The Organisation And The National Framework Introduction HR Management

As we have seen from the previous chapter on employee development, it is difficult to arrive at a consensus definition of terms such as ‘development’, ‘education’ and ‘training’ because of the varied ways in which they are translated into work and life situations. The Manpower Services Commission, set up by the 1973 Employment and Training Act but replaced in 1988, defined training as

This definition is no longer adequate or wide enough in a world where organisations are in a constant state of transformation in a turbulent and rapidly changing economic environment. Training was seen as a series of mechanistic interventions through which trainers poured knowledge into an employee’s head, with the expectation of automatic improvement in individual and organisational performance.

Such a concept is too narrow for the modern organisation. First, the skills and knowledge that employees need are rapidly changing, and what is relevant now may not be relevant in the future. Second, there is an increasing need for employees to ‘own’ their learning. This means being aware of their own needs for both the organisation’s requirements and their own long-term development. In other words, individuals also need to be aware of their own learning strategies.

Third, increasing competition is forcing organizations to improve the quality of the products and services they provide, and this requires a closer relationship with the customer, empowerment of employees, and improved communication for exchanging knowledge and skills. Some commentators have suggested that this need to constantly improve knowledge and skill must lead to an environment where learning and sharing knowledge are at the centre of the organisation’s operation – what has come to be called the learning organisation or the knowledge-based organization (Senge, 1990; Nonaka, 1991; Pedler et al., 1997; Dixon, 2000).

However, even in a learning environment there may be a conflict between developing the skills of employees and the future needs of the organisation. For example, many organisations prefer to train employees in firm-specific skills rather than transferable skills, and thus these two objectives may prove mutually exclusive or, at best, only partly achievable. A survey in the early 1990s concluded:

There is little to suggest that this situation has changed radically at the start of the new millennium. The loss of employees in whom considerable sums have been invested in training and development influences some employers to concentrate on training in areas that are specific to their organisation, while the ‘poacher’ organisations use money as an attractor and invest little or nothing in training their employees.

Other commentators believe that the idea of transferable skills is used far too widely, and that many processes are particular to organisations and their products and services. Even in a country such as Japan, whose training systems are much admired, the programmes involve a considerable proportion of training for firm-specific skills (Dore and Sako, 1989).

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