Human resource development is a component of human resource management that exclusively deals with the training as well as the development of employees. This process includes offering training to an employee after or he, or she has been hired, availing opportunities to learn and acquire new skills, dispensing resources that are valuable when it comes to employees tasks as well as any other development activities. In recent years, HRD has expanded far beyond its traditional roles as well as its definition. Human resources are the greatest assets of an organization and the recognition of this fact has essentially increased the role of human resources development across the global organization enterprise. This paper aims to explore the changes that have occurred within the human resource development sector.
The phrase human resource development was first coined in the 1970’s and at the time, it combined aspects of education, training and development. Before the 1980’s, the field of human resources development was mainly considered to be synonymous with development of staff (Sofo, 1999). The roles, as well as the expectations of human resources development practitioners, have however changed almost dramatically in the last few years.
First, HRD has expanded its scope to encompass both structured as well as unstructured performance based and learning activities that develop organizational and individual competency (Swanson and Holton, 2010). A comparison of the different definitions of HRD between the 1970’s and the 1990’s reveals just how much the definition has broadened. For instance, back in the 1970’s, the definition of HRD identified adult learning and behavioral change as its key components. On the other hand, a definition forwarded in the 1990’s reveals that the principal components of human resources development transcend beyond just organization training and development (Sofo, 1999). They also include performance improvement in the organization’s work processes as well as at the individual levels. The fact that many organizations currently credit themselves as learning organizations signifies a shift from training towards learning. This shift has elevated the contribution of human resources development to performance and improvement in organizations.
The new dynamic human resources development field has generated multiple roles and responsibilities for HRD practitioners. Traditionally, the role of HRD practitioners was restricted to training for the workforce maintenance.
The traditional HRD practitioners had several roles. The HRD practitioners were viewed as the facilitators of learning. In this role, the practitioners were required to deliver content as well as training via group or individual facilitations (Sofo, 1999). The other role of a HRD practitioner was to design learning programs in an organization. Another significant role of a HRD practitioner was to develop the instructional strategies. Here, the practitioner had to establish strategies, techniques, and research on information and date that would be crucial to specific training programs (Sofo, 1999).
However, as mentioned earlier, there have been massive changes when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of HRD practitioners. This is not to mean that some elements of the roles discussed above are non-existent currently. What has taken place is the reintegration of organization’s strategic goals into the HRD process consequently leading to the emergence of new roles. According to Deb (2010), this has taken place due to the increasing recognition by companies about the importance of embedding organization and individual development into the core of the organization including its human resources asset. Essential, human resources development has evolved to a new form whereby training and development are combined with careers and overall organization development. This has led to a new set of roles for HRD practitioners.
First, HRD practitioners have become strategic advisers for human resources in organizations. They have been charged with the role of providing advice and guidance in regards to benefits and costs of organization’s long-term strategies. This role also involves flagging the issues of external and internal people to the strategic decision makers in an organization (Deb, 2010).
I have been in an organization where I have witnessed these new roles of HRD practitioners. During one of the summer holidays, I was lucky to find a job at a sugar-processing factory located in my hometown and this is where I witnessed these new roles of HRD practitioners. As it is common with many organizations, members of the organization usually sit down occasionally to formulate a long-term strategy for the organization. This was no different from this organization. One of the long-term strategies of the organization was to expand its base of operations to other states. It was here that I experienced firsthand the huge role that HRD practitioners play in the development of a strategic plan. I noticed that the head of the human resources training was very actively involved in the process and his put was very often sought. For instance, he was required to provide the overall cost of training for the new employees that would be employed at the company’s new bases of operation. In addition, he was also required to provide guidance on whether the whole project was viable, in terms of attaining and adequately training employees to serve at the new bases. In simple terms, he was required to provide an overall conclusion on whether there was a guarantee that the organization would be able to acquire an effective set of employees who would adequately serve at the new operation centers.
Nowadays, HRD practitioners also act as organization design consultants. This particular role requires the practitioners to establish the amount of work that is necessary for the fulfillment of organization’s strategic goals. The role normally involves the designing of work, which will ensure the productive and effective use of organization resources and consequently achieve great efficiency and reduce wastage.
According to Deb (2010), HRD practitioners have also become specialists of learning programs whereby they are charged with the duty to identify the learning needs and requirement of the organization and then designing and developing programs (Deb, 2010). Another role of HRD practitioners that has emerged from the evolvement of the discipline regards individual development, as well as career consultancy. Here, HRD practitioners are required to help people in the organization to assess their values, competencies and goals.
In the same organization I talked about earlier, I witnessed HRD practitioners acting as performance consultant in the organization. The HRD practitioner in the department was often consulted on performance matters but also in matters concerning organizational change, which in actual sense involves the facilitation as well as the development of organization change, strategies which when enacted can positively transform an organization (Sofo, 1999).
The head of the sales department was concerned about the levels of performance in his department. Although most of the employees in this section performed quite well, the head of the department held the belief the department held the potential for even better sales through improved performance. The problem was that he did not know how to go about this since most of the employees already believed they were performing to the best of their abilities and general performance levels of the entire department were satisfactory. The head of the department consequently consulted with one of the HRD practitioners to come with an effective strategy. The head of department was advised that the most effective way of boosting performance was by increasing the employees’ motivation. This could be done by introducing a bonus perk for employees who sold or facilitated the sale of a higher number of goods.
In addition to such a consultant role discussed above, I also observed modern HRD practitioners serving several roles within this particular organization that were all part of the human resources management process. The first was that of strategic partner. Here I noticed that the practitioner played an active part in the alignment of HRD practices with the strategies and goals of the organization.
The other roles of a HRD practitioner included that of an administrative expert, change agent and finally employee champion (Swanson and Holton, 2010).
It clearly emerges that modern human resource development has overridden its previous image. The discussed expansion of the roles, requirements and responsibilities of HRD practitioners is in real sense a reflection of the change that has taken place in HRD to include organization, career and individual development goals.
The observed change in the roles of HRD practitioners has in itself provoked a swing in the senior’s management expectations. In the 1980’s and previous periods, the HRD’s personnel general expectation was that they would help in staff training and development. In recent years, however, altering of these expectations has occurred due to greater focus being placed on organization learning and business line management (Sofo, 1999). As a result, a fresh focus for human resources development practitioners has been created whereby senior management expects HRD practitioners to provide assistance in organization change implementation. HRD personnel are expected to comprehend both external and internal factors that compel organization to transform and, therefore, provide advice and guidance on strategic human resources development issues
The organization I talked about earlier was in a change process when I joined it and I saw the huge expectation that was placed by the senior management on HRD practitioners. One of the elements of transformation that this organization was aiming at was a redefining of employees, roles, and responsibilities. A recent study had shown that the employees of the organization were generally unmotivated and most of them did not have efficient knowledge and understanding of their responsibilities. This was an example of an internal factor that necessitated organization change. The senior management expected the HRD practitioners to take an active role in alleviating these problems by establishing a new human resources system with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for employees as well as well of motivation.
According to Swanson and Holton (2010), the HRD practitioners are in addition expected by the senior management to develop or create an environment whereby continuous learning may occur to facilitate and oversee the employees through the organization change process. Because of organizational change impacts, the practitioners of HRD are generally expected to help organizations to remain competitive through developing values, behaviors and attitudes that essentially create a specific culture in an organization that increases its overall change capacity.
HRD practitioners have always been required to come up with ways to ensure that the benefits accrued from the venture outweigh the costs. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for HRD practitioners is to prove to senior management that their training and development efforts make an impact to the organization.
The evolved roles of HRD roles make huge contributions to organization’s performance. Recently, the evolved human resources development field has become a crucial element of many organizations to assist them in restructuring to meet global competition demands. Corporations have realized that the processes of training and development play a crucial role in the improvement of competitiveness. Consequently, a greater concentration on the human resources as an organization’s main assets has placed an even greater emphasis on the contributions of human resource development to organization’s performance, learning and development (Swanson and Holton, 2010).
Gibbs (2011) contends that the process of organization learning has in recent years become a crucial component when it comes to enabling corporations to survive in dynamic environments. Indeed, practitioners of HRD help organizations to achieve success by nurturing organization learning. Since one of the primary roles of HRD practitioners in recent years has been that of change agents, these practitioners help organizations to adapt and learn both fast and efficiently in an economic environment characterized by dynamism and random changes.
As it was seen earlier, the expansion of HRD as a field has seen it incorporate the aspect of strategic management in its scope. Consequently, one of the ways through which HRD practitioners generally contribute to an organization’s performance is through supplying individuals in the organization with adequate and relevant skills to attain organization’s long-term and strategic goals (Deb, 2010).
Via the new and evolved roles of human resources development practitioners, that is researcher, change agent, partner and strategic advisor, significant contributions towards the success of organizations takes place. In simple terms, HRD practitioners ensure both the success as well as the sustainability of an organization’s change effort in the long term.
When determining the contribution that HRD practitioners make to corporations and entities, two of the key component includes the measurement and the evaluation of the effect . Entities often seek to first measure and then evaluate the HRD practitioner’s effectiveness to determine if human resources development is a revenue user or revenue contributor (Gibb, 2011). These measurements and evaluations have in recent years changed a lot. One of the models through which evaluation of human resources activity can take place is, made up of four distinctive levels. The first level is the reaction to training and is about how delegates feel about the entire training and learning process. The second level is the learning level, which evaluates the increased capability, or knowledge that results from the experience. The third element or level of this process is the performance or behavior change. This one evaluates the extent of capability of behavior improvement the application/implementation. The final level of this model is the production of outcomes or results, and this one regards the effects on the bottom line of the organization.
In addition to this new model of measuring and evaluating HRD work, several other new approaches have sprung up or have been suggested by various experts. One of these is auditory and analytical in nature. In regards to the audit approach, it is in actual sense a form of qualitative measurement that focuses on evaluating and reviews the different outcomes emanating from HRD activities (Gibb, 2011). The utilization of qualitative measurement in real sense ascertains both the human reaction as well as the value of human resources development activities. This approach makes use of measures of employee satisfaction including surveys or other key indicators such as turnover rates to make an evaluation of human resources development activities. In addition, by using surveys that have been completed by senior management or senior executives; assessing HRD’s effectiveness is made easier. Consequently, this allows the organization’s management to find out if its HRD processes and endeavors are indeed making any sought of contribution to not only individual pursuits but also organization pursuits (Gibb, 2011).
However, the analytical approach, on the other hand, is qualitative in nature. The contributions of HRD to the bottom line of an organization are best evaluated or measured via quantitative method (Gibb, 2011). This is because they focus on time, capacity and costs. A quantitative method involves determining not only the impact, but also the cost and financial benefits of a practice or program. Indeed, evaluating the effectiveness of the program involves the determination of the change degree that is associated with the activity in question and thus determining of the activity has acquired its desired or intended effect
The last few years as shown has witnessed the prosperity of the HRD field as well as its expansion. It has essentially gone beyond the mere training image that it was traditionally associated with. The evolvement of the roles, responsibilities and expectations of human resources development practitioners reflects an emphasis on the increasing importance that organizations and corporations are placing on the human resources aspect and the requirement to adequately respond and adapt to change. There is a very high likelihood that human resources development as a field will continue growing as organizations and other relevant entities place an even greater emphasis on HRD practitioner’s contribution in the organization change and transformation process.
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