Learning and Development

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Learning and Development is a practical guide to understanding and implementing the fundamental principles of training and L&D effectively across any organization.

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1. Defining learning and development

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Defining learning and development

Introduction

In this book, I will address learning and development in the workplace. Learning and development (L&D) is the process used by both owners and employees in a business/organization to endow it with all the people capabilities and resources required for its ongoing success. It primarily involves the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes by both groups and individuals. It consists of a range of tools and techniques, typically combined into a programme following an overarching goal and philosophy linked to strategic business goals. This is typically coordinated through an organization to support the achievement of overarching strategic goals, at organizational, team and individual levels. In this way, a learning and development strategy is built to serve the current and emerging needs of the organization to build sustainable success.

In this chapter I will develop this definition further to uncover some of the fundamental principles of learning and development. Later on in the book I will discuss how to design and deliver effective learning and development. I will take account of the various stakeholders involved and identify what makes an effective learning and development intervention as well as how to identify its effectiveness.

 

2. The importance of learning and development

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The importance of learning and development

Introduction

Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) noted that, The state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Applying this to both organizations and nations has been my key theme. Change is inevitable; it is simply not possible for an organization or nation to remain static. Therefore, it is best to be proactive and direct the change to a desirable end point. Learning and development is one way of doing this. It encompasses an understanding of the current status, the external environment in which the organization or nation operates and various tools to support people in reaching the end goal. The risks of not engaging with change at organizational and national level are far more severe than those of engaging. In the previous chapter we discussed the endemic nature of change in the economy at a global and a local level.

This chapter will address these issues at a range of levels, from national through to micro-organizational. I will consider the context and embeddedness of learning and development in order to demonstrate why it is important.

 

3. Learning and development, organization and human resource management (HRM) strategy

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Learning and development, organization and human resource management (HRM) strategy

Introduction

Organizational strategy is the process through which organizations attempt to survive and possibly even thrive over the long term. It involves the setting of longer-term goals and developing the organization to meet those goals. Learning and development (L&D) is an essential part of this process as it involves building the organizational capability to ensure that it can meet upcoming challenges. Learning and development work hand in hand with organization design and development, which both sit within the broader human resource management (HRM) function in organizations. The role of these functions in terms of strategy is:

Johnson et al (2008) define strategy in terms of choice, analysis and implementation:

Choice

Consideration of the longer-term direction of the organization and its scope

For example, a private health care company may seek to specialize in certain health issues that it has a competence in and that provide a profit, such as private maternity care. Its scope will therefore be a limited population and high standard non-complex maternity care. The NHS has a scope of the whole population and its direction is towards the health of the nation. Within this, maternity care is for all, based on clinical need, to the best possible standard. A charity working in developing nations will also be focused on health, but has a choice in whose health needs to focus on and how to do that. Thus, three organizations, working in a very similar area, vary in their direction and scope. The learning and development interventions will match the scope and direction. For all the organizations, apart from professional training, there may be development in the areas of teamworking and influencing skills, but this will be at a very different level eg persuading a tired new father to leave will be unnecessary in a private maternity ward that provides beds for fathers, or a maternity facility in a developing country that does not even have a bed for a healthy mother.

 

4. How learning and development works

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How learning and development works

Introduction

There is a big difference between theory and practice, for learning and development in particular. Other areas of HRM practice tend to have an immediate, if not legislative framework. For example, in reward, the choices around pay and benefits as well as implementation of payroll are both of obvious and immediate importance to the organization and all employees. Any issues in this area will be immediately noticed and acted upon pretty quickly. There is also a range of legislation that applies to reward, for example, in details such as whether pay notifications must be on paper through to minimum wages, vacation allowance, pension, etc.

However, learning and development is somewhat less immediate in its impact and depending on the country and function, there is very little legislation governing it. Therefore, there is a great deal of variability in its delivery. The positive side of this is that individual practitioners can have a significant impact, making choices directly related to the business case and having the latitude to be really innovative in their choices. However, it can lack a good link between theory and practice simply because there is no corporate/national driver for the link. This chapter will address the core issues underlying the choices for design and delivery of learning and development interventions.

 

5. How do you do it?

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How do you do it?

Introduction

The focus of this part of the book is entirely practical. Having explained the theory and described examples of the practical uses and applications of learning and development I intend to introduce a range of tools and techniques that you may be able to use for learning and development in your own setting. My aim here is to give you an overview of the potential activities and interventions involved in this area. I will consider all the stages that are typically encountered:

However, first a couple of health checks; this is very much a simple introduction to a complex area. The activities identified above typically take place iteratively and simultaneously with multiple projects. That is, depending on your situation you could be working on every stage of the process for varying projects at any one time. For successful transfer of learning it also needs to be thoroughly integrated with the full range of people initiatives, including performance management, employee relations and talent management in particular.

 

6. Planning and action

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Planning and action

Introduction

This chapter takes a wholly practical approach to consider how to plan for learning and development and how to manage it. It considers the practical responsibilities for learning and development within an organization. It also concentrates on some specific areas of learning and development. My aim here is to enable you to start planning and then to deliver a high-quality and effective learning and development intervention.

The areas covered are:

Roles and responsibilities for learning and development

Learning and development is an organization-wide, strategically important activity. It is the way that an organization ensures that it has the people resources needed to meet its goals and to continue to survive and add value in an often crowded marketplace. Therefore, all members of the organization bear some responsibility for learning and development. Specifically who is responsible for what can become contentious as various people seek to avoid or grab the responsibility for elements of learning and development. I have therefore set out as clearly as possible what I believe the primary divisions of responsibility to be. These will of course vary by organization, but this gives you a template from which to start negotiations.

 

7. Measurement

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Measurement

Introduction

Learning and development experts know that it is important to evaluate and usually have good intentions to do so. However, in the hurly-burly of managing the function, they may either let it slip, or choose a complex range of metrics, which becomes untenable. Evaluation is important as it demonstrates the value of the learning and development activities. It should be carried out against organizational performance indicators and stakeholder requirements.

Measurement of learning and development activities aims to provide an evaluation of their effectiveness. Specific questions that evaluation can answer include:

Evaluation is divided into two key parts:

This chapter addresses some of the fundamentals of measuring and evaluating learning and development, identifying practical tools to help practitioners in evaluating their own organizations application of learning and development. It also aims to understand how to evaluate learning and development when you are delivering interventions internationally. It will discuss why evaluation of learning and development is so important, and so often neglected. It will then review a range of approaches to evaluation. These vary in their applicability according to the type of organization you are in as well as the type of learning.

 

8. Conclusion

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Conclusion

Introduction

This book provides an initial introduction to learning and development in the workplace. It has given you some of the theoretical background as well as practical pointers to managing a learning and development function. However, it is very much an introduction. Ideally, you will be able to read it along with colleagues who share your interest and can support you in delivering high-quality interventions. You may also find it useful to join with colleagues from your local CIPD to pick up tips and pointers, or perhaps even share resources.

We have considered learning and development as a key tool to gain and retain competitive advantage for your organization. Some would say that this treats employees like tools and indeed it is a perennial difficulty that once developed, employees may well choose to move on to bigger and better things. That is why learning and development must be embedded in the organization as part of a coherent and aligned HR strategy that builds engagement among employees. Where this is done, then the rewards of learning and development are more likely to be reaped.

 

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