Action Research Project
Action Research Project
The purpose of this paper is to outline a human resource problem at NeuTech Systems Inc. which relates to a skills gap among its employees. An organizational development (OD) strategy is also recommended together with the rationale for its choice. An evaluation plan is also discussed for the proposed OD intervention.
Description of the Organization
NeuTech Systems Inc. is an IT company that specializes in providing software services and information technology solutions. NeuTech Systems Inc. offers IT services and solutions that aid small, medium, and large firms in keeping pace with the ever-changing business environment. The company is headquartered in New York, US. NeuTech Systems Inc. serves businesses found in the Northeastern US. The IT solutions offered by the company are supposed to help its clients stay abreast with competition. The product portfolio of NeuTech Services Inc. is diverse and includes managed services, business process outsourcing, support services for IT infrastructure, enterprise integration, HR payroll systems, and student information system solutions among others. NeuTech System Inc. customers comprise retail outlets, governmental organizations, learning institutions, telecom companies, financial services firms, and banks. The company also has offices serving all states in the Northeastern US including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut. The vision of NeuTech Systems Inc. is to become a trusted industry leader that offers high-quality IT solutions and services that help other businesses attain their full potential.
Context of the Problem
In the recent past, clients of NeuTech Systems Inc. have been raising concerns that the solutions and services being provided by the company are not helping them achieve competitive advantage as promised. The customized products and services provided by NeuTech Systems Inc. appear outdated, while other IT companies offer innovative solutions that match the business needs of their respective customers. This is an indication that employees at NeuTech Systems Inc. are not developing innovative and creative solutions, which suggests the possibility of a skills gap among employees in the organization. According to Cappelli (2012), a skills gap refers to a significant gap existing between the skills needs of an organization and its existing capabilities. As a result, the organization stagnates and lacks competitive advantage because it does not have the right skills needed to aid in driving business results as well as supporting the goals and strategies of the organization. Because of the skills gap, NeuTech Systems Inc. risks being edged out of business by other IT companies that are developing innovative and creative solutions. Owing to the fact that computer technologies change constantly, firms offering IT services should also ensure they are up-to-date with the technological advancements that are shaping the business environment of their clients. Businesses do not need the services and solutions provided by NeuTech Systems Inc. if they are outdated and do not match the changes occurring in the business environment. Therefore, the specific problem at NeuTech Systems Inc. is a skills gap. The employees at the company are not up-to-date with current trends in IT; as a result, the company is delivering outdated IT solutions and services to its clients. The skills gap problem must be addressed if NeuTech Systems Inc. is to remain competitive in the industry characterized by high intensity of competition and dynamic needs of customers. The skills gap observed in the NeuTech Systems Inc. is attributed to a change in the customers’ needs, yet employees’ capabilities and skills are stagnant.
Needs Assessment and Diagnosis
With the business environment constantly changing, employees must develop old skills and learn new ones in order for them to be proficient (Cappelli, 2012). The first step in the data collection process involves the identification of business goals. Remaining competitive requires an organization to have a skilled workforce (Swanson, 2007). Evaluating the crucial skills required by firm enables the organization to make sure that the existing and future employees have the right skills that can facilitate optimal organizational performance. This involves listing the current business needs as well as the organization’s strategic objectives. In addition, the processes, procedures, and the types of personnel needed to implement these functions should be identified (Cappelli, 2012). This is followed by articulating the desired state in terms of the change at the organizational and individual level. In the context of NeuTech Systems Inc., employees should be informed of the desired state that the company wants to attain in the future and their desired skills level needed to achieve that state. Swanson (2007) emphasizes the necessity to change the strategic objectives of the organization. NeuTech should articulate its strategic objectives to its employees in order to help align their skills with its strategic direction, which can only be achieved through understanding the business needs. While identifying the business needs, it is imperative for NeuTech Systems Inc. to outline a skills and traits list that the company values in its employees. In addition, the company should also consider highlighting what it values most in an employee and the position, which, in this case, is creativity and innovation.
The next step after understanding the business needs is assessing the existing skills levels of employees. While estimating the existing skills level within the organization, it is also imperative to focus on specific job roles or departments that are not failing to meet the established performance standards (Cappelli, 2012). This entails evaluating the job roles or departments having the greatest effect on customers, the jobs roles that generate bulk of the revenue for NeuTech Systems Inc., the job roles having the largest gap between the company’s expectations and employees’ performance, the job roles producing the highest rate of staff turnover, and the job roles that are critical to the business. According to Swanson (2007), organizations must evaluate the skills that are available. This can be achieved using national occupational standards that offer a description of the knowledge, understanding, and skills required to perform a particular job in accordance with the nationally accepted competence level. In addition, national occupational standards are an important tool for identifying skills gaps and filling them. Skills management tools can also be used to determine the optimum and current skills profile of employees, which then determines the course of action for addressing the problem of skills gap (Swanson, 2007). An example is competency assessment which places emphasis on comparing the performance of an employee in regard to the required performance standards. The focus is on identifying the current skills gaps and competencies of existing and prospective employees. Self-assessment is another tool that organizations can employ to determine the current skills levels. Moreover, an inventory that describes the knowledge and skills needed to undertake each role in the firm can be used in evaluating the existing skills level at the organization (Cappelli, 2012). An example is a spreadsheet that outlines tasks in one column and the skills and knowledge in another. The supervisor can make use of observations when determining the current skills levels of employees in the organization. The personnel can be rated as those of an entry, master, or expert level. Apart from observations, data can be gathered using focus groups and online survey tools such as Qaultrics and SurveyMonkey to collect information from employees (Cappelli, 2012). The 360 degree feedback can also be used to collect data, which entails collecting feedback regarding an employee from diverse sources including customers, direct reports, peers, and supervisors.
The analysis of data collected should be geared to identify the missing crucial skills needed to ensure the competitiveness of the organization. The missing knowledge and skills should be listed as well as areas where job competency does not meet the required standards, such as teamwork, leadership, creativity, and communication (Austin, 2013). NeuTech Systems Inc. should also focus on technical and project management skills when analyzing and interpreting data. Moreover, NeuTech Inc. should look at skills that need extra training. Other competency areas include collaboration, customer service, managing workload, and delegation (Austin, 2013). The findings of expert employees can be compared with the outcomes of less experienced personnel with the aim of identifying the tactics that expert employees use. This plays an instrumental role in determining the training needs geared to improve the performance of less skilled employees. The skills gap assessment should also attempt to uncover hidden skills, which refer to skills that employees are unaware that they have (Austin, 2013). Some of the most common hidden skills that the company should pay attention to include multi-tasking, planning and organizational skills, resource management, and work ethic.
From the perspective of employees, the findings of the skills gap analysis should assist in the development of individual training plans, support of performance evaluations, and justification of pay reviews. From the perspective of the Human Resources department, the skills gap analysis should be used in identifying employees who are knowledgeable in a specific area and those lacking particular skills in order to facilitate the mentoring process (Austin, 2013). In addition, the skills gap analysis should aid in supporting the recruitment practices since the HR department can choose candidates having the skills required by the organization. Moreover, skills gap analysis should focus on highlighting the areas to allocate significant training resources to particular job roles (Austin, 2013). The analysis of the data obtained during the skills assessment should also concentrate on determining skills pertinent to particular demographic profiles among the employees within the organization.
Proposed Organization Development Intervention
The proposed intervention is the employee training and development, which is an HR intervention approach having the main objective of enhancing the performance of people and groups within the organization (Ford, 2014). Employee training and development comprise three primary elements which include training, education, and development. Training focuses on the job that an employee presently holds. Education is concerned with the job that an employee may hold at a certain point in the future. Development places emphasis on activities that the firm is currently engaged in or will engage in the future (Ford, 2014). The overarching objective of employee training and development is to articulate the competencies, skills, and capabilities of employees to guarantee a sustainable organizational development, and to advance these capabilities to enhance organizational development. The training modes that will be used include on-the-job mentoring and coaching, job shadowing, seminars, college courses, in-house consultant training, group workshops, one-to-one tutoring, and video presentation (Storey, 2007).
The resources needed for the implementation of employee training and development intervention at NeuTech Systems Inc. are diverse and include instructor fees; training materials, such as course feeds, video tutorials and presentations, and classes; travel, accommodation, and meal expenses for those participating.
Table 1 below shows the timeline for the organizational intervention.
Training Activity Start Date End Date
Assessment of current skill levels at the company January 4, 2016 January 29, 2016
Determining of training needs February 1, 2016 February 13, 2016
Communicating information regarding the training program to employees February 15, 2016 February 19, 2016
Collecting input from employees regarding the training and development program February 22, 2016 March 31, 2016
Delivery of training materials, including sourcing for external consultants April 4, 2016 April 29, 2016
Training delivery May 2, 2016 July 29, 2016
Evaluation of the training program August 1, 2016 Ongoing
Regardless of the potential benefits associated with employee training and development, resistance from managers and employees is a likely occurrence. For example, employees may argue that training occupies part of their work hours (Ford, 2014). In other words, employees may consider training and development initiatives not worthy of their time. According to Storey (2007), compelling employees to go to a training session creates an instant barrier towards learning. In addition, top performing employees usually incline to things that they are in a position to control; therefore, persuading them to attend training is likely to offend them, which is a potential barrier to learning from the training and development initiative. In such a scenario, Ford (2014) asserts that employees are likely to tolerate the training rather than put effort into it. It is in the best interest of NeuTech Systems Inc. to ensure that its employees do not endure the training but rather enjoy the process and learn.
In order to overcome the likely resistance to training, Storey (2007) recommends providing employees with a sense of control, such as providing them with the opportunity to select the training classes, and ensuring that the training fits the schedule of employees. Moreover, employees at NeuTech Systems should have a change to give input regarding their training, which helps create interest in the training.
Training and development of employees at NeuTech Systems Inc. will result in numerous benefits, both for the company and its employees. For the company, employees training and development can improve the morale of its workers, profit, and organizational performance (Saks, Haccoun, & Belcourt, 2010). Through training and development, NeuTech Systems Inc. gets to select specific new skills and competencies that its employees acquire. Moreover, training and development provides the company with an opportunity to meet its current and future skills needs. Training and development of employees has also been linked to significant productivity improvements. Through training, NeuTech Systems Inc. demonstrates to its employees that it values them to such an extent that the company invests in them, which in turn results in the improved loyalty and staff retention. Staff turnover is costly for the company in the sense that it lowers productivity and increases the cost of acquiring new employees (Ford, 2014). Through training and development, the company will avoid these costs since satisfied workers cooperate with the company longer. Therefore, regardless of the initial financial costs associated with the employee training and development, it pays back. Training will not only contribute to the company but also employees by helping them acquire new skills, progress their career, and increases their ability to undertake new tasks, resulting in higher motivation and engagement (Ford, 2014).
Suggested Evaluation Approach
Evaluation of the training and development involves assessing its effectiveness and quality by measuring the merit of the training or its resultant impact such as the skills and productivity improvement (Austin, 2013). The evaluation approach will use both measures. With respect to the merit of the training and development intervention, the level to which employees were satisfied with the training will be measured taking into consideration whether they enjoyed the training, the relevance of the training to their work, and the appropriateness of the training with respect to their time (Ford, 2014). The second measure of evaluation will concentrate on the outcomes of the training, which will include knowledge acquisition, behavioral application, improvements in business outcomes, such as satisfied customers, and return on investment (ROI), that is the long-term financial gains, linked to the training.
The specific problem at NeuTech Systems Inc. is that the skills and competencies of its employees do not match the demands of its customers; as a result, the company provides its customers with outdated solutions. Addressing this problem requires the use of HR intervention, particularly employee training and development. The first step entails performing the skills gap analysis by assessing the current skills level and mapping the skills needed by the company based on its strategic direction. The skills gap analysis will be used in designing the training and development program to help enhance the skills and knowledge of its employees.