Analysis of Senior Management Training Needs in International Hotel Companies
A Field Study
University of London External Programme
MSc in Organisational Behaviour
A thorough analysis of training needs is an important component of any systematic training strategy. International hotel companies face substantial challenges in terms of human resources development. This situation may lead the assumption that they would therefore apply particular care in the planning, design, implementation and evaluation of their training activities. This study’s objectives were to explore whether large hotel companies sufficiently consider organizational, task and person aspects when analyzing their senior management’s training needs, and on the other hand, to investigate how systematically they apply the training cycle. The 15 largest international hotel organizations were selected to participate in this qualitative study in which relevant questions were asked to one senior Human Resources Executive of each company via a semi-structured telephone interview. Answers from eleven organizations were obtained. The responses suggest that structured and exhaustive approaches to training needs analysis are the exception rather than the norm. All companies do in some way assess existing training needs. However except for one company, none comprehensively considers all three areas of training needs. The general focus seems to be on persons’ needs, and to a lesser degree on the organization’s needs and current industry trends. There is a clear preference to rely on performance reviews and individual assessment centre results. These two sources were mentioned by a large majority of respondents. Less often, overall company results in terms of finances, quality and sometimes other balance score card criteria provide an impetus for training activities. This suggests that organizational needs are taken into account. Very little attention seems to be paid to current job requirements, although most respondents claim taking future job requirements into account for training purposes. This seems contradictory, but may be explained by the rapid rate of change the industry is exposed to. Overall, the answers suggest that in general, training planning in large hotel organizations is less structured than the academic literature overwhelmingly recommends. While the majority of the organizations interviewed set general, company wide training objectives, only about half of them also set individual development goals for their managers. This appears to be inconsistent with the hotel industry’s apparent focus on the person level in training needs analysis. While most international hotel organizations do in some way evaluate their training programmes, they usually do this at a basic level. Nevertheless there are a few notable exceptions.
The Challenges of Hospitality 4
The Theory and Practice of Training 4
Difficulties in Management Training 5
A Universal Solution? 6
Review of Literature 7
The Significance of Training 7
The Systems Approach to Training 7
Training and Strategy 8
The Systematic Approach to Training 9
Need Assessment and Training Needs Analysis (TNA) 10
The OTP Framework 12
Organization Analysis. 13
Task Analysis (Job Analysis) 14
Person Analysis (Man Analysis) 15
The Content-Levels Approach to TNA 15
The Evaluation of Training 16
The Organizational Reality 17
Boundaries of the Study 19
Objectives of the Study 19
Data Collection 20
Analysis of the Data 21
Uncommon OTP Model and Preference for Person Analysis 29
Stronger Interest in Future Job Issues than Current task Aspects 33
Unclear Link Between Organization Strategy and Training 33
Unsystematic Implementation of the Training Cycle 34
Discrepancy Between Knowledge of Theory and Implementation 36
Critical Self-Review 40
Bibliography and References 42
It is critical to understand how organizations plan, design, implement and evaluate their training programmes. As an activity which potentially increases a company’s effectiveness by developing its human resources, the training function can have a major impact on the ability of organizations to achieve their objectives. This study aims to explore how extensively large international hotel chains analyze the training needs of their senior management and how systematic their overall approach to training is.
The Challenges of Hospitality
The hospitality sector is a labour intensive industry, highly reliant on well-trained employees and managers. Many of its current and future challenges relate to human resources issues. According to the International Hotel and Restaurant Association (IHRA), the greatest challenge facing the hospitality industry today in the area of human resources is the investment in and delivery of training (International Hotel and Restaurant Association, White Paper 2003). Shortages of skilled employees at all hierarchical levels including management have been reported throughout the hotel industry in many areas of the world (Powell & Wood, 1999). There are several potential reasons for this. These may include a lack of mobility by hospitality workers, or an insufficient number of new entrants into the hospitality labour market to satisfy its rate of expansion and compensate for its attrition in human resources. One reason may also be a lack of effectiveness in the way the hotel industry plans and implements training, thus leading to a failure to develop existing employees to master the skills needed today and tomorrow.
The Theory and Practice of Training
There has been much general training literature published in the second half of the 20th century both from an academic and a practitioner perspective, however with mixed successes in terms of credibility and acceptance. In the early seventies, Campbell completed a review of the existing work and criticized it as non-empirical, non-theoretical, poorly written and therefore of little utility (Campbell, 1971). A decade later, Goldstein performed a follow-up study and found a small but increasingly significant amount of literature dealing with the critical training issues (Goldstein, 1980). There is some ambivalence in how organizations deal with training. Conrade, Woods and Ninemeier (1994) report that US companies spend close to 200 billion US Dollars annually in employee training, believing in its positive impact on job satisfaction, productivity, quality, customer perception and profit levels. However others also report that management interest in training is limited and that managerial support for the training function is generally low (Noe, 1999). Mager (1996) suggested that this situation may be due to misconceptions about the value of training and the expertise of trainers. Another often cited reason is the low power levels held by training departments due to a lack of political skills (Garavan, Barnicle & Heraty, 1993). With regards to training in hospitality, there is also much literature available, however it usually focuses on the practical implementation of training programmes and the description of different techniques. Little has been written about training needs analysis (TNA) of senior management in the hotel industry. One exception is a study by Burgess (1994) which suggests that a majority of hotel controllers feel that their training needs are not being met by their organizations. This lack of available literature is regrettable as hotel managers work in an industry which is characterized by rapid and permanent change (Junggeburt et al., 2004) and often face challenging international assignments, which, as Ronen (1989) noted, require the “patience of a diplomat, the zeal of a missionary and the linguistic skill of a UN interpreter”. This implies that training should play an important role in preparing a manager for an international position. Triandis (1994) reports that failures rates of top executives working in another culture are estimated to range from 30% to 50%, which is partly due to the lack of relevant training given to them. Further, even in their home countries, hospitality managers often lead culturally diverse teams, this requires a special set of skills (Noe, 1999).
Difficulties in Management Training
The development of management expertise is known to impact organizational effectiveness (Guest, 1986), however management training poses special challenges which need to be addressed by organizations. For example Anderson (1994) suggested that one focus of attention in TNA is typically job performance. However effective performance becomes increasingly difficult to evaluate as the outcomes for which an employee is responsible multiply both in number and complexity (McGehee & Thayer, 1961). Rating management performance also raises issues such as behaviour versus outcomes and, when considering outcomes, short-term versus long-term results. Mintzberg (1973) noted that managers often make use of intuition in their daily activities. Intuition in this context is an elusive concept and difficult to specifically train.
A Universal Solution?
Training should not be considered as the only potential solution to improve the performance of organizational members. It may not be the most effective way to achieve a certain level of competence in the workforce. For skills which are difficult or lengthy to acquire, hiring employees who already possess those required skills may be a more effective solution (Spencer and Spencer, 1993). Further, training addresses shortfalls in knowledge, skills and abilities, not motivation. Therefore performance problems due to lack of motivation may not be effectively solved through training. The same is true when reward systems in organizations are not consistent with behaviours supporting organizational objectives. Again, training may not correct such situations. A thorough TNA can be useful in finding answers to these issues. One should also keep in mind that much employee development occurs informally through job experiences (McCall, Lombardo and Morrison, 1988). Job experiences refer to tasks, relationships and problems that employees face in their jobs. According to Marsick and Watkins (1990), only around 17% of learning can be traced to formal instruction. The remainder is incidental and acquired through interactions with co-workers, observations, supervision, learning from mistakes, etc … Organizations are able influence informal learning to a certain extent (i.e. by assigning individuals to special projects). Rhodes and Walker (1984) for example conclude that one of the most successful methods in management development is to promote promising individuals before they are fully ready and allow them to develop in the new job. Marsick and Watkins (1990) suggest that there is a growing recognition that informal learning processes will increasingly be required by organizations. Finally, as a note of caution, Trompenaars (1995) notes that much of the management research and practice has been conducted and preached by individuals from the Anglo-Saxon world and is potentially laden with cultural assumptions. This limitation also applies to training research and is highly relevant to an industry as international as the hospitality sector.
Review of Literature
The Significance of Training
The critical importance of training in business has repeatedly been underlined in academic research. While the process of recruitment focuses on attracting and acquiring human resources, training aims to develop the available human resources in order to increase their productivity and improve their ability to contribute to the organization’s objectives. Training in industry has been defined as “(…) the formal procedures which a company uses to facilitate employees’ learning so that their resultant behaviour contributes to the attainment of the company’s goals and objectives” (McGehee and Thayer, 1961). Goldstein and Ford (2002) view workplace training as “a systematic approach to learning and development to improve individual, team, or organizational effectiveness”. According to Carnevale (1990) the characteristics of “High Leverage Training” are its links to strategic business objectives, the use of an instructional design process to ensure that training is effective, and the comparison of the company’s training programmes with practices in other companies. Recent developments in the business world affect the need for training. McManus, McManus and Hayes Williamson (1994) suggest that there are four major impacts to be considered: 1) Accelerating global competition, 2) Continuing reorganization of workplace structures, 3) Advancing technology, 4) Increasing workforce diversity. Many industries, including the hospitality sector are affected by these issues. These changes influence the way in which training is delivered. Martocchio and Baldwin (1997) argue that the role of training is moving from a focus of teaching employees specific skills to a broader focus on creating and sharing knowledge. Tracey (2003) asserts that training has become a more strategic activity, thus it is critical to understand how training and related changes initiatives are integrated in order to enhance individual and firm performance.
The Systems Approach to Training
One widely known approach to training is the systems perspective which considers training a subsystem of a larger organizational system. It emanates from the General Systems Theory (von Bertalanffy, 1968) which was developed as a structured way to organize large amounts of information by describing entities (systems) in terms of: 1) Their components (sub-systems) with their respective interactions, 2) Their belonging to larger entities (supra-systems), and 3) The interaction with their environment. A system receives inputs and sends outputs, both filtered by a boundary (Berrien, 1968). Hinrichs (1976) adapted Systems Theory to Training Theory. He suggested several levels: Individual training as a sub-system of the training departments, which is a sub-system of executive management, itself a sub-system of the business society. Each of these levels (systems) interact with their respective supra- and sub-systems via inputs and outputs. Hinrichs differentiated between maintenance inputs (for example resources) which keep the systems functioning and signal inputs (for example information) which initiate action. A system can direct its output towards the overlying supra-system, the underlying sub-system or towards itself in form of feedback. One important issue in systems theory is that changes to any system will inevitably impact its supra- and sub-systems, thus the theory encourages to think in a holistic manner. The systems approach is extremely helpful in order to understand how training processes its inputs, produces outputs and, by doing so, how it impacts the other organizational sub-systems and how it contributes to the organization’s success.
Training and Strategy
One issue often recurs in organizational studies without necessarily referring to systems theory. It is the suggestion that there should be a reciprocal link between the training function and the strategy of organizations. This means that training strategy should not only be derived from the organizational strategy, but that the organizational strategy itself should also be developed in accordance with the organization’s human resources potential and its training possibilities. According to Barney and Wright (1998), successful firms in every industry are more likely than poor performers to deal strategically with HR. Johnson and Scholes (1993) suggest that company strategy is concerned with the following dimensions: 1) The range of an organization’s activities, 2) The matching of an organization’s activities to the environment, and 3) The matching of an organization’s activities to available resources. These dimensions imply a reciprocal interaction between training and strategy. Brown and Read (1984) argue that training must be linked to strategy if it is to be considered effective by higher management. They further suggest that UK companies could close their productivity gap with Japanese companies by taking a strategic view of their training policies. This should be achieved by construing the training plan in the same context and by the same process as the business plan. Hussey (1985) recommends that training objectives, especially for management development, be reviewed by top management whenever a substantial change in strategic emphasis is planned. In the organizational reality the link between organizational strategy and training strategy is often weak or non-existent. Harrison (1997) points out that an alignment between strategy and training is universally regarded as good business sense, nevertheless there is considerable evidence in Europe and the United States that, although this is recognized at the intellectual level, the practice is very different. He also notes that research has failed to reveal any significant connection between HRD and business strategy across organizations in the UK. Beaumont (1992) states that US studies found that only 22% of companies had extensive levels of integration of HR and business strategy.
The Systematic Approach to Training
The systematic approach to training should not be confounded with the systems perspective, although both can co-exist within the same organization. Most researchers recommend a structured and methodical approach to training. In 1961, McGehee and Thayer wrote: “Training, if it is to become an effective tool of management, must be a systematic, orderly procedure, constructively applied to solutions of organizational problems and attainment of organizational goals”. A systematic approach increases the likelihood that the various steps of the process are aligned with each other and that the training programme as a whole will be successful. The combination of the various steps involved in planning, implementing and evaluating training has often been referred to as the “Training Cycle”. McManus, McManus and Hayes Williamson (1994) suggest a simple structured methodology (called Training Loop) which consists of four steps: 1) Assess; 2) Design; 3) Deliver; 4) Evaluate. The final step (evaluate) feeds back to the departing point (assess) and thus impacts future training activities. Although various other systematic training models have been developed, they usually build on what Noe (1999) calls the instructional design process and contain some form of the following six steps: 1) Conduct need assessment; 2) Ensure employee readiness for training; 3) Create a learning environment; 4) Ensure transfer of training; 5) Select training methods; 6) Evaluate training programmes. Note that these steps do not necessarily need to be rigidly sequenced and demarcated from each other. The information obtained in the evaluation phase feeds back to the beginning of the process and helps to define new training needs and objectives and to select and design training methods. Thus the description as a cycle or a loop is an appropriate analogy. One advantage of the systematic approach to training is that it may be applied in conjunction with a performance management programme. For example it can be used with goal setting theory (Locke and Latham, 1990), where individual goals can serve as a basis for defining training needs and later as criteria to evaluate the success of training programmes. The individual goals should be linked to organizational objectives. In the training cycle, the outcome of the assessment phase can be considered to be the foundation on which the whole training initiative will be based. All following steps will build on the information provided in the assessment phase. One important use of this information is the development of criteria to be used in evaluation in order to determine the success of the training intervention. The cycle perspective does not necessarily consider the assessment phase to be the beginning, since information gained in the evaluation phase of a previous training programme may also give the impetus for a new need assessment initiative. It is important to note once again in this context that the need assessment phase may also reveal that training is not the most appropriate option to close performance gaps.
Need Assessment and Training Needs Analysis (TNA)
Kaufman et al. (1993) define need assessment as a process for identifying and prioritizing gaps between current and desired results. Molenda, Pershing and Reigeluth (1996) adopt a similar view and describe need assessment as a method of finding out the nature and extent of performance problems and how they can be solved. Both definitions indicate that potential solutions to close the performance gap emerge during the process. These remedies may or may not include training. Wright and Geroy (1992) suggest that up to 90% of productivity improvement can be found in the work environments or cultures and conclude that a needs analysis tied exclusively to training is often ineffective. Gupta (1999) proposes a hierarchy of needs assessments approaches, which are in descending order: 1) Strategic needs assessment; 2) Competency based assessment; 3) Job and task analysis; 4) Training needs assessment. The higher the level, the more time and rigor is required. These four levels can be integrated in McGehee and Thayer’s (1961) OTP framework which will be used in the study. The strategic level may be considered as a part of the organizational analysis, competency based assessment and job and task analysis are included in OTP’s task analysis phase, and training needs assessment is comprised in person analysis. Watkins et al. (2000) point out that there has been much confusion in literature with the terms “needs analysis”, “training needs assessment” and “training needs analysis”. Similarly to the definitions mentioned above, they suggest that needs assessments provide a process for identifying and prioritizing gaps between current and desired results. They also argue that “although the literature does not offer universal agreement with this definition of needs assessment, there does seem to be agreement that this approach is best suited to performance improvement. Whether these areas are identified as training requirements, resource inadequacies, and/or gaps in results is dependent on the assessment model applied.” McArdle (1996) on the other hand distinguishes between two types of needs assessment: The first, a problem analysis model, is similar to the gap analysis mentioned above and offers solutions based on performance shortcomings. The second, a competency model, is more proactive and focuses on available opportunities by identifying and developing new competencies. Both models can help identify training requirements. Wright and Geroy (1992) make several recommendations for a need assessment model to be useful: 1) It should be grounded in the organizations’ culture; 2) It should be proactive rather than reactive; 3) It should be able to differentiate between training requirements and situations for which training would be inappropriate; 4) It should broadly involve many of the individuals and groups affected; 5) It should use several data collection methods. The needs assessment process therefore leads to the selection of one or several intervention methods, whether it is training or something else. TNA should be distinguished from a superordinate needs assessment process which considers all potential solutions which may close the performance gap. One question emerging from this discussion is how to migrate from general needs assessment to TNA. In other words when a gap has been identified, how should organizations decide whether training is the appropriate solution, and once this question has been positively answered, how should they analyze the existing training needs? Mager and Pipe (1991) developed a practical Training Decision Flow Chart in which answers to a series of questions help to select solutions for existing performance problems. The model begins with a description of the performance discrepancy and the fundamental question, whether this gap is important. If not, it can be ignored. The next question asks whether the performance discrepancy is related to a skill deficiency, in which case training is a potential remedy. If a skill deficiency is not the cause, the model leads to alternative solutions which impact motivation and the work environment. It is important to note that training can only solve performance discrepancies that are caused by deficiencies in knowledge, skills or abilities (KSA). Taylor, O’Driscoll and Binning (1998) highlight the chain of linkages which are involved. There are four links in the process: Training leads to increased KSA, which causes changed job behaviour. The changed behaviour then impacts organizationally valued results. They acknowledge that each step can be affected by external influences. For example non-training alternatives can improve knowledge and skills (for example hiring employees already having the KSA required), or job behaviour can be influenced by aspects other than KSA (for example availability of resources). The TNA builds the foundation for the organization’s training efforts, as the main steps of a systematic training programme draw on the information obtained in the process (Arthur, Bennett, Edens and Bell, 2003). According to Goldstein and Ford (2002), the TNA phase provides all the critical input for both the design of the training environment and the evaluation of the actual training programme. They further suggest that a thorough TNA helps to establish content validity of training programmes, as “the training programme should reflect the domain of KSAs represented on the job that the analyst has determined should be learned in the training programme”. However caution must be exercised with jobs that are changing rapidly, as the information collected may quickly become obsolete. In an extensive TNA exercise, data will be collected from different sources. Cline and Seibert (1993) distinguish between hard and soft data sources. Hard data sources are for example existing organizational reports and statistics, soft data sources are questionnaires, group discussions and interviews.
The OTP Framework
One of the most widely known TNA frameworks is McGehee and Thayer’s (1961) OTP typology, which suggests that a thorough TNA consists of three levels: 1) Organization analysis; 2) Job or task analysis (originally called operations analysis); 3) Person analysis (originally called man analysis). This concept was later refined and expanded by several researchers. Goldstein and Ford (2002) for example added two steps: First they see the establishment of organizational support as a first component in the process and a prerequisite for a successful training initiative. This step is concerned with establishing relationships between the training specialists or the researchers and the various organizational levels which are expected to support the programme. Goldstein and Ford assert that this support should be secured before the organizational analysis can begin. Then, once the organization’s needs have been assessed, and before the task and the person needs can be analyzed, several details must be clarified so that the subsequent steps can be applied properly. According to Goldstein and Ford, this is done in a “Requirements Analysis”. This phase explicitly considers issues such as defining the target job, choosing the methods with which the job and the persons in question will be analysed, and determining the participants in the needs assessment process. Assessors should carefully select the methods they will use in the task and the person analysis as they all have strengths and limitations. Latham et al. (1998) add a fourth macro-type dimension to McGehee and Thayer’s framework. They call this additional step “Demographic Analysis”. It identifies the needs of the different populations of workers in the organization. They underline the necessity of this step by referring to the recent demographic changes experienced by organizations which affect training. Such changes include the increase of minorities, women and older employees in the workplace, but also the growing number of entry level workers with little basic skills and literacy levels for which special training programmes may have to be designed. While Goldstein and Ford (2002) consider this step to be a part of the organization analysis, Latham et al. (1998) claim that the high impact of demographic changes warrants a separate consideration.
Organizational issues have a b impact on the way training programmes are planned and implemented and must therefore be analysed. This level of examination focuses not only on determining where training should be delivered in the organization, but also on exploring organizational aspects which may affect the training activities. For example, the need to align training objectives with the organization’s strategy has repeatedly been underlined (Brown and Read, 1984; Schuler and Jackson, 1987). Noe et al. (1997) suggest that companies nowadays face four competitive challenges: 1) The quality challenge which is concerned with meeting customer needs, 2) The global challenge which involves international expansion; 3) The high performance work system challenge which involves integrating new technologies and work design, and finally 4) The social challenge which is concerned with the management of a diverse workforce. Each of these challenges present different training needs. A thorough organization analysis will carefully examine the company’s overall strategy and objectives to ensure that the training activities will support this thrust. This first step of the OPT model also examines the environment within the company. Noe and Colquitt (2002) found that training effectiveness is not only affected by content and delivery but also by the organizational climate. According to McGehee and Thayer (1961) an exhaustive organization analysis consists of four distinct steps: 1) A statement of the organization’s objectives; 2) An analysis of human resources; 3) An analysis of efficiency indices; 4) An analysis of organizational climate. The last three steps are considered within the context of the organization’s objectives. This draws the attention to the areas in which task and person analysis may be necessary. This process is closely related to the performance gap concept proposed by Zaltman and Duncan (1977). Goldstein and Ford (2002) add the identification of external and legal constraints as additional components of the organization analysis. Such regulations have proliferated in the past decades especially with regards to anti-discrimination and safety issues and should be carefully considered.
Task Analysis (Job Analysis)
As mentioned previously, a performance gap uncovered through the comparison of an organization’s objectives with the current situation can draw attention to certain jobs and positions within the company where training may be necessary. Task analysis is “a method of determining the knowledge, skills, tools, conditions and requirements necessary to perform a job” (Callahan, 1985). A task analysis dissects a job into its different task components and draws conclusions about the KSA and job behaviours needed to perform them successfully. McGehee and Thayer (1961) divide task analysis into four main phases: 1) Determination of standards of performance; 2) Identification of tasks that constitute a job; 3) Description of how each task is to be performed; 4) Identification of KSA needed for each task. Goldstein and Ford (2002) call this phase “Task and KSA Analysis”. Once this is completed, the researcher can proceed and analyse the persons who perform the job in question and examine whether the incumbents possess the KSA required (person analysis). Goldstein and Ford (2002) recommend a similar procedure although they emphasize that task analysis should particularly concentrate on tasks that are most important for the job and difficult to learn. According to Carnevale et al. (1990) a task analysis should not only identify what the job incumbents are actually doing, but also what they should do. In order to increase the validity of the analysis, they suggest that at least two methods of data collection should be used. As a useful method, Carnevale et al. recommend questioning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) such as employees familiar with the job and their managers. In their highly practical manual, Pearn and Kandola (1993) list and describe several methods for analysing tasks. These include observations, interviews or questionnaires with job holders, review of manuals and trying to do the job. Because it is a detail-oriented technique, task analysis as a means of determining training needs is less effective at managerial levels than it is at the lower end of the hierarchy where jobs are specialized (Wellens, 1970). The discretionary and ever changing nature of managerial jobs makes it difficult to prescribe them accurately. It is not easy to define effective managerial behaviour by its content. According to the American Society for Training and Development (2006), many jobs nowadays are changing at a fast pace. Therefore investigating current task needs may not be sufficient, as the findings may quickly become obsolete. In such situations, future requirements of the job may be more important to investigate. Schneider and Konz (1989) describe “strategic job analysis” as a technique to evaluate future task needs. Strategic job analysis is based on a conventional job analysis, with two additional steps, which are: 1) A gathering of information on the future, and 2) A revision of known tasks and required KSA in view of future changes.
Person Analysis (Man Analysis)
In this level of analysis, the objective is to recognize the individual training needs of employees. The information obtained in the task analysis, really becomes meaningful once the current proficiency and performance levels of organizational members on these tasks are known. Each job incumbent has a different educational background, job experience, personality and KSA profile and therefore performs differently on the various tasks. Wexley and Latham (1991) report that person analysis is usually performed in two steps. Step one considers employee performance on the job. The outcome determines whether step two is needed. If the employee performance is deemed inadequate, step two ascertains which KSA must be developed in the employee in order to correct this situation. McGehee and Thayer (1961) referred to these two steps as “Summary Man Analysis” and “Diagnostic Man Analysis”. According to Spencer and Spencer (1993), people at work differ along competencies. Competencies are “underlying characteristics of individuals that are causally related to criterion-referenced effective and/or superior performance in a job or situation”. Spencer and Spencer claim that there are five types of competency characteristics: 1) Motives, 2) Traits; 3) Self-Concept; 4) Knowledge; and 5) Skills. This framework is relevant for training purposes as the visible competencies of knowledge and skills are relatively straightforward to develop through training. The remaining three competencies are hidden and more complex to develop. Therefore it is probably more effective for companies to select for those competencies in their recruitment efforts rather than trying to develop them within their existing workforce. Person analysis is the most delicate and sensitive step in the TNA process as it sometimes deals with substandard performance and ineffective behaviour. On the other hand, according to the concept of andragogy (Knowles, 1990), which is the theory of adult learning, adults want to know why they are learning something and enter a learning experience with a problem-centred approach to learning. Person analysis, if performed professionally and in a constructive spirit, involves the adult learner in the need analysis phase and thus increases the chances of acceptance for the subsequent training programme.
The Content-Levels Approach to TNA
Ostroff and Ford (1989) expanded the OTP framework and developed a “content-levels approach” based on systems theory. The concept embeds organizational, subunit and individual levels into the TNA (content) process, and suggests that training is more effective when the levels and the content of training are closely linked. The framework presents a nine cell matrix which combines the dual perspective of content (organization, task, person) and levels (individual, subunit and organizational). Each cell represents the intersection of two factors and suggests certain issues which should be addressed in a more comprehensive approach to needs assessment. Ostroff and Ford assert that the use of their framework results in a more holistic, systematic and accurate analysis of training needs.
The Evaluation of Training
Any systematic training programme must contain an evaluation phase in order to judge the benefits of the intervention and assess whether the objectives have been achieved. Van Mart et al. (1993) distinguish between formative and summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is concerned with the processes within the training programme and considers how to improve it qualitatively. Summative evaluation deals with the outcomes of training, with less focus on content and delivery. By far the most influential framework was proposed by Donald Kirkpatrick (1987). Kirkpatrick saw four different levels which are linked and build on each other, but must be considered individually as they relate to different outcomes of a training programme.
1) Level one: Reaction - How trainees felt about the training programme
2) Level two: Learning – The increase in knowledge, skills or ability
3) Level three: Behaviour – How behaviour changes as an outcome of the training programme
4) Level four: Results – Organizational outcomes as a result of changed trainee performance
The model assumes that each level is positively correlated with the next highest. While levels one and two are relatively straightforward to evaluate, for example through questionnaires and tests, levels three and four are more complex as the direct impact of training is often more difficult to determine. First, more time may have to pass until consistent behavioural changes or organizational improvements can be confirmed. Second, during this time, other influences unrelated to the training programme may have an impact on the criteria. Nevertheless, the information from the upper levels of evaluation is considered to be the more valuable. As the fundamental reason for conducting training is to achieve results, the ultimate objectives of a training programme should be stated in terms of level four. Despite its prevalence, the Kirkpatrick framework has been criticized. Alliger and Janak (1989) for example found little correlations between the levels, especially the reactions measure seems to have nearly zero correlation with the learning and performance measures. Kraiger, Ford and Salas (1993) found a lack of clarity in terms of the specific changes that are expected as a function of trainee learning and a difficulty in identifying appropriate assessment techniques given those expectations. They suggest dividing learning outcomes into three categories: 1) Cognitive outcomes; 2) Skill-based outcomes and 3) Affective outcomes. Alliger et al. (1997) propose an augmented framework based on Kirkpatrick, in which reactions (level one) are split into affective reactions and utility reactions. Their conclusion is that utility reactions are more predictive of learning transfer than affective reactions. Alliger et al. also divide learning (level 2) into immediate knowledge changes, retention of knowledge and behaviour/skill demonstration, arguing that changes in knowledge and in skills are two distinct dimensions of learning. Philips and Stone (2002) on the other hand fundamentally agree with Kirkpatrick’s framework regarding the four levels but add a fifth dimensions which they call “Return on Investment” (ROI). The underlying logic is that after the results (level 4) in terms of organizational impact have been determined, they have to be converted into a monetary value which is put in relation to the cost of training. An improvement in a measure which impacts business as a result of training does not necessarily result in a positive ROI if the cost was excessively high. Philips and Stone further add another, vague, dimension which they call intangible benefits. These benefits are positive outcomes which were not specifically expected to result from the training and cannot be converted into monetary terms but which often follow good training programmes. These benefits include improved team-work, reduced stress, etc…. Phillips and Stone also suggest that creating a results-based training culture in an organization would contribute to sustaining the training function’s credibility.
The Organizational Reality
Similarly to the issue previously described concerning the commonly found lack of integration of HR issues into the organizational strategy, there is a well-known discrepancy between the academic world and the business reality with regards to the planning and implementation of training. This issue is often referred to as the Theory-Practice Gap. Despite the overwhelming academic recommendation for a systematic structure in order to maximize the organizational benefits of training, organizations often seem to plan and implement their programmes in a haphazard manner without much reference to theory. The results of studies which investigated this issue are sobering. The critical steps of training needs analysis and training evaluation seem to be underdeveloped in a majority of companies throughout the western world. Nelson, Whitener and Philcox (1995) call this the “Random In-Random-Out” approach to training and report that “the inputs into the training process are often not systematically identified while the outputs of the process are often not systematically evaluated”. Moore and Dutton (1978) found that few organizations regularly collect data in a strategic and careful manner on which to base their assessment of training needs. In a more recent study, Saari et al. (1988) found that only 27% of organizations assess the training needs of their management in a systematic way. According to Kubr and Prokopenko (1989) one of the main reasons training programs fail to substantially impact individual behaviour and organizational performance is the missing link between training content and actual training needs of management. With regards to the evaluation of training programs, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) notes in its 2004 State of the Industry Report that while 74% of the companies in their database do assess trainee reactions after training programs, also known as level 1 (Kirkpatrick, 1987 ), only 8% try to assess the impact on organizational performance (level 4). Garavaglia (1993) claims that not more than 15% of organizations try to evaluate the extent of training transfer. The aforementioned issues may be one reason for training’s often reported failure to achieve results. Georgensen (1982) suggests that a maximum of 10% of training expenditures actually result in a transfer to the work environment. This lack of structure in the organizational reality is problematic. As Latham & Crandall (1991) argue, to the extent that theory is absent, it is virtually impossible to understand why a training programme worked or failed to work.
Boundaries of the Study
Training issues impact virtually every aspect of a business. Therefore a study on training runs the risk of being overly vast. For this reason, I found it useful to set clear boundaries for the investigation to be undertaken. First, I decided to limit the study to the 15 largest international hotel companies, which, according to the widely respected trade magazine “Hotels”, operate hotels in at least 30 countries. My assumption was that, considering their international exposure, their rate of expansion and cultural diversity, these companies face substantial training challenges, probably the most complex ones in the industry. The challenges are exacerbated by the fact that these organizations operate in geographical markets which are often very competitive, characterized by a relative oversupply of hotel rooms and a continuous flow of new entrants into the market. Considering their size and the resulting economies of scale, these companies presumably are the ones with the most available training resources. Secondly, I chose to limit the investigation to the analysis of training needs of senior management (defined here as Hotel General Managers and Regional Specialists), assuming that training challenges are very important for these groups of employees, because they regularly experience new assignments and international transfers and often lead culturally diverse teams. Further, these organizational members often carry a large amount of responsibility and freedom of action in their professional activities, therefore the benefits for hotel companies of thoroughly training them are presumably high. This should logically lead international hotel organizations to apply special care when planning and implementing training programmes for their senior managers.
Objectives of the Study
The main objective of the study is to investigate how thoroughly international hotel companies analyze training needs of their senior management, more precisely whether they assess organizational, person and task needs as recommended by Mc Gehee and Thayer (1961) and Goldstein and Ford (2002). A second objective is to explore whether their training cycle is at all structured, specifically whether the outcomes of training efforts are extensively evaluated and how the findings are used. The two middle steps of the aforementioned training loop (McManus, McManus and Hayes Williamson, 1994), design and delivery, were not specifically investigated.
Due to the limited availability of previous research on analysis of training needs of senior management in the international hospitality industry, I decided to perform an exploratory, qualitative study with the largest 15 international hotel companies. No sampling was necessary, since I attempted to survey the total population in this group. One Senior HR/Training executive (Vice-President or Regional Director) from each organization was selected to provide answers to the survey. Considering the nature of the study, the sample size and the geographic dispersion of the respondents, a semi-structured telephone interview was found to be the most useful data collection method. Since such persons are notoriously difficult to contact over the telephone, I offered to send a written questionnaire as an alternative, whenever an interview was not feasible. From the eleven organizations which agreed to participate, two specifically requested to fill in a questionnaire rather than provide answers over the telephone. In the telephone interviews, the questions were asked following a script which was sent to the respondent two to three weeks in advance, together with general information about the survey. Ethical guidelines were strictly applied. All respondents were informed about the general purpose of the study, the anonymous nature of the survey, their ability to discontinue the interview at any time and the possibility to refuse answering to any of the questions. They were advised that the interviews were recorded and that the tapes would be erased after completion of the study. Further, they were informed about the fact that I am employed by one of the major hotel companies (Hilton Corporation). Four of the fifteen organizations in the population were not able to provide information for the study. This must be taken into consideration when analyzing the results. In order to avoid leading the respondents towards “academically correct” answers, I found it useful ask several open questions, leaving it up to the respondent to design the response based on their organization’s current practices. One disadvantage of this procedure is that answers are more difficult to compare with each other than with closed questions or when a list of possible answers is provided. Data obtained through qualitative collection methods is also more complex to analyze. This is especially the case with semi-structured interviews. All the questions listed on the script were asked in each interview and the respondents were encouraged to answer as specifically and extensively as possible. When an answer was unclear, too vague or seemed incomplete, follow-up questions were asked or specific examples were requested. The script contained seven basic questions and four additional questions which where automatically asked if answers to the previous questions made them appropriate. These questions were sent in the form of a questionnaire to the two of the eleven organizations as they were unavailable for a telephone interview. The total time allocated for each telephone interview was 30 Minutes. However since only seven of the nine respondents in the telephone interview agreed to have their answers tape recorded, two interviews took over 45 minutes as the pace was slower and all the responses had to be noted on paper in real time.
Analysis of the Data
After all interviews were conducted, I re-listened to the recorded tapes and put on paper the items which I had omitted to note during the conversation. Then, after all answers including the two questionnaires had been received, I reformulated the answers to simple words or phrases, leaving out the non-relevant items, but preserving the full relevant content. For example: “a performance and development review is done with the direct manager once a year” was reduced to” PDR with manager, 1 per year”. Or in some answers, several respondents added information about the TNA of line employees. Since this information is largely irrelevant to the objective of the study, I did not include it in the analysis. Further, some comments were important for general comprehension purposes but less so for analysis, they were left out also. Then, all reformulated answers were listed under their respective questions. I then collated the components which were identical across several organizations. For example, the large majority of respondents mentioned assessment centres and performance reviews as instruments for identifying training needs. Therefore it was easy to add up the number of answers in order to obtain an indication of how frequently these techniques are used. Most interviewees responded with “yes” or “no” to the question whether their TNA could be improved. Such answers were also simple to express numerically. Then, I attempted to devise categories in which similar answers could be grouped. For example, with regards to how organizations evaluate the benefits of training, the various answers could be categorized along to the four level framework provided by Kirkpatrick (1987). Based on the above analysis tentative conclusions were drawn.
Eleven organizations agreed to participate, of which nine were available for the telephone interview, two agreed to provide written answers to the questionnaire. The hierarchical positions of all the respondents matched the requirements. One is a Senior Vice President of Human Resources, six are Vice Presidents of Human Resources, two are Vice President of Human Resources and Training and two are Regional Training Directors. It is important to note that all respondents have a western background, originating either from North America or Europe. An overview of the answers provided to all the questions follows. Due to the small number of respondents, I found it practical to list all answers in a condensed form in order to better reflect how extensively each company deals with training issues. For some answers, a table best shows the frequency of the responses. Each organization was randomly assigned a letter from A to K in order to be able to recognize all answers provided by each company while preserving anonymity..
Analysis of Training Needs
1. Please describe how the training needs of Senior Management are analyzed in your organization.
Assessment centres and performance reviews emerge clearly as the preferred methods for evaluating training needs. Company objectives and industry trends follow. Three organizations claimed running standardized training programmes with different possibilities to add customized components adapted to the competency profile of the job holder. Company F reported that it was in the process of reviewing the TNA procedures mentioned in its answers, as the current system is considered inadequate for the future needs of the company. Company “G” reported using a logical sequence of events interlinked with each other, starting with a review of business objectives followed by a review of knowledge and skills required to achieve these objectives. Then a meeting between top HR and Management executives to decide on the training programmes to offer. Finally, in the yearly individual performance reviews, the incumbent and her manager decide which of the training programmes offered the incumbent will attend.
2. (If appropriate): What information is used in the above process? (Note for interviewer: eventually probe for information concerning organizational, task and person analysis)
The responses confirm the answers to question one. Much emphasis is placed on individual performance review outcomes and assessment centre reports. The answers provided by company “F” relate to its current TNA procedures.
3. Why are training needs determined in this manner?
Note: The criteria listed under “F” concern the company’s expectations for its future TNA approach which will cover organization, person, job and local (in the geographic sense) needs.
When analyzing training needs, thoroughness and effective resource allocation seem to be the predominant concerns of the organizations surveyed. To a lesser degree, efficiency, defined as an advantageous ratio input/output, also appears important.
4. In your opinion, can the analysis of training needs for Senior Managers in your
organization be improved?
● Yes: 8 (B, C, D, E, F, I, J, K)
● No: 2 (A, G)
● No answer: 1 (H)
5. (If appropriate): How?
● More thorough collection of information: 4 (B, D, F, K)
● More information about job issues: 2 (F, I)
● More information about person needs: 1 (F)
● More information about company issues: 4 (B, D, F, K)
● More information about issues specific to country of assignment: 2 (E, F)
● More information about future training needs: 3 (B, D, J)
● Use additional TNA techniques: 1 (J)
● Further involve job incumbents in process: 2 (C, E)
● More structured process: 1 (F)
● Better communication between operations and HR/Training: 2 (C, D)
● Use outcomes of evaluation of former trainings: 1 (I)
● TNA should be continuous process: 1 (F)
Structure of the Training Cycle
6. What organizational levels and functions are involved in the general planning of training programmes for Senior Management in your organization?
● Executive Board + Regional HR/Training Executives + Regional Presidents/Vice Presidents + Representatives of Senior Management to be trained: 2 (B, K)
● Executive Board + Regional HR/Training Executives + Regional Presidents/Vice Presidents: 1 (D)
● Regional HR/Training Executives + Regional Presidents/Vice Presidents + Representatives of Senior Management to be trained: 8 (A, C, E, F, G, H, I, J)
Note: In Company “F”, the levels mentioned above are currently involved in designing a new TNA approach for the company.
7. How is the information gained in training needs analysis translated into training objectives for Senior Management?
A: Individual objectives are discussed between job holders and their managers during performance review. Results of assessment centres (individual results), 360 degree feedback and self-evaluation lead to individual training objectives which are discussed during performance review. General, company wide, training objectives are also derived from general assessment centre results across senior managers. Information from management survey and industry trends flow into general objectives which are used in the design of training programmes. General training objectives are handled at top HR and Vice President levels.
B: Training programmes are developed based on industry trends. Once trends are identified, decision is made about what skills senior managers need to acquire in order to face the industry’s challenges. The acquisition of these skills defines the direct training objectives. The aspired market position and development of the company represent the strategic objectives which are to be achieved by using these skills.
C: Information obtained in the various training needs analyses are collated and used in so called “training and development conferences”. These conferences take place on a yearly basis and are used to plan the types of trainings to offer and the objectives of these trainings. During the performance review of each manager, individual training objectives are discussed. Individuals may also visit external trainings, not organized by the company.
D: Outcomes of assessment centres are collected and analyzed. This information, together with the input of experts (business & recruitment consultants, company executives, training professionals), is used to devise training objectives, based on which the standard training programme is designed.
E: Focus group consisting of SMEs uses information from TNA phase to decide on training objectives.
F: Currently under review – Company is planning to organize top level strategic “HR conferences” in which the results from thorough TNA (based on organizational, local (cultural), personal and job information) are utilized to develop recruitment and training strategies designed to support the overall business strategy.
G: Training needs derived from analysis of company objectives are discussed in meeting between HR executives and Regional Vice Presidents. Training objectives are then devised. Individual training objectives are discussed in performance reviews and the extent of their achievement in the performance review following the training.
H: No answer
I: Information collected during the TNA phase is discussed in the yearly resource and development conference, in which training objectives for the company are also decided upon.
J: Individual training objectives are set during performance review, or after job holder has attended an assessment centre. Then trainings programmes which support those objectives are selected. General training objectives for the organization are determined based on overall balance score card results of managers’ areas of responsibility.
K: Reverse process: Overall organizational objectives are taken as starting point and broken down into regional and unit objectives (later on into personal objectives). Then a team of experts reviews what needs to be done in order to achieve these objectives. Next step is to determine which skills and knowledge the organization requires from its managers in order to succeed at these challenges. A standardized training plan is then designed and presented to board. The findings are also used for recruitment. Individual training objectives for the customized training programme are discussed between job holder and the line manager in yearly performance review where general objectives for the year are elaborated. Both draw heavily on the organizational objectives and the skills and knowledge required to achieve them.
8. Does your organization systematically evaluate the benefits of training given to Senior Managers?
● Yes: 7 (A, C, D, E, G, I, K)
● No: 3 (B, F, J)
● No answer. 1 (H)
9. (If appropriate): How? (follow up question if appropriate: How are the findings from the evaluation phase used subsequently?
● Participant feedback after training: 6 (A, C, D, E, G, I)
● Discussion between participant and manager at subsequent performance review: 1 (C)
● Tests after training (based on type of training): 4 (A, C, G, K)
● Monitoring of overall organizational results: 3 (C, G, I)
● Comparison of training objectives and organizational impact: (A, E)
● Findings used to fine-tune current training: 2 (A, C)
● Findings used for planning of future training: 3 (A, G, I),
10. Are expected future requirements of the job taken into account when planning training programmes for Senior Management?
● Yes: 7 (A, C, E, G, H, I, J)
● No: 4 (B, D, F, K)
The objective of this project was to investigate how large international hospitality companies approach training. Do they thoroughly analyze training needs taking the three need areas of the OTP model into account? Do they use a systematic procedure in their training activities? Similarly to many previous studies, the overall results are disappointing. The following conclusions seem appropriate given the results obtained.
1) Extensive TNA practices respecting the OTP model are not common and there is a clear preference for analyzing person needs.
2) Within the context of training, there is ber interest in future task issues than in current job aspects.
3) The training cycle is usually implemented in a less systematic manner than recommended by most available research.
4) The study found little indication of a link between organization strategy and training
5) There is a discrepancy between the existing knowledge of training theory within the organizations surveyed and actual practice.
Uncommon OTP Model and Preference for Person Analysis
Of the eleven organizations interviewed, company “C”, seems to be the only one examining training needs at the organizational, person and task levels. Its performance review process deals with person issues, job analysis and the review of role specificities consider task needs, and the review of company goals and performance clearly focus on organizational aspects. While it remains unclear how thoroughly the company addresses these issues, it appears that the OTP framework is applied in this case. Company “I” examines organization and person needs through the reported practices of company performance and objective review on the one hand and individual performance review on the other, but also claims to derive information about job (task) needs from analysing industry trends, which are certainly too general as a source for drawing specific conclusions about the job needs in a specific organization. One other company (F) reported being in the process of changing its TNA procedures and plans to introduce a “holistic” approach which the respondent defined as one which considers the OTP issues plus local (cultural) aspects. The question remains, whether an awareness of the necessity to thoroughly analyze training needs will lead the company to actually do so. As we will see later, knowledge is often not translated into practice. A large majority of nine companies derive training needs from individual performance reviews. While it is quite conceivable that organizational and job needs are discussed during these reviews, it is more likely that the requirements of the job holder are the centre of the attention. This concentration on person issues is also underscored by the number of organizations using assessment centres to analyze training needs, which again investigate the needs of the person being assessed. It is of course possible that the criteria used to evaluate the candidates in the assessment centres were developed after thorough organizational and job analyses. This would make the assessment centre a sort of all-encompassing training need analysis technique. However while this question was not specifically investigated in the interviews, there were no indications in the responses that such preliminary organization and task analyses are common practice. Organizational issues seem to be the second most frequently examined area in training needs analysis. Five of the nine companies which investigate person needs also consider either organizational performance or objectives or both performance and objectives in the TNA process. Thus, close to 50% of the organizations surveyed cover two areas of the OTP framework. Only one company (C) performs task analyses by reviewing job descriptions and job profiles. Another organization (G) uses job description and job profile for training planning purposes, however without explicitly indicating that they also utilize these sources of information to analyze task needs. It is surprising that such little attention is apparently paid to job issues. This is especially true for the position of Hotel General Manager, which is often a job quite specific to the particular assignment. The task is bly influenced by such aspects as the type of hotel concerned, the country in which the property is located, the mix of its clientele, etc … It seems obvious that hotel companies would benefit from thoroughly analyzing the specificities of each individual property and their respective General Manager jobs in order to better prepare their managers to face the technical and cultural challenges awaiting them. The widespread preference for performance reviews in person analysis revealed by this study may be problematic as this evaluation procedure is known to be subject to several biases such as halo and leniency but also to deliberate rater distortions (Longenecker, Sims and Gioia, 1987). Further, if reward issues (such as yearly salary increase) are discussed in conjunction with the performance review, there may be a b tendency by the line manager to be lenient. This carries the risk that important development issues, based on sub-standard performance are not sufficiently considered. Randell, Packard and Slater (1984) suggest that performance evaluation and reward discussions should best be held separately. One should also be aware of the potential political nature of performance appraisals which may distort the accuracy of outcomes. Cleveland and Murphy (1992) note that raters and ratees may have different objectives in performance appraisals, and this can influence the outcome. They underline the social rather than the measurement nature of the process. Longenecker (1989) goes further and claims that performance evaluations are often driven by politics rather than the job performance of the ratee. Fletcher (1997) on the other hand argues that performance appraisals have the advantage of combining results-oriented appraisal with competency-based appraisal. This works well, as it allows the more immediate concern for achieving performance targets to co-exist with a focus on developing the ratee. The result is a combination of the most motivating elements of appraisal, namely goal setting and personal development. One advantage of constructive performance reviews coupled with training needs discussions is that they may increase the chances of success of the subsequent training plan by allowing the setting of relevant objectives (Locke and Latham, 1990) and involving two of the main stakeholders, namely the employee and the manager. Further, through careful verbal persuasion in the discussion, the rater can have a positive impact on the ratee’s self-efficacy beliefs (Bandura, 1986). This may have a useful effect on the ratee’s readiness to learn, the level of effort applied and the performance in the training session. Assessment centres (AC) were mentioned by six organizations as a TNA technique. AC’s have often been found to be valid and fair evaluation methods (Gaugler, Rosenthal, Thornton and Bentson, 1987). The validity depends on the models on which the exercises in the assessment centres are constructed and whether there is a link between performance on the AC and performance in the job, or inversely, whether poor performance in certain exercises of the AC is associated with a training need on certain aspects of the job. The question remains whether AC’s are valuable techniques in the context of TNA. Kaufman, Jex, Love and Libkuman (1993) criticize AC’s as a TNA tool. They support the assertion that AC’s display predictive validity which makes them useful techniques for selection and promotion purposes, however they also see a lack of construct validity which makes it difficult to derive training needs among participants from performance in AC’s. Industry trends were mentioned by four organizations as a source of information for TNA purposes. Considering the very fast pace of change in the hotel industry, this appears to be a sensible practice. It would be interesting to investigate how the companies obtain this type of information. Three of the four respondents indicated using industry reports or some type of general documentation as one main source of information, however there are other potentially useful methods available such as commissioning consultants, universities and hotel schools, or other expert third parties. One interesting outcome of the first question in the survey is the fact that three companies use standardized training programmes. Some of them allow for a limited level of flexibility to meet individual needs by adding personalized modules adapted to the specific requirements of a job holder. However, for a standard procedure to be successful, a thorough organization analysis should be completed beforehand in order to base the programme on true requirements of the company. Offering a common training programme may be an effective and efficient way to develop required skills which are generally lacking within a group of senior managers. For instance when a company introduces a new software based Property Management System in all its hotels, it makes sense to run a standard training programme in parallel as the initial level of knowledge within the workforce will be low. Similarly, considering the rapid pace of change in the industry, as for example with distribution systems, delivering the same training programmes to everyone on a continuous basis will ensure that all participants have a common knowledge base which grows equally. In the second question, which considers the information used in the process, the answers confirm the b preference for person related training needs analysis. A large majority of companies relies on performance review reports (9) and assessment centre reports (6). Three companies also use career progression reports, three organizations utilize CVs and/or individual objectives lists. Once again, the organizational perspective comes as a distant second and the most popular sources of information are the company business plans (4) and financial reports (3). When the companies were asked about the reasons for using their TNA procedures, the most frequent responses were thoroughness (6) and wise investment (4). This view seems contradictory to the reported practices, as the TNA procedures of most companies listed above cannot be considered thorough. This situation increases the probability that training programmes constructed on the incomplete analyses are less than adequate, resulting in unwise investments. This contradiction between the concerns of the organizations and their current practices is interesting and raises the question why companies do not put in more time and effort into researching training needs. One explanation may be the well-known high turnover of management personnel in the hospitality industry and the rate of job changes and transfers within hotel companies. For example in many international hotel organizations, General Managers take on new assignments every three to four years. It may therefore not be effective to spend much effort and money on exploring the training needs of a given manager in a given job, as this combination does not remain stable for very long. Further, the industry is exposed to rapid change in many of its areas such as distribution, customer expectations and hotel operations. This may explain the relative disinterest in the TNA aspects pertaining to job/tasks and the surprisingly high interest in expected future requirements of the job (question 10). Nevertheless, given the international exposure of the jobs in question and the fact that a hotel chain’s general managers are responsible for units located in different countries, there may be a high payoff in further investigating the task aspects with respect to cultural issues. According to Hofstede (2001), national culture plays an important role in many areas of organizational life such as superior-subordinate relations and the general construction of meaning. Hofstede suggests five major dimensions on which cultures differ. These are: 1) Power distance, 2) Individualism/collectivism, 3) Uncertainty avoidance, 4) Masculinity/femininity, and 5) Long/short term orientation. Interestingly, countries geographically close to each other may be far apart on the scale of some of the above dimensions. For example, the Dutch and German cultures are quite different in terms of individualism. This suggests that even small local chains, operating in a limited number of countries, may benefit from more thoroughly exploring job needs pertaining to culture and building training programmes based on the outcomes. This may increase the probability that the incumbents will succeed in their international assignments.
Stronger Interest in Future Job Issues than Current task Aspects
Seven out of the eleven organizations claimed that they were taking future job requirements into account when planning training programmes. This stands in b contrast to the responses of question 1 where job/task requirements were practically not mentioned, except by one organization. Further, according to the answers in question 5, only two companies suggested that more information about job issues would improve their TNA practices. This orientation towards the future is certainly linked to the rapid pace of change of the hospitality industry. Knowledge quickly becomes obsolete and new KSA requirements emerge regularly, this may discourage companies from spending extensive resources on examining current training needs pertaining to task. Considering however that analysis of current task needs is a neglected TNA activity, it would be interesting to investigate what techniques the companies use to analyze future task needs. Further research is needed to answer this question
Unclear Link Between Organization Strategy and Training
The topic of training seems to be dealt with at high levels in hotel organizations. In three companies the executive board is involved in general training planning. In the majority of cases, Regional HR Executives, Regional Presidents/Vice Presidents (line managers) and representatives of the job holders to be trained are involved. This seems to be a sensible way to integrate the main stakeholders and increase the chances for acceptance in the organization. Nevertheless, except for company “G” (in its answers to question 1 and 7), no other organization was able to demonstrate a clear link between the business strategy and the planning of training programmes. Three other organizations mentioned organizational objectives as one area of attention when analyzing training needs. In these cases, business strategy may impact training strategy. Nevertheless there is no indication of a reverse influence (the reciprocal link between strategy and training described in the literature review). Company “K” is an interesting case. The respondent did not mention organizational aspects as an area of TNA in question 1. Nevertheless, in question 7 which concerned the setting of training objectives, the company uses company objectives as a starting point of its “reverse process” which ends with the setting of individual training objectives. This process also suggests a link from strategy to training.
Unsystematic Implementation of the Training Cycle
The second main objective of the study was to explore how structured the training process is in the organizations surveyed. It appears that the translation of TNA outcomes into objectives is done in many different ways. Following Ostroff and Ford’s (1989) concept, we can differentiate between the individual training objectives which are set for each job holder, namely the KSA the person is expected to acquire, and the general training objectives which are set for all the organizational members holding this job in the organization, sometimes taught through standard training programmes, as discussed previously. Five of the ten companies which responded to question 7 affirmed using TNA results to design both general and individual objectives. In most organizations, the two levels are handled separately and independently of each other. The general objectives are set in regional meetings or conferences, while individual objectives are discussed in performance reviews. Only one company (K) clearly reports a link between both levels of objectives which is a sign of a systematic procedure. This is done in a “reverse” process which starts with company objectives and breaks these down in successive steps to finally arrive at individual performance and training objectives. It is interesting to note that despite the b focus on person issues during the TNA process, the survey suggests that general, organizational training objectives are much more predominant than individual objectives. Except for company “H” which provided no answer to question 7, all ten organizations set general training objectives, while only five of them also explicitly develop individual training goals. Three companies (E, F, I) which in question 1 specifically claimed that they analyzed or intended to analyze individual training needs during the performance reviews, did not mention in their response to question 7 that they also elaborated individual training objectives. Rather, these organizations set general training goals. This apparent discrepancy may be due to the possibility that training needs are very similar throughout the workforce, caused once again by the rapid changes the industry experiences. However, while this may apply to technical skills, there certainly are differences between senior managers with regards to general management and leadership competencies. For these issues, individual training objectives would be appropriate. This discrepancy between the individual focus in training needs analysis and the general perspective in objective setting may however also be a sign of poor structure. This is the case if decisions are made as to what trainings job holders will attend but no individual training objectives are agreed upon. With regards to training evaluation, seven out of ten organizations which provided an answer to question 8 claimed systematically evaluating the benefits of training programmes. Responses to question 9 showed that the majority collect participant feedback after training programmes (level one). Of these six organizations, only three proceed to level two and test the learning which resulted from the training. One company (K) does not collect participant feedback but uses tests in order to verify what has been learned. According to the responses, five companies either monitor overall organizational results or compare the objectives which were initially set with the actual organizational impact. Both can be considered level four evaluations in the Kirkpatrick (1987) framework. The absence of level three evaluation (behaviour) is clearly visible. Nevertheless, considering the autonomous and independent nature of the jobs in question, observing behaviour changes may be a difficult undertaking, especially as the line manager is often based in a different country than the General Manager or Regional Specialist whose behavioural changes are to be evaluated. Four organizations also indicated using the outcomes of the evaluation as a feedback to fine-tune current and/or future trainings. Overall, the findings from question 9 suggest that three companies (A, C, G) diligently evaluate the benefits of their training programmes by applying three levels of Kirkpatrick’s framework and use feedback as a fine-tuning tool for current and future activities. While they represents less than one third of the companies surveyed, this percentage still is surprisingly high, considering the outcomes of past research and the yearly ASTD reports confirming how rare extensive training evaluation really is in the business world. Overall, considering the way objective setting and training evaluation are handled in the organizations surveyed, the lack of structure in training cycles which has been reported in past research is supported by the present study. The majority of companies do not seem to derive training goals from strategic organizational objectives, nor do they link organizational training objectives to individual development goals. As discussed previously, most companies do not perform a thorough TNA process and therefore run the risk of operating training programmes which are inadequately adapted to the needs of the organization, jobs and persons. While the finding that as many as three hotel organizations apparently thoroughly evaluate training programmes is encouraging, the conclusions from previous studies that extensive evaluation is the exception rather than the norm are supported.
Discrepancy Between Knowledge of Theory and Implementation
Often, despite the fact that the need for certain practices is recognized at the intellectual level, implementation does not follow. This potential inconsistency is suggested by the answers to question 3 which indicate that while seven out of the eleven companies interviewed find their overall TNA procedure to be either thorough or detailed (which implies that they consider such characteristics in TNA procedures to be important), most practices clearly are neither detailed nor thorough. Overall, there appears to be a clear preference to focus on the training needs of persons. At this point, one can only speculate about the reasons for this overall lack of consequence in the implementation the training cycle. The responses to the questions lead to believe that there is a generally widespread awareness within the industry about the importance of training and its potential benefits when the resources are invested wisely. The way in which the hotel companies plan and implement their training activities however stands in contrast to this general understanding. What is the reason for this discrepancy? It may be that companies place more emphasis on careful recruitment rather than training. As described previously, Spencer and Spencer (1993) divide competencies in visible and hidden ones. The hidden ones (trait, motives, self-concept) are more difficult to assess and also difficult to develop through training, therefore organizations should select for those competencies. The visible competencies on the other hand (skills, knowledge) are easier to analyze and to train. Spencer and Spencer assert that in complex jobs such as senior management, motivation, interpersonal skills and political skills distinguish superior performers. These characteristics are found in the hidden competencies. This assertion is supported by other research. For example the trait-like motive “Need for Socialized Power” has been found to be a fairly consistent characteristic of effective leaders (McClelland and Burnham, 1976). Therefore it may be a sensible strategy to focus on hiring the right applicants as training may have limited impact in these areas. However even if this is correct, organizational and task analyses would still be necessary in order to recognize the competencies to be sought by the organization and develop the criteria to be used in order to recognize those competencies in the recruitment process. Further, considering the current and predicted worsening shortfall of qualified applicants to the industry, this strategy may not work in the long run and compromises may have to be made regarding the required profile of external candidates.
The above discussion suggests that the international hotel industry approaches the training cycle in a similar way as most other sectors, namely in a relatively unstructured manner. One of the most puzzling findings of the study is that a general understanding of the importance of conducting thorough training needs analyses appears to exist, this knowledge however is not consequently put into practice. One explanation which has often been advanced is the notorious lack of power and political skills by HR and training specialists, which prevents them from “making their case” and gaining the necessary support in their organizations (Garavan, Barnicle and Heraty, 1993). One other reason however may be that the large hotel companies have adjusted their practices to the realities of the business. The difficulties of defining effective management and leadership have been extensively discussed in literature (e.g. Drucker, 1974). In the hospitality industry, this challenge may be exacerbated. In a sector with so many variances within the same management job category (General Managers or Regional Specialists responsible for different types of hotels in different markets and countries with diverse workforces) which are undergoing rapid and constant change, the completion of exhaustive task needs analyses may not be an effective technique to plan training programmes. Much of the information collected about the task would be applicable to the specific position surveyed and may quickly become obsolete. A general “competency approach” in which the organization aims to develop core competencies within its management workforce may be a more appropriate approach. Such competencies are generic skills, not directly linked to specific tasks, which are considered desirable to succeed within the organization and enhance its effectiveness. These competencies can be derived from organizational values and/or exemplary performers. For such approach, knowledge of a person’s strengths and weaknesses as well as of organizational objectives and performance are more useful information than outcomes of task analysis. If this is correct, then developing standard training programmes with the flexibility to add personalized modules based on the outcomes of the person analysis (as reported by companies B and K) may be the most effective way to organize a training concept for senior management. An interesting question would then be whether and how the organizations have defined the core competencies they find important and whether they also actively seek these characteristics in their recruitment activities. Further research is required to answer this question.
Another argument for the lack of interest in task need analysis may be the high proportion of informal, experienced-centred learning provided by the job itself versus planned formal training, as suggested by McCall, Lombardo and Morrison (1988). If the task is the training, then skilful organizational planning of job successions, promotions, project assignments, etc … for each person based on general knowledge of the task content may be an effective way to guide their development. As a final note, considering the reliance on data provided by only one respondent for each company, the conclusions must be considered with caution.
This project was very enlightening both from a general, academic point of view as well as from a professional perspective. First of all, I found it very challenging to define the boundaries of the project. Although my objective to investigate TNA practices in the international hospitality industry was clear from the very beginning, it took me several weeks to define the parameters of the project. This was so especially because the scope of my work was qualitative in nature, therefore it was not easy to decide which training issues I should include and which not. Further, training is a vast field and the training cycle is a process without clear beginning and end. In the literature survey, I decided to give a global overview of training in order to put the TNA process into perspective. Much literature is available and I read many articles and books and found it challenging to pick the citations and concepts that are most closely related to my project. The focus of the research was then of course linked to TNA. However since concept of TNA implies some structure in the training cycle, it was necessary also to spend some time on systematic training. Sampling was not a complicated issue as I chose to survey the 15 largest international hotel companies. When preparing the script for the interview, I found it challenging to find the right balance between number of questions and coverage of the topic of the study. When analyzing the responses, I noticed that every question did not always yield much additional information. For example the answers of question 2, in which the information used in TNA is asked, do not provide much additional insight to the responses of question 1. I should have worded the question in a different manner. For example, instead of knowing that companies who use assessment centres subsequently analyze the assessment centre report, it would have been more informative to explore what information they used when defining the criteria for the assessment centre. Did a thorough organizational and job review precede the development of the assessment centres? Also, the subject of improving TNA procedures would have been more informative, if I had asked the companies who claimed that their TNA procedures could be improved, what kept them from doing so. This may have given insight into whether this is due to insufficient resources, political reasons or whether explanations of a different nature apply. On the other hand, I found it interesting that, while task needs are neglected in TNA, the majority of companies claimed that they analyze future job requirements.
It would have been useful to also ask how this is done in order to reconcile the apparent contradiction between the disinterest in current task needs and the b interest in future job requirements. Coming into contact with interviewees was easier than I had expected and the interviews were less difficult to hold than I had assumed. Bringing all the different answers into a common, usable structure was also a challenge. I decided to handle the responses to the questions in different manners. Some are best summarized in a table, some in a complete list of each answer’s summary. After summarizing and sorting the answers, I did not find it very difficult to attempt to make deductions from the answers provided.
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