The learning journals

(Journal 1) Introduction to Human Resource Devotement (HRD)


This is the first lecture of my HRD module. While I was waiting for the lecturer to set up, I pondered over the subject for a few minutes and though, how many limbs are there to this whole concept of HRM. After all, during my tenure at UCD studying B&L, I took several other modules associated with HRM and though I had it all covered. These modules included HRM Techniques, The Future of Work and Managing Employee Relationships. So, here I am with studying another dimension, another cog to the wheel of workplace science.

The Journal

The opening slide of the lecture material summed it up well for me. This module was all about HRD as a component of HRM. The four learning areas of Training, Learning, Development and Education stood out like four giants at a football match. I can recall been exposed at some time or other to each of these components during some parts of my working life. However, my mind was never trained to calibrate them into a neat little bundle under the learning auspicious of HRD. As the module timetable unfolded, I could see clearly that each weekly topic would tie nicely back to the gang of four. More importantly, HRD was a developed framework to assist employees increase their workplace skill, knowledge and ability. For employees, many would enhance their career prospects, either within the workplace internally or externally with other organisations.

The next part of the lecture dealt with the assessment aspect of the module. I already was aware that the assessment of this module would be conducted under the 50/50 rule. I had checked it out before I signed up. The rule of course being, 50% assessable 'inside the box' (end of semester examination) and 50% 'outside the box' (assessed by in semester assignments). This modus operandi may suits some students and not others. It suits me because I have achieved well doing these in semester assignments in the past as opposed to 100% end of semester exams. I don't mind sitting in on Saturday nights' or any other night for that matter researching and reading for a deadline assignment. The next curiosity was, what assignment topics we would be given.

The module introduction concluded with a list of suggested readings that were available on Blackboard. The core reading, Noe's 'Employment Training & Development' was also noted. Generally these core readings tend to drive the module learning, so it is important that I get my hands on a copy.

The topic for today's learning opened with the types of cognitive learning patterns that humans apply to their learning material. David Kolb's four learning preferences were discussed and Maeve offered the class the VERK questionnaire. This was taken individually. The results, although not conclusive gave some indication of our individual learning patterns. I though this was a very useful and interesting exercise. I knew that my preferential learning pattern revolved around mind maps, which I now realise flows from the reflective observation preference on the Kolb's diagram. Although Kolb's offers a four stage cycle of learning, the Honey and Mumford's model was introduced and discussed to support Kolb's theory.

Finally, the notion of multiple intelligences was illustrated by a fairly explicit diagram. Having heard the expression many times, "he/she is very intelligent", I often wondered what that actually meant. At times, I would look at perhaps the Leaving Cert. student model and think, does it mean the higher the points theses leaving Certs' achieve, the higher their intelligence? Again, I applied the same curiosity to undergraduate students. For example, did those students that achieved a GPA of 2:1, be any less intelligent than students achieving a 1:1? I now believe I have broadened my scope in finding an answer to this. Gardner's (1983) Intelligence Theory List can assist. The more and wider one understands and demonstrates knowledge ability, the higher their intelligence. This can be measured by age up to a point, but widens out eventually to the world at large based on their intellectual experiences that can be demonstrated. Gardner's theory also helps us understand the workplace environment. Employee intelligence can be evaluated by their work ethic, commitment and ability to do their job efficiently.

Journal (2) Transfer of Training


A good starting point to my journal this week is to try and understand what 'transfer of learning' is and what is involved. Several theorists have given their version of a definition and have very much narrowed into the same principle. I identify it as a learning process of skill and knowledge that is transferred from a simulation tank (workshop) back to the workplace environment for implementation.

The Journal

The method of learning can be skill based, attitude alignment or cognitive theory based. However, what is essential is that the training when completed has a useful purpose and a benefit. For example, there is no point in sending employees on a PowerPoint presentation course if there is no prospect of them using it back in the workplace environment. There is a lot to be said in the paradigm "if you don't use it, you will lose it". However, it is important not to confuse the training within the workplace with personal learning and achievement. For example, some organisations as part of their employee's remuneration packages fund educational courses that may not fit entirely into the employees' job fit. This type of learning arrangements is more designed to benefit the employees' career path and personal achievements goal than directly promoting a competitive advantage for the organisation.

There are several characteristics to the transfer of training. First, there must be a learning or skill shortage gap. Employers maybe able to identify that certain employees could enhance their work performance and benefit the organisation from the fruits of an improved skill or knowledge learning programme. Because learning is not a tangible feast, organisations are totally dependent on employee motivation to ensure that the best benefit is achieved and returned to the organisation. This motivation dependency can have its short comings for the organisation. Some employees may feel there is an inherent onus on them to participate in training and learning programmes, only to be seen as proactive and cooperative. Other may lack the innate ability to transfer back the knowledge or skill to others or indeed the organisation itself.

The organisation needs to set its learning objectives if it identifies learning gaps.

First, this involves setting out the required learning requirements, how employees will learn and a system of engagement for employees to impart to others the fruits of their endeavours. Learning maximisation occurs Throrndikes (1928) theory of 'Identical Elements' "when what has been learned comes close to what the job entails".

Second, there must be some method of testing to ensure that the organisational benefit can derive from the strategic investment. This can be difficult to quantify, as benefits need to be captured in improved employee performances and ultimately in the organisations results. It is in this area of control that companies incur difficulty, by allowing the transfer to engage and at the same time having no mechanism of capturing the results.

Third, the employee and the learning environment must coincide. Not only must employees possess motivation, they must also have the cognitive ability to comprehend what is required of them to learn. This was discussed in lection (1). Finally, organisational management must be mindful of the obstacles and inhibitions that can act as a barrier and block the transfer of the learning process back into the workplace.

Journal (3) Needs Assessment


A structured HRM department will undertake the soft approach of assessing the needs for up skilling and workplace training within a workplace environment. Sometimes this function is outsourced where the HRM departments are limited in scope and resources. It makes perfect sense for organisations with a small staff to buy into this experience when the need arises. The main advantage is that small companies can avail of high technical knowledge and skill at costs small operations can afford.

The Journal

The starting point for the assessment is to identify the organisational gaps. These gaps can be identified by entire job creations or shortfalls within existing employee job fits. The gathering of employee personal information is critical to ascertain the level of skill and knowledge that the organisation holds. This information should include details on employees' individual skill, capabilities and motivation. The next step is to try and match this vital information with the organisations cultural needs and job fit objectives. This maybe easier said than done, but a well defined business objectives model that has been strategically thought out can highlight the organisational gaps that may need to be plugged. This can be achieved by implementing an initiative to up-skill and implement suitable work-place training programmes that bridge these gaps.

Another aspect is to evaluate the reasons behind these organisational work-place gaps and ascertain why and how they have developed. To implement a strategic needs assessment analysis, the organisation must set out its analysis under the following criteria.

  • An organisational analysis.

This is where the resource capabilities of the organisation are addressed and identified. Keep & Mayhew (1999) notes that 'training is a third-order'. In other words, it flows from competitiveness, product or service specification and job design.

Some organisations, owing to their size and structure can provide the necessary internal training and up-skilling requirements necessary to plug the gaps; others may have to outsource all or part of the capability to third party providers to assist them achieve this objective. Either way, organisations must engage with the learning provider in terms of a) what the learning and up-skilling requirements are and b) how the learning capabilities will be implemented such that the gaps as noted above are eliminated.

Some work-place practice gaps or deficiencies can result generically. This is where the organisation has not kept its work practices inline with technological changes within the industry. Other gaps may result from employee behaviours that have been couched in long-term organisational traits which no longer serve the objectives of the organisation, but are difficult to eradicate.

  • An employee analysis.

This is a highly important analysis that organisation need to conduct with their employees on an ongoing basis. It involves the collection of employee information on skill, knowledge and capability. The next part is to match this information with both the organisational cultural and the job fit specification of the employee. Some employees have the skill and ability in meeting the job fit specification, but can fail in terms of meeting the organisational culture. In addition, many organisations at the selection and recruitment process, can misjudge or misaligned a candidate's skill, knowledge and personality with the job fit and organisational requirement. This may lead to a learning adjustment for the organisation if the void is not too critical or long term problems for both the organisation and employee if it is not addressed.

  • The Task analysis.

Finally, we must address the task analysis. Having identified the gaps and deficiencies that exist within the work-place from the matching process, an analysis of tasks are established to plug the organisational gaps. These tasks can comprise of a multiplicity of undertakings both physical in terms of up-skilling involving, or theoretical in terms of knowledge that may be required to update employees' capabilities.

Journal (4) Training & Development


Training, development and skill enhancement are key components of the workplace environment so that organisations can achieve competitiveness. The most important assets that organisations possess are its human capital. Albeit a key driver of applying strategic competence in meeting the organisation's objectives, T & D can benefit both the organisation and the employee alike if identified and implemented properly.

The Journal

From an employers' perspective, such investment not only offers the possibility of increased competitiveness, but it can subscribe to employee retention where skill shortages may exist. However, some argue that employee retention is difficult to police if T & D is implemented into an organisation. Some employers' have concerns that T & D contribute to employee exit strategies. This assumption is based on the premise that employees will use their tacit and personal development capabilities as a stick to negotiate with employers for better terms where employers have paid for it in the first place. This is not necessarily the case, but employers and employees alike know only to well that a job for life has gone out with the bath water years ago. Employers need to appreciate that T & D should act as a shield within the organisation rather than a sword.

In principle, T & D can contribute to an organisation's competitive advantage by having an up-skilled workforce deliver enhanced value-added products and services to customers. It also allows employees to understand and appreciate the concepts of Total Quality Management (TQM) within their work environment. Customers' now expect more in terms of quality. This is because the can benchmark. They are exposed to globalisation, new technological innovations and consumerism which were beyond their reach thirty years ago.

Organisations respond by being on top of their game, competitive and cost effective through high performance strategic work models. This cannot materialise without ongoing T & D. On the other hand, there are also significant benefits accruing to employees from these work models who undertake T & D programmes. These include, increased job satisfaction, better workplace morale, improved efficiencies. A key issue of T & D is that employees can embrace change both within the workplace and within their own workplace tasks. We now live in a world of ongoing technology changes, where the employee mindset must adjust accordingly to survive the pace. On the deposit side, an increase in an employee's tacit knowledge becomes a more tradable commodity between employers and its' staff.

Although it is widely accepted that T & D offers both importance and value to either side of the workplace relationship, there are difficulties in establishing how best to encourage good T & D practices. In particular, how T & D should be grounded and couched as a cultural norm of workplace environments.

In a voluntarist (market - based) perspective, where markets are self regulated according to supply and demand within the workplace. Ireland, UK and the USA are typical economies where a voluntarist approach is promoted. The onus of responsibility and investment of T & D is left solely at the discretion of either the employer to organise on behalf of the workforce, or the employee themselves having a self value interest and benefit to undertake it personally without any employer involvement.

In class, we discussed some of the dilemmas employers' face with investing in T & D programmes. The main focus was on cost and if the organisation would succeed in having a return on their investment. R & D is an intangible investment and needs to be valued over the longer-term as opposed to the short term. Unfortunately, when an organisation suffers adverse trading conditions or a general economic decline such as Ireland is experiencing at this time, there is a tendency to cut costs and unfortunately some of these costs include costs associated with T & D.

I am of the opinion that within the Irish business psyche, traditional business ventures have not yet recognised the full benefit that R & D can bring to their organisation. Any of the developed models that we currently see in Ireland have come via American companies that have set up their businesses here. The self regulatory attitude in Ireland has not helped and has developed a culture of implementing T & D programmes on a need by need basis. T & G and knowledge based systems will be this country's survival kit for the future going forward.

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