Human resource development (HRD) is a practice that combines training, organizational development, and career development efforts to encourage improvement of individual, group, and organizational performance. Its purpose is to enhance employee performance and productivity, which leads to employee and customer satisfaction and an increase in the profitability of the organization.
HRD efforts are necessary for any organization so that the employees and managers of the organization are kept abreast of developments in their industry as well as the market forces at work that may present opportunities or threats. Organizations that implement HRD are referred to as learning organizations.
A Shared Mission
The idea of the learning organization is one where employees are empowered to act based on the relevant knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSA) they have acquired through HRD efforts. HRD efforts must be aligned with an organization’s mission and shared with employees to empower the employees and develop innovative organizations. Without this common goal, employees will not extend themselves to take responsibilities or apply their creative energies. Having a clear mission that is supported by employees is, therefore, an essential strategic building block of a learning organisation. If the mission of the organization is widely shared and understood by employees, they feel more capable and confident of taking initiatives.
Managers as Coaches
In today’s competitive work environment, employees are encouraged to take calculated risks, to problem solve, and to innovate. Managers are seen as coaches rather than superiors, where the rank of an employee is not as important as the ability of the employee to contribute to the performance of the organization.
Another important quality of a learning organization is its ability to construct new knowledge and to use it for the benefit of the organization. Embracing this quality requires taking a look at the state of affairs that currently exist and what procedures are in place, which allows employees to bring new ideas about current conditions into the organization. Managers should also encourage employees to continuously improve work processes and try new ideas. A system that gives recognition to the innovative ideas of employees should also be in place.
The Transfer of Skills, Knowledge, and Attitudes
Skill and knowledge acquisition are obviously useless unless they can be transferred to the job by the employee. It is even more advantageous if this knowledge can also be transferred to other parts of the organization to solve problems. Learning organizations not only encourage these practices but also have mechanisms or systems that encourage them to take place. Part of this knowledge transfer involves benchmarking, or learning successful practices from other organizations and competitors as well. Such benchmarking activities ensure that organizations are always learning to improve their management processes and their products or services.
Emphasizing teamwork is for learning organizations. When encouraged to work in teams, employees bring their collective knowledge and skills to solve problems and to develop innovative ideas for the organization. Teams should be formed with employees from a variety of functional areas for optimum effectiveness.
Together with HRD efforts, employees and managers contribute to the success of a learning organization through shared vision, coaching, innovation, problem-solving, and teamwork. Empowered employees empower organizations.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development