Learning and development within hr

HR has a vital role in business competitiveness & progression. Organizations need HR functions that can deliver skilled, creative, motivated, flexible and committed employees. Innovative world-class HR has become a commercial necessity of each & every business; hence the growth of centers of excellence, especially in knowledge-based sectors where the expertise and energy of employees is critical. Organizations have more & more hopes from HR. Business leaders see HR in other organizations contributing to strategy, enabling the execution & implementation of business plans, and delivering substantial commercial benefits. Predictably they go on to ask how their own HR functions need to change to make real differences to their businesses. The best answer is the recruitment of strategic HR practitioners who can perform different roles like business partners, change agents and thinking performers.

In 2002, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – which is UK’s leading professional body for organizations involved in the management and development of people – restructured its professional standards around the conception of the “thinking performer”. The “thinking performer” is a person who being HR practitioner can add value to the organisation in which he or she is employed because they have capabilities of and willing to constantly challenge the way things are executed and implemented (CIPD, 2004). This business focus is clear in the CIPD definition of thinking performer as

Someone who ‘makes the move’ to becoming a business partner and

‘is an HR professional who applies a critically thoughtful approach

to their own job so as to make a contribution to organisational survival,

Profitability and to meeting its vision and strategic goals’. (CIPD

Professional Standards, 2004; Whittaker and Johns, 2004)

On its web site, the CIPD contrasts the “thinking performer” archetype with three other, inferior, types of HR practice which it refers to as the “lifetime liability”, the “wish-list dreamer” and the “automated bureaucrat.” The four resulting types are then depicted in a two-by-two “thinking performer” matrix whose quadrants are distinguished via a vertical axis representing different degrees of effectiveness – conceptualised as “doing the right things-thinking” – and a horizontal axis representing different degrees of efficiency – conceptualised as “doing things right-performing”.

“Figure 1” describes thinking performer matrix in details, the thinking performer (seen in the upper right of the matrix) represents most efficient and capable Person in the organization as he or she keeps on thinking for the betterment and progression of the company and is usually is portrayed in terms of the “strategic activist,” someone who is willing to accept any sorts of challenges in the business environment The Thinking Performer is the person who amongst other things needs to think, “Why do I do this?” or “How could we improve the things?”

In 2005, I was working for Siddiq Leather woks (pvt) Ltd which is one of the leading leather production units in Pakistan, at that time all the human resources were being managed by the Factory Manager like sorting out the different matters of employees, incentives, awards, time keeping and many more. Along with his responsibilities as factory manager he was looking after the HR matters as well as there was not any formal HR manager in the company. As company was growing rapidly that time so top management decided to provide him a person to assist him in Hr matters.

The new Assistant Manager Mr Tariq joined the company and after a few weeks he realized that there is need to sort out the HR matters. Company was not expecting anything extra from him, they just hired him to assist the factory manager but Assistant Manager HR being a thinking performer realized the need of HR practices for the growth of the company, so after research for a few weeks he prepared some suggestions and had meeting with the management.

With the consent of management he prepared and implemented following things in the company.

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Prepared job descriptions (JD’S) for all the people who were the managers, supervisors for the different departments, because before that no one knew his job description, work was being done but without any formal JD.

He introduced incentives for the workers like employee of the month and year on the basis of their efficiency, attendance, behaviours, team work & etc.

He introduced to display the health & safety information on the various locations in the unit.

He introduced a new system regarding the annual increment that every manager had formal meeting with the top management before the announcement of annual increment where they had to present their annual efficiency reports.

Made redundancy & dismissal procedures.

In the period of 2 years there was a visible change in the company, all the employees started doing their jobs with more concentration as they knew their exact duties, benefits & awards and also they had transparent evaluation system as well.

I would say that for SLW, initially the new HR manager was thinking performer and gradually he became change agent. It was his thinking which lead him from a thinker performer to change agent.

Amongst the other three quadrants, the wish list dreamers located in the upper left of the matrix lack efficiency as usually, they are unable to communicate their ideas to others. The “automated bureaucrat” quadrant, positioned in the lower right of the matrix, do their work accurately and speedily what they are told but who also lacks effectiveness as they are willing to challenge what is done or not able to suggest some new ways to make things more better. Finally, the “lifetime liability” quadrant, in the lower left of the matrix, is expressed in terms of someone who lacks competence on the basis of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Figure1: The CIPD’s thinking performer matrix

One assumption behind the matrix is that current HR practice in a UK context is

Characterised by behaviours depicted in the three inferior quadrants of the CIPD

matrix and as such a thinking performer deficit exists amongst HR practitioners.

One implication of this is that in strategically upgrading the HR profession, “thinking performer” properties should be prevalent amongst all HR practitioners and at all levels of the organisation.

Changes in the organizations are result of some forces which either come from outside or from the inside. Numerous factors force the organizations to respond like change in strategy, technological change, and challenge of economic downturn, competitor pressure, government new rules and regulations.

A change agent is a person who is responsible for organizing and coordinating the overall change effort (McNamara, 2006). A change agent can either be an internal change agent, who is part of that organization, or an external change agent, who are most likely to be consultants or managers brought in to mange change (Blewett, 2000). According to Ackoff there exist two types of consultants; the first type is a change agent that provide pre set solutions for organizational development. The second type is a change agent that thinks learning and a mutual understanding with the stakeholders in development decisions and other important issues is important.

Human resource professionals as change agent enhance work related knowledge, skills and capability & ability of people; people working as individual or in teams in the organization. HR professionals play a very important role in achieving the effective and lasting change. The contribution of human resource professionals falls in three categories: (1) creating an organizational environment that is supportive to learning and development (2) developing and sustaining in employees an individual orientation towards learning and skill growth (3) providing staff with the direct skills and knowledge required for working in the changed environment.

If we talk about the affects of economic changes on the organizations then recent world wide recession is the best example to discuss. Recent economic recession has forced the organizations to change their business strategies to cut down the unnecessary cost or even necessary costs in some cases. This resulted in cut down of number of employees, redundancy, pay freeze, no more recruitments, unfair dismissals, reduced hours, unnecessary pressure on the workers, no further investments,

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It resulted in sharp increase in the number of unfair dismissal claims (people Management 11 March 2010 page 41).

There are four types of changes, first type is Surprise: this type of changes are usually unexpected, unplanned and minor in nature like interest rates change and the finance department is supposed to recalculate the loan repayment & etc.

2nd change is Incremental, which is minor in nature and reflects the situations which are anticipated.

3rd type is Crisis, these are serious in nature and expected like earthquake in Pakistan in 2006 destroyed many factories and various units were demolished.

4th change is Strategic, this type is planned change and new systems are iplemented to enhance the performance and business growth, for example

Till 2005 all the systems in Siddiq Leather Works (www.siddiqleather.com) were manual, when the company grew and expanded its sales in more than 40 countries around the globe then the top management realized to put all the operations on computer system and decided to launch a customized software for it many departments like production, sales, export, import and finance. After the installation of software in 2 years the company was able to generate sales contracts, P/invoives, import documentation, sales figures, production procedures, salary system from the software which increased the overall efficiency of the business operations which helped them to grow rapidly. The HR persons helped the company a lot to effectively implement the software liaison with the IT people because when the system was launched many people in the company resisted the change like the people who ere working there since 10 or 12 years and they were use to the manual system so HR managers conducted various training sessions and told them the importance of that software for the company and also that the system will make work even more easy and it was a big task for the company to make them realize and accept the change.

Ultimately in the bad times Human Resource professionals have to be able to introduce and manage change to ensure the organizational objectives of change are met, and they have to ensure that they gain the commitment of their people, both during and after implementation. Often, at the same time, they also have to ensure that business continues as usual

The concept of business partner appeared in the mid 1990’s (CIPD factsheet, HR Business partnering, revised January 2010). The HR people who add value to the organization and their value addition leads the organization to success.

Human resource business partners are HR specialists who can take up role of aligning with organizational goals to improve business efficiency and build up organizational culture. Business partnering function provides improved human resource services to the organizations. In this role, human resource professionals being managers and supervisors must take on the new roles of business partner, change agent, and leader in completely new organizational structures, quite different from those of the past.


The work of HR professionals can be divided into two main segments: transactional and strategic. Transactional segment consists of the service delivery aspects of HR like recruitment and selection, performance management, training, legal issues and employee relations which are the day to day responsibilities of a HR manager however HR strategic activities support the achievement of the organization’s goals and values and involve in search of continuous development and implementation strategies that are integrated with one another and aligned to business objectives. HR strategic activities also involve HR professionals working with line managers to formulate and implement business strategy.

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HR professionals can create value and give results by defining the deliverables of the work and not by typical functions of the HR performed on day to day basis. Management development being issue for the HR function should be handled both strategically and efficiently. To be able to do this, the HR function needs to become more of a business partner in the organizations (Ulrich, 1997). The framework in below (figure 5-2) describes – in terms of images – four key roles that HR professionals must handle well to make their business partnership a reality. (Ulrich, 1997) The two axes represent the HR professional’s focus and activities. Focus ranges from future/strategic to day-to-day/operational. Activities range from managing processes (HR tools and systems) to managing people.

According to Ulrich (1996), the following equation is more dynamic and encompassing to replace the simple concept of business partner:

Business Partner = strategic partner + Administrative Expert + Employee Champion + Change Agent

Business partners exist in all four roles defined in the multiple role model (figure 5-2), not just in the strategic role. Strategic partners (top left) are business partners because they align HR systems with business strategy and set HR priorities for a business entity. Administrative experts (bottom left) are business partners because they save their business money through more efficient design and delivery to HR systems. Employee champions (bottom right) are business partners because they ensure that Employee contributions to the business remain high, in terms of both employee commitment and competence. Change agents (top right) are business partners because they help businesses through transformations and to adapt to changing business conditions. Being a business partner requires competence in diagnosing organizations, reengineering processes, listening and responding to employees and managing cultural transformation. The HR business partner adds value to a firm through strategy execution, administrative efficiency, employee commitment and cultural change.

The selection and appointment of business partners is real challenge and critical in success as the range of ability required by business partners are different to those required in other HR roles. They need to develop different skill sets, such as strategic thinking (focus on continuous development), coaching/consultancy skills, relationship management, networking skills, business and financial understanding, change management, as well as understanding other’s perspectives/influencing and political awareness skills. Recognizing that the skills and behaviors required by business partners are different to those found in traditional HR manager roles.

The strengthening of relationship depends on the extent to which business partner takes interest in key performance measures such as sales, costs, production and resource utilization. It is important to involve business partners in the planning process so that they can actively participate and keep an eye on performance of key measures. Aligning of personal objectives with overall organizational objectives is another key step moving forward to make this relationship stronger. Feedback from stakeholders is necessary in order to improve and redefining roles according to changes both inside the organization and in the external environment.

The key point to understand Ulrich’s model is the analysis of HR roles and their implications instead of defining new structures. Business partnering main focus is on some basic issues about how HR is to achieve its objectives: to support line managers, aligning HR strategies with the business and providing efficient services. However, partnering is not simply a repackaging of good HR practices. Partnering is a ‘paradigm shift’ for most HR functions, one that requires a step change in HR’s values, operation and skills. The function must ensure that it has the right structures and roles in place to meet organizational and employee needs rather than blindly following a specific model. It is also important that the business partner relationship is reviewed on regular basis to strengthen and analyze performance and redefining roles according to changing nature of business.

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