Learn about employee development training, methods and approaches.

A: Employee development training can be studied under the following heads:- 1. Off-the-Job Training 2. On-the-Job Training.

Some of the Off-the-Job Training are:- i. Seminars and Conferences ii. Simulation iii. Case Studies iv. Management Games v. Role Playing vi. In-basket vii. Sensitivity Training viii. Outdoor Training ix. Behaviour Modeling.

Some of the On-the-Job Training are:- i. Job Experiences ii. Job Enlargement iii. Job Rotation iv. Transfers v. Action Learning vi. Assistant-to Positions vii. Committee Assignment viii. Mentoring ix. Coaching x. In-House Development Centres.


B: Some of the Employee development methods and approaches are:- 1. Formal Education Programmes 2. Assessment 3. Job Experiences 4. Interpersonal Relationship.

Employee Development Training, Approaches and Methods

Employee Development Training – Off-the-Job and On-the-Job Training

There are many specific off-the-job and on-the-job development activities.

1. Off-the-Job Training:

a. Seminars and Conferences:

Like classroom instructions, seminars and conferences are useful for bringing groups together for development programmes.


(i) Seminars and conferences are used to communicate ideas, policies, procedures etc. for effective management.

(ii) They are also used for raising points of debate or discussion issues, (usually with the help of a qualified leader) that have no set answers.

(iii) They are used to change attitudes of manager for better management.

(iv) They are often conducted outside the organization jointly with universities, consulting firms and management associations on topics ranging from communication to strategic planning.


(v) By participating in seminars/conferences, managers and supervisors learn to identify necessary personal and organizational changes and to become more effective in their interpersonal relationships and their work groups.

b. Simulation:

It is an artificial environment that- attempts to closely resemble an actual condition.

The advantages of simulation exercises are the opportunities to attempt to create an environment similar to real situations without high costs. However, the disadvantages are that it is difficult to duplicate the pressures and realities of actual decision making on the job. Individuals often act differently in real-life situations than they do in a simulated exercise. Commonly used simulation exercise includes case study, management game and role playing.

c. Case Studies:

Case study is particularly useful in classroom learning situations. Using documented examples, participants learn how to analyse and synthesize facts and to understand the many variables on which management decisions are based. This improves decision-making skills.

Case studies are most appropriate when:

(i) Analytic, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are most important.

(ii) The knowledge, skills and attitude are complex and participants need time to understand them.


(iii) Active participation is needed.

(iv) The process of learning is as important as the content.

In case study method, the trainees are presented with a written description of an organizational problem, which could be real or imaginary. Individually the trainees analyze the case, diagnose the problem and present his/her findings and solutions in a discussion with other trainees.

Case study gives the trainees realistic experience in identifying and analyzing complex problems. The trainees learn that there are many ways to approach and solve complex organizational problems.


Integrated case scenarios expand the case analysis concept by creating long-term, comprehensive case situations. To create scenarios, scriptwriters (creative employees in the organization) create scripts which include themes, background stories, and detailed personal histories and role-play instructions.

Many a time case studies are mismanaged.

To improve effectiveness of case studies in employee development programmes Einsiedel (1995) suggested the following-

When using case studies:


(i) Be clear about learning objectives and list possible ways to achieve the objectives.

(ii) Decide which objectives would be best served by the case method.

(iii) Identify available cases that might work, or consider writing your own.

(iv) Set up the activity – including the case material, the room and the schedule.

(v) Follow the principles of effective group dynamics.

(vi) Provide a chance for all learners to take part and try to keep the groups small.


(vii) Stop for process checks and be ready to intervene if group dynamics get out of hand.

(viii) Allow for different learning styles.

(ix) Clarify the trainer’s role.

(x) Bridge the gap between theory and practice.

d. Management Games:

Management games make the training experiences more lively and interesting. The players are faced with the task of making a series of decisions affecting a hypothetical organization. The effects of every decision can be simulated with a computer programmed for the game. In computerized management games, trainees are split into 5 or 6 person companies, each of which has to compete with others in a simulated market place.


The groups are allowed to decide how much to spend on each functional area such as marketing, production, inventory etc. Usually 3 or 4 year periods are compressed into days, weeks or months. As in the real world each company can’t see what decisions the other firms have made, although these decisions do affect their own sales.

(i) Games are now widely used as a management development tool.

(ii) Planning of the management games are designed for general use but some have been designed for specific purposes.

(iii) Some airlines have developed games where managers working in teams compete with one another running fictitious airline companies and have to balance issues of routing, schedules, costs, profits etc.

(iv) Management games do not always require computers.

(v) The major advantage of management game is the high degree of participation it requires.


e. Role Playing:

Role playing consists of playing the roles of others assuming their attitudes and behaviour.

(i) By acting out another’s role or position, participants can improve their ability to understand and cope with others.

(ii) Role playing helps the employees learn how to counsel others by making them understand the situations from a different angle.

(iii) Role playing is common in training healthcare professionals to be empathic and sensitive to the concerns of patients.

(iv) It is increasingly used in training managers to handle employee issues relating to absenteeism, performance appraisal and conflict situations.


The major drawback in role playing is that participants hesitate to try role playing.

To make role playing effective the following suggestions are given by Snell and Bohlander (2007):

1. Ensure that members of the group are comfortable with each other.

2. Select and prepare the role-players by introducing a specific situation.

3. To help participants prepare, ask them to describe potential characters.

4. Realize that volunteers make better role-players.

5. Prepare the observers by giving them specific tasks (such as evaluation or feedback).

6. Guide the role-play enactment through its bumps (because it is not scripted)

7. Keep it short.

8. Discuss the enactment and prepare bulleted points of what was learned.

Role play is a versatile tool applicable to a variety of situations. With proper planning and implementation, role play can bring realism and insight into dilemmas and experiences. Feedback helps trainees how well they played their roles in applying managerial skills to each situation.

f. In-basket:

It is a simulation of the administrative tasks of a manager’s job. The exercise includes a variety of documents that may appear in the in-basket (in- tray) on a manager’s table. The participants read the materials and decide how to respond to them. Responses could include delegating tasks, scheduling meetings, writing replies or even completely ignoring the document.

g. Sensitivity Training:

This attempts to teach people about themselves, and, why and how they relate to, interact with, impact on and are impacted by others. This is accomplished by having trainees observe and analyse their actual behaviour in groups.

Goals of sensitivity training:

(i) Increased understanding, insight and self-awareness about one’s own behaviour and its impact on others.

(ii) Increase understanding and sensitivity about the behaviour of others.

(iii) Better understanding and awareness of group and intergroup processes.

(iv) Increased diagnostic skills in interpersonal and intergroup situations.

(v) Increased ability to transform learning into action.

(vi) Improvement in individual’s ability to analyse their own interpersonal behaviour.

h. Outdoor Training:

Sometimes referred to as wilderness or survival training, outdoor training has become a trend in many corporates. The primary focus is to teach trainees the importance of working together and to develop team spirit. Rafting, mountain climbing and surviving a week in a ‘Jungle’ are some of the programmes.

Outdoor training typically involves some major emotional and physical challenge. The purpose of such training is to see how employees react to the difficulties that nature presents to them. The programme is designed to know whether the employees face these changers alone or they ‘freak’ and whether they are successful in achieving their goal.

This type of training is helpful as today’s Business environment does not permit employees to stand alone. This emphasizes the importance of working closely with one another, building trusting relationships and succeeding as a member of a group.

i. Externship:

It refers to a company allowing employees to take a full-time operational role at another company. This helps employees Interested in gaining experience in a specific industry. The companies which sponsor externship promise to employ the externs after their assignments and employees who participate in the externship programme will remain committed to the company because they have had the opportunity to learn and grow professionally and have not had to disrupt their personal and professional lives with a job search.

Although externships give employees other employment options and some will leave, it is not only a good development strategy but also helps in recruitment. The externship programme signals to potential employees that the company is creative and flexible with its employees. As an extension, there are companies which exchange employees for mutual benefit.

j. Sabbatical:

It is a leave of absence from the company to renew or develop skills. It is similar to externship, a temporary assignment where the employees often receive full pay and benefits.

(i) Sabbaticals let employees get away from the day-to-day stresses of their jobs and acquire new skills and perspectives.

(ii) Sabbaticals allow employees more time for personal pursuits.

(iii) Sabbaticals are common in a variety of industries ranging from fast food industry to consulting firms.

(iv) Sabbaticals help in retention of key employees and recruitment of new ones.

(v) This programme helps recharge employees’ creativity in their jobs.

k. Behaviour Modeling:

It is an approach that demonstrates desired behaviour and gives trainees the chance to practise and role-play those behaviours and receive feedback. That is, it involves showing trainees the right (or model) way of doing something, letting each person practise the right way to do it and providing feedback regarding each trainee’s performance.

Steps in behaviour modeling:

(i) Modeling:

Participants view films, DVDs or videotapes in which a model manager is shown dealing with a problem effectively. The model shows specifically how to deal with the situation and demonstrates the learning points.

(ii) Role-Playing:

The trainees are given roles to play in a simulated situation. That is, trainees participate in extensive rehearsal of the behaviour demonstrated by the models.

(iii) Feedback and Reinforcement:

The trainer provides constructive feedback based on how the trainee performs in the role-playing situation. If trainees’ behaviour increasingly resembles that of the model, the trainer and other trainees provide social reinforces such as praise, approval, encouragement and attention.

(iv) Transfer of Training:

Finally, trainees are encouraged to apply their heir new skills when they are back on their jobs. Throughout the train­ing period emphasis is placed on transferring the training to the job.

Behaviour modeling has been found to be successful in helping managers interact with employees, handle discipline problems, introduce changes and increase productivity.

2. On-the-Job Development Training:

Some skills can be acquired just by listening, reading and observing. But there are many skills which can be acquired only through actual practice and experience. Managers develop skills effectively when presented with opportunities to perform under pressure and to learn from their mistakes. On-the-job development experiences are most powerful and commonly used.

For the on-the-job development programmes to be successful, the exercise must be well organized, intelligently supervised and challenging to the participants.

Methods of providing on-the-job experiences include the following:

a. Job Experiences:

These are the relationships, problems, demands, tasks and other features that employees face in their jobs.

(i) Most employee development occurs through job experiences.

(ii) The major assumption in using job experiences in employee development is that development is most likely to occur when there is a mismatch between the employee’s skill and past experiences and the skills required for the job.

(iii) To succeed in their jobs, the employees must improve their skills; they are forced to learn new skills, apply their skills and knowledge in a new way and master new experiences.

(iv) In this programme the executives are asked to identity key events that make a difference in their managerial styles and the lessons they learned from these.

(v) Some of the job demands helpful in development programmes are proving oneself with unfamiliar responsibilities, developing new directions to solve inherited problems, downsizing and recurring employees, unrest managing business diversity, job overload, handling external pressure, influencing without authority, adverse business conditions, lack of top management support, difficult boss etc.

(vi) Job experiences that are seen as positive stressors stimulate learning and those viewed as negative stressors create high level of harmful stress.

(vii) As obstacles and job demands related to creating change are most likely to lead to negative stress than other job demands, organizations should carefully analyse the negative consequences before placing employees in development programmes involving obstacles or creating change.

b. Job Enlargement:

It refers to adding challenges or new responsibilities to employees’ current jobs. Job enlargement could include special project assignments, changing roles within a work team or researching new ways to serve customers and clients. To enlarge the current job, employees are encouraged to join task forces which help them improve their leadership and organization skills.

c. Job Rotation:

It is the process of systematically moving an individual from one job to another over a period of time. The job assignments may be in various functional areas of the organization or movement may be amongst positions in a simple functional area or department.

(i) Assignments are based on an employee’s development needs.

(ii) Employees who rotate to new positions are required to document their experiences and learning, specifically emphasizing how the change helped them in developing their skills or better understand the business.

(iii) Each employee has a customized development plan and employees are assigned depending on the skills they need.

(iv) The length of time in each position varies depending on the skills and experience the employees need.

(v) While some return to their original jobs/ positions, others may move to other jobs/ departments.

(vi) Job rotation helps employees gain an overall appreciation of the organization’s goals, increase their understanding of different organizational functions, develop a network of contacts and improve problem-solving and decision-making skills.

(vii) Job rotation has been shown to be related to skill acquisition, salary hike and promotional chances.

(viii) Effective job rotation systems are linked to the organization’s training, development and career management systems.


(i) Job rotation may create a short-term perspective on problems and solutions.

(ii) Employee’s satisfaction and motivation may be adversely affected because developing specialties in a short period is difficult.

(iii) Employees don’t spend enough time in one position to receive a challenging assignment.

(iv) Productivity losses and work load increase may be experienced by the department which gives an employee for training as well as the department which accepts the employee due to training demands and loss of manpower.

The following aspects are suggested for effective job rotation system:

(i) Job rotation is used to develop skills as well as give employees experience needed for managerial positions.

(ii) Employees understand specific skills that will be developed by rotation.

(iii) Job rotation is used for all levels and types of employees.

(iv) Job rotation is linked with the career management process so employees know the development needs addressed by each job assignment.

(v) Benefits of rotation are maximized and costs are minimized through managing timing of rotations to reduce work load costs and helping employees understand job rotation’s role in their development plans.

(vi) All employees have equal opportunities for job rotation assignments regardless of their demographic group.

d. Transfers:

Transfer is the movement of an employee to a different job assignment in a different area of the organization. Transfers do not necessarily increase job responsibilities or compensation. They are mostly lateral move with similar responsibilities.

Though transfers to different jobs in new environments do help in employee development, many employees are reluctant to be transferred for obvious reasons-

(i) Transfer can be stressful not only because the employee’s work rule changes, but the spouse, if employed, must find new employment.

(ii) Transfers disrupt employees’ daily lives, interpersonal relationships and work habits.

(iii) People have to find new housing, shopping, healthcare and leisure facilities.

(iv) The employees may be placed far away from the emotional support of friends and family.

(v) They have to learn a new set of work norms and procedures and develop relationships with their new managers and peers.

(vi) They are expected to be as productive in their new jobs as they were in their old jobs even though they may not be familiar with the products, services, processes or customers.

(vii) Though transfers help employees to develop themselves with new opportunities, many feel transfers are demotivating. Sometimes they may feel it is a mild punishment. Because transfers can bring anxiety, many organizations find it difficult to make the employees accept transfer.

While unmarried employees, who are not active in social lives, accept transfers easily, married people hesitate. Among married employees, the spouse’s willingness is the most important influence on employees accepting transfers.

Research has identified the following employee characteristics which are associated with accepting transfers.

(i) High career ambitions,

(ii) A belief that one’s future with the organization is promising, and

(iii) A belief that accepting a transfer is necessary for success in the organization.

e. Action Learning:

This allows managers to work on real projects, analyzing and solving problems, usually in other departments. This gives manager time to work full time with others in the organization. At the end of the programme, the managers are expected to brief the management on the solutions. In some cases, action learning is combined with classroom instructions, discussion and conferences.

f. Assistant-to Positions:

Employees with managerial potential are encouraged to work under an experienced and successful manager, often in the different areas of the organization. Working as staff assistants, the individuals perform many duties under the watchful eye of a supportive manager. In this programme, the employees experience a wide variety of management activities and are groomed to assume duties of next higher level.

g. Committee Assignment:

(i) Committee assignments allow the employees to share in decision making, to learn by watching others and to investigate specific organizational problems.

(ii) Temporary committees often act as a taskforce to discuss a particular problem, ascertain alternative solutions and recommend particular solutions.

(iii) Temporary assignments are reported to be both interesting and rewarding to the employee’s development.

(iv) Appointment to permanent commit­tees increases the employee’s exposure to other members of the organization, broadens his or her understanding and provides an opportunity to grow and make suggestions under the scrutiny of other committee members.

h. Mentoring:

It is a process where a mentor, who happens to be an experienced, productive senior employee, helps develop a less experienced employee (the protege).

(i) Most mentoring relationships develop informally as a result of interests or values shared by the mentor or protege.

(ii) Generally, employees with certain personality characteristics such as emotional stability, adaptable behaviour and high needs for power and achievement are most likely to seek a mentor and be an attractive protest for a mentor.

(iii) Mentoring relationships can also be developed as a part of employee development programme to bring together successful senior employees with less experienced but ambitious employees.

(iv) Though many mentoring relationships develop informally, formalized mentoring programme ensures access to mentors for all employees. However, formal mentoring may not be able to serve the real purpose in a relationship that has been created artificially.

(v) Mentors are chosen based on interpersonal and technical skills. Some mentors need to be trained for effective mentoring.

Benefits of Mentoring Relationships:

(i) Both mentors and protégés can benefit from mentoring relationship.

(ii) Mentors provide career and psychological support to their proteges. Career support includes coaching, protection, sponsorship and providing challenging assignments, exposure and visibility. Psychological support includes serving as a friend and a role model, providing positive regards and acceptance and creating an outlet for the protege to tackle about anxieties and fears.

(iii) There will be higher rates of promotion, better salaries and greater organizational influence for the proteges.

(iv) Mentoring relationships provide opportunities for mentors to develop their interpersonal skills and increase their feelings of self- esteem and worth to the organization.

(v) Mentoring programs socialize new employees, increase skill transfer from training to the work setting and provide opportunities to gain exposure and skills needed to get into managerial positions.

Group Mentoring Program:

Due to lack of potential mentors and the belief that the quality of formal mentorships is poorer than informal mentorship, some organizations have group mentoring programs. In group mentoring programs, a successful senior employee is paired with a group of four to six less experienced proteges.

The mentor helps proteges understand the organization, guides them in analyzing their experiences and helps them in career directions. Each protege in the group may complete specific assignments or the group may work together on a problem/issue. The potential advantage is that proteges can learn from each other as well as from the mentor.

Noe et al (2008) identified the following characteristics of successful formal mentoring program:

(i) Mentor and protege participation is voluntary. Relationship can be ended at any time without fear of punishment.

(ii) The mentor-protege matching process does not limit the ability of informal relationships to develop. For example, a mentor pool can be established to allow protégés to choose from a variety of qualified mentors.

(iii) Mentors are chosen on the basis of their past record in developing employees, willingness to serve as a mentor, and evidence of positive coaching, communication, and listening skills.

(iv) The purpose of the program is clearly understood. Projects and activities that the mentor and protege are expected to complete are specified.

(v) The length of the program is specified. Mentor and protégé are encouraged to pursue the relationship beyond the formal period.

(vi) A minimum level of contact between the mentor and protege is specified.

(vii) Proteges are encouraged to contact one another to discuss problems and share success.

(viii) The mentor program is evaluated. Interviews with mentors and proteges give immediate feedback regarding specific areas of dissatisfaction. Surveys gather more detailed information regarding benefits received from participating in the program.

(ix) Employee development is rewarded, which signals managers that mentoring and other development activities are worth their time and effort.

i. Coaching:

It is a process where a coach, who could be a peer or manager working with the employee, motivates, helps, develops skills and provides reinforcement and feedback.

A coach plays three roles:

(i) One-to-one interaction as in the case of feedback.

(ii) Helping employees learn for themselves by identifying experts who are able to address the employees’ concerns.

(iii) Providing resources such as mentors, courses or job experiences that the employees themselves are unable to access.

Problems Encountered in Coaching:

(i) Managers’ reluctance to discuss performance issues even with a competent employee to avoid any possible confrontation.

(ii) Managers’ interest and ability in identifying performance problems rather than helping to solve them.

(iii) Managers’ assumption that the employee may interpret coaching as criticism.

(iv) Managers’ feeling that there is not enough time for coaching.

j. In-House Development Centres:

Many companies have in-house development centres, which usually combine classroom learning (lectures, seminars etc.), with other techniques such as in-basket exercises, role-playing etc. Some companies run courses ranging from entry-level programme in manufacturing and sales to strategic management and business development.

For some companies, their learning portals have become their in-house development centres. While large companies have their own institutes, small companies have learning portals on the web which not only facilitates coordinating all the company’s training efforts but also delivers web-based modules that cover topics from CRM to mentoring.

Employee Development Methods and Approaches – Formal Education Programmes, Assessment, Job Experiences and Interpersonal Relationship

There are several methods to develop employees. Organizations can employ a combination of various methods depending on the type of employees and the organizational context.

Noe et al (2008) identified four broad approaches, namely, formal education, assess­ment, job experiences and interpersonal rela­tionships.

Method # 1. Formal Education Programmes:

These are employee development programs that include short Courses offered by consultants or universities, executive MBA programmes and University programmes. These are off- site and on-site programmes designed specifically for company’s executives.

(i) These programmes involve lectures by business experts, business games, simulation, adventure learning and meeting with customers.

(ii) Many companies have development centres that offer development programmes including classroom, online training and job experiences.

(iii)These programmes provide experiences in areas, such as public relations, financial communication, electronic media and Internet Development.

(iv) Formal training is given in leadership and presentational skills.

(v) Participants are mentored by experienced communication leaders.

Method # 2. Assessment:

Assessment involves collecting information and providing feedback to employees about their behaviour, communication style or skills for further development.

(i) The employee’s peers, managers and customer, may provide information.

(ii) Assessment is most frequently used to identify employees with managerial potential and to measure current managers’ strengths and weaknesses.

(iii) Assessment is also used to identify managers with the potential to move into higher-level executive positions.

(iv) Companies vary in the methods and sources of information they use in developmental assessment. Companies with sophisticated development systems use psychological tests to measure employees’ interpersonal styles, personality types and communication styles.

(v) Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a psychological test used for team building and leadership development that identifies employees’ preferences for energy, information gathering, decision making and lifestyle.

Method # 3. Job Experiences:

Most employee development occurs through job experience, that is, relationships, problems, demands, tasks or other features that employees face in their jobs.

(i) A major assumption of using job experiences for employee development is that development is most likely to occur when there is mismatch between the employee’s skills and past experiences and the skills required for the job.

(ii) To succeed in their jobs employees must stretch their skills, that is, they are forced to learn new skills, apply their skills and knowledge in a new way and master new experiences.

(iii) One concern in the use of demanding job experiences for employee development is whether they are viewed as positive or negative stresses, job experiences that are seen as positive stresses challenge employees to stimulate learning, job challenges viewed as negative stresses create high levels of harmful stress for employees exposed to them.

(iv) Job experiences are gained through job rotation, job enlargement, externship and sabbatical.

Method # 4. Interpersonal Relationship:

Employees can develop skills and increase their knowledge about the company, its customers, organizational politics, organizational behaviour etc., by interacting with more experienced members in the organization. Mentoring and coaching are two types of interpersonal relationships used to develop employees.