A1. I have had part-time jobs and did go through orientation programs that were also meant to be short training programs, but my personal experiences have not really helped me properly evaluate the benefits of a training program. Fortunately, one of my friends works as a sales associate at Apple’s retail outlet in New York City, and he has provided me with significant details of the training programs he goes through. He says the training programs really help him better understand Apple’s culture, the management’s competitive strategy, and also the company’s products. All of this helps him perform well at his job and provide exemplary customer service to the customers. He says the employees routinely go through training programs, especially, when new products are introduced so that they can respond to customers’ inquiries. The training programs ensure the employees’ skills are continuously updated. My friend said Apple aims for strong customer loyalty, and it is evident in the way employees are trained. The employees are told they have significantly leeway when it comes to making customers happy. My friend has also worked at other retail outlets such as Best Buy and Circuit City but he felt the training programs at Best Buy and Circuit City were more a custom, and employees didn’t emerge as much different after completing their respective training. Thus, it is clear different companies treat training programs in different manner. But some companies do realize training programs can be instrumental towards gaining competitive edge in the marketplace.

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A2. The Wal-Mart article reports the company has replaced its Chairman, and even though the new Chairman is not a major shareholder or a direct descendent of the company founder, he is still a member of the influential Walton family. The Walton Family continues to maintain strong influence in the internal affairs of the company through board seats, and there have been calls to reduce Walton’s Family’s influence. The Walton Family insists the management and the Board of Directors have significant freedom because most of the board members are independent. The Apple article claims Apple has had a succession plan in place for quite a while even though the company didn’t exactly do a good job of easing stakeholders’ concerns. The article applauds Apple for replacing Steve Jobs with Tim Cook who has been with the company for a long time, and has served in different capacities including Chief Operating Officer. The article mentions not every company does a good job of having a succession plan in place as evident by Yahoo! and HP examples.

I do believe replacing the top executives from within the company can be a wise strategy. First of all, the insiders may have had significant time to understand the company’s culture, competitive strategy, and strengths and weaknesses. Promoting from within the company also inspires others to work hard as they also hope to reach the highest levels of the management. An insider may also enjoy a strong support because he may already have proven himself to be a capable leader. Promoting an insider also ensures the new leader is ready to lead almost immediately because he may not have to go through the learning curve that is usually a norm for an outsider.

A3. I believe both the employers and the employees are responsible for employee development. The employers are responsible because the organization’s success is dependent upon the quality of its human resources. Just as a management has a responsibility to enhance its economic resources, it should also take measures to enhance its human resources. Moreover, companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google demonstrate the fact that the success of the management and competitive strategy is also determined by the quality of the followers. An employee is responsible because the pace of change has increased, and a failure to continuously develop skills may not only hurt his job security but also future career prospects.