The achievement of organizational goals is largely determined by the human resources that the organization has. Capacity development is one of the most critical elements in organizational performance. Capacity development can only be achieved through an effective learning and development strategy that encompasses the mission and vision of the organization (Aubrey, 2010, p. 9). Many experts assert that developing an effective L&D strategy is as good as investing for the long-term survival of the organization. Designing a learning and development plan should go beyond the personal and career development of the employees to include the acknowledgement of the value of learning and development as well as the motivation and retention of employees.
Human resources departments nowadays have acknowledged the fact that training staff for the sake of training is an approach that does not belong in the twenty-first century. At the same time, failure to implement learning and development initiatives in an organization is a sure death knell for any company in the increasingly competitive business environment (Geary, 2005 p. 479). Training programs that have been implemented by human resources organizations over the years have emphasized just that- training.
However, the focus is shifting to learning that places emphasis on the outcome or output rather than the input, which training has done over the years. This new thinking recognizes an individual employee as an active participant and not a passive participant as has been over the years. It also calls for the adoption of different methods of learning especially e-learning. The learning though focused on the individual, should add up to the sum total of organizational learning in order to achieve organizational objectives (Takahashi, 2006, p.287).
Another very slippery element when it comes to organizational learning and development is adapting to change. Besides the formal change envisaged by organizational objectives such as the adoption of technology, there is s lot of change that is coming from increased regulation, whether from government or self-imposed industry regulation. This, therefore, call for continuous learning under an L&D strategy that aims to meet the organization all objectives in an all-round manner (Nina et al.,2006, p. 98).
Most important, however, is the efficiency of the L&D strategy. Revisions and overhaul of organizational learning and development strategies are the biggest obstacles there is nowadays to effective learning and development in organizations (Rothwell, 2005, p.64). Most plans have been caught up with time while others are still with the old ways of carrying out staff training. The point here is that a continuous review of the strategies involved in learning and development is a fundamental requirement if organizational learning is to be realized. Plans, therefore, should be put in place to ensure continuous audits of the existing plans are carried out regularly to ensure the L&D plans reflect the ever-evolving needs and requirements of organizations (Marjorie. F et al., 2003, p. 58).
Ways of auditing organizational learning and development plans will make up the main content of this paper. The paper will be seeking to evaluate the keys areas that will be evaluated when auditing an organizational learning and development strategy. On the same note, the paper will look into two areas that when evaluated, will give the most insight on the failures that unreviewed learning and development plans have. It will be a model for any HR leader to use in case the organization to which the professional belongs happens to lag behind in the formulation of learning and development models.
Focus of audit
The audit will focus on two areas that will be evaluated to determine what ails the unreviewed learning and development strategy that exists.
Strategic alignment of Organizational Goals and HRD
Depending on the core business that the organization is involved in and the goals as outlined in the mission and vision, the L&D plan may focus its questions on the strategy that is in use. The audit will concentrate on the following;
Are the employees well equipped with the crucial skills necessary in the delivery of the organization’s values and qualities? It’s important the L&D approach by the organization identifies the linkage that exists between departmental plans and corporate plans. This can be achieved through ensuring that all appraisal briefings carried out by the human resources stress the link between the job descriptions and the corporate objectives (Cohn et al. (2005, p.62).
The audit will also seek to establish if the organization is open to the facilitation of teams or departments that may want to reviews through individual plans. Departmental reviews of plans create consciousness among employees to keep up with the momentum that is created by industrial and sectoral changes (Kesler, 2002 p.25). Furthermore, it’s important if the audit to evaluate if learning transfer is made after every training. Evidence of learning transfer is seen through the practical application of the skills learned by the training programs developed by the HR (Cohn et al., 2005, p.69).
Another area that the audit will look at is if the organization has identified the skill requirements for individual departments and individual employees. Organizations need to set up systems that clearly spell out learning needs (Derek et al. 2004, p. 479). through this, they will easily produce plans for overall learning which is also inaccurate critical budgeting. A centralized approach to the analysis as well as monitoring of learning needs will ensure the organization’s employees equally access learning opportunities, and in return, the organization gets value for its money.
The third areas of focus of this audit are how the organization’s strategies are structured to contribute to constant improvement to organizational performance. Organizational performance can be achieved through the development of an interdepartmental model for monitoring of competency (Smith, 2001, p. 87). The audit will also determine if the organization has in place management development program that trains managers and equips them with the necessary skills critical in the realization of competency. Additionally, it will look into the existence of methods that facilitate learning transfer (Smith, 2001, p. 90).
This can easily be achieved through the allocation of all managers with individual action points tailored according to the course. Under this approach, the audit will determine if the company has in place plan for continuous improvement of the L&D plan, which should largely be tied to the appraisal process. Continuous improvement of the L&D plan is the most valuable asset an organization can have in its quest to continuous organizational performance improvement (Hall, 2001, p. 203).
The fourth area that will be evaluated by the audit is if the organizational strategy includes learning and development initiatives aimed at transforming employees to investment assets is clearly defined timeline. Improving business performance and competitiveness can only be achieved through a planned approach that clearly defines business objectives and ways through which people or employees will be developed in order to realize these objectives (Lee & Owens, 2000, p.56).
The fifth areas that the audit will look at are if the organization strategies promote employee job satisfaction as well as the broad understanding of the business environment the organization operates. There is concrete evidence that employees are motivated more when managers avail learning and development than when there is a pay hike (Harrison, 2005, p. 47). The audit, therefore, should find out if employees are given adequate opportunity to come up with learning and development plans that will enable managers to develop performance indicators.
Additionally, it is important for the manager to identify gaps of skill and/or experience through the induction process. This will help in the formulation of interim learning and development measures that will help bridge these particular gaps. While it’s important for organizations to train their employees to equip them with the skills necessary to meet organizational goals, it’s also important that they don’t overlook personal and career development. It’s also critical to the overall success of the L&D initiative (Montana & Bruce, 2000, p.54). Learning and Development audits should, therefore, focus as well on this last point.
Perhaps the most critical element of the success of learning and development strategies in organizations is the budgetary allocation to such activities carried out by the HR (Marjorie. F et al. 2003, p.32). The audit will aim to find out if the organization has devoted adequate funds to put in place the learning and development plan that will help in the achievement of its goals and objectives. If no, what, measures are in place to increase the allocation to HR so that they can effectively implement such a plan.
It’s important that organizations engage in steady investment in the development of L&D initiates so that overall learning in the organization takes place. Figure 1.0 on page 9 presents a summary of the structural arrangement of the HR department that can be cobbled together and analyzed as described above after an audit is successfully undertaken, a supposed HR arrangement that can implement an effective learning and development strategy as presented in the figure.
An effective audit can only take place with proven models that can deliver effective analysis. One such model is Kirkpatrick’s model. The evaluation through Kirkpatrick’s model will help paint the bigger picture on the status of the Learning and Development plan that is existing in the organization and the weaknesses and holes that need to be plagued (Rothwell & Benkowski, 2002, p. 125). The analysis through this model will help in the formulation of strategies to improve the plan to deliver organizational results better as defined in the organizational strategic plan.
Through Kirkpatrick’s plan, a framework with four levels for evaluation, which are reaction, learning, behaviour, and results, will be undertaken (Rothwell & Benkowski, 2002, p. 130). The last three components of the Kirkpatrick’s plan will especially be helpful in determining the strategies that the company has in place as far as learning and development is concerned. The model will also help in exposing the gaps that exist in L&D plan that need to be addressed (Rothwell & Benkowski, 2002, p. 141).
The learning component of the model will be used to audit the amount of knowledge that employees of the company have as far as the jobs are concerned, needs of the organization towards achieving its goals and objectives and adaptation to the dynamic environment in which the organization operates.
The results component will help determine the impact of training that the company has carried out before for its employees and the extent to which they have contributed to the development and achievement of the company’s objectives (Ryan, 2005, p. 262).
Qualitative Measures- Quality and effectiveness of the training offered under the L&D of an organization
The impact of any learning and development strategies is clearly captured in the effectiveness in performance and the improvement of quality in the delivery of services of an organization (Rothwell & Benkowski, 2002, p.97). The training or learning activities that are offered by the HR and gauged on various levels as structured by the HR to ensure their intended targets are achieved. It’s important to note that some elements of qualitative measures may include quantitative analysis that is aimed at determining the actual costs and benefits of the L&D activities undertaken by the HR. Under this qualitative approach, a number of questions will emerge that will guide the audit exercise to determine if the L&D plan that is put in place is actually working (Harrison, 2005, p. 50). If not, what are the gaps that need to be filled for it to work properly?
The audit will investigate the reactions and opinion of employees who have been to the organization’s training and development activities. Specifically, the audit will be interested in every individual’s view on if the training is up to the required and expected quality and his or her relevance to his or her work. It’s important that these evaluations are carried out. Through this, the organization is better placed to determine if the employees are actually receptive of the learning activities and if they transfer the knowledge to their work (Ryan, 2005, p. 249).
Such an evaluation will be carried out with a questionnaire where participants will be asked to rate the quality and relevance of learning and development activities in a scale of 1-10 (Harrison, 2005, p. 63). Again, it’s important to note that because many organizations have a diverse workforce, the questionnaire may include several elements and some questionnaires may only be detailed according to every department’s speciality. For instance, there will be an overall questionnaire for all learning and development activities. There will also be other on personal development, management development, health, safety, and training on information technology (Buckley & Jim 2004, p. 48).
The audit will also be interested to know the effectiveness and impact of the already existing and strategies and the training activities that have so far taken place. This question is seeking to know the actual impact of learning and development activities. Besides a debrief from individual managers of the organization, the audit will be seeking to determine if the organization conducts a learning review 3-4 months after training has taken place(Yandell & Turvey, 2007). Such a review should always be targeted to particular activities that may be new or on an experimental basis.
The most important element, however, will be to determine how the activities are linked and their impact on the achievement of organizational objectives (Shawn & Rebecca, 2004, p.249). It’s important t note that the evaluation will take into consideration the performance agreements that and career development plans that the employees have committed with the HR as shown in figure 2 Organizational objectives are many and though they are all important some rank top in the priority list. One such objective is company performance on revenue generation. Training is expected to improve the employee’s skills for the organization to meet its objectives.
Through a questionnaire and interview may come in hand here, it’s important that more accurate measures line evaluation of return on investment (ROI) is carried out (Illeris, 2004 p.24). This tool will enable the organization to determine if the learning and development activities that the HR implements cost more than what the organization is getting in return. The return in investment will be seeking to quantify the overall benefits for the companies that accrue from such learning and development activities. While they may be mainly in the form of profits, other aspects that the ROI may focus on are cost savings and improved efficiency (Illeris, 2004 p.24).
An ROI approach can give rise to many conclusions that may or may not paint a rosy picture of the learning and development activities. However, a good ROI, when carried out, will indicate the presence of and effectiveness of the learning and development approaches (Sprenger, 2003,p. 84). On the other hand, the evaluation may carry out an audit on the impact of the training and development in the organization. If the evaluation gives rise to a good ROI then on the existing programs, then they will be deemed to be beneficial to overall learning and development in the organization (Kearns, 2005, p. 54).
Development of a qualitative measure plan, as described above, is better understood through the flow chart as presented in figure 2.0 on page 13. In the plan, business objectives are explicitly linked to the vision of the organization, the organization’s strategic plan, and the human resources department. The plan details the performance agreements that an employee makes with the company, the performance agreement development plan that will be achieved from learning and development activities implemented by the HR and the career path that will be determined by the personal and career development activities that will be offered by the HR.
The above-described auditing procedures are by no means exhaustive of the approaches that are organizations disposal for the evaluation of Learning and Development strategies. There are other means such as evaluation of quantifiable measures that exclusively seek to determine the monetary value and, the achievement of the learning and development activities.
Both strategic alignments of HR activities to the development of L&D plans and the qualitative evaluation stress on the qualitative feature of the audit. The importance of the qualitative effectiveness of learning and development initiatives cannot be overestimated.
Strategic alignment of the organizational goals to the training and development activities is especially important, considering it will help HR executives tailor training activities meant to achieve company objectives. HR must identify the necessary skill that the organization employees need to achieve and equip them through an effective learning and development strategy.
Additionally, the organizations must put in place measure to ensure there is continuous organizational improvement through L&D activities. Closely related to that is the need to transform over time the employee of an organization into assets through a consistent and effective program of learning and development.
The plan also stresses the importance of achieving employee motivation through availing learning and development strategies. Contrary to the notion that employees are only motivated by salary increments, training and development have been shown to be one of the biggest motivators.
Finally, the dedication of resources to the HR for planning and d implementation of L&D activities is the moults critical element in the whole process. Availability of resources will ensure that the HR is not limited in its efforts to afford quality training and development of the human resource of the organization.
In the second part, the impact of the training and development activities is analyzed to determine if it’s adequate in improving the skills of the human resources of an organization. Employee feedback is sought on the effectiveness of the learning and development activities. Also analyzed are the impacts of the learning and development activities. The assessment will be keen to determine if the organization is getting its worth from investing in the development of its human resources (Honey, & Mumford 2006).
The human resources departments are not limited in any way in carrying out activities that will benefit the company. As such, it’s recommended that they deploy more methods of evaluation in their auditing activities. Also important is the constant engagement of organization employees in training and development activities to motivate then hence curb the high turnover that is associated with the volatile job market.
One critical element that most Hr practitioners overlook is employee development. The organizations through HR should also think of what they can offer employees in return for their loyalty and hard work. Through Personal and career development, employee’s loyalty is sure to be achieved by an organization, which improves its productivity in the long-term. The organizations can also ensure personal and career development through incentives such as subsidized education loans. Hr should, therefore, consider a triangulation of measures to achieve effective learning and development in an organization.
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