People performance is a critical enabling factor that influences the potential of an organisation to achieve its objectives. Successful organisations ensure that they maintain an environment which enables the full potential of their people to be realised. They also ensure that they align their staff management objectives with the organisation’s objectives.
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Training is an important activity undertaken to ensure employees at all levels have the necessary skills to carry out their roles effectively and to ensure the achievement of the organisations objectives. Of fundamental importance is the identification of the value that training adds to the performance of the organisation.
Specifically this relates to how the organisation decides what training is needed by its staff, how the training is carried out, how the organisation evaluates the effectiveness of its education and training activities and what processes are put in place to improve the delivery and effectiveness of education and training programs.
The management of the organisation want to know:
At the time of the writing of this paper, few organisations in the parks industry:
Over the past 5 years there have been dramatic changes in the training arena. Many companies who once conducted their own training now recognise that training is not their core business and utilize the services of the fast developing training industry.
This move is in keeping with the Federal Government Training Reform Agenda, aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Australian industry on the international market. The main outcomes from this agenda have been the development of National competency standards and associated training curriculum for a number of industry groups.
Best practice in training staff for park management is required because both Federal and State Governments now require park management agencies to:
Park customers require parks agencies to:
This paper will discuss and explore:
Relevant terms are defined as:
Staff training: “the process of developing the skills of employees”
Competence:”the ability to deliver a service to a prescribed minimum standard”
In 1995, ANZECC commenced the National Benchmarking and Best Practice Programs aimed at five key areas. The (then) Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Victoria took the lead responsibility for determining the best practice framework for staff training. The objective of the project was to determine current best practice in training processes to assist agenices to develop training programs to meet their needs.
The project scope covered:
The project was to result in a report which could be used by member agencies of ANZECC to introduce best practice training processes and to facilitate the development of quality standards (and common competencies) for training of staff involved in the management of National Parks and Protected areas. The report was also to contribute to the development of national training standards through NCRMIRG.
The methodology used was to:
There were several project limitations. The project brief did not include a comparison of the content of training programs(as this has already been done by the Natural and Cultural Resources Management Industry Reference Group in its Curriculum Review) but rather required the examination of staff training processes from a strategic viewpoint. The project leader’s time was limited to approximately one week and the report was limited to key points.
|Adelaide||South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources|
|Sydney||New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service|
|Melbourne||Tasmanian Department of Environment and Land Management, Victorian Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (name at the time of interview), Australian Fire Authorities Council|
|Phone survey||Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, ACT Department of Urban Services – Parks and Conservation.|
Initial research was conducted into findings of previous benchmarking projects on staff training and into current concepts of best practice in staff training. It revealed that most organisations measure and assess training inputs rather than training outputs (or how the training was conducted rather than the benefit gained through training). No park agencies and very few other organisations maintain thorough accounting records of staff training and are able to conduct a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of training effectiveness (although some agencies have conducted a cost-benefit analysis of individual courses. Cost benefit analysis is undertaken in the tertiary education sector but the process used is not valid for measuring staff training in organisations for whom training is not core business.
The organisation’s vision, mission and key performance indicators are determined and programs to meet these objectives are planned. The period over which these apply varies with individual organisations. A common factor is that they are reviewed annually as a part of the business/budget planning process.
As the performance of staff is a major influence on organisational performance, it is important that the training process is closely linked with the business planning process.
The organisation’s key performance indicators (or critical success factors) set a standard against which the performance of the organisation is measured. Programs to meet these standards are developed.
The organisation must have access to specific competencies to effectively deliver the required programs and these are determined. Routine competencies required by individual staff are included.
Looking ahead to the long term achievement of the organisation’s vision and mission, competencies required to deliver anticipated work programs in the future are also identified
Having determined the competencies required to meet its objectives, the organisation then determines the competencies that exist within its workforce. These are obtained through two means – through an analysis of the current performance of staff (annual performance review) and through the identification of the current skill levels staff.
Most organisations now have a performance review process through which the current performance of staff is assessed. Individual staff and workgroups are now required to deliver defined outcomes. Achievement of satisfactory outcomes usually (but not always) indicates a satisfactory level of competence in the task. The non-achievement of outcomes may be attributed to a number of factors. Lack of competence is one factor (amongst others) which may have caused poor performance.
A usual part of the performance review process is the identification (by the staff member or their supervisor) of competencies yet to be attained and a plan for their attainment.
For the organisation to effectively manage the deployment of their human resources, it is necessary to assess the current competencies held by staff. Stored on a data base, this information is then readily available for use when assigning tasks.
The best means of maintaining this data base is to utilize the type of system recommended through the National Training Reform Agenda, where competencies are defined, staff assessed against these and the information is recorded on a data base
Assessment of current competence is only effective if the defined competencies have a “standard of performance” against which the capabilities of the staff can be assessed. This type of assessment is “criterion based” where the subjectivity of the assessment process is reduced. The process must be well managed and the data base kept current.
The maintenance and use of such a data base has two purposes. If the current competence of staff is ascertained prior to delivery of programs, the likelihood of poor performance in program delivery, as a result of lack of competence, is reduced. In addition, the assigning of staff to tasks for which they are not competent may have legal ramifications (for example, Occupational Health and Safety breaches) at a later stage.
Once the competencies held by the workforce are determined, they are measured against those required by the organisation.
A gap is identified between the required competencies of the organisation and the existing competencies of its workforce. Traditionally this was considered to be the organisation’s “training needs”. Nowadays a wider range of options for closing this gap are considered.
The organisation identifies the means by which it intends to obtain the competencies identified by the gap between the required organisational competencies and those held in the existing workforce. This is usually called a workforce management plan.
Options for obtaining the required competencies include outsourcing, job redesign or redistribution, recruitment or the training and development of existing staff. Factors influencing the selection of the appropriate option are the cost-benefit analysis, current management constraints and the current Government direction with regard to workforce management.
The organisation also needs to look beyond the current budget/business planning cycle to the long term achievement of its vision and mission. It needs to plan to have the necessary competencies (either within or outside the current workforce) for the delivery of future programs (succession planning). This information is invaluable to staff when making personal development/career choices
The organisation’s training needs are derived from the above process. They are the required competencies of the organisation, not held by the current staff, for which the training of current staff has been determined as the best means of obtaining them.
Training needs are identified and priorities determined as a part of the organisation’s normal business planning process and as such are reviewed annually.
For the organisation’s training needs to be met efficiently and effectively, there needs to be a clear strategy which addresses the allocation of resources to provide the training. This strategy indicates the level of commitment of the organisation to meet its training needs. Without this statement and a commitment from senior management, the issue of resourcing often arises to become the major impediment to the organisation satisfactorily meeting its training needs.
Training resources can be categorised into financial resources, physical resources and human resources.
Determining “who pays” for the training development and delivery is important and clarification of this issue “up-front” will reduce the incidence of later issues arising.
When preparing business plans/budgets, the responsibility for the delivery of the organisation’s programs is allocated to a particular part of the organisation. This part of the organisation should also ensure that the required training for the delivery of the organisation’s program is determined and funding for training allocated appropriately.
The continuing debate within a number of the ANZECC agencies relating to “corporate” versus “technical” training can be resolved by the application of this model. Where the training need is one identified by an individual or their supervisor, and it relates to a routine part of the person’s job, then the funding for training should be built into the budget for that job.
Where the training need is identified by management and is one which is aimed to impart a change across the organisation, such as the need to train people following the introduction of new technology or a cultural change, then the funding for training should be built into the budget for introducing the change.
Budget issues can arise when corporate change training programs are imposed without making the appropriate funding arrangements.
Physical resources required for training include the training materials (curriculum, lesson plans, videos, self paced packages etc) and the physical environment for the delivery of formal training.
It must be recognised that training is not the core business of most organisations and substantial investment in the development of training materials and training facilities is not considered a wise investment.
Fortunately, in recent years, training has become an established growth industry of its own. In most situations it is now not necessary for the organisation to invest in the development of training material or training facilities as there is a wide range of resources available through organisations for whom training IS core business. These include other like organisations, TAFE colleges, universities, local schools, local community training organisations and the increasing number of registered and non-registered private training providers and consultants.
The best way of obtaining the necessary physical resources (materials, facilities etc) for training is to obtain them on a needs basis. By integrating the organisation’s training requirements with those of the wider training community, training becomes more efficient and duplication of effort is reduced.
Best practice organisations have a culture of continuous learning and are clear about the level of staff involvement expected in the training process. Rather than being the responsibility of a designated training department, training is “everybody’s responsibility”.
A primary motivator for individuals to accept this responsibility is “need”. Through the competency assessment, the individual has identified a need for training in the routine aspects of their work and is more likely to accept the responsibility for organising or participating in training to meet that need.
For corporate change training, the individual’s need has not been identified and it should be remembered that that person is therefore less likely to be motivated to organise or participate in the required training. In this case it is unrealistic to expect staff to drive their own involvement.
Best practice organisations establish a culture where the individual is responsible to a large extent for identifying their own training needs and organising/enrolling in the appropriate training. Such a culture requires the support of a relevant system.
The embodiment of “learning organisation” culture does not negate the need for training roles and responsibilities to be clearly defined. For the organisation’s training needs to be accurately identified and the training resources available in the wider training industry to be effectively integrated, an appropriate training specialist or specialist team is required to “manage” training.
The training specialist/team will be able to provide staff with adequate systems and information for them to be able to:
– integrate training with the organisation’s business planning/budget development process
– identify their own training needs and those of their staff
– access a range of relevant training options
– develop individual training plans based on identified training needs and career aspirations.
Best practice for the development and delivery of training has been well documented. The model below has widespread use throughout the training industry and is used by the National Training Reform Agenda.
The identification of training needs was identified in Section 3.1. Training needs are identified in terms that are behavioural (measurable or quantifiable). Cultural change objectives are also quantified so that their achievement can be measured.
For each identified competency there is a training module which will train staff in the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to meet the standard prescribed for that competency.
A module specification (the written specification of training outcomes, assessment methods and delivery modes) exists for each module to ensure that it is delivered to a prescribed minimum standard. Module specifications are regularly reviewed to ensure that they match the training requirements of the relevant competency standard.
The training is accredited, where possible, by a State or National training authority. Accreditation provides quality assurance for content, delivery and assessment. The employee gains formal recognition and other benefits for the training completed.
Training delivery is through appropriate providers. If the training delivery is to be contracted out then the training specification is included as a contract specification. Providers are regularly evaluated for effectiveness and cost efficiency of delivery.
The training is located as close to the workplace in order to reduce the amount of time spent in travel and off the job. It is delivered in conditions as close as possible to the normal work situation to ensure relevance of the training to the job.
The more flexible modes of delivery, such as distance learning packages (self paced), open learning schemes and computer based training packages are used. The different learning styles and speeds of individuals are catered for.
The relevance of the content and delivery standards are monitored against the module specification.
Delivery is by instructors who are trained as trainers and are also experienced in the subject matter.
Assessment of the individual’s achievement of the learning outcomes (as prescribed in the specification) is conducted during and following the learning process. Assessment is criterion based and is applied only by those who are competent in its use and who are authorised by the organisation to conduct assessments.
The trainee is given the opportunity to practice using the new skills on the job under supervision by the supervisor or an appropriate mentor. The complexity of the work situation where the new skills are to be applied is managed so that the application progresses from the simple to the complex. Problems in the application of the new competencies are addressed at an early stage.
A final assessment of the application of the new competencies occurs during the performance review phase of program delivery where the delivery of the required job outcomes, to the required standard, is assessed.
Where work does not meet the agreed standards, the reason for this shortfall is sought. If lack of competence is the reason, the extent of training required to become competent is determined and the person either referred to further practice under the guidance of a supervisor or mentor or the workforce management planning process revisited.
Organisations who are leaders in training have the following characteristics:
The following are case studies of the application of best practice in training processes and have been selected from a range of suitable case studies.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Australia has introduced a Performance Management Program for all Departmental employees as a part of its overall framework for organisational change.
The Performance Management Program aims for continuous corporate performance improvement through the following process:
The individual’s Performance Management Program is directly linked to the Department’s broad strategic goals, the Group’s (Division) objectives and the District/Branch’s action plans. Performance is assessed at each level on delivery of outcomes.
Within the Performance Management Plans, responsibility for delivery of outcomes and for determining and acquiring work skills is clearly defined and documented
Line managers are required to:
Individuals are responsible for:
Assessment of training outcomes is based on delivery of required job outcomes. Funding for training is program based.
The National Parks Service (Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria) has developed a framework to deal with the routine training of all staff.
In the absence of a set of relevant National competency standards, a comprehensive set of in-house competency standards have been developed covering all aspects of work within the Service. The standards were developed from existing Departmental procedural documents which prescribed the standard of most work within the service. They also related to existing relevant National competency standards such as those from the Tourism and Hospitality industry, the Public Administration sector and the Fire industry.
The competency standards were aligned with the Departments Performance and Remuneration Management (PaRM) system and with the Australian Standards Framework. Where possible, the “standard” referred to an existing NPS or NR+E procedure or guideline.
All staff were surveyed against the standards – selecting those that applied to their job and career aspirations and then, in conjunction with colleagues and supervisor, compared their current performance with that required by the standards. The end result of the process was an individual training plan listing a range of developmental activities the person was required to take responsibility for plus a list of training needs requiring external facilitation (ie courses).
The results of the survey were entered on a spreadsheet and, in consultation with management, priorities for training determined for each park, local areas and the State.
The developments of the Australian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) have, since 1992, been at the forefront of training developments resulting from the National Training Reform Agenda.
AFAC has developed a comprehensive set of generic competency standards which apply to all work conducted within the fire agencies of Australia, including metropolitan, rural volunteer and land management agencies such as the member agencies of ANZECC.
The competency standards are arranged in six levels ranging from recruit level to executive level and align with levels 2 to 7 of the Australian Standards Framework.
Individual agencies determine the selection of competency standards which apply to their personnel, recognising that the needs of individuals within each organisation vary according to their geographic location and job requirements.
Aligned with five levels of the competency standards are five Nationally accredited courses ranging from Certificate II to Advanced Diploma levels. The courses can be delivered in their entirety or by individual modules, of which there are over 200.
Training can only be delivered by registered providers and each fire agency either gained registration, formed a partnership with a TAFE college or arranged to contract in an appropriate provider. Instructors must have completed an instructor module or equivalent and have met the requirements of the relevant module.
Recognising that the outcomes of training, rather than the input, are most important, a comprehensive National assessor program was established to ensure that assessment practices both within and across agencies were comparable.
The assessment process includes “Recognition of Prior Learning” or RPL where a person who can demonstrate current expertise in the content of a module may be granted credit for that module.
One of the most significant parts of the program is the development of distance learning packages for a range of modules. These packages mean that the training can be delivered in the workplace without added costs for travel, accommodation and time lost from work.
The courses were developed with a substantial consultation process and are regularly reviewed for relevance.
The development of the competency standards, accredited courses and the distance packages bring significant benefits to the fire industry. Firefighters from a range of agencies are now closer to using similar language and techniques and their qualifications are portable across agencies. The material is flexible in design and is intended to be used on a needs basis by individual fire agencies.
The Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage in Tasmania has been involved in the development of a competency-based course of training for park rangers. The project was conducted by the Department of Industrial Relations and Training and funded by the Commonwealth. The purpose of the project was to review existing training and develop an industry based on- and off-the-job training program that could be implemented on a self paced basis.
The project outcomes were as follows:
The following packages were developed:
Prue Dobbin (B.A. Hons., Grad. Dip. in Education, Assoc. Dip. of Business Management) is currently Training Manager for the National Parks Service, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Victoria. Originally a secondary teacher and then the Fire Training Manager for the Department, she played a lead role in the development and review of the National firefighting competency standards and training curriculum.
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