Creating a human resource development plan HR Management

There are no set procedures that organisations should follow in creating a human resource development plan, but the eight points listed in Table should act as guidance. This can also be summed up diagrammatically as in Figure. This has strong elements of the systems approach to training (SAT), but the mechanistic overtones of SAT should be moderated by recognising the human needs of employees and the changes (sometimes rapid) that can affect organisations.

A human resource development plan

A human resource development plan

Therefore a more flexible or‘organic’ approach is recommended: training schemes that are patently not working, perhaps because of changes in personnel, occupations, job specifications, personal relationships, business plans or economic performance, should be abandoned, or adapted to accommodate the change.

  • Analysing training needs

The first vital step in HRD is ‘the identification of needed skills and active management of employees learning for their long-range future in relation to explicit corporate and business strategies’ (Hall, 1984). For training to be effective it is necessary to discern not only the training needs of the individual and the group, but also how their needs fit the overall organisational objectives.

As we have already suggested, this may be more difficult to achieve than it appears. Researchers and commentators doubt whether managerial hierarchies recognise the importance of these relationships in training initiatives or, if they do, doubt whether they have the will or the ability to carry them out. As Hall (1984) comments: Bernhard and Ingolis (1988), in studying training and its strategic implementation in US companies, believe that a considerable amount of money is ‘thrown away’ mainly because fundamental issues such as analysis of training needs in relation to the shortand long-term business plans have not been addressed.

A training cycle based on an HRD plan

A training cycle based on an HRD plan

Many organisations invest considerable resources in training and development but never really examine how training and development can most effectively promote organizational objectives, or how developmental activities should be altered in the light of business plans. A prominent French bank witnessed less than beneficial results after a huge investment in an extensive training scheme.

This was seen to be primarily a consequence of the failure to analyse training needs within the organisation (Holden and Livian, 1992). Investors in People (IIP) schemes have been set up by numerous organisations in the UK in an attempt to align training needs to organisational strategy. However, as we shall see on examining IIP in greater depth later in this chapter, the results have been variable.

An integral part of analysing training needs is recognising what will ‘fit’ the company culture, as well as the company strategy and objectives. The training scheme that fits one company may not fit another, and these company differences can only be ignored at great cost. This is part and parcel of the organic approach to HRD, and a view shared by those organisations that claim to be (or on their way to being) learning organisations.

The training and development needs of the individual must be reconciled with those of the organisation. Conflicts here need to be resolved, for the benefit of both. Unfortunately, this may be easier to achieve for professional and managerial employees than for the workforce lower down the organisation. For example, many companies recognise the advantages of having managers with an MBA degree or a Diploma in Management Studies, a situation mutually beneficial to the individual and the organisation.

Professionals such as accountants and lawyers have the advantage of transferable knowledge and expertise. But a shopfloor worker in a production company is much more likely to be trained in firm-specific skills that cannot be easily transferred to other organisational contexts.

  • For the job Job description

Given the recent popularity of flexible work practices in many organisations, criticism has been levelled at job descriptions that are too highly structured. Critics claim that this narrows too strictly the perceived responsibilities of the employee, and can be counterproductive, by creating protectionist attitudes in employees towards their jobs, which could lead to demarcation disputes and other problems related to work roles.

Nevertheless, employees are usually hired to take a specific responsibility within the organisation (whether that be accountant, receptionist or cleaner), but they may have to take on other responsibilities in times of emergency, to enhance organisational efficiency. Therefore job descriptions are necessary in order to give employees a sense of purpose, and to enable their immediate superiors to appraise their performance, but a culture must prevail that enables employees to deal with problems that may be outside their immediate work domain.

Thus job descriptions are useful for the HRD strategy in that they help to identify the skills and knowledge needed for certain roles and functions in the organisation.

Job analysis

Job analysis is a more sophisticated method of evaluating job functions, and is often used to discern the levels of skill necessary to do a job, primarily for the purpose of creating pay structures. Many modern organisations have rejected such techniques, as one executive of IKEA states: ‘We reward individuals and not the job’ (Pickard, 1992). However, the information gleaned from such procedures can be useful in analysing the skill needs and requirement of jobs.

Interview with jobholders

This is one of the most commonly used methods: a manager, supervisor or member of the personnel department interviews the current jobholder about the duties and functions of the job. The interview can be structured, in the sense of having a series of questions framed to cover all aspects of the job.

Interview with managers and supervisors

Alternatively, a personnel manager or senior manager can interview the immediate supervisors of the job. Often descriptions arising are compared with the interview responses of the jobholder to act as a double check for discrepancies or elements missed by either party.

Performance objectives

The aim of increased quality, for example, will require performance objectives to be laid down. In doing so, assessment must take place as to whether current employees need training to reach these objectives. This has become increasingly popular in organizations that have adopted performance management programmes or high-performance work systems as they are known in the USA.

Analysis of competences

An analysis of competence requirements could be useful to match ‘NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) or MCI (Management Charter Initiative) standards which are considered relevant to the various jobs involved. These can be compared with assessments of the current general levels of employee skills and abilities’ (Fowler, 1991).

  • For the individual

Concomitant with an analysis of organisational needs is the analysis of the training needs of current employees. Much information about employees can be gleaned from organisational records, including original application forms and other databases. Characteristics of people required (person specification)

In the effort to identify skills and competence requirements, the characteristics of the people required for the job are often forgotten. This will to some extent emerge in the competences analysis. For example, sales personnel would need an ability to deal with people, and this would undoubtedly be identified as an essential part of the job; but in other occupations and jobs, personal characteristics are often forgotten in the desire to isolate purely functional job requirements.

Personal profiles

Personal profile records are increasingly used in organisations, and useful for training needs analysis. They also include information on employees’ career aspirations, which may well be of significance in creating training initiatives.


Appraisal has come in for much criticism recently, but a good appraisal can reveal much about the strengths and weaknesses of individuals in terms of their performance. Indications of areas where training and development programmes could improve performance are vital to both the individual and the organisation. Indeed the appraisal and variations of it are now used in many organisations as a central part of the learning organization concept, whereby individuals can negotiate their training needs with their line manager.

Some organisations have allocated training budgets for individuals to use for their own development in negotiation with their line managers. In this way an employee gains a sense of ownership of their development, with positive results for the organisation

Assessment centre techniques

Though rather elaborate and expensive, assessment centres are the most thorough way of analysing individual strengths and weaknesses. Using a variety of methods, including in-depth interviews and re-interviews, psychometric tests, team performance simulation exercises and other techniques, a detailed profile of employees can be constructed, which is useful for analysing training needs. Caution must be counselled, however, in terms of cost-effectiveness and an unrealistic expectation that infallible results are produced (Dulewicz, 1991).

Global review and training audits

The most wide-ranging method of training needs analysis is a global review, or more modestly a training audit. These are usually undertaken when far-reaching changes are planned within an organisation. Survey questionnaires and in-depth interviews are often used, together with all, or combinations of, the approaches previously mentioned.

Relating resources to the training objective

An across-the-board use of all these methods could be too expensive in terms of both time and money. Reid et al. (1992) point out that the global review could end up producing large amounts of paperwork, unjustified by the returns gained. It is therefore essential to assess the cost-effectiveness of training needs analysis in relation to the outcomes and returns expected.rsch and Reilly (1998) warn that ‘organisational structures and employee attitudes have an impact.

Simply having appropriately skilled individuals does not automatically yield high performance’. They give the example of the UK Post Office, where managers have learned that thinking through the skill implications of organizational change early enough gives them time to change the composition of the workforce. Hirsch and Reilly also stress that it may ‘be important to design jobs and technology around the skills of the workforce, rather than to assume that the workforce will adjust to the new situation’.

  • Training methods

A careful use of training methods can be a very cost-effective investment in the sense of using the appropriate method for the needs of a person or group. However, many commentators have mentioned that organisations often use inappropriate methods, which can be both costly and time wasting and bring very little improvement in the performance of the employee. Storey (1991), in a comparative analysis of training in British and Japanese organisations, found that some British training is wasted as it is not embedded in the organisation as is the Japanese.

British organisations also suffered from the ‘band-wagon effect’ and what he calls ‘programmitis’ – a constant series of newly launched programmes and initiatives which led to chopping and changing rather than consistently coherent long-term training initiatives. In general, training can be divided into on-the-job and off-the-job methods. There is a place for both types, and each can be effective at meeting certain training requirements.

  • On-the-job training

On-the-job training (OJT) is probably the most common approach to training. It can range from relatively unsophisticated ‘observe and copy’ methods to highly structured courses built into workshop or office practice. Cannell (1997) defines OJT as ‘Sitting by Nellie’ and learning by doing These traditional methods are still very popular ways of teaching new skills and methods to employees, and they can be very effective.

However, there are many acknowledged weaknesses that still persist in many organisational practices. Some people are better at it than others, and ‘Nellie’ may not be trained herself in the methods of transmitting knowledge and skills. There is often a lack of structure and design in the training given, which leads to the passing-on of bad or even dangerous working practices (Cannell, 1997).

Far more successful is to use a senior or experienced worker who has been trained in instruction or training methods and whose teaching skills are coordinated with a developed programme linked to off-the-job courses. Self-proclaimed learning organizations such as Analog Devices make very effective use of OJT, and claim that people learn and retain more of the training by performing the actual process at the place of work.


This is another version of the system, in which a senior or experienced employee takes charge of the training and development of a new employee. This suggests a much closer association than master–apprentice, and elements of a father–son or mother–daughter relationship can exist, whereby the mentor acts as an adviser and protector to the trainee.

A study by Brockbank and Beech (1999) of mentors in the health sector reveals that overemphasis on the technical side of the mentoring process and an underestimation of the emotional side can have negative results. They recommend that appropriate support should be provided for mentors themselves. This dual role of providing professional and emotional support may clash, and it might be advisable for the two roles to be performed by different people.

Shadowing and job rotation

Shadowing is another oft-practised on-the-job training method. It usually aims to give trainee managers a ‘feel’ for the organisation by providing experience of working in different departments. It is an old technique, and has been criticised not so much for the concept itself as for the way it is often implemented. Trainees may feel it is time wasting, and people in the various departments in which they are temporarily working.

Human resource development: the organisation and the national framework training that is planned and structured that takes place mainly at the normal workstation of the trainee – although some instruction may be provided in a special training area on site – and where a manager, supervisor, trainer or peer colleague spends significant time with a trainee to teach a set of skills that have been specified in advance.

It also includes a period of instruction where there may be little or no useful output in terms of productivity. feel committed to and involved in the training if it is to work. Trainees are often not warmly welcomed, and are seen by supervisors and workers in the department as obstacles to the daily routines. However, if well structured, and planned with the cooperation of all departmental supervisors, this method can be a worthwhile learning experience.

Another version of training by switching roles is job rotation, which became popular in the 1970s to help relieve boredom and thereby raise the productivity of shopfloor workers. If appropriately implemented, it can be an excellent learning experience for workers, and it fits suitably with HRM concepts of teamworking and empowerment, whereby people are encouraged to take greater responsibility for their work and that of the team.

On the negative side there have been criticisms that not enough structured training is given to enable workers to do these jobs well, and that it is also bound up with functional flexibility initiatives, often criticised for their deskilling and exploitative propensities.


A more recent concept of the informational and learning exchange environment is elearning (electronic learning). This emphasises the use of new technology such as e-mail, Internet, intranet and computer software packages to facilitate learning for employees whenever they need it. As one of its advocates (Masie, 1999) states: The adoption of online learning is attractive to organisations because the required data is available when learners want to learn.

This will speed up the learning process and knowledge exchange. It also allows for ‘granularisation’ of learning. Until recently, a unit of learning was expressed in terms of a three-day course, a morning course or a two-hour course. Granularisation can deliver a course in bite-sized chunks when the learner needs it. The e-learning forms can be formal (an actual course delivered via software or the Internet) or informal (exchange of information and knowledge via e-mail or an intranet).

The recently established University for Industry (UfI) in the UK will base a great deal of its approach to learning and delivery of courses on the use of new technology, a trend that is increasing rapidly in universities and other educational institutions.

Problems with e-learning

E-learning has had many enthusiastic advocates in recent years. Tom Peters has argued that 90 per cent of training could be delivered in this way (Sloman, 2001: 57). Already, however, experience of it in practice and research is pinpointing a number of problems. These criticisms are less about e-learning itself than the techniques and methods of its application, and, indeed, its popularity. The annual training and development survey conducted by the CIPD clearly shows that less than a third of training managers said that they used e-learning and when they did the main recipients were IT staff. The report states:

Those that have used e-learning have experienced a number of problems and complaints from the users. One such complaint is of the ‘sheep dip approach’ whereby the same process is applied to everyone. Mumford (2002: 51) claims that Among other criticisms are that learners are often left without support for e-learning packages and in consequence they feel isolated and frustrated when they do not fully understand how to access the programme fully and what the content is actually about.

Other criticisms are that e-learning packages available in the work situation are not accessed so much as busy employees simply do not feel that they have time to use them in the work situation. It is clear that e-learning has to be used in conjunction with other training methods and not used solely in isolation and without support. A form of blended learning is the ideal way to use it. As Reynolds (2002: 42) states:

  • Off-the-job training

Courses and other types of ‘off-the-job’ training have come in for much criticism, and are often viewed by both recipients and fellow employees as a waste of time and money. Yet off-the-job training is sometimes necessary to get people away from the hustle. Human resource development: the organisation and the national framework If, as some believe, e-learning heralds a revolution, it is clear that its main impact is still to be felt. (cited in Sloman, 2002: 41)

designers of e-learning and buyers should consider how the design embraces learning preferences. For example: Are the learning style preferences affecting the way they deliver the content of e-learning? How far does the programme design relate only to the provision of information, rather than taking action on it? How can the programme be designed or complemented by other programmes in a way that meets different needs of individuals?

E-learning will add to – rather than replace – existing channels (of learning). . . . So jumping on the e-learning bandwagon could result in expensive and ineffective training programmes. E-learning doesn’t so much replace face-to-face learning as supplement and extend it. bustle of the work environment. This enables the trainee to study theoretical information or be exposed to new and innovative ideas.

The problem arises when those ideas or learning experiences do not appear to relate to the work situation. As we have seen from the research of Storey (1991), the predilection for sending employees on courses that do not appear to have much relevance to the employee or the job (‘programmitis’) only enhances the negative view of this type of training.

Perceptions of courses

Being sent on a course can be interpreted by the trainee as a sign of official approval or disapproval. For example, an approval sign would be that you are considered suitable for promotion, and the course is part of the training required for that position. A negative perception could be that the employee feels that they are being sent on a course because they are not very efficient in their job. Sending the correct messages to the trainees is also an important aspect of training initiatives.

  • A variety of methods

It is impossible to cover in depth in this book all the rich variety of approaches to training. Many of these the reader will have experienced before – sometimes with negative consequences. It is best to bear in mind that there may be nothing wrong with the methods, but that they may be utilised ineffectively by the trainer or the learner. In other words, the key is to make the appropriate match between the training requirements of the employee and the training methods available.

  • Active and passive learning

Much traditional training is a one-way learning process, in which the student is a passive learner receiving information from a lecturer, tutor or instructor. This can be an efficient way of imparting information, but all education theorists agree that the best form of learning is one in which the student is actively involved in the learning process.

Interactive learning methods

There are a wide variety of interactive learning techniques, some of them adaptations of one-way approaches:

  • workshops;
  • case studies;
  • role play;
  • simulations;
  • interactive computer learning packages;
  • video and audio tapes (interactively used);
  • the Internet (websites), intranet (organisational systems);
  • problem-solving.

For a fuller explanation of these techniques and others, see Harrison (1997) and Barrington and Reid (1999).

  • Blended learning

There has been much criticism of approaches to human resource development that relies on systematic strategies and those that only cater for organisational needs and not those of the individual. One answer is a form of ‘blended learning’.

This attempts to cater for both the individual and the organisation – a tricky equation to balance. This boils down to meeting the training needs of the organisation and the individual in a mix of approaches that suit the individual’s learning style, work–life situation and shortterm and long-term skill and knowledge requirements. As Chris Dennis (2002) states:

The following case study illustrates how this has worked at News International, which publishes The Times and The Sun.

  • Responsibility for and delivery of training

It is important to consider who is to be responsible for training, and who will deliver training.

  • Training departments

From the 1950s and (particularly) the 1960s, the responsibility for and delivery of training in many large organisations rested very much with specialist departments. By the 1980s and 1990s, however, training departments had come in for considerable criticism.

They were accused of:

  • being too rigid to respond to the changing needs of the organisation;
  • being too much of an administrative expense;
  • having lost contact with the changing skills needed on the shopfloor or at the place of work;
  • being self-serving and bureaucratic;
  • providing off-the-job training at their various centres that did not match up to ‘onthe- job’ needs;
  • providing training that was too theoretical and not sufficiently practically based;
  • not providing training and development that met individual needs – courses were too class/group based.

Despite these criticisms, training departments remain important in many organizations because they have personnel who have specialised knowledge and skills in the provision of training. As HRD becomes more important in the organisation the role of providers is becoming increasingly pivotal as facilitators of learning and the exchange of information and knowledge. The concepts of the learning organisation and the knowledge-based organization place learning and HRD at the very heart of the organisation. HRD departments also act as internal consultants giving support to line managers alongside the HR department.

  • Training consultancies

Over the past decade the number of consultancies, many of them specialising in training, has burgeoned into an industry. While there are many excellent consultancies, there are also the inevitable ‘cowboy’ operations, which sometimes have unqualified, inexperienced and untrained staff, and at present there is no regulation to stop such operations from being set up. Some client companies and organisations have spent considerable sums on ineffective programmes, or to be told things they already knew.

Of course, it is in the interest of the consultancy to push sometimes costly and unwarranted programmes on to unsuspecting clients, in order to drum up business. It would be naïve to believe that consultants are brought into organisations only to provide training programmes. They are also used to resolve political conflicts, to add kudos and status, to justify having larger budgets, to support political manoeuvring, and for other questionable reasons.

However, used carefully, reputable consultancies can provide invaluable specialist services and expertise that are often not available within client organisations, particularly small and medium-sized ones.

  • Training and the line manager

In order to counteract the perceived inflexibilities of training and personnel departments, there has been a notable trend to devolve many functions to line managers, including training policy. The justification is usually couched in terms of meeting the needs of people where it matters – at workplace level. Part of the line manager’s brief is to discern the training needs of individuals in their department, and to suggest suitable training for them, usually in consultation with the personnel or training department.

Training budgets have increasingly been devolved to line managers, in the belief that funding can be spent most effectively at the point where needs have been identified. This can be very effective, because the assessment and delivery of training is more closely attuned to people in their working environment, but its efficacy depends very much on how it is carried out.
Research by the Price Waterhouse Cranfield Project team shows that there are many problems in splitting responsibilities between line managers and the personnel department:

For example, 41per cent of personnel departments in the UK survey did not know how much money was spent on training, and 38 per cent did not know the average number of training days allocated per person in the organisation (Holden, 1991; Holden and Livian, 1992).

  • Evaluation and monitoring of training

The penultimate stage in the training strategy is the evaluation and monitoring of training. It is one of the most important but often the most neglected parts of the training process. This stage can be viewed as both simple and complicated. It is simple in that monitoring consists in gleaning information from the trainees and then amending the courses and programmes in the light of these comments. But it is also complex because there are other stakeholders in the process as well as the trainees: the designers of the courses, the trainers, and the sponsors.

Each has their own purposes, aims and objectives, and these must be clearly identified before evaluation can proceed (Easterby-Smith and Mackness, 1992). Another problem is that, while it is relatively easy to evaluate a formal off-the-job course, much on-the-job training often takes place in an informal way, which is usually subjective and open to interpretation (Holden, 1991).

Methods of evaluation include the following:

  • Questionnaires (feedback forms) or ‘happiness sheets’ are a common way of eliciting trainees’ responses to courses and programmes.
  • Tests or examinations are common on formal courses that provide a certificate, such as a diploma in word-processing skills, and end-of-course tests can be provided after short courses to check the progress of trainees.
  • Projects are initially seen as learning methods, but they can also provide valuable information for instructors.
  • Structured exercises and case studies are opportunities to apply learned skills and techniques under the observation of tutors and evaluators.
  • It is important to have the opinions of those who deliver the training. Tutor reports give a valuable assessment from a different perspective.
  • Interviews of trainees after the course or instruction period can be informal or formal, individual or group, or by telephone.
  • Observation of courses and training by those devising training strategies in the training department is very useful, and information from these observations can be compared with trainee responses.
  • Participation and discussion during training must be facilitated by people who are adept at interpreting responses, as this can be highly subjective.
  • Over the past decade appraisal has become an increasingly important method of evaluation.

It has the advantage that the line manager and trainee can mutually assess the training undergone in terms of performance and employee development. A combination of these approaches is advisable. It is also wise to receive feedback from the trainees and the tutors or trainers, and others involved in the assessment process.

First there is often a dichotomy between the decentralised role and increasing responsibility of line managers, and the centralised role of the personnel/human resource function which must act as an interpreter of organisation-wide information and as a creator of human resource strategies. Secondly, the desire to empower the line manager may lead to sacrifices by the central personnel function in ensuring the relevant information is being relayed back. (Holden and Livian, 1992)

  • Amending the HRD plan

While many organisations carry out excellent training programmes, the final and perhaps most vital stage is often ignored. As Easterby-Smith and Mackness (1992) wryly state: Adjustments can be carried out after a small course to tighten up its effective operation, or when a training strategy cycle has been completed after six months or a year. At the end of such a phase it is essential to see whether training has effectively met the business objectives. Usually adaptations and changes are necessary, and the evaluation and monitoring process is invaluable in ensuring that these are appropriate.


In reading this section on training strategy, two points need to be borne in mind:

  • These training prescriptions can appear too simplistic, particularly in a textbook that has limited space to give to this complicated subject. The reality of creating training strategies is much more complex, and frustration and failure to achieve objectives are common, even in organisations that take such approaches seriously.
  • There is limited evidence of a positive link between training and organisational efficiency and profitability, although there is a widespread belief that this is the case.

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