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Book extract
Book title International human resource management: a multinational
company perspective.
Book author Tayeb, Monir H.
Citation details Part 2, Chapter 7, pages 148-150
Extract title Transfer of knowledge in OKi – training and development.
Extract author Tayeb, Monir H.
Publication details Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
ISBN 0199258090 Total pgs in book xv, 242 pages ;
and cross-country transfer of knowledge. The discussion was then focused on the transfer of HRM
policies and practices within multinational companies. It was argued that the success or failure of such
transfers to a large extent depends on the socio-cultural make-up of the recipients on the one hand, and
the cultural embeddedness of the transferred practices on the other. The farther apart the ‘exporter’ and
‘importer’ of HRM practices are from one another (large psychic distance) the more difficult it would be
to transfer such practices from one to the other. It was however argued that employee training could
facilitate such transfers, once the usefulness of certain foreign practices are established.
1. What is organisation knowledge and where does it come from?
2. Why should companies be concerned about their knowledge base and how can they create it and
improve its quality?
3. What are the major impediments to transfer of management know-how across nations?
4. How would you go about importing and implementing foreign best practices to your company if you
were in charge of such matters?
Case study: Transfer of knowledge in OKi-training
and development
Oki was founded in 1881, and was established as a company in 1949. It has 24,000 employees
worldwide, with sites in Japan, Thailand, US and Europe.
Oki (UK) Ltd at Cumbernauld, Scotland, manufactures and supplies all the Oki dot matrix
printers for the European markets and some of the corporation’s page printers and fax
machines. It is recognised as one of the most cost-effective manufacturing plants of its kind,
achieving some of the highest quality levels within the international electronics industry.
The Scottish subsidiary which employs 3,000 people opened in 1987 and is the oldest Oki
printer factory in the UK. Since then it has won a number of UK and Scotland national
awards, including ‘sharing good practice in management’ in 1994 and ‘Scottish national
training award’ in 1995.
Training strategies and policies
Employee training is very much a part of the overall company strategy and various approaches
and methods are used to implement a comprehensive training programme.
‘We start from a very high level strategy: where are the visions, the thrusts and what are the deliverables.
We filter that down into what we should be doing. That’s typically how you develop a training plan.’
Training and development policies are driven by the Scottish site. In the early days they
were driven by Japan but this has changed completely. The site’s annual training budget is
£280,000 (excluding trainer salaries).
Training new recruits
Off-line training is booked for all new employees for 5 days (induction). No matter what
position they are recruited for, all the new recruits go through the same induction course.
The first objective is to put them at ease by using icebreakers, such as company presentation,
including cultural aspects and activities of the site; they watch a video on the company and
the Scottish site made by-the BBC. Quality issues are then introduced. The induction course
is very similar to that of the parent company in Japan. The process of induction is based on
teamwork. They have changed and modified the induction as a result of invited feedback
from new employees who have been through the course.
Following the induction course, the next few days are spent on on-the-job training. New
assembly employees are asked to strip down a product and reconstruct it from scratch. The
trainer would explain all the components. In the configuration section of the shop-floor,
they are given a ready made product and are asked to configure it for a specific country.
Training programmes
In 1994, 4,500 man-days were spent in ‘off the job’ training. Up to 30 per cent of staff are currently
engaged in higher education, in most cases helped and supported by the company.
There are a lot of training and development opportunities. Technical training includes
apprentices, in line with the Government’s Modern Apprenticeship scheme (7 apprentices in
total). They have put 10 technicians through ‘Train the Trainer’ courses to pass on their skills
effectively to the apprentices. They will then train up these technicians to achieve D32 and
D33 (higher level qualifications). Other managers have these qualifications too. The site is
considering developing Scottish Vocational Qualification frameworks for operators as well.
Someone from the manufacturing department is studying Information Systems because they
have skills in this area and a post may arise in the future, others are doing courses to get Higher
National Certificate in Electronics. The company pays for it all. ‘You pay it back if you fail the
course’-which serves as a good incentive. one technician interviewed has been doing college
courses with Oki for the past 6 years.
A lot of operators have on-the-job training. The site has developed competencies for jobs
and have a training matrix e.g. for technicians there are 3 posts: technical operator, technician,
training technician-each is graded on a scale of 0-3. 3 is fully competent and can train
others. They then developed a two-week training course, at the cost of £30,000, so that everyone
has the same skill level. The next stage is to individualise the training programme.
The company has experienced no problems in imparting knowledge to subordinates.
There are career development opportunities, and the culture and philosophy promote
shared learning.
Team leaders can go on personal development training programmes-the Leading Edge
project. This involves team leaders and managers (middle to senior management staff) going
on an ‘outward bound’ course-identifying their strengths and weaknesses. They have to
make all their own meals etc. This is a 4-5 day programme and the outcome is a development
plan. Individuals also have to manage a project in the community, e.g. building a garden for
a school, developing disabled facilities for charities. In year 2000 they developed and implemented
a school millennium project for 10 year olds. It created a huge amount of pride.
The project lasted for about six months. About 30 people have been through the Leading Edge
programme over the last 3-4 years.
The company has strong links with a local college-Coatbridge College. They have lecturers
who come on site to run the courses in the evenings from 5.30pm to about 7.30pm. It costs
a little more but it means that employees can finish the course a little earlier than if they
ended their shift, drove to the college then travelled back home afterwards. The courses can
also be more tailored to Oki. There is a good take-up of courses every year. Generally the local
external environment has been very supportive towards Oki’s training and developmentas
illustrated by the adaptation of some of their specialist courses to Oki’s needs.
A training needs audit is conducted through appraisals and discussions with department
managers every 6-12 months. In addition, when individuals apply to go on training objectives
are formulated and then improvements are identified against targets after training is
completed. This is then followed up with a training evaluation form which asks how far the
objectives have been met and what they are actually doing that is different now. This information
is then compiled into reports on general improvements for each individual, and fed
back to the managers.
Training for job flexibility
The company has a flexibility programme in place in many areas; it identifies what training
employees require. They spend a lot of money on training but do not take more than
25 per cent of employees off-line training at any one time. The ultimate objective is to get
all operators on each shop-floor station trained in every job, every skill and every department;
they are also sent over to Japan if necessary.
Employees on their part want their job to be varied and flexible–‘-‘it’s boring to do the
same job every day’. They want the flexibility as much as the organisation does. If an
employee wishes to develop their skills for their present or future role the opportunities are
Managers sometimes face resistance when someone is moved to a new position:
‘They will have made friends on the old line, and it’s nerve racking learning a new job. But employees
realise in some cases they have to move because there is no longer a job for them in their current role.’
Company knowledge base
The knowledge base of Japanese managers is much wider compared to the Scots. In Japan
(HQ) every January the company announces employees’ career promotions or moves. It is
common for one manager to go from one department to a completely different function. Over
time this creates an incredible knowledge of customers, products, processes from a wide perspective;
they quite easily cross the boundaries between suppliers and customers. In Scotland
this is not the case. Here they allocate the right number of people to each department and
there are no buffers. Promotions are functionally driven, university courses and schools too
are geared towards functional specialisation.
‘If you ask employees in Japan [HQ] what they do, they say “I work for Oki”; in the Scottish site they
would say “I am an engineer”.’

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