Introduction Many theorists have suggested that it is crucial to adequately train stuff in order to improve the overall quality of the service or product offered. Today employers are increasingly depending on the skills of all their employees for improvements in efficiency, quality and customer service (Motwani, Frahm, & Kathawala, 1994a). This review will focus on the findings of the main theorists in the quality management field and their views on the importance of employee training. It will outline the factors which influence employee training and suggest how quality training should be implemented.
The review will also provide some insight into alternative methods of quality employee training. The Importance of Training to Quality Motwani, Frahm, & Kathawala (1994b) state that training is the critical variable in the success or failure of a company’s quality improvement programme. They go on to say that training enables a company’s workforce to acquire the skills needed to improve and maintain the quality production process. As the challenge of improving product and service quality becomes more important for all organizations so does the challenge to the training and development profession (Motwani, et al. 1994a). Motwani, et al. , (1994a) agree with other authors such as Cocheu (1992) and Ishikawa (1976), that quality begins and ends with training. According to Kaeter and Cothran (1992), training influences the process that help to improve quality. Ishikawa (1976) who has been a leader in stressing employee participation and the man who advocated the use of cause and effect diagrams (also known as ishikawa diagrams) to diagnose quality problems, has stressed that it is crucial to train managers and employees to improve quality.
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Deming (1982) notes that all employees should be trained continually as the needs of the customers are constantly changing over time. It is not enough to hire good people for the business organisation. They constantly have to acquire new skills for new materials and new methods of production. Deming (1982) considers training to be a long-term investment in people and the future of the company. Continuous training helps employees to improve their quality performance and the quality of the work processes they are responsible for (Deming 1982).
When identifying key practices of quality management, most authors agree that training is an important factor. Saraph, Benson & Schroeder (1989) list training as one of the eight critical factors of quality management. Lakhal, Pasin, & Limam (2006) go on to state that employee training and employee participation are two of the eight critical factors of quality management. Eight key employee practices to improve quality have also been suggested by Smith (2001) and they are: recruiting, selection, retention, teamwork, training and development, appraisal, rewarding quality and employee involvement.
Just knowing that training is important is not enough; training must also be effective (Cocheu, 1992). Cocheu (1992) proposes that to improve quality, organizations can use a six-step strategy, which includes: 1. Preparation, 2. Planning, 3. Awareness, 4. Deployment, 5. Implementation, and 6. Continuous improvement. This strategy should be supported by a six-phase training approach: 1. Understanding and commitment, 2. Quality management systems, 3. Improvement teams, 4. Customer service, 5. Process improvement, and 6. Advanced quantitative methods. Each phase of the quality training curriculum should build on the preceding hase of the training to give people at every level of the organization the knowledge and skills they will need. This includes both the employees and the management. (Cocheu, 1992) The Importance of Management to Training Most authors agree that quality management is crucial for the successful training of the employees. Without the wholehearted commitment of top management, spending time on quality training is pointless. Employees look to management to see if a company is really serious about quality training. If the management does not commit itself to change than the workers will not do so either (Motwani, et al. 1994b). Successful implementation of any change programme requires proper education and training of those who would be involved in the implementation process (Ernest Osseo-Asare Jr & Longbottom, 2002). Management needs to be sincere and to devote adequate time and resources to the on-site training effort so that employees believe it is important. Whether on-site or off-site training is employed, the skills learned by employees need to be applied immediately. If this is done, employees will receive the quality message (Motwani, et al. , 1994b).
Anjard (1995) argues that it is no longer a luxury or a question as to whether Total Quality Management (TQM) philosophy should be adopted. He states that “unless we adopt the concepts of continuous improvement, we are guaranteeing organizational obsolescence”. TQM is a visionary movement which represents a final recognition of a management philosophy that encourages employees to share responsibility for delivering quality services and products. Commitment from the top as well as a willingness to transform an organization from the bottom up is essential for effective implementation.
More importantly Anjard (1995), goes on to say that effective TQM managers lead, coach and mentor amongst other things and that managers must train everyone and provide them with the knowledge, skills and tools needed for continuous quality improvement. Mathews, et al. (2001) add that the training that underpins quality management determines the likely effectiveness of the quality initiatives undertaken. Quality is achieved where employee satisfaction results from high-quality management, which places great importance on employee motivation and morale (Crome, 1998).
Clear objectives in line with vision should be shared with staff through proactive leadership, highlighting areas that work well, creating champions of good practice and being supportive and motivational (Curry & Lyon, 2008). Donaldson (2004) states that achieving true quality takes much more than just learning the basic skills and technical concepts, you also have to get the human element right. This means providing education and training opportunities for all involved, plus support and empowerment from above. The author adds that emphasis should be placed on employee empowerment and training to improve quality of service.
Bharadwaj & Karkera (2001) add that it is not realistic to think that mangers can achieve control by simply hiring good people, aligning incentives and hoping for the best. Today’s managers must encourage employees to initiate process improvements and new ways of responding to customers’ needs – but in a controlled way. Also, the employees must be told specifically what is expected of them. Specific training makes employees more confident and reduces staff turnover rates. This in turn increases quality (Pollitt, 2006). Smith (2001) agrees and states that employee involvement is positively linked with improved quality.
As a result of this employee empowerment, some trainers responsible for self-guidance of the development process, become concerned that the philosophy implies their role within the organization will eventually become redundant. Quality control managers have subsequently discovered that the move to TQM has not reduced the importance of their job role. In fact, quite the reverse is usually the case because the quality manager’s new responsibilities as quality facilitator and mentor across all aspects of the organization’s activities is inevitably more rewarding and demanding than their old role of “organizational gamekeeper” (Chaston, 1994).
Many companies have established written quality requirements for the products that they produce but few have developed internal requirements that must be met as process flows from one operation to another. Still fewer have developed requirements for the process itself – what must be done in what order to produce a conforming output (Oversmith, 1990). The author stresses the importance of using recognition systems that encourage participation and the involvement of employees in the quality process. Oversmith (1990) adds that companies achieve quality by making every single employee a “quality manager”.
Each employee has to know what part they are playing in the quality improvement process. It begins when the employee is orientated into the company. The employee learns the requirements expected of all employees as well as the specific requirements for the job to be performed. This initial training should be followed up within the first few weeks of employment by formal quality education to stress the importance of the individual’s role in the quality improvement process as well as specific actions an employee is expected to take to avoid or eliminate quality nonconformance (Oversmith, 1990).
Formal training in group problem solving and the proper use of teams to eliminate quality problems further prepares an employee to participate in improvement process. Smith (2001) also agrees that team based learning is important and suggests that incentives should be used to promote quality. Incentives for Quality and Alternative Methods of Training In order for the employees to use their training and improve the quality of the products/services, the management must provide them with incentives. If valued incentives exist for desired behavior, training that enables such behavior is likely to succeed as well:
Many people receive a fixed amount of pay for the hours they work. They will not make more money immediately if they do a better job and they will not receive less, unless they are fired, for doing a poorer job. So, for these people, pay is an incentive for being present and for doing a minimally acceptable job – and not much more than that. Fortunately for employers, other incentives exist: approval and compliments, respect and trust, access to valued resources – tools, people, a window with a sunny view, awards, increased power and authority, more interesting or desirable assignments (Allen, 2003).
Allen (2003) suggests that employers consider providing meaningful and memorable experiences through interactive multimedia to help employees see how the impact of their work determines the success of the group and ultimately affects quality. Burns (2005) suggests use of e-learning to train employees to improve quality. The key being interactivity. E-learning provides the potential to bring quality to life. When people are having fun, they won’t realize how much they are learning. If the average employee doesn’t enjoy learning he or she won’t absorb much about quality.
Computers allow simulations to be built as an aid to learning and this is very relevant in lean Six Sigma training where factors such as throughput, work in progress, touch time and cycle time interact could be difficult to demonstrate. This would not just be effective but it will also be more enjoyable and people learn better when they are enjoying the learning experience (Pollitt, 2007). Pattison (2001) agrees that activities and interactivity make learning and training more enjoyable. Burns (2005) adds that humor is another means of providing motivation to learn about quality.
Conclusion Upon review of literature on the importance of training to product and service quality it is evident that staff training is a vital part of any quality process. Quality products and services depend on a quality workforce. In order to sustain competitive advantage companies need to develop and implement quality training measures. A strong support from management is needed to constantly motivate and facilitate the employees training. Investing in employees training directly correlates with how the quality of the company’s products and services is viewed.
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