Current Training and Development Practices and Problems in Arab Countries
كلية إدارة الأعمال – جامعة الحسين بن طلال
المركز الثقافي الملكي
عمان - الأردن
1-3/ جمادى الآخرة / 1427 هـ
27 – 29 حزيران 2006
Current Training and Development Practices and Problems in Arab Countries
The inability of Arab countries to cope with the increasing pressures resulting from globalisation, internationalisation and the expansion of population and information technology has forced these countries’ businesses to pay more attention to improving their insufficient manpower capabilities. Human resources are perceived to be a significant element for economic development. T&D management and the other managerial behaviours have been influenced largely by socio-cultural factors resulting from Arab culture and Islamic rules and principles.
Religion and family are very important influential factors on Arab organisations. In Arab society the family plays an important role in creating a system, which implies and creates loyalty and obligations, which each family member should respect. That creates very negative unprofessional managerial values which managers and employees should respect and accept, such as nepotism, favouritism and the power of the strong personal and social contact relationships, as more important elements than formal procedures.
In the majority of the Arab and Jordanian organisations, there is an absence of systematic employee training needs assessment and of effective procedures for evaluation. The organisations prefer to send their employees to external training providers rather than train them in the organisations. The most commonly used delivery method is off-the-job training, namely lectures, seminars and case studies. T&D is not characterised by strategic human resource development criteria (SHRD) and it plays a reactive rather than a proactive role in these organisations. T&D in Jordan faces many problems: lack of motivation among employees to attend T&D programmes; inaccurate TNA processes; poor training planning in terms of contents and delivery methods; sending inappropriate persons to the training programmes and lack of on-the-job training.
Current Training and Development Practices and Problems in Arab Countries
Arab countries have recently paid more attention to management training and development and managerial personnelas they recognised that achievement of modernisation, development, organisational effectiveness, competitiveness and globalisation required, in addition to the capital funds and government commitment, a well-qualified and skilled workforce. The insufficient supply of competent, educated and trained people, especially managers, is one of the most critical features of developing countries, including Arab countries, which has led Arab governments and businesses to pay more attention and efforts to management development (Al-Madhoun et al., 2003). Under European colonial rule, Arab managers learned about modern management principles and practices. However, after independence they suffered from different problems relating to the lack of talented, competent, well-educated, efficient and trained people and the lack of professional and managerial staff, which have become critical factors of development in these countries.
Al-Faleh (1987) and Durra (1991) argue that, in Jordan, there has been frequent debate on the value of increasing the country’s development. There are those who believe that T&D leads to no substantial improvement in management performance, while others believe that the problems do not lie in the concept of T&D itself, but rather with the training methods, materials and teaching approaches being used. According to Atiyyah (1993), some Arab countries, including Jordan, rely heavily on the indigenous managerial workforce, while the oil-rich Gulf States tend to recruit large numbers of foreign qualified staff, including managers. This, in turn, creates another problem regarding whether western managerial theories, principles and practices could be applied in Arab organisations or not.
Many researchers, training specialists and managers in the Arab states describe training effectiveness in their countries as being generally "low". That refers to many reasons and implies doing so many things to handle T&D problems in Arab organisations. Moreover, Atiyyah (1993) contends that management development in the Arab countries is at the low commitment low activity stage due to the lack of recognition of its contribution in improving organisational performance. The lack of well qualified, educated and trained managers, in addition to the lack of professional managerial staff, has affected development projects and activities negatively. As a result of the lack of competent people, individuals with minimum qualifications and experiences occupy very professional, important jobs.
Jordan, like any other Arab country, has been influenced by traditions of family, tribe, village and religion.. Muna (1980) points out that Arab managers live and work within a social structure where family and friendship are the dominant attitudes. Therefore, this chapter presents the context of this research. It provides what has been found regarding to T&D in Arab organisations.
Specifically, this paper aims to identify and explore the main cultural, social and organisational factors that influence managerial practices of T&D effectiveness in Arab countries. In addition, it aims to raise the issue of whether or notwestern managerial techniques or practices could be applicable to Arab organisations. Also, it aims to provide a general background relating to the management T&D in Arab countries, in terms of training need assessment, designing training programmes, training techniques and methods, and the ways in which T&D effectiveness are evaluated.
1.2 Factors that Influence Managerial Practices in Arab Organisations
Arab countries share the same culture, social values and norms, religion and language, irrespective of the differences of political and economical issues. These socio-cultural factors influence managerial styles and practices, including T&D. Arab people, like those in many other nations, have their own culture that affects their life aspects, including managerial practices. The strong roots of Arab culture stem from history, religion, traditions and the past and present philosophical, political and economical ideologies. Arab culture has a great influence on the individuals and managerial practices and behaviour and on all types of management development programmes offered.
Al-Faleh (1987) summarizes cultural influences on the Arab managerial styles.
Socio-cultural influences resulting from Arab culture and Islamic rules and principles affect and shape all Arab life aspects, including managerial practices. Regarding the social value and norms, they play a crucial role in shaping work values and commitment. In this regard, Ali (1995) argues that Arab managers are people-oriented and value that approval of their peer group associated more than individual fame. Muna (1980) contends that family, friends and community largely affect Arab managers’ thinking, thoughts, beliefs, decisions and practices.
- Organisations’ employees act with respect and conformity in the formal hierarchy of authority; an authoritarian management style is predominant.
- An organisation’s members are motivated by affiliation and power needs rather than by performance objectives; hence, social formalities are very important.
- Managers show high commitment towards social obligation and objectives over business performance objectives.
- Kinship and friendships ties are very important for successful group and team working.
- Nepotism is regarded as natural and accepted. Thus, managers view their organisations as family units and value loyalty over efficiency; also, they have strong adherences to the open-door tradition as an integral part of underwritten or informal organisational structure.
- Time and punctuality are of less concern than in western culture and managers rely on family and friends for getting things done within the organisation.
- A low trust climate and political gamesmanship characterises organisations, together with close information system.
On the other hand, religion and family are very important influential factors in the Arab community. Their effects are more obvious than demographic or organisational variables. A family man is the ideal Arab manager who looks after his family business and is willing to lend a helping hand when required. He is normally honest, wise, generous and committed to his extended family and community. In Arab society family plays an important role in creating a system that implies and creates loyalty and obligation, which each family member should respect. Thus, Arab people believe strongly in personal and social contact relationships as important elements for more efficiency rather than formal procedures. Al-Faleh (1987) argues that Arab people rely more on family power, nepotism and social relationships to get things done within the organisation, rather than relying on personal qualification, experiences, abilities and training.
Islam is the religion of the vast majority of Arabs. It influences and shapes Arab people’s life aspects. Islam is based on belief in God, hard work and equality among people. It also emphasises honesty, trust, loyalty and flexibility (Ali, 1995). Any organisational change must take Islamic work ethics and norms into account. In this regard, Pezeshkpur (1978) conducted a study aimed to compare Middle Eastern and American managerial characteristics. He found the following results.
· Middle Eastern managers believe that God actively controls their activities, duties and jobs. This implies that these activities and duties should be based on Islamic work ethics and principles.
· The position of an individual is determined by his family position, name and power, and on his personal, social contact and relationships. So, as long as your family is strong and well-known, and as long as you have the ability to make a wide social and personal relationships and communication, you will get every thing you want even if you do not have the rights, qualifications or experiences. In other words, even if you do not deserve it.
· Arab managers consider the importance of loyalty. So that, when the choice between loyalty and competences takes place, people with poor qualifications can undertake a very high position with the support of a series of supervisors’ recommendations (favouritism, nepotism). Therefore, loyalty is the only determining factor, authority is rarely delegated, rules and procedures are flexible, recruiting and appointing people is based on social ties, personal relationships and family power are more important than good qualifications and education or experience. As a result of all these issues, organisational performance will be affected negatively.
· On the other hand, American managers are less affected by religion, social value and norms. Status is achievement-oriented.
· Individuals are recruited to fit the design and functions of the organisation.
· The conception of loyalty can apply to non-human entities such as an organisation.
Moreover, the socio-cultural factors, the economical and political environment influence Arab management practices. In this regard, Atiyyah (1993) argues that a high degree of political instability has led Arab businessmen and managers to favour low-risk, short-term investment. In making their decisions, they rely mainly on their intuition and business sense rather than on relevant and reliable information. Al-Faleh (1987) describes Arab management planning as reactive and crisis-oriented rather than proactive. Innovation, creativity and change are activities which are mostly punished, not encouraged. An Arab organisation is a closed information system with low-level disclosure to organisation stakeholders, constant change and high level of uncertainty of work.
Arab managerial style is described simply by many people as paternalistic and authoritarian leading to the centralisation of the decision-making process. Consultative styles of decision-making are the dominant styles, carried out based on a person-to-person basis, thus avoiding group meeting. Moreover, decisions are made in an informal and unstructured manner (Al-Faleh, 1987). Managers who adopt a personalized style normally ignore formal structures and rules. Therefore, centralisation, authority, power, prestige and symbols are highly valued in Arab societies. All management positions and jobs differentiate according to the level of authority. Muna (1980) argue that Arab managers prefer the collectivism style in their decision making rather than individualism. In other words, consultation style, which is one of the most important political principles of the Islamic work ethic, is the dominant style. Atiyyah (1993) classifies Arab managers’ style into two types: traditional and modern. The traditional style is characterised by the refusal of female employment and the use of interest-bearing business to adopt universally accepted modern work methods and value, such as efficiency and hard work. On the other hand, modern managers are characterised by the utilisation of modern management techniques and practices, but they practise nepotism and favouritism.
Thus, many Arab researchers have argued that national culture has its effect on the individual, as well as on organisational performance in Arab organisations. Socio-cultural factors create concerns for the effectiveness of transferring western management T&D programmes into Arab organisations, which tend to concentrate on seniority rather than merit, reactive managerial style instead of being proactive. Also, where nepotism and favouritism are the ways in which work gets done rather than fairness, qualifications and work objectives. In this regard, Atiyyah (1993) argues that, in Arab organisations, behavioural changes directed to battle nepotism, favouritism, family power and authoritarian decision making and personalised management style should be encouraged. As has been shown, such cultural-social factors negatively influence managerial practices, including management T&D. That is when, for example, a training programme is designed and involves trainees who attend the programme, not because they need it, but because they are relatives or friends of the top or line managers or any of the HR staff (nepotism, favouritism and kinships ties and relationships). However, management development can play an important role in changing, or at least modifying, such bad practices resulting from socio-cultural factors, through concentration on good or health organisational attitudes and skills which are culturally supported and do not conflict with the social norms and values.
1.3 Do Western Managerial Development Techniques and Programmes Work in Arab Organisations?
Developing countries, including Arab countries, have invested heavily in resources, time and effort to adopt managerial development practices and theories developed in western developed countries. Most Arab organisations are well equipped with state-of-the-art communication and data processing technologies and use western-made systems and techniques. Much of the hardware and software used in Arab organisations is western in origin; however, the ways in which these techniques and programmes are used and managed are different. The questions are: Do these theories and practices work in Arab organisations? Does what is working in American or British organisations work in Jordanian or any other Arab organisations? Some argue that it should be; others argue that the social-cultural environment in developing countries has built-in features which could be described as inhibitors of development, which provokes an external locus of control in an individual life: religiosity and familism make individuals prefer the well-being in their family and tribe in preference to their won individual well-being (Weber, 1958). Therefore, it could be argued that western managerial methods, theories and practices transferred to Arab organisations mostly do not work as they do in western organisations. Many Arab researchers have argued that the overemphasis on family ties and interpersonal networks, in addition to the cultural differences in the Arab countries, may make the application of any foreign managerial practices and theories difficult. Thus, serious considerations should be made before any attempt is made to transfer western managerial practices and theories to Arabic culture.
In this regard, it is important to mention Hofstede’s (1980) study on this matter, which has done a lot of research on international cultural differences. He suggests that four cultural dimensions distinguish between developed and developing countries.
- Power distance: “the extent to which a society accepts the fact that power in institutions and organisations is distributed unequally” (Hofsted, 1980: p.45).
- Uncertainty avoidance: “the extent to which a society feels threatened by uncertain and ambiguous situations by providing career stability, establishing more formal rules, not tolerating deviant ideas and behaviours, and believing in absolute truths and attainment of expertise” (Hofsted, 1980: p.46).
- Individualism: implies a loosely knit social framework in which people are supposed to take care of themselves and their immediate families only, while collectivism is characterized by a tight social framework in which people distinguish between in-groups and out-groups; they expect their in-groups (relative, clan, organisations) to look after them and, in exchange for that they feel they owe absolute loyalty to it.
- Masculinity denotes: “the extent to which the dominant values in society are ‘masculine’ that is, assertiveness, the acquisition of money and things, and not caring for others, the quality of life, or people” (Hofsted, 1980: p.46).
Kanungo and Jaeger (1990) have characterised that the socio-cultural environment of the developing countries compared to the developed countries is relatively high on uncertainty avoidance and power distance and low on individualism and masculinity. Uncertainty avoidance dimension has influenced developing countries business performance through making individuals unwilling to accept risks and organisational change and individuals tend to be dependent on outside forces for life outcomes, also to develop an external locus of control (fatalism beliefs and thoughts).
Low individualism and collectivism implies that an individual’s identity is derived from his/her membership in family and community’s values and social norms. Moreover, work for the individual is not for self-fulfilment or self-expression; rather, it is a means to maintain the family, to provide for the well being of aged parents, spouse and children. Hence, employees accomplish their tasks and jobs not achieving job objectives or for achieving self-fulfilment and expression, but to acquire money to live. The high power distance in developing countries has implied that managers and employees accept their respective positions in the organisation’s hierarchy and operate from these fixed positions. Managers do not view employees as people like them; neither do the employees consider them as their managers. Low masculinity implies that the orientations of employee are towards people or personalized relationships rather than towards performance. Thus, people perform their duties not because they want to achieve job performance goals, but to satisfy some affiliative social needs and obligations.
Wilkins (2001) conducted a study that aims to investigate the appropriateness of western specific management development programme (British NEBS Management (NEBSM) qualifications) and to identify the factors that may impact upon its effectiveness in the Arabian Gulf region. In particular, the study aims to assess whether language and/or certain aspects of culture either hinder student learning and development or present particular difficulties for trainees or trainers. He found that both trainees and employers agree that the content and assessment methodology of the NEBSM programmes are relevant and appropriate for the Gulf region. Low ability in communicating in English was identified by trainees and trainers as the biggest problem-preventing student learning and effective participation on management development programmes.
Wilkins (2001) warns that, when using foreign expatriate trainers, there is always the danger that the local needs will not be accurately or adequately assessed or understood. There are many aspects of the local culture that may be unfamiliar to expatriate trainers, such as organisational culture and the allocation of responsibilities within organisations, local labour economics, the influences of religion and the expected style of leadership and communication.
He also provides very important strategies which foreigner trainers need to be aware of. As most Arabs prefer to talk rather than to read or write, trainers need to use face-to-face interaction to produce the trust, support and encouragement that are required for trainees to learn effectively. The school systems in the Gulf States generally encourage students not only to respect their teacher, but also never to question or challenge them. Therefore, it may be difficult for a trainer to assess accurately their own performance, as trainees often prefer to be uncritical. Moreover, it is necessary for trainers to be creative with regard to the learning strategies they adopt and the training materials they use if they are to motivate the interest of students and overcome the cultural barriers to achieving effective learning. They also have to be good communicators with strong interpersonal skills and they need to be supportive and able to empathise with students in order to motivate them and ensure their participation in class activities. It can sometimes be particularly difficult to get females participating in mixed gender groups, because males and females are segregated in many aspects of day-to-day life.
Wilkins (2001) reports that most trainers reported that it is difficult to teach local Arab trainees in the same style that they would to trainees from English-speaking countries. Trainers have to explain many of the expressions and much of the jargon they use. If they do not, despite the fact that students do not understand, they will not ask for clarification or explanation; more likely they will just sit quietly perhaps nodding their heads as students who understand what is said might do. This happens because trainees will not want to expose their weaknesses in front of others, who may perhaps also be their work colleagues. While it may be that local Arab candidates are unfamiliar with technical terms, many which often derive from Western culture, trainees often do not adequately understand everyday language particularly informal language.
To avoid social-cultural influences on managerial practices, Mendonca and Kanungo (1996) argue that developing countries could not radically overhaul their social-cultural environment, rather, they can superimpose on the indigenous work culture of western management techniques and practices. This implies that, when employees arrive at work, they have to leave their cultural baggage and pick up it at the end of the work. However, transferring western, managerial development techniques and programmes to the developing countries, including Arab countries, does not work; not because of any problems or deficiencies of these techniques and programmes, but because they are transferred without any regard to their congruence with the local work culture and conditions (cultural differences between developed and developing countries).
Cultural fit is the most important consideration and should be given more attention when transferring western managerial practices and techniques. Management development programmes are not context free but, in fact, depend on the cultural baggage of the participants and their organisations. Therefore, for successful application of programmes, techniques and processes, these programmes and techniques should fit the internal work culture that involves norms, values and attitudes of an organisation’s managers and subordinates who are responsible for effective implementation of these programmes and techniques.
To overcome the socio-cultural constraints and obstacles many steps need to be taken into account. Organisations need to apply systematic systems, processes and procedures for effective performance in such a way that remove negative cultural values, beliefs and attitudes, while building on those values and beliefs which have the potential to enhance the effectiveness. Managers need to function in their jobs as mentors or coaches instead of in a highly controlled and authoritarian style; also, through increasing employees’ self-efficiency by removing bureaucratic and other organisational constraints and making gradual increments in employees’ task complexity and responsibility accompanied by necessary training.
Moreover, Arab organisations, which rely on ready-to-use western T&D programmes and techniques, or organisations that apply and utilize western managerial theories and practices, need to be aware of the application of these theories, practices and techniques in their workplace environments. Thus, when transferring western managerial and developmental theories, programmes and practices, Arab organisations should take into account their unique organisational and national culture. In other words, it is important to familiarise western development managerial theories, practices and trainers with cultural characteristics of the Arab societies and local organisational conditions because what are suitable for western organisations may not be suitable for local Arab organisations needs and conditions. Moreover, training contents and curricula must be written for Arab participants or carefully selected and modified, if necessary, from available foreign sources.
1.4 Management T&D Problems and Obstacles
T&D faces different problems and obstacles in Arab organisations. Atiyyah (1993) argues that the effectiveness of most training programmes in Arab countries is generally low, due to the inadequate need analysis or assessment, irrelevant curricula, unparticipative training techniques and lack of reinforcement. Moreover, training is not considered an important function to be conducted regularly; instead, it sponsors symposia, occasions or events in which a number of theoretical papers on current topics are presented to a large invited audience.
In Jordan, little literature was found relating to the management T&D; however, Al-Tayeb (1986) highlights the following T&D problems and obstacles in Jordan:
· theoretical approach in training programmes
· relying on lectures and group discussion as primary T&D methods and techniques
· lack of top management support and partnership
· huge workloads because of over centralisation, the need for competent trainers and the scarcity of training and scientific material.
Moreover, in Arab organisations, training often concentrates on middle and low-level management only, rather than on top management level. Al-Hadad (1996) sets out some important points regarding management T&D in Arab organisations.
· Most training programmes are described as the widely used approach, because they are applied by several organisations without distinction.
· Organisations normally tend to adopt the training-related-to-cost approach. Thus, they reduce training costs without giving any attention to the quality of the programme.
· The training function is just a group of lectures followed by certificates rather than a complete system and systematic process.
Al-Tarawneh (2005) found in her study that T&D in Jordanian banks suffer from different problems these are in the majority of the banks there is an absence of systematic employee training needs assessment and of effective procedures for evaluation. The organisations prefer to send their employees to external training providers rather than train them in the organisations. The most commonly used delivery method is off-the-job training, namely lectures, seminars and case studies. T&D is not characterised by strategic human resource development criteria (SHRD) and it plays a reactive rather than a proactive role in these organisations. T&D in Jordan faces many problems: lack of motivation among employees to attend T&D programmes; inaccurate TNA processes; poor training planning in terms of contents and delivery methods; sending inappropriate persons to the training programmes and lack of on-the-job training.
Another important problem regarding T&D situations in Arab organisations is that training is considered as a “stand alone” process with no ties or links to other organisational parts of the total development system (Abdalla and Al-Homoud, 1995). In some Arab organisations training time is viewed as vacation or leisure time for trainers who leave their current jobs for the lecture room or a game for fun time. This means that Arab organisations do not consider the strategic importance of T&D functions to achieve organisations’ corporate objectives and strategies.
However, the effectiveness of T&D functions and programmes depends upon the country’s availability of economic, political and social support and the financial and technical facilitates. Also, it is important to make training as local as possible to ensure its effectiveness by keeping external training limited to a few specialists, who save costs and are preferable to the local capabilities in the training and research field. However, most of training programmes and reform plans conducted within Arab organisations were ineffective and inadequate. Al-Tayeb (1986) views development level as modest, while Atiyyah (1993) views it as low. Al-Humoud (1989) argues that the concentration on achieving quantitative outcomes from T&D programmes intentionally draws the attention away the more significant qualitative criteria of effectiveness. Durra (1991) contendsthat the training institutes have failed to realise any significant change in the attitudes and practices of Arab managers, and refers to a number of obstacles:
· lack of a comprehensive, well-integrated national plan for administrative development programmes
· lack of co-ordination among agencies
· lack of top management leadership and commitment
· lack of well-experienced personnel, trainers and consultants who can plan, implement and evaluate these administrative reforms programmes.
In fact, T&D is not taken seriously in many Arab organisations, particularly government sectors. Thus, the benefits of T&D is underestimated or not appreciated. T&D is viewed, at most times, as a waste of time and money (Al-Humoud, 1989). There are so many important reasons behind the ineffective T&D programmes in Arab organisations. According to Al-Tayeb (1986), these are:
· diverse attitudes among Arab managers
· lack of competent and qualified trainers
· inadequate facilities
· non-specific policies.
Moreover, as mentioned before, Arab organisations have been influenced by different socio-cultural factors and faced many new challenges and changes. Arab managerial practices, including management T&D, are influenced by family status, tribal affiliation, religion ethic and rules and personal connections and loyalty. Kinship ties and personal contacts are highly valued in Arab managerial practices. Atiyyah (1993) argues that Arab managers spend their time or invest more in strengthening their bases within their organisations and cultivating their personal relations with their supervisors more than developing their competencies. Moreover, Abdalla and Al-Homoud (1995) argue that personal connection, nepotism, sectarian and ideological affiliation negatively influenced training effectiveness.
Such social-cultural influential factors and personal skills are not found in western management development. This raises the question of whether or not western managerial theories and practices work in Arab organisations in the context of Arab culture, and whether they work in situations where favouritism, nepotism and individualism are widespread and used instead of qualifications and experiences to get things done. Arab culture is different from western culture; that is why it is difficult to apply western theories successfully in Arab organisations. Although many Arab organisations use or apply western managerial theories, practices, programmes and techniques, they do not pay any consideration to whether they work there or not, whether they fit Arab culture, social norms and rules or not. Therefore, there are many considerations that need to be made when applying or transferring western curricula, theories and training practices in Arab organisations relating to cultural fit, translation problems from language to language and trainees’ ability to communicate if the trainers or trainees are foreign.
Successful T&D programmes require a supportive culture that encourages and facilitates innovation, change and creativity, and emphasises the importance of T&D. It requires top management commitment, leadership and appreciation of the importance of T&D in achieving the organisation’s objectives and strategies. In Arab organisations this supportive culture is rarely found; instead, there is an organisational culture in which innovation, creativity and change are not encouraged activities, but rather punished activities. Change is always resisted rather than encouraged. To tackle managerial development problems and obstacles, Arab governments should support management development; specialists should conduct a large number of research projects.
Many establishments of public institutes for administrative studies have been found already. Their function is to design and implement managerial training programmes and conduct short and long-term programmes for lower-middle-level managers. Moreover, much effort, money and time has been given to applying administrative reforms to development plans, including T&D programmes (administrative development plans), consistent with a comprehensive development plan, to redress many managerial problems, develop national manpower and to adapt environmental and functional changes and challenges (Al-Tayeb, 1986).
T&D needs to be considered as an important organisational function rather than a stand-alone process or, occasionally, an event held as a period of fun or leisure. T&D should be integrated with the overall business strategies and functions. So, many concepts and practices should be activated and developed in Arab organisations, such as manpower planning, performance appraisal and job analysis and description. In this regard, Hussey (1985) emphasises that training should not be for the sole improvement of the individual with the hope that it will benefit the organisation; rather it should be originally for the benefit of the organisation. T&D should also be viewed as an integral part of management work. Thus, it should consider individual, organisation and task needs and requirements; it should not conflict with the organisational policies and strategies, rather it should be part of them. Also, it should fit organisational and national cultural issues and factors.
1.4.1 Training Needs Assessment (TNA)
This stage is very important for designing and evaluating any training programme. It concerns determining the gap between what is happening in the organisation and what is supposed to happen in terms of people’s behaviour according to their knowledge, skills and attitudes. The aim of this stage is to collect and analyse information in order to determine what is being done and what should be done in the future. Information is collected from organisational, operational (task) and individual levels and analysis. Assessing training needs is playing a very important role in identifying individuals who need to be trained, designing the programme that relates to the needs of both individuals and the organisation, allocating the required time, determining the programme objectives and the required skills and determining the required resources for implementing the programme.
TNA stage could be described as highly deficient in Arab organisations. Abdalla and Al-Homoud (1995) found that there are no specific or systematic practices or procedures for determining training and educational needs due to the lack of reliable information, turbulent political, economic and fast changing social environments. Others Arab researchers argue that the lack of job descriptions, clear performance appraisal and the approach used for assessing the development needs of employees are impressionistic and generalised rather than systematic. Agnaia (1996) argues that the unsystematic training approach occurs for two reasons: training programmes are not based on identified needs which have led to difficulties in evaluating these programmes; economical, political and social factors provide some constraints on these programmes. Arab organisations rely on different sources to get the information required to determine training needs mainly on supervisors, trainees themselves (self-assessment), but less on task or job requirements, description and manpower planning.
Durra (1991) assertsthat the aims of the TNA stage in Arab organisations are to find suitable trainers to develop and carry out training programme, to focus the programme on particular issues, to set up the programme objectives and measured evaluation criteria, to choose strategies to solve problems and to determine the required materials and equipments. He also categorises the methods by which training needs are assessed in Arab organisations as interviews, surveys, observations, focus groups and document examination.
Agnaia (1996) found that the ways in which employees are selected to be trained mostly do not include any communication with the employees themselves. Thus, TNA is subject to the views, assessment and experiences of bosses and supervisors (perceptions). Therefore, without employees’ views the objectives, design, approach and content of the programme may be the opposite of what it should be and fail to meet the employees’ needs. Moreover, Agnaia (1996) argues that assessing training needs by performance records by bosses may not reflect the actual situation because this assessing is subject to family, nepotism, kinship and personal relationships between the supervisors and employees.
What is more, T&D in most Arab organisations is considered as a stand-alone process or, as was pointed out in Agnaia (1996), training is considered as a concrete event, rather than part of an overall organisational improvement programme or process. Agnaia (1996) also argues that few employees are selected on the basis of greatest need; bureaucratic policies and patronage play more important roles. Agnaia (1996) found that mangers who are in charge of assessing T&D needs are, usually, not specialists and they lack the necessary skills and knowledge for performing their tasks.Employees are sent to T&D programmes without proper needs analyses being conducted; employees try to get opportunities to attend T&D programmes regardless of whether they need these programmes or not in order to get a training allowance, or because these programmes are an essential basis of the promotion process, rather than being motivated to attend training programmes to improve their performance.
More attention should be given to TNA, which determines the gap between what is happening and what is supposed to happen, in order to maximize organisational performance. TNA is very important and should be conducted based on a systematic needs analysis, including organisational needs analysis, job needs analysis and employees’ and managers’ needs analyses, in order to design a successful and comprehensive T&D programme. Sinceother training stages, such as setting training objectives, designing the programme, implementation and evaluation, depend on the TNA stage, it is difficult to conduct any of these stages successfully without selecting and determining who needs training in the organisation, based on the organisation’s and employees’ needs and requirements. The selection of trainees should be based on the employees’ real performance needs rather than their personal and social relationships. The information regarding training needs assessment could be collected from different sources, as was mentioned before, such as interviews, surveys, career planning, performance appraisal record or report analysis, and so on (Al-Ali, 1999; Attiyah, 1993; Abdalla and Al-Homoud ,1995; Agnaia ,1996).
1.4.2 T&D Programmes Design and Techniques
The programme design stage relies on adequate and sufficient information resulting from TNA stage. Inadequate TNA in Arab organisations causes many other problems relating to the programme design. Many specialists and researchers criticise the curricula, managerial theories and practices brought from western organisations to be applied in Arab training programmes, which, mostly, suit western organisations only. Juraysat (1982) suggests that these curricula and practices should be well tested to assess their applicability to the local situation and culture. Thus, to avoid a conflict between culture and management T&D, cultural differences should be taken into account when designing and implementing the programme. Attiyah (1993) recommends that T&D specialists should pay attention to many sensitive cultural topics that cannot be freely discussed, such as politics, religion, sectoral belief and Islamic work ethics. Therefore, it could be argued that the lack of systematic TNA leads to ineffective programme design. More effort and attention should be taken into account when transferring western managerial theories and practices relating to management training and development to fit with local condition and culture.
With regard to training techniques and methods mostly used in Arab organisations, many specialists and researchers found that these methods are so limited; they include lectures and discussions as the most popular used techniques, while group discussion, case study and the role-playing are rarely used (Durra, 1988; Atiyyah, 1993). Durra (1988) argues that little attention is given to pictures, figures, tables and audio-visual technologies in any training programme. Using modern T&D techniques and methods is very important and needs to be given more attention in Arab organisations, but these techniques and methods, again, must fit the programme objectives, local conditions, peoples’ attitudes and Arab culture. Arab organisations should provide updated training via modern techniques and methods suitable to the organisations’ culture, peoples’ attitude, experiences and work environment.
Evaluation is the most important stage of the training process, but the most ignored one. It is the stage that is most likely to be conducted in an unprofessional manner (Abdalla and Al-Homoud, 1995). Evaluation aims to collect all necessary information as a feedback to correct and develop training programme, to control the whole programme’s stages and to ensure that training objectives are met consistent with the prepared plans. However, this stage is the hardest and the most difficult task in the training cycle.
In Arab organisations evaluation is rarely found. That is because training is being seen as an overhead not an investment to be evaluated. In this regard, Al-Athari and Zairi (2002) conducted an empirical study in Kuwait organisations. They found that the minority believed that evaluation is an important task, while the majority occasionally evaluate their training programmes through questionnaires, observation and performance records. Regarding the evaluation models, they found that most of the surveyed organisations rely on level one (trainee’s reaction) of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model when evaluating their T&D programmes.
Moreover, Atiyyah (1993) argues that evaluation methods in Arab organisations are highly subjective and their results have limited impacts on improving the on-going programmes or even designing new programmes. He also argues that the programmes were usually evaluated at the reaction level via questionnaires distributed to the trainees to give their opinions on the quality of instruction, programmes materials, suitability of the training techniques, etc. Abdalla and Al-Homoud (1995) contend that there are no specific follow-up procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of T&D programmes, in most Arab organisations the effectiveness of training programmes are evaluated based on the reaction level, instead of focusing on the results of training and the transferred knowledge to the workplace which are considered, according to Kirkpatrick, as the best evaluation systems, and focus on the effects of the application of information and learned concepts on the organisation performance.
The most common evaluation challenges in Arab organisations are the cost of conducting this process, difficulty in finding evaluation methods, difficulty in finding evaluation quantitative financially criteria or language, time required to accomplish this process and lack of information needed for evaluation.
It could be concluded that the inability of Arab countries to cope with the increasing pressures resulting from globalisation, internationalisation and the expansion of population and information technology has forced these countries’ businesses to pay more attention to improving their insufficient manpower capabilities. Human resources are perceived to be a significant element for economic development. T&D management and the other managerial behaviours have been influenced largely by socio-cultural factors resulting from Arab culture and Islamic rules and principles.
Religion and family are very important influential factors on Arab organisations. In Arab society the family plays an important role in creating a system, which implies and creates loyalty and obligations, which each family member should respect. That creates very negative unprofessional managerial values which managers and employees should respect and accept, such as nepotism, favouritism and the power of the strong personal and social contact relationships, as more important elements than formal procedures. Al-Faleh (1987) argues that Arab people rely more on family power, nepotism and social relationships to get things done within the organisation rather than relying on personal qualification, experiences, abilities and training. All of these socio-cultural factors have raised the question of whether western managerial theories and practices do work in Arab organisations. The answers is ‘no’ unless the transferred theories, techniques and programmes are adapted to fit the local cultural issues. Otherwise, transferring such western managerial issues will be waste of time and money.
The Arab managerial style is characterised by over-staffing, over-centralisation, lack of qualified and educated managers, lack of long and short term planning of human resources, lack of a well organised and systematic training programme and overemphasis on nepotism and social relations as a basis to get things and work done. Jordanian and other Arab organisations need to pay attention to the importance of T&D as a strategic tool for individual and organisational growth. Thus, many steps need to be taken and many obstacles need to be overcome.
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