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HR Essay Sample: Evaluating Workplace Learning and Development

7 pages
1777 words
Middlebury College
Type of paper: 
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Learning and development is a subset of the human resource department which is concerned with the improvement of individual performance in the workplace by increasing and honing skills and knowledge (Harrison, 2011, 1). It is at other times referred to as training and development and forms part of the firms talent management strategy which aims at aligning group and individual goals and performance to the overall goals and vision of the organization. The learning and development strategy articulates the workforce capabilities, skills, and competencies required for the performance of the assigned duties and how these can be developed to ensure a successful and sustainable organization (Evans, Hodkinson, Rainbird, and Unwin, 2007). There are many ways in which learning and development for employees can be conducted. Some of these ways include induction, on-the-job training, internal and external courses and workshops, training on compliance, an external study supported by the organization, coaching, and mentoring (Harrison, 2011, 1). In the end, workplace learning and development promotes employee and organizational growth, development, and empowerment, through the provision of innovative, high-quality programs and services. There is a need for consistent monitoring and evaluation of these programs to ensure that they are in line with the strategy of the organization and to ensure that they are being conducted in a manner that promotes the competence of the employees undertaking them. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the different ways in which organizations evaluate learning and development in their workplaces.

There are various theories and models of learning and development that are utilized by organizations in their endeavor to improve the skills and competencies of their employees. One of the theory is Social Cognitive Theory. This is a learning theory that analyzes how thoughts, feelings and social interactions contribute to the learning process (Russ-Eft, 2011, p. 123). In the case of workplace learning, it focuses on the various cognitive processes that employees engage in when they are learning. One of the ways that employees learn from this process is learning from others, commonly referred to as vicarious learning. In this process, one acquires skills or behaviors from another person through watching their actions closely and imitating them. This is commonly used in the on-the-job training (Russ-Eft, 2011, p. 123). Organizations mostly pair new employees with experienced ones for their first few weeks in the workplace so that they can learn about the job and how to react to certain situations through vicarious learning which is more effective than learning through reading a handbook.

The social cognitive theory also outlines how people learn on their own. This is mostly displayed when an individual learns self-control even when there is no external reinforcement telling them to do so. When employees exhibit the capabilities of acquiring competencies on their own, they should be supported and motivated to do so in as many areas as they can but with monitoring to ensure that the competencies learned are aligned to the goals of the organization (Russ-Eft, 2011, p. 123). Self-efficacy is a critical section of the social cognitive theory. This is found with employees who are confident in their capabilities, and they believe they can be successful in the achievement of certain behaviors. This is an important aspect as it gives the particular employees the drive to always strive to be better. The programs organized by the firm will only work in polishing up the behaviors that such employees have strived to acquire.

Self-directed learning, also known as Andragogy is another model used in learning in the workplace. Under this model, individualized instructions are needed to match the needs of the learner and increase relevance. Training should include tasks, group processes, and critical reflection to promote discovery, self-knowledge, and self-direction (Russ-Eft, 2011, p. 123). Under Social Perspective theory, the training environment, social and organizational context shape individual learning, knowledge, and thought. Learners should be provided with opportunities to interact with their peers and those with more experience and skills. Through this interaction, they can learn from each other. Situated Cognition is another theory of workplace learning and development. This model relies on the ability of the trainee to construct mental models through problem-solving activities, particularly ill-defined problems (Russ-Eft, 2011, p. 123). Training should be authentic, using realistic situations which ensures that the trainee has acquired the requisite knowledge and the condition for applying that knowledge. Training incorporates settings for group problem solving to allow trainees to express their mental models to each other which provides an opportunity to learn from each other and improve ones model. Coaching should be provided to offer assistance once any of the trainees needs it.

Schema theory is also used in learning and development in the workplaces. This theory focuses on the background knowledge of the trainee which influences the interpretation of the new information. This theory is critical in procedures, strategy instruction, instruction in metacognition, and the use of selective attention (Russ-Eft, 2011, p. 123). The models and theories discussed above are the ones that can be used in the process of carrying out learning and development programs in organizations. Organizations can decide on whether to use them individually or collectively to improve efficiency. However, combining several theories and models could be effective since different theories and models will be effective in a different way with different employees. Additionally, different areas and levels of learning and development will require different theories and models to achieve efficiency.

Evaluation of the learning and development process is an important phase. This is the process of collecting and analyzing information for a training program to assess the relevance and effectiveness of the various training components and determine the success of the program. This analysis will also provide a guide for planning and decision making on matters concerning learning and development for the employees (Mavin, Lee, and Robson, 2010, p 4). The analysis also assists the management to assess the value that these interventions are adding to the organization and from this make informed decisions. The importance of evaluation in this practice cannot be undermined and as such calls for methods in which evaluation can be improved.

Several methods can be applied to improving the evaluation process of learning and development in the workplaces. These practices include return on investment, return on expectation, evaluation of coaching and mentoring interventions, assessing the impact of the trainer, and engaging senior managers in the evaluation process. Return on investment will allow organizations to identify the impact of a specific program on the overall cost for the firm (Mavin, Lee, and Robson, 2010, p 15). Professionals, and especially the human resource department should be able to provide performance measures for activities carried out in the organization and especially one that involves cost. The HR should, therefore, be able to provide supporting data to show the value of the training programs conducted in the organization. However, this method can prove costly and should, therefore, be used on a small number of projects. Return on expectations requires stakeholders to outline the training outcomes they expect after undertaking the program. The success of the intervention will be measured against the extent to which these expectations have been met. This helps to minimize ambiguity in the evaluation process.

Evaluating mentoring and coaching interventions can help improve the evaluation process. Although these two methods have been extensively used in learning and development in workplaces, reports show that they are hardly evaluated (Mavin, Lee, and Robson, 2010, p 18). The evaluation process should not be biased on any intervention used in the learning and development process to ensure that no loophole has been created for mediocrity. Mentoring and coaching are some of the methods in which there is direct impact between the trainee and the coach or mentor and, therefore, should be evaluated keenly. The impact of the trainer or facilitator should also be reinforced in organizations (Mavin, Lee, and Robson, 2010, p 18). The facilitator should be involved in the evaluation process of his or her training sessions to ensure that they do their job to the best of their capability. Failure to this would result in poor performance since no strict measures are taken. Finally, the senior management should be involved in the evaluation process since they are the ones who make decisions for the company.

Although workplace learning and development offers the potential for rich outcomes, the process is faced with constraints that hinder the realization of its full potential. Some of the constraints include the construction of inappropriate knowledge, access to authentic activities, access to expertise, a reluctance of experts, the opaqueness of some knowledge, and access to instructional media. Additionally, the array of activities and access to these activities are barred by personal and organizational preferences and goals (Billett, 1996, p 9). The constraints are discussed below.

Inappropriate knowledge: not all activities carried out at the workplaces lead to learning and development. The nature and values embedded in workplaces are likely to play a major role in determining the types of knowledge that are constructed in an organization. For instance exclusive views on gender or dangerous work practice such as working late hours. This means that despite individuals constructing their version of knowledge, the practice that is the norm of the community or the culture of the organization will eventually carry the day, however deleterious it is. Lack of access to authentic activities places another barrier to learning in the workplace. Learners may be limited to the quantity and quality of authentic activities which are supposed to guide their learning and development process. If learners are denied access to engagements in increasingly challenging activities, it is likely that their learning outcomes will be constrained (Billett, 1996, p 9). Learners should be allowed to progress their learning from simple to complex activities to improve their competencies when faced with a challenging situation in the course of their work.

Access to expertise is another constraint that faces learning. In most cases, external experts are sourced to provide training in organizations. This could be dangerous since such experts lack the first-hand experience concerning the activities being carried out in these organizations. As such, they may not be able to fully integrate their training with the activities in the organization, thereby resulting in a gap in the learning process. Access to expertise is an important factor in learning and development practice and, therefore, limit to access could result in negative outcomes (Billett, 1996, p 10). However, reports have it that the learner is the one who determines who is an expert and who is not depending on what they gain from the process. The reluctance of expertise is another drawback to learning and development. Some experts may be reluctant to provide their expertise for fear of losing their status or being displaced by those whom they provide guidance. Experts who are not rewarded or fear displacement...

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