Human resource development is the process of assisting employees in a certain organization to improve their personal and organizational skills, their abilities and use of knowledge. This includes helping them through taking them for training, career development courses, organizational and performance management. According to Joy-Matthews, Megginson, Surtees (2004), the main aim of human resource development is to develop an advanced workforce that will enable the organization to achieve its goals and offer the best to its customers. Human resource development can be done form within the organization or from outside the organization. It can also be done formally such as a planned organization change, offering classroom training to employees or taking them through a certain college course, or informally where a manager may decide to coach the employees on a particular issue. Human resource development in any organization is the role of human resource management. This deals with all the matters of the employees. This essay therefore looks at the strategic roles of human resource management and ways in which a strategic approach to human resource development can play a strategic role within an organization. Challenges and obstacles to effective human resource management are also discussed in the essay.
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Nature of strategic HRM
Strategic human resource management is a planned move on how to manage the human resources in the organization. Human resources are the employees of the organization. In the International Journal of Human Resource Management, Wright, & Dyer, (2003), explains that apart from being strategic, human resource management can also be technical. The definition strategic however lies on the basic functions of human resource management which involves devising and implementing organizational policies that are consistent with its structure and that are aimed at ensuring that the human capital of the organization works towards achieving the goals and objectives of the organization. It is strategic because it considers the internal structure of the organization, the resources of the organizations and the nature of the organization’s human capital.
The technical human resource management consists of the basic roles of human resource management such as recruitment, selection, training among others. Strategic human resource management combines these basic roles to fit the business strategy therefore resulting to a strategic human resource management. This adopts maximum flexibility in managing human resources and also in utilizing them with the aim of achieving the goals of the organization. Similarly, it helps to place the organization is a competitive position. Yorks (2004) states that for maximum success of the business, it is very important to ensure that the strategy that is adopted is in line with the goal of the organization. Basically, strategic human resource management focuses on building a capacity in the organization that will enable it to withstand external market changes. Having a pool of human resources that is equipped with skills and knowledge that are in line with the organization’s strategy is a vehicle to achieving the goals of the organization by encouraging behavioural effectiveness amongst the employees.
HRM strategy relates to the means that can be adopted to implement HRM functions that are in line with the organization strategy. Various factors that must be considered in the HRM strategy include ‘best fit and best practices’, close cooperation, and continuous monitoring. Best fit and best practices means that the human resource management strategy should be correlating with the overall strategy of the organization. The general aim of human resource management is to manage the employees so that they can achieve the goals of the organization, but a human resource management strategy aims at managing the human resources by applying the needs of the organization’s personnel with the organizational goals. For example, the strategic goals of an organization may be to increase its sales by 20 percent. The practices that it may adopt regarding its human resources should therefore be the best for that objective (Armstrong 2006).
Close cooperation means that there is proper coordination between the human resources and the organization’s top management in their efforts to develop the organizational strategy. The organizational management should be involved in implementation of the strategy since they are the ones responsible for providing the goods and services required in the process. The human resource department is therefore very important within the organization. Continuous monitoring is also very important as it helps in identification of the difficulties in the process and areas that may need intervention of the senior management. According to Voorde, Paauwe, & Veldhoven, (2010) continuous monitoring also helps in receiving feedback on the route taken by the process to be able to estimate on its success.
Other components of strategic human resource management include strategic planning, training and implementation all being focused on the goals and objectives of the organization.
Strategic planning is an exercise that helps organizations to determine their current position, where they want to head and how they will reach there. Strategic planning is done differently depending on the organization. In some organization, it is done starting with the senior management, supervisors of various departments, employees in various departments and the stakeholders. In other organizations, strategic planning is the work of the senior management only. According to Yang, (2007) for a successful strategic planning process, it is important for the senior management to have clear statement of the vision of the organization. This is a picture of where the organization will end up in the long run. The management should also appoint a leader to guide the whole process of implementation.
Training is the process of making interventions that are aimed at improving the skills, knowledge and the abilities of the employees in the organization. Before deciding on the training to undertake, it is important for the management to conduct an assessment of the training needs, designing the program to undertake in training and the implementation process, and finally how to evaluate the training process. Lewis, Rothwell, Miller, & Osman-Gani., (2009) assessment of the training needs helps to reveal the employees needs that are in line with the goals of the organization. This is because strategic training should be done to equip the employees on matters concerning the organization’s goals. The design of training should also involve identification of the goals of the organization so that the topics covered in the training program are also in line with the organizational goals. After training has been carried out, it is important to evaluate it so as to measure its success. This helps in determining whether whatever has been invested in training is paid back.
Effectiveness of training is gauged depending on the extent to which the previously set objectives have been accomplished. Feedback from the students can be acquired and this is also a measure of effectiveness of training program. Another measure of effectiveness of training includes assessment of behaviour change and its impact to the organization. This involves checking whether the training program has made impact on the behaviour of the employees after the acquisition of new skills and abilities. Behaviour change can be observed when the employees are carrying out their duties applying the new skills. The impact of training on the organization involves measuring its impact in the particular units where the employees work. This should also be reflected in the entire organization. Aspects such as level of productivity, volume of sales, profits gained and the level at which customers are satisfied can also reflect the impact of training in the organization (Pineda 2006).
Link between Strategic HRM and HRD
Human resource development is one of the many functions in human resource management. Strategic HRD is the one that is designed to offer an up to date proficiency among the employees. With the current changes in technology, HRD can be used to support various activities of the organization in which competence is required. According to McLean, Osman-Gani, & Cho, (2004) the current business environment requires that HRD to play a fundamental role enforcing the organizational strategy. Human resource development is continuing to play a critical role in formulation of organization’s strategy. This is because organizational that are able to achieve a quality level of employee expertise stand a better chance in the current competitive business environment.
Functions of strategic human resource development include training and development, organizational development and career development. Training and development is the act of conveying specific knowledge, skills and abilities to the employees. It attempts to improve their current and future performance by the process of learning. Deficiency in the performance of the employees dictates the need for training and development (Mello 2010). This is computed as follows:
Standard performance – Actual performance = Training and development.
Development is the aspect of creating opportunities that may facilitate the employees to grow. This does not necessarily focus on improving the skills but on offering general knowledge and changing the attitude of the employees so that they can handle higher positions. Most of developmental activities are not offered on compulsory by the management but are in most cases on voluntary basis. The main aim of training and development is to add value to its human resources so that the organization can achieve its purpose. In other words, it is investing on the employees on behalf of the organization so that the employees can feel motivated to use their natural capabilities. Inputs in training and development include skills, education, and ethics (Brome 2010).
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Skills are necessary in areas such as operation of machinery, and other equipments so as not to cause damage or injury. These are the basic skills that one cannot operate equipments in the organization without them. Elwood, Holton, James, Trott, (2006) explains that education involves offering theoretical ideas and instilling logic in the employees. This helps them in making rational decisions. This is mostly important for the supervisors and the management team since it helps them in deciding matters concerning the organization. Ethics involves practices that are acceptable to the organization. It is important for the human resource manager to enlighten the employees on the ethical practices in marketing, finance and other departments in the organization. This is because whatever is acceptable in one department may be different from what is acceptable in another. Training and development helps the organization to gain competitive advantage. This is because they eliminate deficiencies in the performance of the employee which may be either due to lack of skills or behaviours that may prevent the employees from appropriate performance. Training and development helps in improving organization’s stability enabling it to withstand competitive forces (Green 2002).
Organizational development is defined by Bennis (1999) the process of embracing the change that results from training and development. It is the process of improving the situation in the organization and the well being of the employees through application of the learnt concepts. Basically, human resource development facilitates change in the organization. It is a response to change, in other words, a strategy that may change the beliefs, values and the structure of the organization so that the employees and other players can be able to function under new technology, new structure and also face the challenges that comes along. It is continuous process that goes along with the changing processes in the organization (Reid, Barrington, Brown 2004).
Career development is a continuous process by which employees of an organization go through various changes until they acquire maximum level of achievement. According to Jackson (2000) helping the employees to progress in their career prepares them for achievement of the ultimate goals of the organization. An organization should therefore design programs for career development that will help the employees to attain their maximum potential. Career development can be used by the organization to identify the pool of talents that the employees possess and that can be used towards achievement of the organizational goals.
Obstacles and challenges of implementing strategic HRD initiatives
The process of implementing initiatives that focuses on strategic human resource development faces many challenges and obstacles. The main challenge that is facing this process is the changing work environment. The changing work environment includes diversity in the work force, changes in technology, globalization, and the changing nature of work.
Work force diversity is a challenge in human resource development because the employees differ in their age, race, gender, education background, level of skills and knowledge. Managing all these differences under similar conditions so that they can all point to a common goal is a real challenge to the human resource manager. For the success of any organization, the human resource manager must work on all these factors to produce innovativeness in the work of the employees. Some of the employees may have problems relating with others, some may be slow in learning and in working while others may be resistant to change. The human resource manager should therefore devise ways of helping such characters for example by creating a working culture that will compel all the employees to work as desired regardless of their differences (Salaman, Storey, & Billsberry, 2005).
Technological changes are also posing a great challenge in human resource development. In today’s world, technology is ever changing and new innovations are being done. Machineries that are used in doing certain jobs keep changing with new ones being invented. This means that human resource development has the main function in supporting this. New inventions must be followed by employee training so that the organization can also have up to date expertise. This must be done to enable the organization withstand the competitive business environment. This is a financial challenge to the organization since it must also keep purchasing the newly invented equipments to move with technology (Grieves 2003).
Globalization is also a challenge to human resource development. Globalization has brought together business organizations from all over the world therefore increasing competition. Armstrong (2000) this means that for an organization to meet the challenges in the global market, it must have the pool of most experienced and effective workforce. Secondly, this work force must be well retained since they are in high demand. Every organization must therefore maintain its employees in quality standards so as to retain them. This means that they have to give the best rewards and motivators to retain the employees. Globalization also brought into light the aspect of labour laws which must be observed by the employer. Globalization has therefore resulted in changes in the working environment which is a great challenge to the human resource managers.
With all the changes that are taking place in the business world such as globalization and technology, the nature of work is also changing. This is because the desires of the clients are also changing following a global trend and therefore the organizational goals have to change towards that direction. Human resource managers must therefore devise their policies to follow the world trend.
Strategic human resource development as a function strategic human resource development plays a very vital role in ensuring success of the organization. For the goals and objectives of the organization to be met, all the employees must have their efforts directed towards the same point. A strategic approach to managing the human resources must therefore be designed so that all functions are aligned with the goals of the organization. Planning and training must be done strategically so that they do not deviate from the goals of the organization. However, there are challenges and obstacles in this process. All the aspects of HRM should therefore be strategic so that the goals of the organization are maintained. The human resource managers also need to have strategies son how to meet those challenges so that they may not hinder human resource development.
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