Change

Is Learning and Development HR’s Job?

7 Jul , 2016  

We all know we don’t belong here 🙂 I mean to the work station and the role that we are currently attached to. If you feel belonged to the organization and the role you are in then read no further.

All of us are ambitious professionals, preparing for the next big role in our careers and working our way up the ladder of success towards our long-term ambition of becoming a team lead, manager, director, VP, CEO and/or chairman. We can all get there by:

  1. Turning up to work every day and working hard, which you are already doing, maybe start praying also 🙂
  2. Working smarter to achieve our performance goals. This gives us the confidence and grounding to pressure our bosses for the next role up.
  3. Praying that our bosses leave, creating a vacancy for us to take their seat. If s/he is also waiting like you then it might take longer.
  4. Changing jobs/employers at regular frequency with the aim of gaining changed titles every few years. Some of us are already on this path.

A combination of all these has worked for me. But one of the most meaningful and guaranteed ways to grow is, working on the self to learn and unlearn with the aim of progressing towards being a more effective professional. Now I know that sounds theoretical and boring. Do you think every year you have to learn something tangible, new and develop additional skills? I am sure we do but we don’t hold ourselves accountable to increased learning in the same way we do to have a change in role, title or salary.

I reminisce about the appraisal process used by one of my early employers.  It was a 4-page long appraisal form which we filled independently and then discussed with our supervisor. The first 3 pages were all about skills plus competences; the last page was about sales and KPI achievements. It sounds unreal today, but the focus genuinely was on the development of our skills. Their philosophy was that KPIs and performance was straight forward, simple enough to measure and skills and competences were paramount to achieving those goals. Off course they did believe in culture, attitude and everything else that was important to perform, but when it came to performance reviews and promotions, development was a key measure of success. Now the cynics can jump in to this discussion to say skills and competencies can be subjective and the measuring of them can be vague. But the point of my discussion today is who takes responsibility  to nurture staff development?

In most organisations HR takes on this role and why not? It has been the practice for so long we do not even question it. I think HR can create a frame work, cultivate an atmosphere of learning and development and even organise a few training programs where we learn a few things in couple of days, only to forget to apply and build on it in the workplace. We also end up evaluating the trainer rather than the key learning concept that was the focus. Some of us believe development occurs when we attend external courses.  So we demand and shop for these programs which become a symbol of a trophy at best.

It is well established that training programs (both internal and external), orientation programs, educational courses, coaching and mentoring all have their merits. However, real individual development occurs when you and your supervisor identify and agree on key development areas. In my view, the most significant form of development is ‘learning on the job’ – exposing yourself and the team to newer and evolved ways of achieving the same goals or reviewed/revised goals. No other learning program can substitute the power of experiential learning.

In our daily pursuit, we tend to take the easy route of demanding development from external sources. But your supervisors are the ones who have a bird’s eye view of your capabilities in various situations and they can influence your experiences and provide real time feedback, working with you to enable specific action/reactions, constantly reviewing and providing constructive feedback for further development. The real learning of concepts is in its application and that comes from your work-place and not an artificial environment of a training room.

If organisations were to take a stance that people development would be self-owned and a shared responsibility of the supervisor then would this mean that they are walking away from the responsibility of your development? No, I do not believe so.  This, provided HR and the training team work with staff to provide the tools and avenues in areas which require support. However, the ownership for development should lie with you and your supervisor. This makes each of us equally responsible for our own development.

Here are a couple of ideas of what that can be done to achieve this and now that the first half of the year is complete, the timing may be just right.

  • Evaluate your progress in the first 6 months of this year over the next 2 weeks. Evaluate it against the objectives you set at the start of the year for yourself
  • Discuss, identify and agree on few things you and your supervisor would do to enhance your skills or behavior. Remember development is a new skill that you will need to demonstrate for yourself. This means it has to be something you engage in constantly and must become a habit. It must not be undertaken like a hobby, which is at leisure and often times without consequence.

If you and your supervisor cannot agree on what you need to learn/develop or you are unable to create a list that both of you will work and review , then don’t blame HR for being unable to do this very task.  The HR team has less everyday involvement in your work life than your supervisor.

I can see HR folk smiling now 🙂 Don’t get carried away guys, I dont run your company, Your boss may have a completely different view on Development!

When we had to work on public speaking skills, my boss put me in front of the mike six times a year. He said, that's the way to work!

When we had to work on public speaking skills, my boss put me in front of the mike six times a year. He said, that’s the way to work!

 


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