“Learning and Development”1 IntroductionTechnological, competitive, social, economic, and political changes obscure the final destinations of organizations.
Business environments are too chaotic and organisational change too complex to establish fixed plans, firm objectives, and concrete set of developmental changes. Despite the unpredictable, uncertain, and highly turbulent business conditions, organisations struggle to learn and improve their processes, functions and human resources as they attempt to achieve competitive advantage. This is needed to ensure that they their inherent capacity to adapt to unforeseen situations and manage unexpected changes more efficiently.
Organizational development highlights two important approaches in human resources management – organizational learning and organizational behaviour, which serve as the basis for doing business today.
To associate these two concepts, the role of human resources involvement in organizational development will be analysed and evaluated based on Senge’s (1990a, p. 3) view that an effective learning organisation involves continuous accumulation of knowledge and skills to create desirable outcomes as a result of collaborative tasks.2 Human Resources and Organizational DevelopmentResearch on human resources management and development was crucial in the twentieth century because f the increased competition which required business organisations to improve their strategic practices.
Systematic organisation-wide change include entering international markets, forming strategic alliances, downsizing, pioneering new technical innovations, improving customer satisfaction, achieving quality improvements, introducing new products, and organisational improvement.
In the 1990s, these concerns were addressed in examining human resource development (HRD) by scholars such as Stewart and McGoldrick, 1996; Stewart, 1999; Walton, 1999; Wilson, 1999; and Gibb, 2002. One of the most popular books was the Routledge Studies in Human Resource Development by Monica Lee. It contains a series and edited collections of research monographs. It was used as a source of new ideas in HRD.
Included is the work of Stewart et al. (2001) entitled, Understanding Human Resource Development. Recent studies have intensively examined and emphasised the ethical dimension of human resource management practices and development (Woodall and Douglas 1999; Winstanley and Woodall, 2000; Woodall and Winstanley, 2000; Hatcher 2002; Stewart 2003). Researchers like Camp, Blanchard, and Husczo (1986) and Harrison (1997) recognized that human-resource development (HRD) research requires an approach that caters to the different perceptions, interests, actors, and expectations of organisations.
Theoretical perspectives can be used to study the complex nature of organizational development through HRD. The structural-functional and performance deficiencies and systems are two perspectives dominating in the literature. They aim to identify the components and interaction of the subsystems of the HRD system. However, these are criticised for their limitation in focusing on the different actors and in showing little concern for their orientations, strategies, interactions, and interests in the external and internal aspects of organisations.
Another perspective was introduced in the literature (Harrison, 1997; Van der Krogt, 1995; Van der Krogt and Warmerdam, 1997) in conceptualising HRD – the network/actor perspective. This perspective focuses on dynamic network in which different actors or groups interact and engage in various relationships that affects the process of HRD including the strategies used and outcomes.Organisation development aims to change people and organizational process to improve a particular group’s levels of performance and outcome. It involves cycles of action that would stimulate critical reflection to achieve organizational goals faster, more effectively, and more economically (Watkins, 2000, p.
20). Employee development program is one step in motivating workers to perform effectively and develop a sense of commitment. Organizations need to focus on employee development in order to ensure sustainable development and competitive advantage. The employees’ behaviour, capabilities, knowledge and skills should be assessed and polished through employee development programs.
This is to provide workers the opportunity to develop skills and share the knowledge and information for the benefit of the firm. Infrastructure affects the development of programs. They need to be constantly updated due to technological advances and changing trends in the market (Chesser et al., 2001, p.
22). In order to cope with the changes, human resource representative from employee development department must cooperate with IT department representative to ensure that employees are able to meet the required know-how for specific issues. Web-based and CD-ROM-based programs (Garvey, 200, p. 1) are dynamic means of training the workforce to increase their capacity and produce reliable outcome.
As employee development changes in response to the changing needs of companies, employee development programs have been focusing on “self-directed” learning. This allows executives to access information needed for the improvement of worker condition and it also provides education so that employees would be encouraged to learn appropriately and effectively (Alutto, 2000, p. 57). In addition to self-directed learning, career self-management also provides opportunities for employees to become dynamic and interdependent as they face challenges in technological innovations, various customer needs and company pressures (Meister, 1998, pp.
25-28). Employee development does not only focus on human resources but also managers should consider non-human aspects of the organisation in which influence their performance, behaviours, and attitudes.Minter and Thomas (2000, p. 43) presents models for employee performance development: (1) Coaching Model strategies are used to motivate employees when managers perceive that the performance attitudes and behaviours of employees are aligned at 70% of their average performance (AP) assumptions (see Appendix).
(2) Mentoring Model strategies are utilised when employees fit 70 percent or more for the managers to closely supervise employees to be able to overcome their deficiencies in knowledge, skills, or abilities. (3) Counselling Model strategies are applied to address issues that relate more to an employee’s attitudinal and behavioural problems like those that make them dysfunctional, cause absenteeism, encourage substance abuse, and cause them to show abusive behavior toward other people in the organization. (4) The Mixed Model strategies are used when employees transcend more than one of the assumptions. Minter and Thomas (2000) consider these models as more of an art than a science, requiring managers to handle employees’ differences.
3 Organizational Behaviour and Learning OrganisationOrganisational behaviour is a study within management while learning organisation is merely an aim. Since organisational behaviour is the systematic and scientific analysis of individuals, groups and organisations, it is certainly a good start towards creating learning organisations in today’s competitive business environment. Human resources are the most important key in management. A manager should learn to understand the people within the organisation in order to accomplish certain results.
3.1 Learning OrganisationThe idea of the learning organisation has been around quite some time. It derives from Argyris’ work in organisational learning (Argyris and Schon, 1978) and is indebted to Revans’ (1983) studies of action learning. It has roots in organisation and organisational theory.
Its conceptual foundations are firmly based on systems theory (Senge, 1990a) and its practical application to managing a business has evolved out of strategic planning and strategic management (Fiol and Lyles, 1985; Hosley, et al., 1994), which have recognized that organisational learning is the underlying source of strategic change (DeGeus, 1988; Jashapara, 1993). Much of the quality improvement movement of recent years, with its emphasis on continuous improvement, represented the first widespread, inchoate application of learning organisation concepts (Senge, 1990b; Stata, 1989). The notion of the learning organisation is a broad concept that helps human resources managers and employees learn a set of values about performance efficiency (Kieschel , 1990, p.
133). Every learning organisation needs to understand the strategic internal drivers in building a learning capability (Stata, 1989). Human resources management practices of an effective learning organisation should focus on the following core strategic building blocks which are discussed in detail:Clarity and Support for Mission and Vision. A learning organisation is one where employees are empowered to act based on the relevant knowledge and skills they have acquired and information about the priorities of the organisation.
According to Senge (1990b), information about the mission of an organisation is critical to empowering employees and developing innovative organisations. Without this, people will not extend themselves to take responsibilities or apply their creative energies. Having a clear mission that is supported by employees is, therefore, a critical strategic building block of a learning organisation. If this is widely shared and understood by employees they will feel more capable of taking initiatives.
Shared Leadership and Involvement. In a highly competitive environment, employees are encouraged to take calculated risks, to deal with uncertainty, and to innovate. Managers are seen as coaches, not controllers; level or rank is not as important as the ability of the individual to contribute to the organisation’s performance. Leaders need the skills to facilitate change, provide useful feedback, help identify problems and opportunities, involve employees in decision-making, and they should also learn from constructive criticisms from other members (Senge, 1990b).
A Culture that Encourages Experimentation. An important if not essential part of a learning organisation is its ability to create new knowledge and to use it to capitalize on new opportunities open to the organisation. This requires questioning the current status quo and how things are done, which allows employees to bring new ideas into the organisation. Managers should also be willing to encourage individuals and teams to continuously improve work processes and try new ideas.
Obviously, a system should be in place to reward innovative ideas that work.Ability to Transfer Knowledge across Organisational Boundaries. Skill and knowledge acquisition are obviously useless unless they can be transferred to the immediate job by the employee. It is even better if this knowledge can also be transferred to other parts of the organisation to solve problems and energize creative new ideas.
Learning organisations not only encourage these practices but also have mechanisms or systems that allow them to happen. Part of this knowledge transfer involves learning successful practices from other organisations and competitors as well (McGill, Slocum, and Lei, 1993). Such benchmarking activities guarantee that they are always learning to improve their management processes, and their products or services.Teamwork and Cooperation.
Without doubt, a key strategic building block for a learning organisation is an emphasis on teamwork. By working in teams, employees bring their collective skills and knowledge to bear on problems and to develop innovative ideas for the organisation. To be effective, teams should be formed with employees from a variety of functional areas. A cross-functional teamwork environment breaks down the stovepipe syndrome, especially if employees are rotated among different teams as part of a deliberate career development program and human resource management policy (McGill et al.
, 1993).These five strategic building blocks require employees and managers to have specific skills that match some of the behavioural skill sets required in a learning organisation like effective leadership in which superiors provide feedbacks and support to all members.3.2 Organisational BehaviourIn order to manage organisations’ processes in coping with challenges and achieving goals, it is important to understand certain information on people’s behaviour including the way they function (Miner, 2002, p.
4). Organisational behaviour is basically about the process of creating knowledge about human resources that would contribute to the success of organisations. Studies on organisational behaviour started at Illinois around 1924, known as the “Hawthorne Studies” designed by the Western Electric industrial engineers. It was first used as a scientific management experiment to examine the illumination levels of workers’ productivity.
However, the findings concluded that the illumination intensity does not affect the productivity of workers. Eventually, organisational behaviour was conceptualised to study about workers’ productivity (Miner, 2002, p. 29). This concept includes discussions on the theories of Hierarchical, Reinforcement, Path-Goal, and Participative Organisation.
Hierarchical Theory. Motivation is one of the factors that compose a learning organisation. People within the organisation must be motivated to learn and to accomplish certain goals. The first of its kind in the motivation theory was by a psychologist Abraham Maslow.
He argues on what is called hierarchical theory that human needs which are biological and instinctive (Maslow, 1969, pp. 724-735). His theory includes two components namely the desire to know and the desire to organize. Consequently, individual’s needs are hierarchical, meaning individuals will be determined to go further as their level of needs rise.
Thus, this basically represents aspects of motivational intelligence. Managers have used this motivational theory basically to guide their decisions in improving employee performance (Miner, 2002, p. 1343).Reinforcement Theory.
Clay Hamner (1974, p. 87) formulated the theory of reinforcement with the basic concept of learning. He argues that learning plays a very important role in performance since performance is the practice and outcome of what was learned. Reinforcement basically contributes to either strengthening or weakening behaviours of individuals within the group and changes in behaviours are the result of reinforced practice and experience.
In creating a learning organisation, reinforcement theory is relevant to craft individuals into continues learning activity through continuous increase in the quality of performance.Path-Goal Theory. The path-goal theory advocated by Martin Evans (1970, p. 277-298) focuses on supervisory effect on performance of the group.
It examines two types of supervisors’ behaviour – consideration (which involves trust, respect and cooperation within the organisation) and initiation of structure (which focuses on the organisation as a whole). The supervisor is viewed as someone who must influence his subordinates using the path-goal instrumentalities of reward and punishment (Miners, 2000, p. 274). The path-goal theory is beneficial in creating a learning organisation since it encourages the idea of leadership among supervisors that could spark greater assessment on respect and support towards the members of the organisation.
In creating a learning organisation it is vital that the leader should attain that respect and support as manifested through the cooperation of other individuals within the organisation.Likert’s Participative Organisation Theory. Rensis Likert’s (1961, p. 103) theory emphasizes individuals’ role of experiences of support within the organisation, and their interaction and relationships that build and maintain one’s personal worth and importance.
Thus, effective leaders must create a perception of supportiveness wherein the enthusiasm will be contagious to pursue high-performance goal. Like the path-goal theory, participative organisation theory emphasizes the support of individuals within the organisation. Thus, support is manifested through cooperation and cooperation through performance. Basically, a learning organisation continuously transforms itself (Watkins and Marsick, 1993), which means that individuals within the groups are continuously participating in the goals and ideals of the organisation.
Leaders commonly initiate change and improvement in performance through incorporating enthusiasm within the organisation and through considering the experiences of individuals to their interactions and relationships with each other.Human resource managers need to understand these theories related to organizational behaviour in order to effectively solve problems and/or improve their performance because they do not only provide a good working environment but they also promote good relationships in which employees can learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.ConclusionThis paper suggests that there are five strategic building blocks and the supporting foundations are the key factors in this new organisational archetype called a learning organisation. These building blocks and supporting foundations need to be present or to be implemented to have a learning capability.
They allow human resources managers to take practical actions, initiatives, and interventions needed to build a learning organisation and to achieve organizational goals. However, if this idea of a learning organisation is to take hold in organisations and gain credence and support by practicing managers, it must also have an impact on organisational performance. In addition, organisational behaviour is relevant in creating learning organisations because it provides systems of knowing individuals’ behaviour that can be significant in creating and maintaining the flow of learning within the organisation. Learning organisations are transforming organisation towards growth and is determined through the organisation’s performance.
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New York: Routledge, 6.;;;;;;AppendixMinter and Thomas (2000) Performance AssumptionsCOACHING MODEL ASSUMPTIONS* Is a strong performer* Requires a low level of supervision* Utilizes time effectively* Assumes a high level of accountability* Exhibits a high level of energy* Is a self-starter* Requires little direction* Is an effective communicator — keeps management and others informed* Has high potential for career mobility* Exhibits high levels of competency on most, if not all, corporate expectations* Is an effective team player* Is current in the knowledge and skills required to do the job* Can be trusted to follow through on assigned responsibility and authority* Assumes a high level of initiativeMENTORING MODEL ASSUMPTIONS* Exhibits standard or average performance behavior on a continuous basis* Has the capacity and potential to improve the quality/quantity of performance beyond the standard, but needs additional training and experience* Has potential to become a strong team player* Is not yet meeting performance expectations because the employee is new to the job or company* Requires specific instruction in skill/knowledge areas to develop the necessary abilities and willingness to meet performance expectations* Requires moderate to close supervision* Has difficulty assuming higher levels of accountability at this time due to the employee’s current state of knowledge or skill/ability levels* Is not effective at this point-in-time in managing key responsibilities* Has potential to be a HPE in the department/company* Has potential to achieve expected competency levels* Is unable to bring about improvement on his/her own initiative* Requires a manager or designated individual to work side-by-side with the employee on selected critical tasks in order to bring about significant performance improvement* Needs to demonstrate improvement in selected areas to be retained on the current job* Demonstrates performance concerns that relate more to the employee’s knowledge, skill, or ability levels than to attitudinal or behavioral problems.COUNSELING MODEL ASSUMPTIONS* Is consistently below the department’s average performance expectations on most, if not all, critical tasks* Exhibits behavioral or emotional problems that are impacting on his or her performance as well as that of others on the work team* Is repeatedly violating work rules or company policies* Requires immediate correction of behavior/attitudes/emotions* Is unable to provide effective self-management* Has not experienced a supervisory intervention before and has potential to be helped through counseling (and perhaps mentoring)* Requires one final attempt by the supervisor even though previous interventions with the employee have not been successful
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