Learning and Development Audit in Organization

Introduction

While theoretical arguments from the literature on science and innovation suggest that the set of skills people acquire during education may not only be important input into other types of activities, it can be suggested that, the results of research studies have received by far the most attention in innovation studies (Armstrong, 2006). The results show that skills are indeed rated more important than propositional knowledge both for the categories of knowledge classified as specific as well as for non-specific knowledge categories (Bohlander & Snell, 2009).

This indicates that methodological knowledge carries a higher potential for the creation of economic value in areas other than basic research (Bratton & Gold, 2001). The world has become complex and individuals have to acquire some level of proficiency in scientific knowledge as well as reading in order to comprehend and take part in economic and social life (Ferris, et al., 1995). The level of literacy in the society determines the performance of a country in economic terms (Holland & De Cieri, 2006). The world has also gone through substantial changes from what it was in the past generation (Bohlander & Snell, 2009).

Moreover, through innovation in technology, the procedure for working has been altered, there has been a raise in global competition, and the labor market has developed from being agricultural based and it is now based on services (Ferris, et al., 1995). These changes among many others have resulted in an increase in the requirement of skills in almost all sectors of the economy (Holland & De Cieri, 2006).

In the present information age that is fuelled by technology, employees need not only to understand the concepts and processes of production, but also how to apply the skills acquired in class to become effective members of the rapidly changing world of the 21st century (Armstrong, 2006). There is need to conduct a regular audit of the learning and development approach adopted at organizations (Smith & Mazin, 2004).

To be scientifically literate, a student has to possess a set of scientific skills that merges the knowledge of science concepts and facts and the ability to use language to communicate about these facts (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). The same extends to organizations where employees should possess the right skills to carry out specific tasks (Storey, 1998). These skills should be updated regularly through learning so as to adapt the changes brought about by technology (Armstrong, 2006). As a learning and development manager at our company, my task is to ensure that learning and development learns smoothly within the organization (Harris, et al., 2003).

However this does not seem to be the case in our organization since learning has a very low profile, is not strategically aligned and substantial resources are being wasted (Holland & De Cieri, 2006). My task as the new manager includes conducting an audit in the learning and development approach adopted by the organization. This paper looks at the measures included in the audit and how the approach to learning and development can be improved (Smith & Mazin, 2004). This includes the organization culture, team work, ability to deal with change, monitoring of employees, among others (Bohlander & Snell, 2009).

Organizational culture

The success or failure of any business or organization depends on the organizational behavior perceptions (Ferris, et al., 1995). The way the management team together with employees handles these perceptions in the organization determines whether the organization will close its operations or it will continue (Storey, 1998). This is because management and employees are responsible for the future development of the organization (Ferris, et al., 1995).

According to Bohlander & Snell (2009) Organizational culture can be defined as the values, norms or pattern of assumptions shared by members of a particular organization. It is important to investigate the organizational culture in the organization because values or assumptions have been found to be important in improving the effectiveness of an organization. Employees learn about the important aspects of the organization they are working for through values (Armstrong, 2006).

By critically examining the organization, its culture can be explained in terms of socio-technical and systems theory (Stone, 2008). Great attention should be focused on listening and responding to views from staff on issues related to the performance of the business (Ferris, et al, 1995). Such views are normally brought up during weekly meetings and members of staff should be rewarded accordingly for the suggestions they make (Bratton & Gold, 2001).

Weekly newsletters and monthly videos are used to update and to keep in touch with members of staff since organizations have realized that employees are a valuable asset to the success of any business (Storey, 1998). This illustrates how the principal of shared values should be practiced in the organization. All members are kept up to date with all the activities in the organization and this boast their morale and motivate them to work harder (Stone, 2008). They understand that they are valued and are willing to bring in more ideas and pay much attention to the success of the organization (Bohlander & Snell, 2009).

Organizational culture can also be explained in terms of “taken for granted assumptions” (Storey, 1998). This is in regard to the adoption of some of the suggestions made by the staff, for instance, starting training courses later in the day thereby saving on the travel costs (Harris, et al., 2003). Employees are guided on how to think or observe things by the assumptions made by the managers for instance through learning opportunities for career growth. Through task culture, employees are able to meet the targets set for them (Ferris, et al., 1995). They understand that they are responsible for the future development of the company and this is determined by their efforts (Boudreau & Ramstad, 2007). An employee is given a task which he is expected to accomplish within a set deadline (Bohlander & Snell, 2009).

Ability to deal with change

Change is inevitable and things change when least expected (Harris, 2003). It is unavoidable in the modern workplace (Harris, et al., 2003). To remain effective and competitive, organizations must continually adapt their business processes to manage the rapid changes demanded by the dynamic nature of the marketplace or service environment (Wilkinson, 1988). It is also the case that, even in the most structured processes, deviations or unpredicted events will occur with almost every instantiation. (Armstrong, 2006).Therefore, so that the benefits of workflow management system may be offered to the broader organizational spectrum, the ability to deal with change must be effectively addressed (Harris, et al., 2003). Changes in a business strategy are caused by changes in the business environment. This can either be internal or external (Likert, 2009).

In order to adapt change effective, employees have to be exposed to new experiences, such as going for seminars, which is a long-accepted pedagogical tool. Requiring that managers make the organization more ethical, however, is very contentious (Harris, et al., 2003). Many managers assess their organization’s ethical integrity, brainstorm how their organizations can expand their social responsibility, and develop action plans for improving their organization’s ethics (Armstrong, 2006). Managers do not want to be accused of being unethical and that’s why they have to change some of the business processes from time to time (Stone, 2008).

Monitoring of employees

The main purpose for monitoring employees is to ensure that their performance is in line with the established performance standards (Likert, 2009). This can be done through periodic checks in which an organization collects data that can be used to evaluate the general performance (Stone, 2008). It is imperative to audit the employee monitoring in the organization in order to reinforce good performance or to improve substandard performance (Harris, et al., 2003). An employee should be the one to propose the frequency of monitoring as this will make him at ease and have a bit of ownership of the monitoring process(Likert, 2009). It also helps the employee to understand the importance of the process and makes him to accept and be comfortable with the supervisor’s presence (Stone, 2008).

Monitoring employee performance is done in order to check the quality of customer service, determine employee training needs, to ensure that staff performance is related to their skills and for competencies (Harris, et al., 2003). Another reason for conducting this process is to ensure that employees are provided with a safe and healthy working environment and to ensure that they comply with the company policy as well as the law. It is also a way of investigating suspected fraudulent activities or criminal conduct (Holland & De Cieri, 2006).

In theory, there are many different forms of monitoring employees; this depends on the nature of performance that is being monitored (Ulrich, 1996). The most common method is appraisal; others include observation of employee activities, observing the work records, self-reporting by employees, and investigation of complaints and complements. Performance appraisal is a monitoring process that is conducted by line managers (Likert, R., 2009). It gives an opportunity for line managers and employees to engage in a dialogue where they address individual performance against the expected performance.

Performance appraisal should not be a biased process but rather it should allow views to come from both parties (Harris, et al., 2003). Stone, (2008), observed that the purpose of this process is to review past behavior in connection with past performance and devise a way of making it better (McNamara, 2010). An individual performance plan is prepared which is then reviewed by the line managers and HR manager in determining the annual appraisal for individual employees (Smith & Mazin, 2004). The appraisal consists of what needs to be done in order to improve performance and ways of overcoming challenges that the employee might be facing in the process of performing his duties (Legge, 2004).

Return on investment

Return on investment is the most widely used performance measure for evaluating the efficiency of an investment (Swamson, 2009). It gives results that can be easily evaluated. ROI is calculated by using the following formula:

ROI = (Gain from investment- cost of investment)/ cost of investment (Swamson, 2009)

It is imperative to include ROI in the learning and development audit as it helps in identifying which strategies to adopt and which one to keep off for the success of the organization (Stone, 2008). The following figure explains more on ROI.

Return on investment

HR alignment of Learning and development

Human Resource Management is an indispensable element in the performance of a corporate organization and works together with other departments to achieve the organization’s goals. Opportunity for career growth and development is a good strategy for managing employee’s career development (McNamara, 2010). Employees should be provided with opportunities to participate in educational seminars and programs (Stone, 2008).

Employees acquire new skills which they use on their jobs for their benefit as well as that of the organization (Wilkinson, 1988). They should also be provided with study leaves or allowances for furthering their studies (Likert, 2009). This may appear to be an added cost in the short term but the results are worth it (Ulrich, 1996). Employees develop new skills and strategies of handling their responsibilities, work becomes easy and more time is saved which can be used for other productive activities (McNamara, 2010).

Training program

The training program adopted at the organization need to be audited (Likert, 2009). This is because through training and development, internal staffs acquire skills which assist them in earning promotions in the organization (Swamson, 2009). The organization requires planning a training program that incorporates both the new and old employees (Holland, et al, 2007). Two training programs are appropriate in most organizations; one for new employees and the other for old employees (Tubbs, and Steven, 1991). It is the duty of line managers to receive any new member of staff into the corporate organization (Ulrich, 1996).

Shortly after the line managers are supplied with information about the engagement of the new members of staff, they should ensure that the work place is suitable, fully effective and well equipped, notify team members about the new employee, assign one member to act as the employee’s adviser and inform him of the new employee’s duties (Swamson, 2009). After that, the new employees undergo a three month training program where they are oriented on the activities of the organization, their role, and expected results (Legge, 2004). After training, they are required to hand in a written assessment report showing that they understand what is expected of them. After that, they will be eligible for regular employee training program which should be conducted once in every year (Taylor, 2008).

The purpose of the training program is to upgrade the skills of employees in the phase of changing market demands and technology (Wilkinson, 1988). Only by updating these skills using well developed programs, can professional organizations equip their staff with the skills needed to respond to future business expectation (Legge, 2004). This is an expensive process and requires prior planning. Training costs have to be included in the budget so that, the organization does not feel like it has wasted some funds (Bratton & Gold, 2001).

Reward and motivation

There is need to conduct an audit in the reward mechanisms adopted by the organization because people need to be encouraged and appreciated in order to achieve their mission and that of others. (Wilkinson, 1988). Abraham Maslow (a researcher), explored the connection between reward and motivation and came up with a theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of need (Anon. “Human needs and rewards” 2010). Maslow discovered that human beings have different types of needs that they want to be met. They include; basic needs security, self esteem, self actualization and group needs. To fulfill these needs, sets of motivating rewards have to be used. Some of the basic needs can be fulfilled through provision of good standards of living by means of honest pay structures (Anon. “Human needs and rewards” 2010).

Provision of secure working environment coupled with training on safety and health issues can assist in meeting the security needs of the employees. On the other hand, reward systems on job promotion based on employee’s efforts, skills, and experience can help in raising their self esteem and meet the needs that come with it (Smith & Mazin, 2004). Employees’ team working groups that are well structured with good communication help in fulfilling the group needs. Self actualization needs can be fulfilled by encouraging employee developments by use of appraisal tool where employees gauge their performance (McNamara, 2010).

Team work

All employees are experts in their work and often come together in specific projects or for task groups (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). Team work makes problem solving an easy task (Harris, et al., 2003). Work practices include sharing of knowledge and information freely, risk taking, and tendency to promote and follow rules (Ulrich, 1996). For a methodical audit of these practices, they can be grouped into support, rules, innovation and coordination. Influence is based on expert power rather than on position (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). More emphasis is put on getting the job done and this is done uniting the power of group members (Stone, 2008).

This ensures that work is done efficiently and that the organization is able to meet its objective (Ferris, et al., 1995). Support aspect in the model is related to the help or support an employee gets from the organization and fellow employees (Stone, 2008). Innovation is the introduction and implementation of new ideas that positively benefit the organization and its members (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). Coordination refers to amalgamation of efforts to ensure successful attainment of objectives. Coordination can be achieved by means of planning, organizing, actuating and controlling (Harris, 2003).

Feedback

Feedback helps in evaluating how far the organization has gone in terms of goal achievement and what need to be done (Taylor, 2008). It provides a basis on which other goals can be set (Ulrich, 1996). Feedback is most beneficial to the organization as well as the individuals (Likert, 2009). It adds individual motivation in goal setting which in turn influences the performance of the organization (Anon. “Human needs and rewards” 2010). The numerous inputs become another way of determining leadership effectiveness (Tubbs & Steven, 1991).

The information gained from the feedback can be used to help leaders refine their attitudes and behaviors (Wilkinson, 1988). For best results, it is really important that, feedbacks reflect on those behaviors and attitudes that the organization values most (McNamara, 2010). Care should also be taken to ensure that the dimensions measured reflect important features of leadership execution (Tubbs, and Steven, 1991). The following chart can be used in the organization to facilitate the feedback process.

Feedback

Recommendation

As the new manager of learning and development in our company, it is recommendable that I conduct a thorough audit before assuming my responsibilities. To do this, there is need for the formation an audit team that is independent of all the aspects being evaluated. This team can be created from recruiting staff members either internally or externally. These are the people, who will be responsible for evaluating the performance of the organization, auditing learning and development, suggesting new strategies and implementing the same. This new group should ensure that, learning is improved in the organization and that employees are appointed to the department where they are most suited. It will also be responsible for determining the training needs and ensuring that change does not interfere with the performance of the organization.

Conclusion

There is need to conduct learning and development audit in our organization because learning seems to have a low profile and it is not strategically aligned. Learning is a continuous process and therefore there is need to upgrade employees’ skills. One of the measures to be included in the audit is the organizational culture. Different organizations adopt different cultures and as the new manager, there is need to understand the culture adopted in the organization in order to make improvement in the learning and development department.

Team work is another aspect that has to be addressed critically. Before attempting to make improvements in the new department, there is need to investigate whether team work is practiced in the organization or not. Team work helps in learning in that experienced work force can help the others while working as a group. This reduces the training costs that an organization has to incur since employees take the task of training their fellow employees.

Change is inevitable and the ability to deal with change has to be investigated. Before introducing new techniques or processes, there is need to understand the organization’s ability to deal with change. Employee performance needs to be monitored as this will provide a guide on what has to be done in terms of learning and development. This will help to identify the training needs within the workforce and who need to be trained. Other measures that can be included in the audit are reward and motivation mechanisms, and feedback.

References

Anon. ,2010. Human needs and rewards. Web.

Armstrong, M., 2006, A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (10th ed.). London: Kogan.

Bohlander, G. and Snell, S., 2009, Managing Human Resources. London, Cengage Learning.

Boudreau, J.W. and Ramstad, P.M., 2007. Beyond HR: The new science of human capital. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Bratton, J. and Gold, J., 2001. Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Ferris, G. et al., 1995. Handbook of human resource management. Blackwell HRM series, Blackwell human resource management series. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Harris, Hillary et al., 2003. International human resource management. London:CIPD Publishing

Holland, P. & De Cieri, H.,2006.Contemporary issues in human resource development, Pearson Education: Sydney.

Holland, P., et al.,2007. Contemporary Issues and Challenges in HRM, Tilde University Press: Prahran.

Legge, K., 2004. Human Resource Management: Rhetorics and Realities (Anniversary Ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Likert, R., 2009. Motivational Approach to management development. Harvard Business Review, 37 (4)pp. 75-82.

McNamara, C., 2010. Human Resource Management (and talent Management) Web.

Smith, A. S. & Mazin, A. R., 2004. The HR answer book: an indispensable guide for managers and human resources professionals. New York: Amacom Div American Mgmt Assn.

Stone, R. J., 2008. Human Resource Management. Sydney: John Wiley & Sons.

Storey, J., 1998. New perspectives on human resource management. London: Cengage Learning EMEA

Swamson, R., 2009. Foundations of Human Resource Development: Easy read Large Edition. San Francisco: ReadHowYouWant.com

Taylor, M. ,2008. Employee recognition schemes- do they work? China Staff.14 (6), p.117.

Tubbs, M. E. and Steven E. E., 1991. The role of intentions in work motivation: implications for goal-setting theory and research. Academy of Management Review 16 pp.180-199.

Ulrich, D., 1996. Human Resource Champions. The next agenda for adding value and delivering results. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Wilkinson, A. ,1988.Empowerment: theory and practice. Personnel Review 27 (1): 40–56.