Building Professional Integrity - Training and Development

Why do managers who can do a little training and deal with people decide they are experts in human resource development? The answer appears to be that HRD and T&D professionals themselves have allowed others to think this because of a customer service mentality. A customer service standard of practice leads to substandard practice and ineffective results; in turn, managers conclude that we really don't know what we are doing. Can you blame them? Customer service provides little in the way of a professional compass to guide practice. It allows the profession to be pushed and pulled by customers' whims. Ultimately,it provides little foundation for leadership and is a theoretical.

The challenge to the profession is to stop thinking like retail clerks and to start thinking like true professionals. At the core of most definitions of a profession is the notion that practice is anchored within a system of formal knowledge and expertise. We are not naive to the pressures HRD professionals face in organizations, but it seems certain that giving into those pressures only makes them worse. The situation will not be changed overnight, but we must start the journey by abandoning the customer service model.

The proper vision of serving customers is one in which customers are satisfied because they got the right answer, even if they are unhappy because they could not get the particular program or service they wanted. A model of sound HRD practice means:

  • Saying "No" to our customers and, when necessary, telling them that the yare wrong
  • Standing up for HRD/T&D practice that has ethical integrity by telling customers that we will not engage in practices that we know are misguided or simply wrong
  • Opposing proposals for ineffective practices that we know are harmful to the human dimension of organizations from an ethical perspective rather than apolitical one
  • Grounding practice in sound research and theory
  • Spending more time defining "best practice" as what is most effective
  • Spending less time talking about what is popular with customers
  • Supporting field research to expand the body of HRD knowledge
  • Maintaining the highest level of HRD expertise

If we do not value our profession enough to do this, how can we expect anyone else in an organization to view us as credible professional partners? Some might say that this is an arrogant view of HRD/T&D. If HRD/T&D is a core process for an organization whose success depends on the expertise of its employees, it can make substantial contributions to the organization's ability to accomplish its chosen mission, but only when practiced properly. To practice HRD/T&D properly,specialized expertise is needed. This is fact, not arrogance.

The appropriate vision of an HRD professional is something more akin to that of an architect, a lawyer, or an accountant. In areas of practice where there is room for professional artistry, customer input is sought and honored. But in areas in which specialized expertise is needed,there is no compromise. In those areas, the customer is almost never right.Thus, the T&D manager makes the ultimate decision about what training will be conducted within an organization. To make that decision, T&D managers must know a training need when they see one—and they must be able to discriminate between performance problems that are training needs and those that are not.


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