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Companies Train Employees, but Do Not Listen to Them

Most employees and a significant proportion of managers are not briefed on their company's business strategy, while a quarter of all blue and white-collar workers are not informed about operational management issues. While Russian businesses are concerned about employee development, creating bench strength and adopting state-of-the-art ICT solutions, they use the latter only for transmitting orders from the top down. Veronica Kabalina, Kira Reshetnikova and Olga Zelenova of the HSE Department of Human Resources Management examined Russian businesses' approaches to HR development and corporate communications.

Personnel training and appraisal are essential to modern-day corporate management. KabalinaReshetnikova and Zelenova studied the methods used by Russian companies to train and develop human resources, appraise employees, and ensure internal communications.

As part of the HRM in Russian Companies Study, they surveyed 130 HR directors and heads of personnel departments in domestic and foreign firms, including small, medium, large and super-large companies operating in key sectors of the economy, such as mining and manufacturing, finance, transport, and construction. The survey was conducted as part of an international research project using the CRANET Survey on Comparative HRM methodology.

The key indicators examined by the study's authors included:

  • use of various methods of career management and personnel training and development;
  • amount of investment in training;
  • assessment of training needs and effectiveness;
  • indicators used to measure the effectiveness of training;
  • formal performance appraisals and the application of their results.

Bench Strength

Generally, Russian companies are following the global trend of abandoning traditional methods of personnel training and development, such as lectures, seminars and full-time courses, in favour of new approaches characterised by in-service training embedded in the work process. In one way or another, most companies use 14 methods of employee development, including assessment centres, participation in project teams, international assignments, planned job rotation, and projects to stimulate learning.

According to the study's authors, many companies (48%) provide in-service training and focus on succession and replacement planning, building bench strength, and managing talent. "The objective is to ensure that the company has sufficient bench strength and a succession plan to fill any vacancy at any moment," according to Kabalina.

Companies use mentoring as part of their succession planning and talent development programs, but relatively few offer coaching: just 5% of responding firms report extensive use of coaching, and 20% use it from time to time. "Most Russian companies regard coaching as a form of mentoring," Kabalina explains.

Internationally, company expenditure on personnel training and development stands at 4% to 5% of annual payroll costs. According to the survey, 39% of Russian companies spent between 2% and 10%, and another 36% spent 1% of the annual payroll costs on employee training in 2014.

The survey has revealed that Russian companies normally assess the effectiveness of training provided and perform staff appraisals which may affect employees’ pay, career advancement and even continued employment with the company. Most companies rely on qualitative indicators in assessing the effectiveness of employee training, while quantitative measures are rarely used. According to Kabalina, quantitative indicators, such as return on investment in training, are widely applied internationally, but only 18% of the surveyed Russian companies reported using them.

A Top Down Approach

While Russian CEOs are prepared to train and appraise employees, listening to them and briefing them on the company's plans is another matter. According to Reshetnikova, the biggest problem with internal communication in Russian companies is that in most cases it is vertical and goes from the top down.

The study's authors considered the following aspects in studying internal communications:

  • employee union membership;
  • utilisation of various communication channels by employees and HR departments;
  • feedback channels;
  • briefings provided to different employee categories.

The study found that one third of the surveyed companies were not unionised, while in 21% of companies – large enterprises first established in Soviet times – all employees were union members.

According to Reshetnikova, many companies have adopted electronic means of communication, which can potentially make internal communications more democratic, but are mainly used to transmit management decisions.

In most cases, company managers use three channels for communicating with employees; transmitting messages via immediate supervisors (75%), talking directly to employees (57 %) and sending e-mails (63%). There is hardly any communication via employees' authorised representatives or committees, yet more than one third of the surveyed companies make extensive use of meetings and briefings to communicate management decisions to staff.

The study's authors also looked at whether corporate bosses brief their subordinates on the company's business strategy, financial performance and operational management, and found that just 40% of low-level employees, 66% of specialists and 86% of managers are informed about their company's business strategy, and about the same proportions are aware of its financial performance.

Operational management issues, in particular, workplace rules, tend to dominate internal communications; however, the survey revealed that nearly a quarter of Russian companies find even this type of communication unnecessary.

Author: Гринкевич Владислав Владимирович, March 02, 2016