Human Resources Management
HRM, HR Development and Training

The subject of human resources management and development is a wide scholar area constantly drawing great attention from researchers. This is not hard to understand – no matter what strategy or technique is to be implemented by any organization, the quality of human capital is the determinant of success or failure of that implementation process. The scope of human resources management and development can be vast, and thus this writing will adopt a top down approach in presenting the relevant literature related to this research writing. At first, the general topic of human resources management will be discussed. For this, the general concepts on human resources development will be presented. Then the writing will zoom down to investigate the various human resources activities and functions. The training and development of employees is a critical function in terms of human resources development and management. We will then focus our attention on the importance of training program in enhance employees’ competencies and how the training program can be structured to be effective.


Introduction to Human Resources Management

Introduction to Human Resources Management. Human resource management (HRM) refers to the activities a firm carries out to manage its human resources effectively. Generally, it is argued that HRM activities and context include determining human resource strategy, staffing, performance evaluation, management development, compensation, training and development, change management, labor relations and management of international expatriates in the global context (Jacobs, 2003; Jacobs & Washington, 2003).

Importance of HRM. The importance of HRM in an organization cannot be denied. The success of implementation of strategies and tactics for a firm is highly dependent on the HRM of that particular company. Logically, people are the most basic element to the firm’s organization architecture and human capital is the sources of all types of competitive advantages. Thus, to attain success for any organization requires that HRM policies be congruent and consistent with the firm’s strategy across all workforce and time period. Specifically, it is not uncommon to found that researchers have found strong fit between HRM practices or procedures with the desired or planned strategy is required for high profitability and enduring performance of a firm. In the long run, this is very critical because the relevancy and proper implementation of HRM policies is the source of sustainable and high productivity & competitive advantage in the global economy. Besides, in the later part, it will also be discussed on the factors determining the integration of HRM into the corporate strategy (Jacobs & Washington, 2003; Mindy, 2003).


Human Resources Development

Human resource development is an area widely recognized by people since the dawn of civilization. Human has been realizing and understand that there are always ways to perform more effectively and efficiently. However, there is no solid academically or research areas concerning this subject until recently, in the early part of the 20th century, the idea of human resources as an independent field of research gain ground in the academic and consultancy world.

A variety of definitions have been quoted for the term human resources development. One of the definitions of human resources development is the combination of employees training, development, organization development and career development to enhance individual, group, as well as organizational effectiveness and performance in the marketplace. In fact, although there is no single widely adopted definition of human resources development, the key ideas remain intact and consistent. Human resources development is mainly about the methods or studies on how to enhance the skills, knowledge or competency of human capital in any organization.

Since the early of 20th century, it is not hard to observe that the human resources development practitioners or researchers has been employing a wide array of techniques and approaches in terms of training development, organizational development and employees career development to enhance the skills set and competency of the employees (Jacobs & Washington, 2003). Since the early 20th century, it has become a commonly researched and debated topic. A wide array of journals on the topics seemingly exploded in the academic world. In fact, in the past few worlds, there is also an entire subject on the topic of human resources development being taught in business school around the world.


The Importance of Training in Human Resources Development

In the subject of human resources development, training plays a highly critical role in enhancing the skills and competitiveness of the employees as well as to increase the company performance (Jacobs & Washington, 2003). It is observed that employers are increasingly spending more financial resources towards the training and development of human capital in their organization. This is particularly true for high tech companies or services oriented companies where the level of employees’ competency and performance have direct impacts towards the firm performance and profitability. In fact, fast growing companies are found to have dedicated a substantial amount of time to training and development programs for their staffs (Cronin, 1993).

Not only that, researchers such as Osterman (1995), Knoke (1997), and Stewart (1999) are also pointing out that there is a trend where organizations are increasingly receiving training services through outsourcing and partnerships with other organizations. According to their arguments, in a fast changing business environment, it is highly challenging, or simply not economical to have an internal training team. Thus, organizations operating in fast pace environment are increasingly receiving training services from external parties or consultants. They may even form partnership with universities of college to train their employees properly and effectively (Carnevale, 1998). This is particularly obvious in the high-tech and cutting edge industry, where it is very difficult for the companies to provide all necessary training programs to meet the organization’s training needs (Normile, 1996).


Development of Training Program in an Organization

The development of an effective training program is nothing easy. It is very challenging to design and develop a truly comprehensive and cost saving training program. There are guidelines to be followed. These guidelines are presented in sequences as follow.

Developing Training Program and Learning Objectives. As mentioned above, training and development for employee is crucial towards an organizational success. However, training must be done with a well-defined plan, as to avoid wastage of time and financial resources. The effectiveness of the training and development plan is very important in determining if at the end of the days, the employees able to benefit from the training program designed to increase their competency level. Generally, the main objective for the training program is to enhance the competency and knowledge of a firm. However having such an objective is not sufficient. The objectives of a training program should be defined with much clarity. Generally, it is widely recognized that the development of an objective should adhere to the SMART principle – where the objectives of any project or program should be specific, measurable, accessible, realistic and timely.

            Budgeting of training program. Proper training and development should be considered an investment, not a cost — it should generate a return within a reasonable time and largely pay for itself. It will only do this if it is well-planned and coordinated with company objectives. There may be many opinions on how much money should be spent on training a firm’s employees. There may be no correct answer, but we can set a guideline here. Generally speaking, many experts advocate that a fairly constant percentage of company income should be devoted towards training. Most top performing companies spend between 2 – 5% of their total payroll in training and development. The upper end of this scale may seem extravagant, but training as intensively as this pays very large dividends — profits, customer service, staff stability. Secondly, another rough guide is as follow, 70% of the training budget should be spent on the top two-thirds of the organization’s pyramid. This is because training is specialized and far more expensive at management level than at the lower levels, and usually requires the services of external organizations. The remaining 30% of the budget still represents sufficient money for an excellent standard of general staff training because skills training can be mass-produced and largely handled in-house at this level (Allinger, 1997; Barron, Berger & Black, 1994).

The design and development of training program. In designing and developing the training program for an organization, several guidelines can be followed. Firstly, it is important to have a well-defined target (Sekowski, 2002). Training towards a well defined performance target will yield a far better result than ad hoc training administered by ‘the seat of the pants’. Secondly, it is important to include Learners in Training and Development Planning. The learner will get the most out of the plan is he or she feels strong ownership in the plan. Ownership comes from taking part in developing the plan. Also, professional development rarely includes only gaining knowledge and skills about a job role. Professional development often includes self-development, as well, e.g., admitting one’s limits and capabilities. Learners are often the best experts at realizing their own needs for self-development. Therefore, learners should be involved in as much as possible in developing the plan. For this, we can divide the training program into two parts. First, we specify the learning outcome scope for the manager, and secondly, we let the manager determine which areas they think they need to improve. Thirdly, it is important to provide ongoing feedback and support to the training participants. Even if things seem to be going fine, be sure to stop in and visit the learner on a regular basis. Some learners may not feel comfortable asking for help. Supervisors should provide any feedback, that is, timely and useful information for the learner. Provide ongoing affirmation and support. Last but not least, it is critical to realize that when assessing results of employee’s learning, the trainer should maximize feedback about the trainees’ performance. Consider getting feedback from the learner’s peers and subordinates about the learner’s needs and progress to meet those needs. A 360-degree performance review is a powerful practice when carried out with clarity and discretion. When first carried out, it may be wise to get the help of an outside professional.

Training program delivery approaches. A company can utilize a number of methods for imparting knowledge and skills to workforce. Some of the approaches of delivery of training are as follow. The most common type is perhaps the instructor-led training program, where we can assign an instructor to train the trainees (Sekowski, 2002). Training will be held in a class room. The materials for training will be designed by the instructor. Secondly, the use of case study in a training program can be a good choice as well. In classroom training, we can provide some case study and have discussion on how to solve the issues. This can force the training participants to involve and think in the training session. Thirdly, on-the-job training is always a viable choice. This can be a very effective method because the instructor can lead the trainees on the spot, as well as to show the trainees on how to perform some task (which can be hard to learn through paper-reading). Apart from that, job rotation can also be considered a form of training program (Brown, 2002). For example, before we promote any lower level employee to become manager, we can let the junior employee to have some experience working in various departments before being promoted to managerial posts. Example, job rotation for junior employees between finance, marketing, human resources department will expose them to various skill-sets and increase their understanding on these areas (Barron, Berger & Black, 1994).

            Assessment of training program and learning outcomes. There are various methods to assess the learning outcomes for an organization. Some of the possible methods are as follow. Firstly, we can have a Participants’ Opinions Measure. This is some sort of assessment and measurement on the level of customer satisfaction. This is a good way to obtain feedback and to get it quickly and inexpensively. This is a fairly easy method, as what we can do it simply getting constant feedback from the trainees on our training method. Secondly, another assessment method to gauge the extent of learning can be done by determine what participants have learned. In this method, we can have pre-test / post-test control group design for the trainees. The test can be designed to the trainees and then the results from the tests can be analyzed. If there are any performance differences, such differences are attributed to training provided for the trainees (Brown, 2002). Thirdly, we can assess the effectiveness and successfulness of the training program using Behavioral Change Tests. Behavioral Change Tests may accurately indicate what the trainees had learn, but may give little insight into whether participants will change their behavior. The training designed can be a best demonstration of value when learning translates into lasting behavioral change. For example, when the trainees had become more motivated, and start to believe in constant improvement and innovation as well as proactively upgrade themselves for better performance and competency, then our training may well worth the costs and expenses spent. Fourthly, and most importantly, we must decide if the training had achieved its intended objective. Accomplishment of the training objectives is very important (Chih & Lee, 2008). Specifically, higher level management must constantly decide and monitor if the training program has achieved stated objectives and actually impacted performance. To ensure such an assessment and appraisal is more objective, the management can even consider establishing a return on investment (ROI) metric. Example, had the revenue increase by 15% per annum after the training process? Last but not least, Benchmarking can be used. This means: process of monitoring and measuring firm’s internal processes, such as operations, and then comparing data with information from companies that excel in those areas. If after the training, the KPI is constantly and sustainable higher than KPI, then we can be quite certain that the training provided is well worth the effort (Sekowski, 2002). For this, we can try to focus on metrics such as: training costs, ratio of training staff to employees, and whether new or more traditional delivery systems are used.


Effectiveness of the Training Program

To define if a training program is effective or not is never an easy task, as there are too many variables interacting in the process (Hagen, 2002). For example, an organizational performance can be researched from various perspectives, either from the operation, marketing, financial or human resources dimensions. Not only that, the success of a company can also be viewed from either the stakeholder or the shareholders perspectives. However, a review on the many researches indicates that most of the researchers seemingly agree and assume that the company performance can be measured from various dimensions. The net average weighted of the score a company able to obtain from the various dimensions is the level of performance of the company. However, the components used in such a method may differ from researchers to researchers (Hanna, 2001).

The effectiveness of the training program will be evaluated from several dimensions as follow (as will be incorporated into the questionnaire in the following section). In this study, an effective training program is perceived and assumed to be able to create improvement on the employees’ technical skills; employees’ knowledge about their work; employees’ managerial skills; employees’ motivation to work; employees’ cooperative attitudes; employees’ behaviors; employees’ performance; the company’s product quality; the customers’ satisfaction for the company; the company’s market share; the company’s operational costs; and lastly, on the company’s earnings/ profits (Chih & Lee, 2008).



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