Microenterprise for employee learning and development needs

Subject: Economics
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Introduction

To determine some of the employee’s learning and development needs in microenterprises, a company was chosen and interviews were conducted by the managing director and current employees. Secondary research was done by studying their website and academic sources. The selected firm for this project is GottaBe! – An advertising agency located on the ground floor of 11 College Place, Southampton. The company boasts high-profile organizations such as Norton, Ahmad Tea EasyJet, and the Western Union among others as its clients (GottaBe! 2016). Before the interviews and use of company resources were done, the necessary permissions were obtained from Mr. Tomasz Dyl, the managing director. Dyl was also interviewed, and that highlights his willingness for the organization to be part of the analysis to determine the training needs of microenterprises. Additionally, an interview was conducted on one of the staff from the same enterprise to enable further analysis.

Employee Learning and Development

Training and development of employees are among the most important roles played by human resources departments. When organizations are involved in employee development activities, it shows that they care about their employees (Hameed and Waheed, 2011). As a result, these employees work harder and are motivated.

Learning in organizations is a continuous process, and much of it stems from day-to-day workplace experiences (Armstrong, 2009, p. 566). On the other hand, experiential learning is supported by a supportive climate in companies and instances when individuals are helped to identify their training needs. In the context of GottaBe, they have efficient management and a perfect understanding of their business environment. This understanding is highlighted by their success in the UK for using efficient marketing strategies. On the firm’s website, GottaBe insists that every marketing campaign it has handled has always been according to the client’s needs (GottaBe, 2016). However, some gaps exist in its staff learning and development and which need to be addressed.

Which are the Employee Learning Needs at Gotta be

A learning need in an organization is often defined as the difference between the present level of performance and the required (Maurer, 2002). The required level can be of the two forms: either where a new benchmark of performance is entailed or where the current performance has gone below the expected. Noe (2010) argues that learning needs happen on an as-needed basis because problems are not easily predicted. Usually, the learning needs are mostly defined at any of the three levels. The first may be an organizational need following technological growth, new legislation, or a key restructuring. The second level is as a result of a job need following a change of specifications or requirements. Lastly, it may be as a consequence of an individual need following the below-par performance.

Bray (2009) defines learning as the process through which new skills, attitudes are acquired so that individuals can perform a task they could not perform before or do it efficiently. From the interview conducted by the managing director, Dyl alluded to one particular training need. The growth of social media has affected the budget allocation of Gottabe’s clients and as a result, the enterprise had introduced experiential marketing as a solution to the challenge. Dyl defines this approach as a mixture of experience with aspects of social media. However, still, a gap that needs to be filled in that aspect is evident.

The business environment in which GottaBe operates is very competitive and therefore, very qualified, motivated, and committed staff is required. On the other hand, the technologies that the company employs are swiftly becoming perishable meaning that they are always changing. In that context, there is a critical need that staff learning and development is varied to incorporate the different requirements of the business. The learning need is brought about by the technological changes taking place in the market. For example, the Managing Director identifies the growth of social media and the effect this has on the marketing budgets of the clients. In that context, training is essential so that the staffs are competent in that aspect. Having the required skills to deal with job challenges has often been highlighted as a source of intrinsic motivation (Kuvaas and Dysvik, 2009; Lin, 2007). Therefore, apart from enhancing competition among the staff, learning and development would ensure that the business effectively navigates the competitive environment by motivating its employees.

For Gotta be, the primary source of learning is coaching by the management who may sometimes not have the necessary skills to conduct effective training.  Outside consultants are required to do training consistent with the changing business and technological environment. From the interviews conducted, it is apparent that there is a big gap in that aspect.

There is a high turnover of staff at Gotta be, and that is a challenge in itself. From the interview with the managing director, it was noted that some of the staff had moved on, and new people were coming in.  For example, the Business Development Manager has worked there for just a few days and is already coaching other staff. The primary challenge in this situation is that the high turnover rate makes it very hard to conduct employee training and development efficiently. New workers need to be inducted into the firm, and they need guidance before they can reach competent levels. On the other hand, the primary source of coaching is the managing director who has a very busy schedule. He is undertaking a course in CIM, is taking lectures at a university, and is responsible for coaching the staff. The Managing Director is also responsible for providing the induction of the new staff. According to Dyl, he likes “welcoming the new staff into the family.” Therefore, provided with these challenges, it is quite difficult to conduct effective coaching or training. Additionally, it is apparent that Dyl does not like delegating roles and responsibilities, and that is a problem.

The exit of Britain from the European Union has a significant effect on the business, and that forms part of the learning need. Dyl points out how the referendum has affected advertisement campaign funding and how that has meant reduced revenues for Gotta be. However, when the situation is looked at from another perspective, it is quite apparent that there are legal imperatives relevant to the business, and they form part of the learning needs. Brexit means that there are several laws regarding business in the European Union that have changed. They have implications for advertising – the main source of income for the organization. In that context, the staffs need training on what has changed regarding laws that directly affect the business.

How the Learning Needs are met

The learning needs can be fulfilled by an organization in various ways. Learning can happen through a training course, coaching, or even mentorship by the manager (Bray, 2009, p. 34). At Gotta be, employee learning and development are achieved through coaching by fellow staff and the management. According to an employee at the firm, the managing director, who is also a lecturer is responsible for determining the training needs of the employees and provides such training. Additionally, during the appraisal process, the employees at the microenterprise are also encouraged to identify their own training needs, which the management would then consider. However, the goals of training and development are not very clear, and that constitutes some of its weaknesses in that context. While the Managing Director contends that each new employees discuss their training and development goals with their line manager, there are still gaps that exist because of the high employee turnover noted from the interview with the Business Development Manager. According to Fillery-Travis and Lane, (2006), studies had shown that internal coaching was more effective especially when it was conducted following some other training (p. 34). Therefore, some other form of employee development for it to be effective should support coaching.

At Gotta be, the employees are provided with outside learning opportunities and e-learning. The Managing Director contends that junior employees have up to a day each week where they can participate in outside learning. The learning and development align with the company’s strategy in the fact that each employee is provided with a training budget highlights this point. However, its importance is not underscored as it is supposed.

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To determine whether the learning needs are being met, the following four parameters are typically considered according to Bray (2009). The first one is quality – the staff must be able to deliver new phases of quality. From the interview, it is evident that there are some rough edges when it comes to providing quality in the face of rapid technological and business environment changes. Therefore, the gap needs to be closed to ensure that new levels of quality are achieved. The second is the quantity where they should handle more items or orders than before. This second parameter has been difficult to achieve with Brexit effects. The businesses, both local and in the EU have been affected by the referendum removing the UK from the economic bloc.  For that reason, companies are more reluctant to spend on marketing, as they are uncertain of the future. Overall, the quantity parameter highlights a learning need in the organization. Thirdly, they should also do more without any additional costs and lastly, take minimal time in task handling. For Gotta be, the employees have been performing relatively well, but job handling has not changed also indicating that the current learning needs of the employees are not being met effectively.

Policies and Measures that GottaBe could take to Overcome Weaknesses

Why is it important for GottaBe to have an effective learning and development system? First, it would help the advertising agency identify some of the skills that they have and those, which they do not. Additionally, the policy would assist in determining which training and development opportunities are available for the organization. For GottaBe, the primary form of employee learning and available development is coaching by the Managing Director. The situation highlights a weakness that needs addressing. On the other hand, an effective policy would raise the profile of the organization and make it attractive to qualified and high-quality recruits (D’Amato and Herzfeldt, 2008; Ellett, Ellis, and Westbrook, 2007). Additionally, such an effective policy would also increase the retention of good employees. At the moment, it is quite apparent that the organization has a significant weakness when it comes to employee retention. There is a high turnover of employees with two new staff expected to join the team and the current Business Development Manager having worked now for a few days.

Gotta has several areas that need to be changed in terms of employee learning and development. The weaknesses observed can be overcome by coming up with appropriate policies and measures. First, the enterprise would have to determine how it grows teams and manages its learning. Additionally, it is also important to assess the learning culture that the organization ascribes to. For Gotta be, there is a policy in place. The policy describes the group of people that are eligible for learning and development. According to Dyl, he mentors the top management while the other subordinate staff is provided with a budget, and learning goals are set in liaison with the line manager. However, the gaps in the policy can be improved. The organization must demonstrate its willingness to develop potential by having better programs that include outside professionals (Trasorras, Weinstein, and Abratt, 2009). Currently, the coaching provided by the Managing Director is not sufficient to adequately fulfill the training needs of the staff.

On the other hand, the organization should institute policies that define those that are eligible for training and the most important areas that such training may cover. The current company policy only covers issues of bribery. It does not mention instances of learning and development, and so there is a need to come up with a codified system on the same to ensure the exercise is given the necessary attention it deserves. Additionally, such a policy will define the kind of learning and development that is available and on what basis it would be conducted – would it be partly or wholly funded by the company? In an interview with the Managing Director, Dyl alludes to a kind of an arrangement where the line managers sit and set learning goals and set a budget for the new staff. However, it needs to be codified in employee handbooks.

Training processes and policies must be well defined.  Issues such as the appraisal exercises, qualification, potential identification, personal development programs, and succession planning have to be identified. It is of particular importance that relevant links are provided between appraisal and learning needs. The exercise should determine eligibility for training.  Such exercise highlights the weaknesses in some employees. The shortcomings need addressing. The measures and policies that would be instituted would help define the responsibilities of the manager, the staff, and the development professionals in determining the learning needs. Having such a measure in place ensures that the roles and responsibilities of each office are clearly defined.

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Training has always been touted as an important way that human resources are developed, and e-learning has emerged as a cost-effective and efficient way for all sizes of organizations. The start of the 21st century has been characterized by the advent of new information and communication technologies and increased globalization. As a result, businesses have been forced to adapt to the requirements of the skill-based and knowledge-based economy. Faced with pressures of increasingly competitive business contexts, enterprises, especially the small ones have been called to implement strategies that are supported by e-business applications so that they can effectively compete with others in the market (Roy and Raymond, 2008, p. 89). Among these applications is e-learning where the management aims to ensure continuous assimilation of skills and knowledge in the places of work by utilizing web technologies. GottaBe will accrue several benefits from employing e-learning in its staff learning and development initiatives. This includes the cost that would be incurred traveling outside the agency and actual training costs. Additionally, the learning would incorporate appropriate timing for GottaBe meaning that replacement would not be necessary. On the other hand, this kind of learning will partly solve problems that the business is currently facing with employee turnover. Servage (2005) contends that e-learning contributes to a higher employee retention rate. Likewise, Rosenberg (2002) mentions that e-learning supports faster dissemination of training materials and dependable distribution of course contents. GottaBe needs such a solution that ensures high-quality learning at an affordable cost and which can be offered conveniently without having to interrupt the normal working hours. For a small organization like GottaBe, the time taken in training exercises should be kept to a minimum to ensure that other important business activities are not neglected. With e-learning, the training time is significantly reduced and according to Pantaziz (2002), productivity can be achieved. At the moment, it is imperative that learning and development are achieved in the face of increasing competition. Also, while the fact that new talents prefer to work in bigger corporations, GottaBe should not spend so much of their time and resources on employees who in the long run may choose to move on to other greener pastures after receiving the learning. Therefore, it would be in their best interest if the microenterprise incorporates e-learning in addition to coaching based on the fact that it is a cheaper method and would fulfill most of the objectives and benefits of learning and development.

The Feasibility for Microenterprises to meet its Employees’ Learning and Development

Needs and how these differ from those of SME or Large Companies

Microenterprises are characterized by a handful of employees and minimal budgets, which constrain some of their training goals. SMEs and larger organizations have incentives to budget and create policies for staffs learning and development. For example, they have a bigger number of employees unlike microenterprises and they have a better chance of continuity as opposed to microenterprises. Antonacopoulou (2000) contends that employee development depends on the organizational culture, promotional opportunities, and the attitudes of the management personnel. In that context, the bigger organizations are better placed than microenterprises to conduct employee development activities. However, micro-enterprises can still successfully perform employee development activities by concentrating on cost-effective programs.

GottaBe has few employees who handle most of the tasks of the organization. The Business Development Manager also serves as a mentor and a coach for the organization in addition to having other important tasks. In such a situation, such a manager would not place much importance on training and development. Contrary to this position, larger organizations have dedicated departments and managers that handle employee development (Hameed and Waheed, 2011).

On the other hand, microenterprises have a problem attracting talented staff, and that in a way affects their learning and development initiatives. Microenterprises compete in the same job market as SMEs and other bigger corporations. Most often, the right people would choose the larger businesses over, the smaller enterprises for reasons that range from opportunities for growth to job security and better perks. At GottaBe, this fact is apparent, as there is a high turnover of employees. The current Business Development Manager is on the job for just a few days and was hired based on their friendship with the Managing Director. Regardless, the high turnover and inability to attract critical talent into the enterprise significantly impact their learning and development programs. Every time the firm loses a member of their staff, they are forced to start all over in terms of coaching and orientation when another individual is recruited.

Unlike larger organizations that have considerable resources to spend on training and development as well as in other critical areas, microenterprises do not have such a privilege. A small organization like GottaBe spends most of its budget in acquiring the business and staying afloat.  If there is a budget like in the case of GottaBe, it is small compared to that of SMEs and large corporations to adequately attract the necessary talent.  Most of the candidates are now drawn to opportunities for personal growth through the acquisition of new skills.  Therefore, the fact that bigger companies have better learning and development opportunities makes them attractive.

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Conclusion

In an analysis conducted to determine employee learning and development, it was found that GottaBe has several weaknesses that need to be addressed so that it can compete effectively in the market. Some of the learning needs that the organization has included: the changing communication technology such as social media, legislative as a result of Brexit, organizational as there is a lack of an effective framework where coaching is the primary source of learning. Some of the challenges the microenterprise faces include a high turnover of staff and that in a way affects learning and development programs in the firm. Additionally, the enterprise utilizes coaching by the Managing Director as its primary source of knowledge and is not sufficient to cater to the needs of the employees.

To take care of the weaknesses that the organization faces, policies and measures include a description of the individuals that are eligible for the training, the method, and the resources to be committed. Lastly, it is paramount that e-learning is incorporated fully to take advantage of the benefits associated with them.

The factors that determine the feasibility of learning and development in microenterprises include the attitude of the management, the budget allocated, and employee retention. When microenterprises are compared with other kinds of businesses, it is evident that training and development are more feasible for the latter than it is for the former.

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