Human resource development, commonly abbreviated as HRD is a function of the human resource managers. This function aims at ensuring employees develop their capacity or are enabled to use their full potential towards realizing their life dreams. Besides, it also helps an organization meet its goals and objectives. Human resource development is one way of helping skills in the organization to be at par with actual skill requirements. This is the best way of responding to change. Through human resource development, employees are able to evolve and meet with changing job demands. Human resource development is an organization based or individual employee based. HRD can be organized and systematized in an organization; all employees benefit from this organization wide or organization based employee development. On the other hand, there is the individual employee based HRD. Individual employees with immense potential are identified and given the support they need to realize their full potential.
There are many ways of developing employees. Whatsoever the means, the aim is to increase employee skills or abilities, expand on knowledge that employees have and improve on attitudes. Human resource development happens either through formal or informal training.
Traditionally, organizations have perceived HRD as a strategy embracing instrumental learning, which focuses on procedural training and task-oriented solving. However, thinkers in the design school approach attest instrumental learning is not sufficient. This is because of the evolving nature of modern businesses. Presently, instrumental learning has been integrated with other strategies such as; employee lifelong learning, community of practice and the concept of knowledge work. Most organizations believe these strategies are significant in current situations as they optimize the use of an organization’s personnel. They view that these strategies ensures organizations’ investment in personnel bears fruits, besides leveraging a competitive advantage.
Although it is not viewed as a new concept or idea in HRD, lifelong learning in its contemporary discourse began gaining much publicity in the twentieth century. Presently, many modern organizations have utilized the concept in achieving the organization’s competitive advantage. Armstrong (2001) in his book A Handbook of Human Resource Management describes lifelong learning as a continuous process that aims at equipping employees with knowledge and skills. Besides, contributing to explicit knowledge, lifelong learning helps employees make judgments’, predictions and decisions basing on the tacit knowledge they have. Modern organizations note lifelong learning as a strategy aimed at strengthening work force capacity with the required skills and competencies. This ultimately enables employees successfully cope with new challenges and permanent changes in the globalized and evolving business environment.
Mayo (2004) asserts lifelong learning happens in different forums. In organizations, lifelong learning largely depends on organizational needs or characteristics. Life-long learning or in other words, work place learning can be directed or self directed. Directed learning is where learning is formalized, and employees are involved in giving systematized learning endeavors’. Supervisors and directors determine what, how, when and where the employees learn. Self directed learning is initiated by learners themselves, and they determine what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. Self directed learning stems from an employee’s personal desire and own educational goals and objectives.
Mayo (2004) in his book, Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: the HR Business Partner's Guide to Developing People, alleges self directed work place learning is critical in an organization. It is an effective method by which employee develops. The more systematically employees approach self directed work place learning, the better for them (Bratton & Gold, 2001). Systemizing work place learning means that employees consciously look into their own development needs. Further, the employees design learning objectives, on their own, institute learning mechanisms and continually monitor and evaluate their own learning progress.
HRD officers have the challenge of encouraging participation in directed learning, but most critically self directed learning (Bratton & Gold, 2001, p. 274). There are various methods of encouraging work place learning. One ways is to encourage the formation of communities of practice. A community of practice is ideally an informal group of employees who have similar work place interest and are eager to learn from each other. A community of practice in a work place enhances organizations knowledge base. This is achieved through sharing of knowledge and experiences and providing necessary resources among others. An atmosphere of openness and sharing about learning goals helps towards achieving organizations’ goals. Besides, sharing of leaning related information leads to employees encouraging each other to learn certain aspects or issues related to their job or general welfare.
According to Bratton & Gold (2001) lifelong learning is beneficial to most modern organizations. Besides increasing knowledge base for modern organizations, it increases employees performance and creativity. Unlike traditional instruments, lifelong learning cast the organization as a unit of learning. This allows the managers embrace a strategic perception and employees to reason in the context of how their skills impact the organization. Similarly, the lifelong learning is a concept that binds. It also establishes a diverse influence and disciplines within the HRD such as information systems, training and organization development.
A modern business organization operates in information intensive economy unlike in the past; thus, competitive advantage is based on the application of knowledge. Reed (2001) alleges not all wisdom, data and intelligence, which an organization needs to compete, is found in one place. It is dispersed. Knowledge is increasingly becoming the defining characteristics of an organization. The concept of knowledge work or management is closely linked to lifelong place learning. Knowledge management is inherently efforts by an organization to generate, preserve and facilitate sharing of knowledge in an organization (Reed, 2001). Knowledge in an organization resides with individuals, in organizational procedures and in organizational process. Knowledge goes, beyond technical and soft skill tenets, to encompass organizational culture embedded meanings as espoused in organization structure and processes. Knowledge management and dissemination is an integral aspect of employee development. Knowledge sharing happens in different forums. It could be through informal discussions, apprenticeship arrangements, formal training sessions, company mentoring efforts, dissemination of employee reports or research reports on different operations in organization and intranet based sharing (Reed, 2001, p. 62).
A knowledge sharing culture in an organization enhances employee cohesiveness and guarantees and employee based competitive advantage (Reed, 2001). Knowledge management takes advantage of all the people, technology and processes in an organization. As already discussed, encouraging community of practice is a sure way of managing knowledge effectively in an organization. Junior employees have to be encouraged to consult with senior employees. Forums that facilitate sharing by senior experts have to be encouraged in an organization (Reed, 2001, p. 63).
Similarly, HRM enhances relationship building which facilitate knowledge sharing. In contemporary business society and turbulent environment, more emphasis is anchored on relationship established and sustained among employees within and across organizations. Developing partnerships creates intense collaborations out of the organizations rivals. In relationship building, the HRM establishes practices and programs that allows employees to nourish, encourage, facilitate and sustain relationships among themselves, suppliers, customers and at a times rivals. The relationship ultimately creates synergy within the organization. Agile combinations of employees who have embraced relationship networks create the value for the organization than mere individual contributions.
Delahaye (2011) contend knowledge work is vital for HRD. It forms a unique resource that differentiates one organization to the other thus providing a competitive advantage. An organization; which, accumulates concentrates, conserve, and complement and recover the collective skills and abilities within an organizations forms a basis for a competitive advantage. Sanchez and Heene (2004) illustrates knowledge work in an organization aims at keeping talents among employees hence; the Human resource manages develops a relationship between the employees and the organization. This allows an organization to lead without dominating and facilitates employees without controlling. Hence, this trend creates stewardship which enhances self-responsibility and contributions to organizations success.
A community of practice is an increasing term embraced by modern organizations. The concept was developed to acknowledge the fact that learning also occurs in a social relationship rather than through books and teaching. In present business environment, community of practice is a mainstream of knowledge management in most organizations. Swan et al (2002) illustrate community of practice is a group of people who interact with each other within an organization, across organizational units or beyond organizations boundaries. Communities of practice posses a common interest or field of application in certain work related tasks and share their knowledge on a regular basis (Swan et al., 2002). Community of practice in an organization act as a forum for sharing knowledge by practitioners of a given discipline; this is because, members of the community share a common goal and are internally motivated as opposed to having some external driver. Its importance in HRD is evident. It serves as an avenue where members value different kinds of knowledge that transpires within a community. Community of practice in an organization is a joint venture. It has its own identity, which is continually renegotiated by its members, and individuals become members through shared practices and involvement in common ways. As the members form relationship, trust is generated, thus contributing to long term orientation on knowledge creation and sharing. Swan et al argues (2002) the structure of members provides a broad access to experts and peers who share innovative ideas and experiences and are not limited by traditional hierarchical structures.
A community of practice members learns and supports one another in order to create, capture, spread, retain and apply knowledge relevant to the organization. Through this process, the community of practice emerges as a significant instrument for collaboration and knowledge sharing across conventional organizational boundaries. Traditionally, communities were established to share insights, ideas, solve problems and to explore their discipline or practice area (Verburg and Andrissen, 2006). These communities were not obvious in the organizational structure, and organizations did remarkably little to nurture, encourage or sponsor them. However, in recent times, most organizations are more attention to the role communities’ play in helping to drive the organization’s competitive advantage and performance. The HRD practitioners are advocating for the formation of communities, aligning communities with formal organizational objectives and supporting communities with resources and training. This is because there is increasing evidence suggesting that organizations, work groups and individual practitioners benefit from participation in communities of practice (Sanchez and Heene, 2004).
HRD plays a critical role in assisting organizations achieve its goals and objectives. Thus, to succeed, managers in an organization have to embrace and have considerable will towards employees. Managers have to understand the valuable contribution that the employees make to the company. When managers get involved in employee welfare and show clearly that they value the employees; this elicits intrinsic motivation among employees (Sanchez and Heene, 2004). Compared to instrumental learning, most modern organizations are embracing lifelong learning, community of practice and knowledge. The HRD view, in this case as a more effective approach in equipping employees with self-cantered skills necessary in today’s era of globalization. These approaches have made organizations less hierarchical and helping in maintaining competitiveness. Besides, compared to instrumental learning, which is focused on procedural training and task oriented training, new approaches are making organization develop talents and assist in organization growth.
Community of practice, lifelong learning and knowledge work concepts will continue to play a significant factor in modern business organizations. These approaches are employee focused. They help stimulate creativity on the side of the employee, the stimulation leads to self discovery which ultimately add new skills and knowledge to an employee. An employee in turn, translates this knowledge to the organizations work, assisting it to achieve a competitive advantage.
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