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What Is Human Resource Development?

BY -

Gerald Ainomugisha

October 22, 2021

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Human resource development is a methodology of enhancing the skills, knowledge, experience, and talents of employees in a company or organization. Human resource development is a broad term that involves several activities, such as proper training, performance improvement, talent/career development, coaching, mentoring, and succession planning.

In any professional or personal setting, there are periods of stagnancy that need to be addressed. When it comes to a professional environment, stagnancy can affect sales, revenue, efficiency, and productivity. This is why it is important for managers or executives to regularly analyze the human resource side of the business to recognize if there is room for improvement.

Human Resource Development Vs. Human Resource Management

These two terms are usually confusing for many people, so we break them down below.

Human resource management is the systematic and deliberate framework for managing people in a company or organization effectively and successfully. It is usually the role of the human resource department to maintain efficient, productive, and tension-free relationships between co-workers, team members, managers, and stakeholders.

Human resource management starts from the recruitment process until an employee is relieved of their duties or voluntarily leaves their job. It ensures that a company or organization's values, reputation, vision, and mission are clear, portrayed, and upheld by all members of that organization or company.

On the other hand, human resource development focuses on employee training and development for the overall benefit of both the employees and the company. As mentioned earlier, a company isn’t likely to thrive if employees are not performing to their best abilities. Therefore, the role of human resource development is to recognize employees' potential, harness it, and enhance it.

Human resource development can take two forms: ‘mastery’ strategies and ‘broadening’ strategies.

Mastery strategies focus on giving employees the tools, techniques, knowledge, and skills to do their same job with greater productivity and efficiency.

On the other hand, a broadening strategy focuses on developing entirely new skills. These skills are meant to broaden your skills and career opportunities. For example, you might be in a customer care department but take up a management class so you can polish your resume and be ready for any management opportunities that may arise. 

What Human Resource Development Entails

Human resource development entails activities such as:

  • Employee Training

This pushes employees to gain relevant skills and knowledge, which will boost their performance in their current positions. This involves careful analysis of a business's performance against its long-term goals. Once a company identifies its strengths, weaknesses, and achievements, its next step is looking for ways to address these weaknesses or enhance its strengths and the role that employees can play.

For example, if as a manager you realize there are several complaints about the customer experience, you can prepare a workshop where employees from the customer care department learn about best practices for handling customers.

  • Performance Improvement

Before you plan for performance improvement, it’s best to have a one-on-one with the employees in question. Key areas to look into are the job description and its roles and duties. What do these duties and functions contribute to the organization as a role? How well does the employee think they perform their roles, and in what areas do they see room for improvement? In addition, what tools are available to boost employee performance?

Once these questions are answered, you can put in place plans to help different employees boost their performance and productivity. It would be best to set performance goals for each role, and measure them using performance indicators. A supervisor and employee can then agree on regularly scheduled performance appraisals and establish a clear line of communication for feedback and supervision.

  • Talent/Career Development

Talent development is a subset of talent management. It involves leveraging employees' strengths and abilities while assisting them in growing and evolving within your company.

Talent development strategies look within the company to discover employees who have the ambition and skill to do more than their job description. You can identify talented individuals through mentorship programs and relationships, coaching, or workshops.

Once you identify these individuals, your job is to expand their particular skills and redefine their job descriptions. When they are well trained, you can put them in positions or departments where their unique abilities can be best utilized.

  • Employee Coaching

A manager coaching an employee

Coaching is an aspect of a manager's day-to-day engagement with an employee who reports to them. Coaching aims to target minor problems that may be getting in the way of an employee performing their duties and responsibilities to the best of their ability. It is similar to mentoring; the only difference is that the purpose of coaching is to help an employee sharpen and polish their skills or learn skills necessary to perform their job best.

Coaching should involve identifying an employee's weaknesses or the gaps in the system causing less-than-perfect performance. The obstacles are often time, training, tools, and temperament.

Does the employee have ample time to carry out their roles, or are they stretched thin? Are they perhaps leaving things for the last minute? Then time management should be prioritized. Do they have ample training, or would additional training help them reach their full potential? Do they have the necessary tools to carry out their role, or would learning technology help them increase their efficiency?

It is also crucial to study their attitude towards work, such as how they look at new challenges and pressure.

  • Mentoring

This is a development program where a senior or more accomplished employee establishes a professional relationship with a novice or inexperienced employee to guide their career. Mentorship relationships are meant to help newer employees adapt quickly to a new job and environment, polish their skills, or prepare them for leadership positions.

A mentorship relationship centers on sharing experiences and modeling skills for an employee, professionally and personally. A mentor, however, is not an instructor or a dictator. Their purpose is not to hand you tasks and responsibilities. Instead, they are guides whose role is to advise, share lessons from their journey, and push you to put your best foot forward.

Opportunities for Human Resource Development

  • Online Classes

There are several accessible or affordable short courses that employees can take to build their skill set or polish existing skills.

  • Webinars

These are video presentations that can take the form of workshops or lectures. The great thing about them is you do not need to book a big space or spend time, money, and person-hours planning them. They are also highly interactive and can be saved for those who missed them or even further reflection for those who attended. This makes them an evergreen form of content.

  • Certifications/Degrees

Employees can also pursue further studies by enrolling in degree or certification programs. In many cases, organizations offer tuition assistance.

  • On-the-Job Training

Sometimes training is done during work hours. For example, working near a supervisor who watches new employees and guides them where necessary. Also, this can be through submitting assignments to a supervisor who offers constructive criticism.

  • Workshops

Management can also organize workshops for their employees. These can be facilitated by the more highly trained employees or even hired consultants or facilitators. These workshops can be week-long so that facilitators can tackle several topics.

  • One-on-One

This can take the form of mentoring or coaching, as detailed above. These are the more informal or traditional kinds of human resource development.

Best Practices for Putting Together an HR Development Plan

Your human resource development plan should be carefully put together to suit your company's specific needs, challenges, and goals. A method that works for another company may not work for your organization because your goals, organizational culture, and the skill set of your employees differ.

However, some general guidelines will give you a picture of the most important criteria and factors to consider.

  1. Align Your Human Resource Development Plan to Your Business Needs

An HR development plan should be centered around achieving the set goals of an organization. The purpose of using your goals is so your strategy has direction. Also, when your plan is based on achieving a broader set of goals, it is easier to come up with short-term goals and key performance indicators.

For example, suppose your goal is to increase sales for a particular quarter. In that case, you can focus on enhancing employers' cold calling skills, negotiation skills, and dealing with customers both politely and persuasively.

  1. Know What You Are Working With

Before you develop your development plan, it is helpful to know the skills and competencies your employees possess. You need to know their level of education, experience, special skills, and other forms of training they might have attained at previous jobs. This gives you a better picture of what you are working with and if you need group training, such as webinars, or more hands-on training like coaching.

It also helps management set achievable and realistic short- and long-term goals.

  1. Garner the Support of All Relevant Stakeholders

A human resource development plan might not succeed if it doesn’t have support or sincere effort from all the relevant stakeholders. Priority is generally given to higher-level management and top executives, because they have to sign off on these plans and provide funding.

However, plans aren’t likely to succeed without the involvement of employees, lower-level managers, and department heads. In addition, they know their team members better. They understand what motivates them, discourages them, and how best to get them to be productive and efficient.

  1. Establish Clear Lines of Communication

There should be established lines of communication from top management down to the staff. These lines of communication ensure that no one steps on the other’s feet. Proper communication lines also avoid conflict and miscommunication by providing the correct feedback.  

Employees should also know what their duties are, as well as reporting lines. Management can schedule meetings to discuss progress, activity timetables, and even provide written documents so employees have a point of reference in case they forget or miss the communication.

  1. Set Achievable and Measurable Goals

A "goals" label

Sometimes plans fail because they are too unrealistic and ambitious. There is no shame in having a realistic and straightforward goal. Achievable plans are a way to motivate employees. If they set a goal and achieve it, their morale, confidence in their skills, and competence are boosted.

However, suppose you continuously set overly ambitious goals that are never achieved. In that case, employees and top management may see the training as ineffective and opt out of seeing the development plan to the end.

Furthermore, it would be best to have key performance indicators for every goal, which are your indications of successfully reaching a goal. Try as much as possible to make these indicators measurable.

Why? Because numbers do not lie. They paint a clearer picture of your journey to reaching a goal. It does not have to be immediate. For example, if sales are steadily increasing instead of shooting straight to the set goal, this is a positive indicator that the plan and process are working.

  1. Obtain and Act on Feedback Provided

As a company, you should always value feedback from employees. After all, they are the ones directly affected by new policies, protocols, and plans that are put in motion to enhance the organization's overall performance.

You would be surprised by the number of ideas and insight that employees possess. This is because when they are constantly using specific techniques, processes, and software, you know their weaknesses, and have found tricks that enable faster and more efficient task completion. Consequently, they can make helpful suggestions.

In addition, employers are the ones who directly work with staff and know what issues are always raised and what needs and issues should be given priority.

When it comes to any plan, sometimes the vision differs from reality. As a result, you may choose a human resource development tool that is a mere waste of money and person-hours because employees fail to embrace it.

Benefits of HR Development

  • Improves Employee Retention

Job seekers are no longer looking willing to settle for only the basic employee benefits like health insurance. Research indicates that employees are more likely to stay in a job with prospects for career advancement. This is because people like change, evolving, and growing; even before they accept a new job, they are already looking at where they want to be five or 10 years ahead.

Human resource development gives them the hope that their skills and talents will eventually be recognized to qualify for a higher position.

  • Boosts Productivity and Efficiency

Because employees' skills are constantly upgraded and enhanced, they are incredibly competent, leading to higher productivity levels, a better quality of work, and higher revenues, sales, and profits.

  • Increases Morale and Employee Satisfaction

Because employees feel like they are progressing personally and professionally, they are happier, more satisfied, and fulfilled. They do not feel stagnant, and their work is not monotonous because they are constantly being challenged and engaged.

  • Creates Better Interpersonal Relationships

Better interpersonal relationships are created during team-building activities between employees, as well as the mentor-mentee relationship. In addition, because workers communicate regularly with managers through mentorship programs, workshops, and coaching sessions, they have a good rapport.

  • Boosts Team Spirit

An HR team doing a spirit boosting activity

Employees have a sense of togetherness and team spirit. This is because they are working towards a common goal that is enhancing their skills and advancing their career prospects. The team spirit is also boosted by the regular development activities.

  • Makes Staffing Easier

Staffing can be a nightmare for the HR department. This is because of the tons of resumes and interview stages they have to go through. However, when an organization prioritizes career development, vacant positions can be filled by candidates whose exceptional skills are identified and enhanced in the course of employee development.

Human resource development is not a one-off process. It is a continuous process of improving employees’ skills and ensuring they are adaptable to the ever-changing nature of the professional world.

Are you looking to enhance your performance management, reduce staff turnover, and minimize costs from constantly replacing staff in your company? Check out our vendor reviews and find an ideal software solution for your company. We also offer numerous insights to users who join our HR community or newsletter.

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