to changes in the working environment and can be used as a change agent to change organisational culture (Wilkinson, 2006). Training can improve effectiveness of the organisation in fiercely competitive markets. Training assists in optimizing the development of human resource for employee to achieve the individual as well as organisational objectives (Benson, 2006). It increases the job skills and knowledge of employees and expands the horizons of their intellect and their personality. Training and development also aids in signifying the sense of team spirit, team work and inter team relationship. It also helps the company to be effective in decision making and solving problem. It also helps in developing leadership skills, loyalty among employees, staff motivation, better attitudes and other features that successful employee usually display (Armstrong, 2008) (Bratton and Gold, 2003) (Jenkins,2002) (Pont, 2003) (Price, 2007).
Of course, the basic and main goal of any organisation is to increase its value and to enhance its stakeholder’s wealth. It requires effective and efficient use of limited resources available to the organization to achieve theses aims. Resource aavailability (human, physical and financial) are considered important inputs (Bacon & Haque, 2008). HR scholars agree that an organisation is only as good as persons in it but opinions vary on how that translates into practice. Many organisations not only consider training as an chance for people to learn something but also as an investment that would produce returns for business. It also takes money and time to train staff (Bacon & Haque, 2008). With a supportive environment and a little encouragement and reinforcement, a business can accomplish the required result on a substantial investment in people. A organized approach is needed in evaluation of needs of training; otherwise organization may not be able to utilize valuable resources efficiently (Armstrong, 2006). Training matters for a company because of the established links between skills and productivity. Organisations allocate resources for training because of fear of skills shortage. Some scholars like Kallenberg & Moody (1994) conclude that investment in employee training result in higher returns in future. Employees are the essential and crucial resource. It is important to optimize the employees’ contribution to the organisation’s goals and objectives in order to maintain effective performance. Adequate supply of technically and socially competent and proficient staff is only ensured by training and development. Training helps the staff to become capable for career advancement into specialist departments and management positions. Staff training can be conducted on-the-job that is carried out at the trainee’s workplace, and off-the-job which is carried out away from employee’s work place (Mullins, 2007). Some employees are naturally gifted in talents while others work hard to gain but all can still benefit from learning new techniques. People usually receive a healthy amount of on the job training in one form or another. Some people are good at finding their own paths and procuring the necessary resources and information, many others learn best by following, observing and asking questions (Smith and Mazin, 2004).
Training is not always the answer to problems related to performance. Some training analysts (Rosner, 1999 cited by Smith and Mazin, 2004) believed that training could be a good investment or could be a waste of resources. It is in fact a waste of resources when the desired behaviour does not occur. That’s why training and development doesn’t succeed all the time to achieve desired results and in obtaining aims and objectives of the organisation. There can be many causes for the failure but most common are (Web 6): Training is often put into practice for the wrong reasons and seldom aligns to a business measure. If training program does not support the business goals then no improvement can be recorded. Training is thought to be a solution for a range of performance problems when training may not be concern at all. It also fails because it does not succeed to give direction and focus. Sometimes the solution proves too expensive for the desired outcomes. Individual’s behaviour towards training also plays an important part; e.g. when training is believed just as an event than as enhancement of skills and abilities of the employees, it fails to generate business results. Other important reason for failure is lack of management support (Mullins, 2007). Employees will hardly ever implement new skills and knowledge without it in the workplace. Failure to include and credit other influences and processes apart from training that may have influenced the business outcomes may also be a good reason of failure. Some businesses invest little in training because they don’t have enough funds. Other reason is the fear that employees will leave and move to other companies at some later stage. Some consider recruitment process sufficient and rely on the natural skills of employees rather than training (Harrison, 2005).
It is HR manager’s role and responsibility to develop and implement training strategies and policies. He/she is also involved in people management activities like developing organization, recruitment and selection, talent management , human resource planning, knowledge management, learning and development, reward management, etc (Hyde et al. 2009). Depending on the business nature and size of the company, the HR managers have responsibility for training and developing employees and performance management.Training processes take place within the context of the internal and the external environment of the organization. Human Resource Managers need to understand the training and development’s nature and process in order to be able to facilitate learning and development within the organisation (Watson, 2006). While providing training, the managers need to recognize the importance and effects organization structure and design because these describe tasks and responsibilities, roles and relationships, work and channels of communication (Mullins, 2007). Structure is clearly important for any organization, whatever its size. The aspects that determine how the company functions in relation to its eternal and external environment are its structure and the processes that operate within it. Structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees. It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities (Hyde et al. 2009).
Human Resource Development (HRD) is a name which signifies the latest evolutionary stage in the long tradition of training, educating and developing employees. It focuses on the purpose of contributing towards the achievement of individual, organisational and societal objectives. According to McLagan (1989 cited in Wilson, 2005) it is the incorporated use of training, career development and development of organization to improve organisational and individual effectiveness. Human Resource Development gives the organisation benefits assisting the ability to increase revenue. Companies need to develop a learning culture that responds quickly to the ever changing environment. HRD policies can help the organisation to obtain this objective (Nixon, 2004).
2.3. Soft Skills
There are two versions of HRM as described by Storey (1992). He made the distinction between the soft and hard HRM versions and explains that although both approaches to HRM lay emphasis on people and considers them valued resource or human capital for achieving competitive advantage that has to be acquired, developed and deployed in ways that benefits the organisation; Soft approach further focuses on communication, leadership and motivation and lays emphasis on people’s commitment, skills, performance and adaptability to environment (Armstrong, 2006). Organisations that have a mixture of both approaches tend to survive and grow in the competitive business environment.
Many scholars define soft skills as the ability to communicate in both written and verbal forms and the ability to interact with fellow employees in a positive manner (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006). The importance of acquiring or improving soft skills cannot be understated. No matter how good or strong and professional employee is, he can’t succeed if his interpersonal skills are weak. Soft skills also known as people skills and are usually difficult to observe. These can also be hard to quantify and measure (Web 7). Unlike hard skills which are typically easily to observe and measure. People skills are needed for everyday life as much as they’re needed for work. Lee (1999) defines soft skills as intra and inter personal work skills that facilitate the application of technical skills and knowledge. Soft skills refer to a very diverse range of abilities such as self-awareness, analytical thinking, leadership skills, team-building skills, flexibility, ability to communicate effectively, creativity, problem-solving skills, listening skills, diplomacy and change-readiness. Soft skills can be easily differentiated from hard skills. Soft skills are the non-technical skills that are often not given due consideration while managing businesses. On the other hand, hard skills are the technical abilities required to do a job or perform a task and these are acquired through training and education programs. Hard skills are the technical knowledge and abilities required to perform formal job related tasks while soft skill is the interpersonal dimension of life at work place. As described by Muir (2004) soft skills at work are attitudes and behaviours exhibited by employees while interacting, which affect the outcomes of such interactions. Many scholars often refer soft skills as people skills. Hard skills are administrative procedures carried out by employees which are related to an organization’s core business. Examples include protocols of a computer, operations of a machine, safety standards, financial procedures and sales administration (Web 7). Hard skills are the technical skills required within the domain limits, normally consists of processes, tools and techniques. Hard skills are although crucially important; these are to be considered along with the broader soft skills (Belzer, 2004).
Soft skills have not been given importance in the past and have been less important in many technical fields but now in today’s fact paced competitive business environment, it is considered as a necessary feature in organisational development. It was believed in the past that soft skills were not needed by employees as long as they could do their work, but now even positions in hard, task-oriented roles require soft skills (Muir, 2004). Soft skills are more important than ever before especially with the changing nature of the work environment. Businesses demand broader soft skills along with hard skills from its employees. Businesses require their employees to have the skills unique to their role at every level and field. It is deemed by Muir (2004) that all employees must be skilled at participating in team projects, in managing conflicts and capable in creating relationships to improve performance as a whole. Indeed, the soft skills are the essential tools of effective contributors everywhere. Soft skills are apparently essential workplace requirements.
Employers sought core skills like ability to communicate effectively and team working; these core skills are both soft and transferable. They also look for other soft skills such decision making and conceptualisation which are important in the success of any business environment program. Researches on the soft skill importance signified that the single most important soft skill for a job candidate to possess was interpersonal skills, and then come written or verbal communication skills and the ability to work under pressure (Schuler, 2007). Demand for the acquisition of soft skills and reliance on these increases with the constantly changing work environment due to technology or any other reason. Although, soft skills are not a replacement for hard or technical-skills, they are, in many instances, complementary, and serve to unlock the potential for highly effective performance in people qualified with the requisite hard skills (Banfield and Kay, 2008).
For years the focus of management was on the hard skills or technical skills necessary to effectively perform within the organization. These skills tended to be more jobs specific or more closely related to the actual task being performed. Today, employers crave managers with the critical soft skills (Mullins, 2007). 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. According to Lee (1996) the top ten soft skills on training managers’ priority lists for developing learning materials are: communications, teamwork, leadership, people management/ supervision, customer service, coaching, negotiation, customer related/ experience/ frontline, problem solving and project management/ organisation. Other soft skills mentioned included assertiveness, presentation skills, change management, time management, stress management, decision making, diversify, giving feedback, cooperating as a team member, resolving conflicts, employee engagement, appraisal, arranging meetings and taking minutes. Good soft skills also include the ability of people to balance the commercial needs of their company with the individual needs of their staff.
Soft skills are important for any organisations because these helps individuals and organizations accomplish goals. These also assist in delivering information or services to customers and co-workers, working effectively as a member of a team, and inspire confidence of supervisors and management (Conrad, 1999). Many businesses put high importance on soft skills along with the core skills that are a prerequisite for most sectors (Web 4). For many professions, the importance of soft skills is obvious, customer service industry in specific (Web 5). The increase in service based industry and the shift in the workplace from manufacturing/production work to service/knowledge work has brought about changes in the nature of job performance in the business world. As organizations become more focused on service oriented work, organisation’s employees must be able to effectively demonstrate high interpersonal nature of work performance. Normally job in the service sector is regarded as interpersonal usually result in interactions with employees, customers, or clients (Bowen & Schneider, 1988). Communication Skills are the most important soft skills desired by the organisations especially by service sector where business dealings are mostly done while interacting with customers face to face or by any other means. Communication skills are associated with listening, presenting, verbalizing, and nonverbal communication (Riggio, 1986 cited by Murphy and Riggio, 2003). Many researchers argued that the basic sending and receiving of information represent key social skills. Indeed, Hall (1979 cited by Murphy and Riggio, 2003) divided social communication skills into two broad classes of sending and receiving. Soft skills such as interpersonal skills (e.g. dealing with conflict) and communication skills (e.g., gathering and sharing information) are sought by organizations (Zedeck & Goldstein, 2000). To the extent that these skills are trans-situational, they will continue to be important for the selection and development of employees in a workforce characterized by short job tenures and service-oriented work.
People’s ability to handle the soft skills side of business is now recognised as key to making businesses more profitable and better places to work (Muir, 2004). Increasingly, companies aren’t just assessing their current staff and future recruits on their business skills. They are now assessing them on a whole host of soft skill competencies around how well they relate and communicate to others. But in the most progressive companies, managers are looking for people’s ability to communicate clearly and openly, and to listen and respond empathetically. They also want them to have equally well-honed written skills so that their correspondence (including emails) doesn’t undo all the good work their face-to-face communication creates.
2.4. Soft Skills Training
Training and development of skills is the key feature of business and economic environment. Training raises the skill levels and productivity of employees and offers the hope of increased competitiveness within business environment. There are two basic categories of skills training: hard and soft skills (Armstrong, 2008). It is easy to identify the need for hard skills training, while soft skills relate to personal, individual development and are most difficult to define and measure, but they are very important for successful job performance. Soft skill training enhances the softer side of HRM expertise, knowledge, opportunities and skills of the employees. Soft skills training is concerned with getting a better understanding of the ways people think and behave. Soft skills training is vitally important especially for service industry as employee training can offer customers higher level of service and makes them feel valued by the organisation (Kotler 2003). To gain a competitive edge, organisations train their employees in soft skills. It also helps the company to create positive relationships that can get people involved. Some types of training have both hard and soft skills components. Sales training for example, may encompass hard skills such as product knowledge and price negotiation, and soft skills such as empathy and listening (Smith and Mazin, 2004). In contrast to soft skills, hard skills are easy to train to employees because most of the time the skill sets are brand new to the learner and no unlearning is involved. Soft skills are not easily observed, measured or even quantified. Soft skills are not easy to be trained. The best way to develop skills is to practice doing the thing what an employee is trying to do, under the expert guidance of someone who knows how (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006).
It is believed that soft skills if properly trained can really make a difference between closing the deal and losing it. It can either build an organized team or create inefficient and malfunctioned one. It can also bring a difference in getting a promotion or missing out. Great people skills give employee a competitive edge that helps to create positive relationships that means organisation get more from people, both internally and externally. Soft skills training cover a whole range of skills, including influencing skills, negotiating skills, presentation skills, assertiveness, persuading, public speaking, networking and managing a team (Muir, 2004) (Beardwell et al, 2007) (Bohalander and Snell, 2003). It can help boost confidence and morale of an employee and helps in doing the job efficiently and effectively. Overall, it is about gaining a better understanding of the ways people think and behave and presenting yourself and your ideas in a way that will have the best impact. Soft skills training is particularly useful for managers, but is relevant for anyone who interacts with other people as part of their job e.g. front line staff or anyone with customers or clients, anyone who commissions work from suppliers and anyone who works as part of a team. The interpersonal nature of the work environment has been extensively reviewed by many researchers. Communication skill is the most important of interpersonal or soft skills and most employees are not skilled in this according to the standards. Companies focus on training these skills by programs that usually contains a mix of topics such as face-to-face communications, listening, writing and presentation skills. Self-awareness, social awareness, relationship management, conflict management and diversity are few other important complements to communications skills (Buhler, 2002) (Drucker, 2007).
Competitions in the business world and developments in various fields like technology require the creation of new knowledge which in turns directs to continuous innovation. This leads the businesses to focus more on training and development of its employees within growing organization. In today’s business world, the organizations has to specifically take interest in softer side of HR training of staff as the demand for soft skills is increasing with the time. Therefore, not just hard skills but soft skills also should be part of a training programme (Stoneall 1997). The need and importance for soft skills and its development is important when there is intense competition for many available positions. Amongst many businesses, there is growing recognition for the importance of people skills, understanding that these are essential for a highly focussed successful business.Job skills are intensifying with the time and technical skills are no longer sufficient. Employees need more relevant soft skills at all levels of organisational hierarchy (Muir, 2004). The companies face challenge on relevancy of training in today’s ever changing business environment. Organisations are changing their ways in terms of recruiting, training, measurement and definition of skills and adapting new ways and models that rely on current and future demands of the markets. Learning and development can focus on different components of employees as proposed by Lee (1996). Organisations can adapt different techniques of training for their businesses and according to their requirement. Some techniques consist purely on acquisition of knowledge, some focus on skills development of its staff, some even focus on sentimental aspects of the employees and their relationships with others. Few activities seek to integrate all the above discussed methods. Whatever method or technique an organisation chooses for employee skills training and development, soft skills remains the must have requirement. Increased competition and changing nature of technical jobs and services made soft skills very crucial for the survival of any business. Armstrong (2008) places a great importance on the design of soft skills training policy because of its significance of effects on the business. It is an important issue and requires close attention to the organisation’s mission, ethical stance and strategic vision. All the policies should be aligned to the company’s mission and objectives.
The organisation cannot ignore the effect of change on soft skills training. It is obvious that the change in culture and the structure of an organisation has a direct affect on requirements of soft skills and its training. Organisations need to train their employees for the accommodation of their new responsibilities. Organisational structure changes require soft skills to promote improved communication and understanding of accountability. According to Hussay, (2000), training and development is an important technique for the organization when change is eminent. Training according to change provides organizations flexibility, adaptability and durability required for growth and survival(Redman and Wilkinson, 2006) (Stewart 1991). According to Mullins (2007) there have been radical changes in the business environment in the past years. Companies face pressure put by increased competition to operate more efficiently and effectively and show a good return on resources, time and money invested (Carnell 2007). Ability to replicate both hard and soft innovations within ever diminishing time scales, places the creative and effective management of change well towards top of the core competencies required by organisations (Paton and McCalmon, 2008) (Carnell 2007). With the continuous change in the business environment, continuous improvement is required that means continuous learning, training and development (Mullins, 2007). Ulrich (1998 cited by Mullins, 2007) mentioned the greatest challenge an organisation faces is to adapt and adjust to change. The pace of change is accelerating. The knowledge and skills gained in yesterday will no longer be sufficient to equip a person for a lifetime. As an organisation has to continuously improve its performance in order to compete and grow, training and development can generate far reaching changes in both the individual and the environment (Hawkins, 1994 cited in Armstrong, 2006).
The requirement of soft skills differs from business to business and industry to industry. The value and need of soft skills training and development has been widely recognised by many organisations over the years. These softer skills are now a business requirement.
2.5. The importance of employee role in enhancing business performance and customer satisfaction
Organization’s performance largely depends upon the employees that work in it (Pyzdek, 2003). They are the key resource and considered as capital for any organization. HR managers are involved in planning and implementing programs designed to improve the performance of their employees to improve the effectiveness of the organization. It’s their responsibility to group together employees’ activities in such a way that encourages integration and cooperation (Haunchild, 2003) (Pyzdek, 2003). Their role also include improving the quality of the employment relationship by creating a climate of trust, getting better results from the organization, teams and individuals by measuring and managing performance within agreed framework of objectives and competence requirements; assessing and improving performance; identifying and satisfying learning and development needs (Armstrong, 2006).
Employee relations’ as a term remains ambiguous, with no clear boundaries. Employee relations are concerned with maintaining relationship between employees and employers that contribute to satisfactory productivity, motivation, and morale. It also takes into account employees work issues; preventing and resolving problems involving individuals which arise out of or affect work situations. Historically, the motivation behind all the research conducted on employee relations and satisfaction in the past few decades, was the belief that it influenced employee productivity and retention (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). Studies have usually found a relationship between employee satisfaction and organisation’s productivity (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). In later years, an additional issue arose: the influence of employee satisfaction on customer satisfaction in predominantly service oriented settings. There are many scholars like Ryan, Schmit and Johnson (1996 cited by Allen and Wilburn, 2002), Wiley and Brookes (2000 cited in Armstrong, 2008) and others who researched and studied the relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Satisfied employees produce satisfied customers (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). When organizations value their employees, they make more contributions, are more productive and work more effectively and efficiently. If they are satisfied with their job and work environment, they will serve the customer needs more carefully and efficiently. The authors conceptualized the drivers of overall employee satisfaction falling into five categories: work, pay, promotion, supervision and co-workers (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). Others studied four categories of drivers of overall employee satisfaction: the employee, job itself, the company and the environment. These have control or can influence the employee characteristics, thus work behaviours. As characterized by CIPD, employee relations can be distinguished mainly as a set of skills or a philosophy, rather than as a function of management or well defined activity area. Employee relations competencies and skills are still considered by businesses as essential for attaining benefits such as performance by focusing on employee involvement, engagement and commitment (Web 9). Employee relations can also be strategic in terms of managing business risk. In her research, Ostroff (1992 cited by Topolosky, 2000) proposed that satisfaction and happiness of the workforce improves organizational effectiveness. Businesses are becoming aware that people issues are business issues. Organisations that alienate workers through their practices will be less effective and efficient. Jones (1996 cited by Topolosky, 2000) noted that today’s managers recognize that they cannot achieve their business objectives without the focus and commitment of the entire workforce.
Effectiveness of employees can be enhanced by designing and developing a strategy and implementing training programs (Hoyle, 1995 cited by Burns, 1998). Employee training can improve employee satisfaction and offer the customer a higher level of service, making them feel valued by the organisation (Kotler, 2003). With the ever changing business environment and intensifying organisational structures; hard skills or technical skills are no longer considered sufficient. Employers need to train their employees with more soft skills at all occupational levels. Employees do not have to simply perform repetitive tasks any longer; now they often work in teams, take great responsibility for quality, solve problems and work with advanced technologies. Inter personal skills demand has increased with organisational changes, partly because of reduction in the degree to which work is organised through rules, procedures and supervision. People skills are needed for everyday life as much as they’re needed for work (Beardwell and Claydon, 2007). Soft skills are also concerned with working with people. It is difficult for someone with under developed skills specifically interpersonal skills to engage effectively with customers and even colleagues. Soft skills for employees refer to a very diverse range of abilities such as self-awareness, analytical thinking, team-building skills, flexibility, ability to communicate effectively, creativity, problem-solving skills, listening skills, diplomacy and change-readiness (Pont, 2003). Good soft skills also include the ability of people to balance the commercial needs of their company with the individual needs of their staff. Ryan’s (1995) research has suggested that workers need to make decisions on their own and work as members of teams. Employers are considering the role that effective soft skill performance can play in employees helping to achieve this and accomplish organizational goals. Businesses make sure that everybody in the organisation operates flexibly in the response to change and provides for effective communication and decision making. In today’s competitive business environment, organisations need to be flexible towards their employees and engage them in decision making process. There is a great need for good communication and coordination between employees and employers and among employees themselves (Pont, 2003). Organisations are moving to informal work environment and encouraging more employee participation. Organisations are decentralizing their structure and improving their culture by empowering employees. Their involvement is considered an important policy by businesses and processes are being designed to engage the support, understanding and contribution of all employees in an organisation and their commitment to its objectives (Kitching, 2007) (Korczynskil, 2002).
Manager’s role is very important while dealing with employees (Weighman, 2004). Managing employee conflicts, handling their grievances, and solving issues and problems between employees are few of the important roles mangers have to play apart from motivating and leading them. HR managers are responsible for designing duties and responsibilities of each employee and their relationships that exist with other people in the organisation. They are involved in planning and implementing programmes designed to improve the employee effectiveness. Managers’ skills are very important when dealing with the employees’ issues (Watson, 2006) (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006). Managers need good communication and negotiating skills to deal with employees problems. Managers can overcome the employee related problems by questioning, interviewing, surveying and interpreting employee attitudes, communications and conflict management. Managers can also prevail by developing and implementing policies and practices to suit the organisation’s goals and the character of its workforce. The first skill for managers to understand and practice is interpersonal communications, because it is the foundation for all actions in the workplace and it allows the supervisor or manager an opportunity to build relationships with the overall workgroup without alienating anyone in the work environment. Working with diverse groups of people requires a tremendous amount of interaction (Watson, 2006). If these interactions are positive, they can help create the right workplace climate, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. In addition, because interactions occur daily, it is important for managers to have the respect of their employees. If this respect is absent, the supervisor or manager will have a difficult time getting things accomplished (Armstrong, 2008). The managers can influence their employees by being a good leader. A leader builds up his employees’ abilities and skills by rewarding them with more responsibility as they become more competent (Watson, 2006). Developing employees becomes more significant element in performance when organisations compete on the basis of quality and adopt work practices such as employee involvement and team working. Employees participate meaningfully in systems where their contribution is encouraged.
2.6. Sales Training:
Sales training is given to those responsible for approaching and actively engaging prospective customers (Salisbury, 1998). Professional sales training and development can often be the difference between failure and success in a professional sales career of an employee. One of the key characteristics of top performing sales people is that they invest their prime time actively engaged in prospecting and/or selling. Training professional selling skills of employee can not only benefit employee but overall company performance. Finding business opportunities and converting those into sales requires effective training and active participation from the employee (Salisbury, 1998). The typical selling process includes the following steps: approach, interview, presentation, negotiating resistance and closing the sale. Selling is much debated activity and sales training varies in its attempt to satisfy everyone’s differing views and theories on what makes a good salesperson. If the company understands this then it could be more objective in what training is required. Sales persons must discipline themselves to continuously enhance their selling skills and improve their performance (Karevski, 2005). Practicing sales techniques will increase your sales success and boost your income, confidence and professionalism. Training sales people gives customers the assurance that the company value and respect their time. Knowledgeable, educated sales people add value. Customers trust and view them as business partners. Customers feel their needs come first when trained salespersons work with them. The trained sales force produces more with confidence. In addition, they’re aware of trends in the market, technology, industry and environment. This knowledge enhances their ability to sell and the reputation of the company (Karevski, 2005).
2.7. Customer satisfaction
Soft skills are also concerned with working customers, ensuring their satisfaction with the intention of retaining them and delivering high quality products and services. Customer satisfaction is an important performance indicator and is a measure of whether company’s products and services meet customer needs and their expectations (Hill, 2003). In order to be successful, companies must look into and try to meet their customers’ needs and wants. This is the reason why many researchers and scholars have constantly and continuously stressed on the significance of not only customer satisfaction but customer loyalty and retention as well. Many researchers have looked into the importance of customer satisfaction. Kotler (2003) defines satisfaction in regards to person’s feelings resulting from comparing a product’s perceived performance in relation to his expectations. Hansemark and Albinsson (2004), define satisfaction as an overall customer attitude towards a business that produces and sell products and provides services to its customers. They further describe satisfaction in regards to products they bought or services they have received, as an emotional reaction to the difference between what customers anticipate and what they receive, regarding the fulfilment of some need, goal or desire. Customer satisfaction is vital because many scholars researched that customer satisfaction has a positive direct or indirect effect on an organisation’s profitability. Due to this, the consequences of customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction must be considered by a business. Customer satisfaction is very important for an organisation to be successful because of its effect on the productivity. The importance of customers and customer service has been highlighted by many researchers. According to Zairi (2000), customers are the main purpose of what an organization does as it depends upon them. Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. According to Scott (2002), customer service is series of activities to develop and improve customer satisfaction level e.g. meeting customers’ expectations. Customer service is definitely an important matter for organisations where relationships last for years and involve significant amount of finance and materials. Customers expect to be dealt professionally and honestly. They expect to be treated with politeness and respect (Hyde et al. 2005).
The purpose of an organisations existence is to earn profits and pursue growth and stability. And this can be achieved by providing high quality products and services to its customers, in other words satisfying their needs and demands. It is very important for a business to create and retain a customer. If a business successfully creates and keeps customers in a cost effective way, it will make a profit while continuing to survive and thrive. Customer satisfaction does have a positive effect on an organisation’s profitability. According to Hoyer and MacInnis (2001), satisfied customers form the foundation of any successful business as customer satisfaction leads to repeat purchase, brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth. Satisfied customers buy more often and do more business with the company. There are many factors that affect customer satisfaction. According to Hokanson (1995), these factors include employee friendliness, courteousness, politeness, helpful behaviour, timeliness, competitive pricing, service quality, good value, billing clarity and quick service. Customer satisfaction can involve such variables as price, lead times, conformance, responsiveness, reliability, professionalism and convenience. Organisation by organisation and even across product lines, the importance of each variable can differ drastically. The largest contributor to customer satisfaction is something the organisation can’t fully control: the customer’s perception. In the business of pleasing customers, perceptions are fact. Customer expectations are continuously increasing. Organisations have to continuously update their policies with the changing customer expectations and perceptions. Organisations also have to make that sure customer expectations are clearly met and their enquiries and issues are timely resolved (Cook, 2004).
Increased competition and rise in consumer expectations have forced the businesses to continually provide high quality services and improve the value of its clients. Organisations are paying more attention than before on customer satisfaction. Today, it would be difficult to find a company that doesn’t proudly claim to be a customer-oriented, customer-focused, or even-customer driven enterprise. Business leaders must realize that pursuing customer satisfaction is a critical and strategic decision. It’s not something an organisation does simply to satisfy a standard, it’s something an organisation does to stay in business. Organisation should make sure that employees are involved in customer satisfaction (Cook, 2004). All personnel have the capability to influence customer satisfaction at some level. Management must communicate exactly how personnel will be expected to contribute. Organisations must train their employees to identify problems, deliver quality service and deal with customers’ problems with high interpersonal skills. Changing environment and increased competition has forced the organisations to plan and implement a strategy that helps to create, deliver and communicate superior customer service (Cochran, 2003).
2.8. Measuring Customer Satisfaction
In order to get an accurate picture of the service quality delivered, an organisation measure customer satisfaction and experience. It is the quickest and most precise way to get proper results. Customer satisfaction is in the customer’s mind and may or may not confirm to the reality of the situation. Customer’s view of an organization’s performance will be perception. Customer satisfaction measurement is therefore about measuring how customer perceives an organization’s performance (Hill and Alexander, 2003). Competitors that are prospering in the new global economy recognize that measuring customer satisfaction is a key. Only by doing so can they hold on to the customers they have and understand how to better attract new customers. The competitors, who will be successful, recognize that customer satisfaction is a critical strategic weapon that can bring increased market share and increased profits. In recent years, organizations of all types and sizes have increasingly come to understand the importance of customer satisfaction (Cochran, 2003). As markets are shrinking and competition is increasing, companies are trying hard to boost customer satisfaction and keep their current customers rather than devoting additional resources to chase potential new customers because of high cost in attracting new customers than retaining existing ones. It is widely understood that it is far less costly to entertain and increase satisfaction of existing customers than it is to win new ones and it is becoming accepted that there is a strong link between customer satisfaction, customer retention and profitability. For many organizations customer satisfaction is itself the measure of success. Customer satisfaction has therefore become the key operational goal for many organizations (Armstrong, 2008).
According to most of the scholars and researches (Mullins, 2007) (Armstrong, 2006), the main purpose to measure customer satisfaction is finding customer’s perception about the company and company’s standing in customer’s eyes. Measuring customer satisfaction helps in finding out customer needs and determining customers’ problems. It also assists in improving product and service quality which in turn leads to more customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction measurement has both direct and indirect benefits for an organisation. Customer satisfaction measurement provides objective targets and metrics of successful customer transactions. It identifies at which level or process business fails to meet customer expectations. It also helps in setting targets and goals for management to assess performance. Most importantly it provides continuous, reliable and sound method to acquire quantitative and qualitative customer data. Measuring customer satisfaction also effects indirectly on organisational performance. It reinforces a message to staff that a high level of customer service delivery is a high priority for the business. It provides psychological support for employees that the company is dedicated to finding and solving the root causes of the problems that an employee deals with every day. Recognizing client’s most critical satisfaction determinants enables an organisation to better focus on resources (Kotler, 2003). Some organizations have invested heavily in improving performance in areas that make a strong contribution to customer satisfaction (Kotler, 2003). Organizations have put a lot of effort in recognizing the value of customers. But what is the result of all this effort and investment? How an organisation does know if it is succeeding in satisfying customers? It is widely accepted principle that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. This principle applies equally to customer satisfaction. Many companies do not measure customer satisfaction at all. Many companies that do so, they do it in inadequate ways. Still in today’s business world, many organisations rely on outdated and unreliable measures of customer satisfaction.
HR professionals have been researching a range of techniques on how to measure customer satisfaction. Most prominent that have been selected and promoted are gap measures, scales like letter grade, expectations scales and numeric scales with anchored endpoints (Gerson, 1993) (Kessler, 1996). Attitude survey is another way to measure the degree to which customers and employees are satisfied with company policies, procedures and practices. These surveys can also assist in employee satisfaction measurement along with customer satisfaction measurement by giving aid in getting opinions on matters such as employees work, pay, their treatment by management, their views about the company, working environment and facilities provided by an organisation. The most common ways to measure satisfaction however, are benchmarking with standards and comparing the customers’ perception of an experience with their expectations. This can be done by taking interviews, drawing questionnaires, by way of focus group or discussions.
Although there are benefits in measuring satisfaction for organisations, however, there are also concerns and issues that cannot be ignored. Many researchers like Rajola (2003) still debate that it is not possible to measure customer satisfaction properly despite different ways of measurement approaches as the results are ambiguous because of its qualitative nature. Other drawbacks are worth looking into like human nature, customers’ perceptions, changes in expectations, biased in views, availability of time and resources. Most of all the outcomes can generate conflicting results which gets confusing for the organisation. The companies must be careful in assumptions and exactly how to get the measurement with a clear and accurate sense of what needs to be measured and how to collect and analyze the data. Quantifying the measurement is also an issue. Careful consideration must be given to what the organization hopes to accomplish and how the information will be used (Hill, 2003).
2.9. Training Evaluation
Everybody in the organisation has their role to fulfil at some time at and every encouragement must be given to them to do so. All stakeholders need feedback. For employees it is important for their progress and advancement, for developers and designers it is needed on program design, for trainers it is necessary to check whether development is on the right path, facilitators require it to check whether delivery needs any adjustments, customer’s need it whether the program is successful. Without such feedback, a program may not reach expectations (Armstrong, 2006). Evaluation is one of the many ways to provide that feedback, especially when it comes to training and development of employees. Evaluation is a process of establishing the worth or value of something (Rae, 2002). Evaluation of training is a process of gathering information with which to make decisions about training activities (Sloman, 1999). Businesses apply performance appraisal evaluation to measure employee work performance and effectiveness, which can help in defining and developing training needs for the organisations. Many training programs fail to deliver the expected organizational benefits. Having a well-structured measuring system in place can help you determine where the problem lies. It is important that this is done carefully so that the decisions can be based upon sound evidence (Mullins, 2007). The decisions to be made will need to take into account a number of aspects of the organizational context and future organizational plans, and thus the evaluation process is usually one of providing decision makers with information, rather than actually making the decisions. The process of evaluation usually affects the view of people concerned with or affected by the training. That the training event is being evaluated will encourage some to think that its future is under review, other may think it must be important; otherwise they wouldn’t be spending money on evaluating it. This may encourage close involvement, cooperation and coordination. Training evaluation may also help in improving quality of training activities which in turn results in greater benefits. As with customer satisfaction measurement, evaluation of training programs consumes valuable time and resources. Skilled and experienced professional are needed if an organisation has to measure the effectiveness of training programs. Evaluation is not a singular exercise but an integral part of the training and development process, and should be responsibility of number of role holders in an organisation (Wilkinson et al. 2002). Evaluation process is initiated early in the training cycle, almost at the very beginning if training need analysis is seen as part of the evaluation process itself. Design of what, how and when the evaluation process should be integrated with the training must take place at the same time that the training itself is being designed (Wilson, 2006).
The organizations have to understand the need for evaluation. The reasons for training evaluation are to provide response on quality control over the design and delivery of training programs. Evaluation provides feedback to professionals who train the employees, about the effectiveness of particular activities. Organisations can find out whether training and other related objectives are being met. It can help in development of the program being run and in the planning of future ones. The second most important reason for training evaluation is to relate the training policies and practices to organizational goals. Decisions need to be made about whether training is the best method of achieving change. Usually training is not enough on its own, and information about the best way of combining training with other organizational interventions is needed (Bramley, 2003). Despite its usefulness, there is evidence that training evaluation is often inconsistent (Schulz, 1990 cited by Wilkinson et al. 2002). This may be because of insufficient resources, insufficient time, lack of expertise, trust in training solutions and lack of methods and tools (McEvoy and Buller, 1990 cited by Watson, 2006).
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