Category Archives: Human Resources Development, Spring 2014

A Revised Understanding

As I contemplate the close of the semester, and consider the questions found within our syllabus, I think back to where I was in the beginning and my understanding then of what fit under the Human Resources umbrella. I recall a group activity early on where we discussed the roles found within HR and where Organizational Development fit; an alignment theory I wasn’t completely grasping for I saw it as a direct link to the organization itself with little connection to HR. I reflect now on that stance and wonder if it is a result of being viewed as such a separate department from that of HR within my own organization. We are in fact in different buildings, with different department goals and little direct connection other than the reporting structure. I often wondered why we shared different Directors but the same VP, as they all seemed to do their ‘own thing’ and we did ours.

But now, as I sit, write, and reflect I am humbled by the wholeness of my revised understanding provided by the journey through this class. I think back to the discussions surrounding Scientific Management and Taylorism, the Theories of X and Y with thanks to McGregor, and even the realization that Leonard Nadler from George Washington University may have been a significant influence regarding the popularity of just using the term Human Resource Development-but not until 1969. (Swanson, et. al., 2009)

And while the history of it all is much broader in facts on a time line and key players that deserve a nod, I must admit that this was the point that I was the least engaged. History has never been a strong suit for me, nor a true interest unless the connection is made upfront as to why I should deem it important. But I smile to myself now as I realize that the impact that the manufacturing industry had on what I even do today is more than likely still at play. I marvel at just how young our industry really is in defining what it can do and/or bring to an organization. And with that I wonder what that could mean for the future of HRD as it continues to evolve and prove its relevance at the strategic table of the executives in our industries.

I think about the executive table at my own organization and consider the interview that I was honored to conduct of my VP of Human Resources. I remember the conversation fondly and how I actually found myself counting the word ‘relevance’ as I compiled the results to write my paper. Perhaps this was the most impactful moment for me, as I saw, in the rawest form, how almost all of what we had discussed thus far came crashing into the reality of what I knew in my own world. Perhaps this is the reason that I felt in that moment I may have done my best work of the semester as things suddenly began to make a lot more sense, and I suddenly felt like I saw things with a much clearer lens. With this lens things within my own organization were not only clearer, but also the topics that we were discussing in class. And while I would be remiss not to admit that it may have had something to do with the topics beginning to move away from a more historical focus, I would also not be truthful if I didn’t admit that what we’d absorbed up to that point began to make a lot more sense.

So as I pull together the final thoughts of my reflection, I consider that moment with my laptop as I typed out my paper for the HRD interview with the VP of HR. I think back to this moment; not because the other moments were not impactful, not because my group project wasn’t fun and engaging, not because the Theories of X and Y did not provide me with a differing view of why some members of management may choose to motivate the way that they do. I choose this moment in the semester because it was my best work. It was my best because it was the moment for me that things took on a greater amount of clarity and truly provided a picture for what the concepts looked like in real life. Not real life in someone else’s world, but real life in my own day-to-day.

I was able to apply the concepts to my own voice as I wrote, instead of attempting to relate what I’d been reading with something that might fit. It was my best because in that moment I realized that I also needed to find the strength to begin to ask more questions when things do not seem as clear. As I typed through my reflections I realized that in order to be successful I must always strive to understand with as much truth as possible what is going on in the environment around me, strategically and otherwise, in order to truly understand how I can best support my organization through my own work. For it is then that you will find meaning in what you do, and as result, your best work is always sure to follow.

But I also wonder as I close, if this is something that I should also strive to empower others to do as well as an HRD professional. When we look upon things that have such an impact on our own lives with such a clouded lens, we tend to take away too foggy of a view of reality. But when we find the strength (and the proper framework) to ask the right questions, it is then that we become our most confident selves-especially at work.

“Understanding how individuals around the world construct the meaning of their work is of central importance for HRD professionals. The relationship between meaningful work and organizational productivity was first demonstrated by the Hawthorne experiments in the 1920s (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939). This theme can be further traced through the emergence of the sociotechnical systems design in the early 1950s (Trist, 1960), Herzberg’s (1966) early research on motivation to work, and the human potential movement of the 1980s (Kirschenbaum and Henderson, 1989).” (Swanson, et. al., 2009, p. 425-426)



Problems and Solutions, What Have You Experienced?

I enjoyed reading the chapter in our text (Foundations of Human Resource Development, Swanson, R. et. al.) this week regarding an overview of training and development.  And while there is potentially much more lofty theories and ideas that I could have written about in my blog this particular time, I thought it may be even more interesting to repost a section of this chapter regarding problems trainers may have and what experts had to say about avoiding such issues.  I am interested in knowing, has anyone ever experienced these?  And, if you have what did you do to recover?  What will you never do again?  Or, better yet, if you haven’t experienced them what do you think you do that helps you to avoid it?

To quote our text, “Presenters want to succeed, and participants want high-quality interaction.” (Swanson, R. p. 242).  The challenge is often determining what will provide a complete balance of the two for the particular audience in that moment.  So….I’d love others thoughts as I go down the list myself…perhaps in this blog we can deem it knowledge sharing:)

“Fear (Be well prepared; use ice breakers, acknowledge fear)”

I’d actually add to making it through the first five minutes.  I’ve often found that if I can just get through the first five minutes, my nerves seem to calm and I begin to settle in.  Being prepared is a given, but finding your own personal groove is a whole other piece.

“Credibility (Don’t apologize; Have an attitude of an expert; Share personal background.)”

You don’t have to know everything, no one knows absolutely everything.  But know your subject well enough and let your knowledge of being a trainer guide the rest.  Allowing yourself to be open to dialogue that contests your opinion can also be powerful:)

“Personal experiences (Report personal experiences; report experiences of others; use analogies, movies, famous people)”

Love this one!  Making it relatable can definitely help to make it stick!

“Difficult learners (Confront problem behavior; circumvent dominating behavior; use small groups for timid behavior)”

Yikes!  This one can be super difficult.

“Participation (ask open-ended questions; plan small group activities; invite participation)”

This can be so huge in making the experience!  But what works for others when folks get…too participative?

“Timing (plan well; practice, practice, practice)”

And even then you may need a back up plan for when your timing ends up off (e.g. too much dialogue, not enough time for exercise, etc.)

“Adjust instruction (know group needs; request feedback; redesign during breaks)”

Please see above:)

“Questions (Answering: Anticipate questions; paraphrase learners’ questions; “I don’t know” is OK) (Asking: ask concise questions; defer to participants)”

Love this!  I can’t begin to tell you what answers have come out of participants that are SO much better than what I could have come up with.  I ALWAYS learn when I teach.

“Feedback (solicit informal feedback; do summative evaluations)”

This is something that I am actually working with someone on now.  While the truth may hurt sometimes, if your goal is to truly provide the best experience possible for your learners, you cannot negate this process.  And consider that word as well, evaluation and feedback is definitely a process.

“Media, materials, facilities (media: know equipment; have back-ups; enlist assistance) (material: be prepared) (facilities: visit facility before-hand; arrive early)”

OMG, I cannot begin to tell you how important this rule of thumb has been for me!!  Electronics can always go haywire.  I’ve experienced a classroom that was set up and did not have a laptop, a missing thumb drive, a non-working remote and a blown bulb.  Life can be so unpredictable!  And there’s nothing like running in to find issues and not having enough time to try and fix them to ensure a smooth program.  Give yourself time, and always have a backup!

“Openings and closings (openings: develop an “openings file; memorize; relax trainees; clarify expectations) (closings: summarize concisely; thank participants)” 

“Dependence on notes (notes are necessary; use cards; use visuals; practice)”

And sometimes just trust your gut that you’ve done enough.  As long as you remember the high points, they will never know what you may have forgotten to say 🙂

Are We Still Just Evolving Into What Could Be?

If you’ll forgive me, I’m continuing my reflection from my interview and paper into my blog this time….in hopes that perhaps I may spark some conversation….and maybe even add a bit to my reflection?

My own organization is itself going through a bit of change as we find ourselves learning and shaping as a result of new leadership as well as other decisions being made from even further up the chain. And so when I found myself interviewing my VP of HR for our assignment this week, I realized that I came with not only questions that fit the assignment-but could also be a fit for my own internal musings as well.   And while all of the questions that I brought to the interview were either asked or answered without prompt, I marveled at how often we came back to the seemingly same theme regarding relevance despite the question asked.  A theme perhaps that most would find unsettling, but one that I found provided a different feeling for my own internal struggles.

I was amazed to find myself leaving with a feeling of better clarity. As suggested, we are going through a tremendous amount of change as a facility as well as an organization when it comes to HRM, HRD, and OD functions.  But I feel a bit more understanding now.  With a tremendous amount of thanks owed to our class thus far for the further shaping of my changed lens, as well as for the opportunity to ask important questions that helped to open my eyes more in my own world. Knowing that my organization is truly trying to further define what these roles are and what they should mean for our organization is, in a word, a bit encouraging.  And while that part may not be as clear as I’d like it to be right now, I wonder if it’s a step in the direction of helping to shape that permanent understood relevance.  Perhaps the future of Organizational Development and/or Human Resources Development has only just begun?

Making it Stick

“For decades many in my business assumed that people could not improve workplaces without training in-pick your favorites-assertiveness, communication, computer literacy, conflict management, cultural sensitivity, finance, group dynamics, decision making, leadership, negotiation skills, problem solving, statistical process control, whatever.” (Weisbord, 2012. p.205)

As I read this quote in our text, Productive Workplaces, I have to admit that I began to truly tune in more than normal.  For these were all topics that I not only value, but offer at my own organization.  So I was confused at first as to where Weisbord might have been going with his thoughts, was he trying to say that these offerings were not valuable and could not improve workplaces?  I was intrigued to say the least, and yet as I continued to read a bit further, I took note of another quote.

“What training did not give them was influence over policy, procedure, system, and structure.” (Weisbord, 2012, p. 205)

It was here and through continued reading that my thoughts began to go back to the idea of making training ‘stick’.  Or, more specifically, ‘stick’ in terms of continuing the encouragement of change in an individual’s or a group’s behavior.  For training will not “fix” an issue when it comes to behavioral competencies or relationships among coworkers. You are instead asking someone to step back and become a bit more aware of how their behavior may be impacting others, and perhaps even why it can be important to an organization (including their bottom line or longevity).  And while that awareness may come in the three hours they are there, visible even as the employee exits that classroom with a feeling of hope and perhaps a bit of inspiration to change.  What happens to that awareness as they return to reality?  What happens when they return to the same environment, the same rules, the same coworkers, the same…everything?  Nothing around them has truly changed in that three hours; they are in fact the only ones with the new awareness, that inspiration that we hope for.

But it is these readings, and as I continue further into our text, that I find myself at a new conclusion.  While I appreciate and value continued support and reinforcement of the training for the individual, all of the things that are the typical response to the question of making it ‘stick’, in order for the change in the employee to fully take effect, should we also allow for knowledge transfer?  Are we allowing enough opportunity to hear what they have to say, help them feel as though they can be the catalyst in the change that our organization may need to create the environment that we are hoping to inspire in the classroom?

“Many clients come to me with a great deal of internal tension, falling back on top-down, command-and-control-style management.  Sadly, this style deprives leadership of an organization’s capacity to respond at the time it is most needed.” (Weisbord, 2012, p. 219)

So I continue to muse…reflect…consider; in order to really ‘make it stick’ perhaps we need to change our own awareness when it comes to the definition of the classroom.  As we style our curriculum, should we step back and think about what’s available to the employee? Should we ensure that once they leave us that they have the tools to continue their learning, awareness and inspiration?  Should we be helping our organizations to understand that if the organization is not open to change, how can we ask the individuals within it to change themselves?


Human Resources Development, Still a New Idea?

As I continued my reading this week and began journeying into our text, Productive Workplaces, I was struck by the time frames of when our field came to be.  I suppose I had never truly considered when the concepts of employee happiness, on-boarding, recruitment, retention, engagement, workplace learning, etc. all became important to the local business; but I truly thought the appreciation had older roots than it apparently does.

So I pause to consider growth in the business sector over time, the globalization of our companies and the diversity of our populations; and I find myself wondering if I would be remiss to not think about this as one inherent factor in why the HRM and HRD fields came to be?  And of this same vein I wonder if this growth and diversification is what began opening the minds and support of those leaders that our field needs in order to be successful?  For an open mind is necessary when creating awareness, and awareness regarding the impact of what we can bring to the success of a company is still a work in progress for many.

But again, the ideals of business have much deeper and older roots than the idea of HRD and its importance.  So I can’t help but wonder what may be to come in the field in coming years as more and more understand and appreciate what each of us have already come to know…..

So with apologies for my far-reaching thoughts (hopefully put to words in a coherent way:), I end with a question to others….is HRD still somewhat of a new idea?