The stiffening competition in the business world has pushed companies to invest heavily in education for their employees. Traditionally, firms focused on offering additional skills to their workforce by enrolling them in colleges and other institutions of higher learning (Marsick & Watkins, 2015). Bearing in mind the rising commercial pressures, the reader may question the effectiveness and sustainability of such an approach.
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In fact, Boud (2006) emphasizes the increasing demands in the business world as the reason behind companies’ move to adopt modern approaches to learning, as opposed to the conventional ones, which have proved to be highly expensive and inefficient. Besides, the traditional training programs are not problem motivated, a situation that underscores the need to develop modern training techniques. The search for a better training method caused the evolution of the Just-in-Time (JIT) workforce training method. The stated method refers to a kind of training strategy, which entails offering problem-motivated instruction based on demand.
Under the method, employees can access learning materials when they need to solve a specific problem (Brandenburg & Ellinger, 2003). This paper argues that although the JIT training has the potential of changing productivity in an organization, failure to establish the relevant instructional JIT principles in the workplace may make businesses succumb to the rising commercial pressures that have informed the need to abandon traditional models.
Instructional Principles of Just-In-Time Training in the Workplace: A Critical Analysis
One of the strategies that organizations can use to ensure that employees benefit from JIT learning programs is to create an online library, which is in line with the JIT principle of production management. In this case, such a library may be viewed as a good whose production is fuelled by the existing demand for information among workers. Does the online library design matter when it comes to meeting employees’ information needs? Responding to this question, Hardyman, Bullock, Brown, Carter-Ingram, and Stacey (2013) assert that the library should be designed in a way that it contains rich information regarding different topics that are relevant to the firm’s operations. The creation of the library will promote knowledge available within the firm, hence saving employees the time, which they would otherwise spend moving from one department to the other seeking advice from colleagues.
The JIT-based infrastructure should allow the creation of information by tutors and employees alike. Such information should then be stored for retrieval by employees anytime, anywhere, and from any device. What benefit does this JIT plan have to employees? According to Hardyman et al. (2013), the availability of such information ensures that employees remain updated concerning the business operations, hence increasing their productivity.
Lloyd et al. (2014) hold a similar opinion. According to the author, the presence of information each time a need arises ensures that business operations are not stalled by the absence of technical expertise by any of the employees (Lloyd et al., 2014).
Employees who experience troubles when executing a certain task can consult the library to retrieve the relevant information. Such information promotes organizational learning whereby the workforce is regularly updated about the emergence of new business practices (Yuen, 2014). One may also wonder whether the JIT principle of production has any bearing on efficiency in the workplace. Adnan (2013) clarifies this dilemma by pointing out that access to such information improves efficiency by empowering employees to execute their duties independently, hence eliminating the need for supervision by line managers, not to mention that it promotes the employees’ morale. Overall, it is apparent that the presence of such information within the organization is in line with the need for a continuous training program since the employees can use the resources available to further their knowledge about the business operations.
According to Oschman (2017), Total Quality Management (TQM) is another JIT instructional principle that is embraced in the contemporary workplace to address rising commercial pressure. In the context of this study, creating a Learning Management System (LMS), which is accessible to all employees using any Internet-supported device, may be viewed as an excellent JIT learning strategy that organizations can employ to increase the effectiveness in the operations.
Oschman (2017) emphasizes the need for strategic planning when executing any TQM structure such as the LMS. Traditionally, firms procured and installed large desktops in the employees’ workstations. Such desktops were large and hardly transportable, a situation that limited the flexibility of JIT learning. Additionally, such desktops were only accessible to employees during the official working hours. From this situation, it is obvious to conclude that during such hours, employees could not achieve much since their time was limited due to the numerous responsibilities, which they had to handle within a restricted deadline.
From the above case, Boud’s (2006) sentiments strategically confirm the reason why conventional models were abandoned. Apparently, they could not cope with the rising need for convenience, efficiency, and quality in the contemporary workplace where information has been central in steering the day-to-day engagements and hence the relevance of Oschman’s (2017) views on TQM execution. Hence, with the contemporary TQM principle in place in many administrative centers, learning is more effective, especially for organizations that have developed the LMS, which all employees can access using other portable devices.
Upholding the same school of thought, Warhurst (2013) argues that JIT is more effective and motivating when workers are allowed to access learning materials from anywhere whenever they need to learn about a certain concept. In the past few decades, major mobile phone manufacturing firms have created Internet-supported devices, which are affordable even to the low-income earners. Organizations have tapped into this invention to offer timely instructions to their employees since a large percentage of them can access the Internet from their mobile phones. Therefore, it is imperative to utilize an LMS, which is mobile compatible to facilitate quality and flexible learning in the workplace.
Thirdly, JIT encourages the production of what is required and in the most desirable amount while discouraging any waste. This principle is in line with Oschman’s (2017) suggestion of minimizing waste while availing excellent results at a cheaper cost. In the context of the current presentation, another strategy, which may be applied by JIT trainers to make learning more effective, is to create a small content that directly addresses a certain problem or explains a specific concept.
The view is grounded on Kersh’s (2015) findings that the search for knowledge by employees is mostly motivated by the problems they encounter during the process of executing a task. Kersh’s (2015) move to investigate this subject is fuelled by the obvious little time that employees have to the extent that they would only be motivated to study a small article with specific information regarding the problem at hand.
In light of the above observation, it is important for organizations that seek to maximize the productivity of their employees to create bite-sized articles that address specific themes, as opposed to availing irrelevant big ones that turn out to be a waste in the workplace. However, as much as the articles should be brief, they need to contain links that refer the learner to another source of detailed information regarding the concerned topic. In my opinion, the presence of such links will ensure that learners who have much time to spend on learning get access to comprehensive content.
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Fourthly, JIT encourages the continuous improvement of information flow in the workplace. The objective here is to eliminate any delay when retrieving information. Consequently, Jamu, Lowi-Jones, and Mitchell (2016) strategically present the subject of Quick Response (QR) Codes as a two-dimension instructional mechanism, which is readable using either smartphones or other Internet-supported devices. The reader may wish to know how such codes operation in line with the instructional principles of JIT training. According to Jamu et al. (2016), when scanned, such codes immediately direct the user to a website, a video, an email, and billboard adverts.
Organizations may use this technology to fasten employees’ access to learning materials online. Under the technology, human resources will only need to scan the codes before they are directed to the relevant information regarding a certain topic. The primary objective of adopting this JIT learning strategy is to increase prompt access to information by employees. Utilizing the QR codes will direct learners to the learning site. What are the benefits of such codes? Sago (2011) strategically responds to this question by pointing out how the codes promote JIT learning, owing to their superior to the ordinary barcodes. As opposed to the barcodes, which only support a maximum of 30 numbers, Jamu et al. (2016) also reveal that the QR codes support more than 7,000 numbers. The high storage capacity of the QR codes facilitates their link to videos and social media networks such as Facebook. Therefore, organizations may deploy the codes to direct their employees to video learning content, which may be an effective teaching tool relative to the use of words.
From another perspective, the concept of social media as a knowledge management tool is derived from the JIT principle of the collective achievement of the set goals. According to Nederveld and Berge (2015), social media is another creative method, which organizations can use to promote JIT learning. Specifically, the authors regard it as a useful tool through which employees can interact and share knowledge concerning different topics (Nederveld & Berge, 2015).
Apparently, social media brings together employees from different cultural and social backgrounds who share a common interest in acquiring knowledge. As a result, the individual contribution to a group is significant since it attracts different talents and skills that allow information sharing. The pooling together of different knowledge not only allows the accumulation of knowledge but also eases problem-solving. Most social media platforms such as Facebook offer their users opportunities to create groups and pages through which they can interact with each other. In my opinion, this provision is an excellent opportunity for administrative centers that plan to use social media to promote JIT learning.
In fact, like Yen, Trede, and Patterson (2016) suggest, such workplaces need to create closed groups, which only enroll employees who share a common interest, which may be determined by the commonality of their learning needs. Through such groups, an employee may post a problem and invite other users to participate in offering a solution to a problem. The collective handling of the problem is also in line with the JIT instructional principle of human resource management since it triggers discussions and the ultimate result, which is the sharing of the necessary information among employees to solve the issue in question.
Challenges to the Application of JIT Learning in the Workplace
The implementation of the above JIT instructional principles in organizations is not immune to challenges. One of the recommendations made in this paper is the use of social media to promote knowledge creation and sharing. Social media as a source of knowledge has numerous strengths since it allows users to ask questions regarding their specific problems. However, as much as it acts as an important tool of knowledge management, it has its limitations that may hinder JIT learning both in the short and long run. According to Park and Choi (2016), one of the limitations is that the Internet is awash with non-academic contents that may divert the attention of the learner.
The Internet today suffers from the lack of regulatory policies that may standardize the contents posted by different individuals. Following this gap, an employee visiting the site to acquire knowledge may find him or herself doing different things, owing to the attractiveness of the non-academic ads that are in social media. Therefore, any organization that shares knowledge with its employees via social media must be keen to ensure that learners get the required information. This goal can be achieved by creating groups and pages whose contents are regulated by the administrator. Additionally, the administrator should restrict the membership of the group to the employees of the concerned firm.
Secondly, JIT learning is mainly achieved by using new technologies, for instance, creating a database from which employees can retrieve relevant data using Internet-supported devices. However, the integration of technology into a firm’s operations may expose it to numerous security risks. One of the security problems a company may have to deal with is the protection of its learning systems from intrusion by unauthorized individuals. The principal purpose of JIT learning is to increase communication and knowledge sharing within a firm (Choy, Billett, & Kelly, 2013; Kester, Kirschner, van Merriënboer, & Baumer, 2001).
The achievement of the purpose would involve the creation of data and its storage in computers for retrieval by employees whenever they need it. Technology would also allow employees to create knowledge through the internet and share it with the organization. Data stored in computers need to be secured to facilitate knowledge sharing. Nevertheless, any invasion of data by unauthorized individuals or an attack of the data by viruses may cause its loss or alteration. Given that employees use such data to make important decisions of a company, its loss or adjustment would cause the execution of wrong decisions.
A firm with an operational JIT also needs to protect its network from infringement by outsiders. It is important to note that most organizations utilize the Wide Area Network (WAN) and the Local Area Network (LAN) to enable interconnectivity in the entire workplace. However, it is frustrating to note that both WAN and LAN are susceptible to attacks by hackers, a situation that necessitates the adoption of strict measures to ensure that the network and company’s data are secure.
In addition, Internet-based JIT learning does not offer a platform on which learners (employees) may assess their skills practically. Online tests that are usually given to workers after an Internet-enabled tutorial may not be sufficient to examine the skills acquired by the concerned learner. Quality education encompasses imparting the right theoretical and practical skills to learners (Park & Choi, 2016). As it stands now, only the theoretical work can be shared online, a situation that limits employees’ knowledge of theories. To seal the gap in the knowledge shared in online forums, organizations should partner with Internet providers to facilitate the sharing of real-life skills via the Internet and the relevant social networks. This way, the quality of JIT learning will be enhanced.
JIT learning in the workplace refers to a form of teaching, which entails availing instruction materials to employees when they need them. This type of learning has gained ground in the past few decades following the rising commercial pressure and consequently the need for organizations to maximize their employees’ productivity while maintaining the training cost as low as possible. The current pressure in the market has led to the abandonment of conventional instructional models. For an organization to achieve success with JIT, it has to employ the appropriate training strategies/principles. Otherwise, it may not achieve the intended goals.
This observation notwithstanding, despite the potential that JIT instructional principles have when it comes to enhancing an organization’s production in the contemporary business, it is rather surprising that most organizations around the globe are not aware of the best strategies to utilize to realize the benefits accruing from JIT. In light of the above argument, this paper has critically explored the best ways that firms may utilize to make JIT work in their workplaces.
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