HRD in Small Organisations: Research and Practice

By Jim Stewart; Graham Beaver | Go to book overview

3

Neither market failure nor customer ignorance

The organisational limitations of employee training and development

Scott Taylor, Sue Shaw and Richard Thorpe


Introduction

Employee training and development are important aspects of human resource management activity. However, managers in smaller organisations cite training and development as the most problematic aspect of people management, especially during periods of expansion. We suggest that training and development practices in smaller organisations are characterised by ‘lacks’. First, managers in small companies are seen as resistant to the provision of training opportunities through a lack of time, money or market knowledge. Second, we examine the argument that suitable training and development are not provided for employees in small companies, as suppliers have concentrated on larger, wealthier organisations. We propose that these images of managers in small companies and training suppliers generate a picture of the management of small companies which neglects the internal organisational processes of negotiation in requesting and granting training. Recognition of this dynamic, we suggest, may help to understand the perceived failure of training and development initiatives in smaller organisations. Thus, low levels of formal training and development in smaller organisations may be neither market failure nor customer ignorance.

Next, we outline the training and development processes which employees and managers undergo in four small companies. More than sixty interviews from four case studies, two from manufacturing and two from the service sector, are analysed. We focus in particular on the experiences of two training managers, one from a manufacturing company and the other from a service provider. From this, we identify three key issues in the negotiation of training and development. First, the competence of managers to gauge what training is needed; second, the problematic linkage of training and skills levels to pay; and third, the acquisition of recognised credentials for employees, in addition to informally acquired job competence.

We then return to the issues raised in the introduction, and in particular the argument that low levels of training take-up in smaller companies are the result of either ignorance of training opportunities or the failure of the market to provide appropriate content. We question both of these propositions, and suggest that

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