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Evaluation of a Workplace Learning Environment

Introduction

A career in Banking provides a good environment, for workplace learning. Bank Tellers have an opportunity to exploit their potentials and gain much from workplace learning. An evaluation of the environment in which Bank Tellers work is necessary to provide justification that indeed effective workplace learning can occur in such organizations. This paper therefore takes an analytical approach towards determining if indeed Bank Tellers can benefit from the potential learning environment at their place of work. Both structured and unstructured learning processes that occur internally have been put into consideration in this paper. Learning is a process that requires availability of resources and materials essential to initiate the cognitive activities.

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This paper first of all identifies the important processes that Tellers ought to go through to ensure that they learn while at their workplace. The type of learning needed by tellers to perform their job has been described. This has been followed by a description of how opportunities for learning are distributed in the organization where the tellers work. The workplace environment and how it supports learning and the existing limitations towards learning have also been described. Concluding remarks have been provided based on the situation of workplace environment for bank tellers.

Workplace learning essentials

Learning at the workplace is a very important process for the human resource of any successful organization. Learning is essential at both individual and organizational level. Workplace learning aims at providing the necessary skills to all Tellers so as to increase their capacity to innovate. This is because the benefits of learning become evident in personal development and improvements while the organization grows towards increased efficiency and productivity. It is therefore important that an organization provides an enabling environment for employees to learn new knowledge, skill and attitudes that are essential for their performance as noted by Billett (2001)

Tellers need learning of simple tasks such receiving cash form customers and issuing stamped deposit slips. This is the task that they do most of the time and they need to learn and be tested within short time frames. Hard tasks such as detecting fake currency are also required and they need to learn and be tested for them to be on the alert. Declarative knowledge concerns factual information that tellers should posses. Tellers ought to know that it is wrong to obtain bribes from clients. Procedural knowledge is also needed by the tellers and concerns the knowledge required for them to perform certain tasks. Tellers require such knowledge during account opening and closure with different clients.

Support and distribution of learning opportunities

First of all, it is important to mention that the bank recognizes the need for learning and continuous training of all employees so as to enhance performance. The human resource department is in charge of training and learning opportunities for the staff. The bank provides support for those who are willing to pursue higher education. This has been restricted to the particular courses that are in line the current occupation. Financial support comes in the form of study loans that are interest free to all the Bank employees. The bank tellers have access to the study loans as they continue to serve the organizations. In terms of other resources, the organization provides free access to library services to all the Tellers. The works of Johnston has indicated that equality in access to library resources is demonstrated by zero incidences of discrimination in the distribution of such learning resources

After the normal working hours a Bank Teller has an opportunity to get involved in part time learning activities. For instance most of the tellers have decided to pursue a master’s degree programme on part time basis. Professional courses have also been on the increase in most bank tellers with majority opting for accounting qualifications. Human resources managers play a very significant role in ensuring that opportunities for learning and intellectual development are available and are well distributed across the workforce. (Glass et al 2002)

According to Bitter et al (2003), ICT is a very important tool in the banking sector. This tool has been considered by the organization to be very essential in facilitating workplace learning. Most of the Bank tellers have access to information and new knowledge through the use of ICT. Sharing of knowledge through ICT, is a habit that has been encouraged by the human resource management team so as to improve workplace learning. ICT in the banking is characterized by e-learning, a phenomenon that is utilized by most Bank tellers for their personal intellectual development and efficiency in their position. (Glass et al 2002)The provision of ICT to all the employees depicts a clear picture of how opportunities and resources are equality distributed for the sake of employee’s intellectual development. Dependent factors manifest themselves in the workplace environment in different ways. For the Bank Teller position, different tellers demonstrate varying levels of competence in the course of executing their duties. Tellers who have very high proficiency in the use of ICT tool stand to gain from new knowledge and learning while at the workplace than those who are not highly gifted in the use of ICT. In terms of knowledge, workplace learning tends to favor mostly people who posses wide knowledge. Being in possession of wide knowledge and understanding is a factor that has led to the rise of new managers who have also made good use of workplace learning. Knowledge as a factor has also been instrumental in building teamwork. This is according to research by Berrymen (1993). Tellers who have wide knowledge have been appointed as leaders in various teams that facilitate workplace learning.

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Experience plays a very significant role in shaping the workplace learning environment. With this respect of this, it is worth mentioning that the older employees are crucial in the learning process of newly recruited employees. They act as mentors besides discussing vital information with the new employees in the organization. This influences learning at the workplace especially on how to handle fraud cases with customers. The aspect of knowledge in the banking hall is of influence to the learning process at this particular workplace. Employees who have adequate knowledge in certain transactions for instance foreign exchange have the capacity to enlighten others or new recruits concerning how to handle transactions. This shows that knowledge is very important and indeed determines the potential of the workplace learning. (Johnston et al 2002)

Competence also determines the potentiality of the workplace environment towards learning. The Operations manager just as a good example is supposed to be a highly competent individual in the Bank. His competence is quite fundamental with informal learning processes. This is because he acts as the leader in most of the learning activities. For instance is the coaching and mentorship he does to all the staff and especially the new bank tellers. Their learning at the workplace is dependent on his competence demonstrated by abilities and skills. (Glass et al 2002)

As Marsick noted,” structured learning is an in-house activity” and all the bank tellers go through the process. There are schedules for this activity and individuals attend the learning session through prescribed time schedules. The process is continuous and begins immediately an individual joins the team of tellers. Unstructured learning is the most common phenomenon at the workplace. There are activities demonstrated by the Bankers which depict informal learning. These include self study where individuals go through self learning processes by looking at how colleagues handle situations. It also involves asking questions to colleagues or the manager on how to undertake unknown issues. The managers in the organization play a very significant role in workplace learning. This is because they have the experience of the environment and hence provide coaching and mentorship to the Tellers. This also contributes towards informal learning in the banking environment.

Limitations of the workplace environment

There are internal factors within the organization that limit learning at the workplace. These factors concern a number of interactions that occur in the organization. Interactions between employees and their managers and the interaction between the Bank tellers and their clients. (Boud et al 2003)

Poor interpersonal relations

It is important to mention that for effective learning to occur at the work place, good interpersonal relations between the employees is essential. There are numerous obstacles that are present between the employees at the workplace in their pursuit for good working relations. (Loots et al ,1998)Conflicts resulting from work pressure can at times lead to poor interpersonal relations. As Selby mentioned, “Poor interpersonal relations may result in poor team work during execution of duties”.Individuals are not likely to learn from one another if the relationship between them is not good. These normally hinder the spirit of teamwork and consequently affect workplace learning. It is important for the work environment to be supportive with members having good interpersonal relation especially where they expect to gain from informal learning structures like discussions and consultations while at the workplace. (Selby et al 2002)

Leadership style

According to Marsick, some leadership styles do not provide a conducive environment for learning at the workplace. Managers who have adopted autocratic management styles are often intimidating to the Tellers and do not present a good opportunity especially for new Tellers to learn something from them. In situations where mistakes have been committed while at the workplace, there is normally fear to approach such leaders. This therefore hinders learning of important things in their careers. Jonassen in his studies has also mentioned that leadership at the workplace is an issue that has to be handled with a lot of caution because it actually affects learning. The best management approaches should be adopted so as to enhance good relations and learning. A democratic approach to management can best suit Tellers and can also facilitate informal learning at the workplace. This is realized with a free expression environment where members can even criticize the management while they learn important things from them. This would be a good way of pursuing innovation and change which are the main objectives of workplace learning. (Boud et al, 2003)

Work environment

Sometimes the nature of work the Bank tellers are involved is itself limiting to important learning activities. During the times when the Tellers are under pressure due to increased work load important learning objectives are unlikely to be achieved. (Jonassenet al, 2000)This is because the mind needs to be refreshed and have adequate rest for new concepts and ideas to be internalized.

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Boud in his research studies has indicated that most Tellers end up stressed due to the increased workloads. This does not go well with learning at the workplace. Tellers who cannot withstand high level of pressure and stress at the workplace tend depict poor performance that is characterized by mistake through out their tasks. (Marsick & Watkins, 2001) As it has been observed by Johnson et al (2002) “An effective work environment for meaningful learning calls for even distribution of responsibilities within the workforce.” The issue of overworking some employees should be avoided because it is a hindrance towards workplace learning. (Johnston et al, 2002)

Lack of effective study programs

It has been observed that most organizations do not give adequate attention to workplace learning. This has been shown by the fact that programs through which employees can go through to achieve workplace learning, are not in existence. (Marsick & Watkins, 2001)This is because of the various marketing and sales targets required by the management. This therefore provided very little time for structured learning. Tellers who cannot make good use of informal learning activities tend to loose a lot without structured learning. So as to make good use of structural learning at the workplace, there is need for the human resources managers to come up with more elaborate programs which can be integrated within the operations of the organization. Through such programs, formalized learning at the workplace can be evaluated using various reliable measures. This would improve learning of most of the tellers especially those who require more motivation to improve their learning capabilities. (Loots et al 1998)

In conclusion, it is important to point out that workplace learning is a concept that requires support from all the stakeholders. Opportunities present at the workplace are a product of interactions between the Tellers, management and the clients. Both formal and informal learning take place in a workplace environment. The distribution of support and opportunities within the learning environment is essential for effective learning to occur at the workplace. A management team that pursues change and innovation in the Bank Tellers has to ensure that opportunities are evenly distributed. Although the workplace environment is rich with potential opportunities for learning, there are limitations that hinder employees from benefiting from such work environments. Limitations at the workplace affect individuals at the workplace and interfere with their pursuit for more knowledge and skills in their areas and other areas of interest. The way forward towards improving workplace learning calls for the managers to work towards eliminating the obstacles which stand in the way of Tellers in their pursuit for innovation and creativity through workplace learning. With most of the limitations removed from the workplace environment, Bank Tellers stand to benefit much from workplace learning because of the various opportunities in their midst.

Bibliography

Billett, S 2001, Learning in the workplace: Strategies for effective practice, Allen & Unwin, NSW.

Bitter-Rijpkema, M., Sloep, P. B., & Jansen, D. (2003). Learning to change: The Virtual Business Learning approach to professional workplace learning. Educational Technology & Society, 6(1), 18-25.

Boud, D. and Solomon, N. (2003) ‘I don’t think I am a learner: acts of naming learners at work.Journal of Workplace Learning Vol. 15 No.7/8 pp326-331. (or web search David Boud, publications).

Berryman, S. (1993). Learning for the workplace. Review of Research in Education,343-401.

Glass, A., Higgins, K. and McGregor, A., (2002) Delivering Work Based Learning ,Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, Edinburgh: The Stationary Office. Web.

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Jonassen, D. H., & Land, S. M. (2000). Theoretical foundation of learning environments. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Johnston, R, Hawke, G, McGregor, C & Johnson, G 2002, Changing models for changing times: Learning and assessment practices in the workplace, RCVET working paper RP112 02-02.

Loots, C., Osborne, M., & Seagraves, L. (1998). Learning at work – work-based access to higher education. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 46(1), 16-30.

Marsick, V., & Watkins, K. (2001). Informal and incidental learning. In S. Merriam (ed.), New directions for adult and continuing education, no. 89 (pp. 24-34). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Ridoutt, L, Dutneall, R, Hummel, K & Selby Smith, C 2002, Factors influencing the implementation of training and learning inthe workplace, NCVER, Adelaide.

Rosenberg, M. J. (2001). E-learning strategies for delivering knowledge in the digital age. New York: McGraw-Hil Selby Smith, C, Ferrier, F, Burke, G, Schofield, K, Long, M & Shah, C 2002, Lifelong learning and the world of work: CEET’s surveys for the ACCI, ACTU and ANTA, Centre for the Economics of Education and Training, Monash University, Melbourne.

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