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How to learn, what to learn and when to learn are very complex questions in normal circumstances, but in an organisation the HR practitioner should know exactly what the answers are to these questions. The Human Resource practitioner should know how to implement learning, and almost make learning the focus of their day to day activities. Learning is one of the most effective manners in which an organisation can assure them of a competitive advantage
Human Resource Development has the very important task of supporting the organization's strategies, goals, and objectives (Blanchard, Thacker 2007, p. 36). Human Resource Development contributes to the organization's competitive position in several ways including:
Providing key information related to developing business strategies (Blanchard, Thacker 2007, p. 36).
Providing key information related to developing HR strategies in support of the business strategies (Blanchard, Thacker 2007, p. 36).
Developing strategies in support of the HR strategies (Blanchard, Thacker 2007, p. 37).
Ensuring that employees have the necessary competencies to meet strategic performance demands, and assisting in the removal of barriers to desired performance (Blanchard, Thacker 2007, p. 37).
It is important that an organization ensures through Human Resource Development that their employees are competent in all areas of organizational activities to ensure that thy can gain and maintain a competitive advantage (Blanchard, Thacker 2007, p. 37). Human Resource Development plays a major part in the attainment of competitive advantage, and so it is important to place emphasis on the correct and most effective management of the HRD department of the organization.
Knowledge is defined by Snowden (2000) as the identification, optimization, and active management of intellectual assets, either in the form of explicit knowledge held in artefacts, or as tactic knowledge possessed by individuals or communities. In organisations this is done in order to win competitive advantage (Ncube 2008, p. 83). Knowledge is fast becoming one of the most important organisational resources (Torrington, Hall & Taylor, 2008, p. 281). Knowledge can be one of the most important factors in attaining a competitive advantage (Torrington, Hall & Taylor, 2008, p. 281). Due to the increasingly fast world businesses need to operate in, it is important to make use of knowledge and knowledge management in order to stay ahead of competitors (Torrington, Hall & Taylor, 2008, p. 281).
Definition of Human Resource Management
According to Boddy (2005) Human Resource Management is the effective use of human resources in order to enhance organisational performance.
Importance of Human Resource Management
Human Resource Management is important in the sense that it is used in the process of staffing an organisation (Daniels, Radebaugh, Sullivan 2009:817). Human Resource Management can provide the organisation with the ability to manage, motivate, retain and in a sense control the employees of the organisation (Daniels, Radebaugh, Sullivan 2009:817). Human Resource Management is also extremely important in the implementation of corporate strategies, which in turn comes down to putting the right person in the right position (Daniels< Radebaugh, Sullivan 2009:817).
Definition of Corporate Governance
Daniels, Radebaugh and Sullivan (2009:759) define Corporate Governance as the external and internal factors designed to safeguard the assets of a company and protect the rights of shareholders. Corporate Governance is largely a result of a countries legal environment, in that the Corporate Governance of most companies is determined by the legal factors in its specific country (Daniels, Radebaugh, Sullivan 2009:759). In all businesses Corporate Governance is subjuct to a chain of Governance, which forms the backbone of Corporate Governance in any organisation (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:133). The following illustration gives an example of just such a chain:
Chain of Corporate Governance
Trustees of funds
Investment performance reports
Accounts; Company briefings
Budgets/targets; Qualitative reporting
Budgets/targets; Qualitative reporting
Budgets/simplified targets; Operating reports
This figure describes the hierarchy of most large organisations in that lower managers will only perform as required if the are dually rewarded for their performances (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:135). This fact is also applicable from Senior Executives to Executive Directors, and al the way up the chain to Trustees of funds and Beneficiaries (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:135).
The role of the Human Resource Practitioner in effective Corporate Governance
The Change Agent
The change agent recognises when change is needed in an organisation, and then uses certain structures to initiate and implement the needed change (Ncube 2008:14). He/she also supports organisational learning through cultural interventions. The change agent should be able toe recognise when there is any changes needed in the overall corporate governance of the organisation, and report the needed changes to his/her superiors (Guest 2005).
The main objective of the provider is aimed at maintaining organisational performance through respected expertise. The Human Resource practitioner also offers their expertise to help maintain performance training (Ncube 2008:14). Keeping performance figures as high as possible allows for management to operate under moderate pressure, eliminating the possibility that corporate governance could be neglected due to high pressure situations (Guest 2005)
The Passive Provider
The main concern of the passive provider is performance maintenance. The passive provider determines when employee development should be done, and also ensures that it is done efficiently and effectively. This is mostly an administrative role (Ncube 2008:15). The passive provider has a similar role to the provider in that he/she monitors employee level in order to ensure that performance figures stay acceptable. This also allows for corporate governance to stay effective (Guest 2005).
The Training Manager
It is the responsibility of the training manager to coordinate the training function. He/she is also responsible for organising the training function. The training manager focuses on coaching and mentoring employees, attempting to raise the level of employee excellence to a much higher level than before (Ncube 2008:15). Through having employees that are highly trained and aware of what is expected of them it is possible to maintain efficiency within the organisation. When everything in the organisation operates with efficiency it eliminates the risk that employees or management could deviate from general corporate governance (Guest 2005).
Effects of Human Resource Management on Corporate Governance
When referring to Figure 1 it is possible to determine that corporate governance is subject to organisational performance (Piesse 2005). Efficient organisational performance on the other hand is a result of effective human resource management (Guest 2005). By analysing these two points it is possible to determine that human resource management and corporate governance is in fact interlinked with each other. Effective corporate governance in an organisation is extremely important as it keep employees and management alike in check, creating a fair and equal work environment. When human resource management and more specifically people management is not as effective as it should be, it creates an opportunity for mismanagement between management and employees, and in fact between employees themselves. Another area where human resource management and corporate governance influence each other is the organisations responsibility towards stakeholders and shareholders. In order for an organisation to be productive it is necessary that the organisation has effective human resource management structures in place.
Productivity means that it is possible to look after stakeholders and shareholders, in turn improving the overall corporate governance of an organisation (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:135).
Ineffective Corporate Governance at Aurora and the effects thereof
In the past couple of years Aurora has been shadowed by controversy, misconduct and mismanagement (Tempelhoff 2011). In more recent times it has become apparent that the problem lies deep within the organisation. According to Tempelhoff (2011) Aurora has recently given R1 million to the ANC, which is the ruling political party in South Africa. The fact that the money was given to a political party is not the overwhelming issue in this case, it is the fact that Aurora workers at the Grootvlei and Orkney are living in absolute poverty, awaiting their salaries to be paid out (Tempelhoff 2011). It is cleat that Aurora has the necessary funds available to pay these salaries, but it is not being done. Tempelhoff (2011) also states that two of the directors of the organisation, Mr Zondwa Mandela and Mr Khulubuse Zuma are related to old President Nelson Mandela and current President Jacob Zuma (Tempelhoff 2011). The fact that Mr Zuma and Mr Mandela have such close relations to the political party that the have given the money to creates much uncertainty regarding the morality of the whole affair. Bringing into perspective that mine workers have gone unpaid at the same time reflects directly on a lack of effective corporate governance.
It is the responsibility of an organisation to ensure that their employees are dually rewarded for service rendered (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:135). In the case of Aurora that responsibility is clearly overlooked, emphasising that there is a definite lack of corporate governance. It would also seem that the money given to the ANC could serve as a bribery, as the Aurora group are in desperate trouble over their inability to ensure effective maintenance at Grootvlei mine, resulting in toxic groundwater pushing up towards the service (Tempelhoff 2011).
There is a definite lack of corporate governance at Aurora, but this could be due to a deeper problem within the organisation. Human resource management has a direct bearing on the effectiveness of corporate governance, and without effective human resource management it is quite possible that corporate governance would be lacking (Guest 2005). Human resource management forms the backbone of corporate governance, and taking into account the state of Aurora's mines, and their unhappy employees it gives the distinct idea that their human resource management structures are not quite in place (Tempelhoff 2011).
Due to the inefficient corporate governance at Aurora there has been a misalignment of incentives and control (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:135). When this takes place it is common for directors, managers and employees alike to start focussing on self-interest (Johnson, Scholes, Whittington 2008:135). According to Johnson et al (2008:135) this results in a negligence of general corporate responsibilities, which in the case of Aurora could result in such a disastrous situation as mines overflowing and employees going without salaries.
Corporate governance and human resource management form an integral part of the success of any organisation, and when these two organisational necessities are overlooked it calls for a disastrous situation to arise, such as in the case of Aurora
Means by which effective human resource management and corporate governance can be rekindled in the Aurora Group
Definition of a Learning Organisation
According to Blanchard and Thacker (2007:430) the learning organisation is defined as building a sense of common understanding among individuals, enhancing their capacity to create desired results through continually learning how to learn. The systems of a learning organisation support employees in creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge to others (Blanchard & Thacker 2007:430). Employees are able to modify their behaviour in order to reflect new knowledge (Blanchard & Thacker 2007:430). The learning organisation is part of an overall competitive strategy in which knowledge creates a competitive advantage (Blanchard & Thacker 2007:430).
Even though creating and maintaining a learning organisation is rather expensive, requiring large amounts of time and effort, it is a key to establishing effective human resource management structures, which would be a distinct benefit for a struggling organisation like Aurora (Blanchard & Thacker 2007:430). As stated earlier human resource management is the cornerstone of effective corporate governance, which would make becoming a learning organisation a very effective tool for Aurora in establishing effective corporate governance.
The five people behaviours that are essential to learning organisations
According to Ncube (2009:39) important decisions normally tend to take place in groups or teams, which are the fundamental learning units. Organisational learning cannot take place without team learning taking place first (Ncube 2009:39). Adults tend to learn best from each other through addressing problems, reflecting on a situation, and receiving structural feedback from their teams (Ncube 2009:39). In an organisation like Aurora it would be extremely important to work together in groups to ensure that human resource management and corporate governance is as effective as possible and managed effectively.
Most organisations have visions, but it is the responsibility of the leadership in the organisation to share those visions with the rest of the organisation (Ncube 2009:39). For a shared vision to be implemented successfully, it has to be drafted by a large number of people within the organisation. With a shares vision, people are encouraged to do things because they want to, and not only because it is required of them (Ncube 2009:39). It is important that Aurora also adapt shared visions within the organisation in order to ensure that each and every employee in the organisation has the same standards and focus on the same outcomes.
Mental Models involve turning the mirror inward, unearthing our mental picture of the world, and laying it out to scrutiny (Ncube 2009:39). Everyone has an internal image of the world, and they will act according to that image (Ncube 2009:39). As these mental models are shared within teams, they can be shaped into combined mental models that can be used to enhance overall team performance (Ncube 2009:39).
Personal mastery is a lifelong journey, striving to better oneself and attempting to grow at every opportunity (Ncube 2009:39). People with a high level of personal mastery are aware of their shortcomings, but they have a high level of self-confidence as well (Ncube 2009:39). In the case of Aurora personal mastery would play a large role in determining what the shortcomings with regards to corporate governance and human resource management are.
Systems thinking, which is the fifth discipline, is seen as the cornerstone of any learning organisation. The fifth discipline intergrades the other disciplines, shaping them into a coherent body of theory and practice (Ncube 2009:40). Systems thinking entails seeing things as a whole, showing appreciation for all organisational systems, leading to more appropriate action being taken (Ncube 2009:40). None of the other disciplines would be implemented effectively without systems thinking, but systems thinking would also not be possible without all the other disciplines (Ncube 2009:40). Systems thinking is one of the most, if not the most important factors that can be used by Aurora in order to ensure that human resource management and corporate governance both operate effectively and efficiently.
Impact of the five people behaviours on Aurora
Reasons for following the Learning organisation
The main focus of the learning organisation is to give a competitive advantage over competitors. It is important to learn faster then the rate of change and faster than competitors in order to keep a competitive advantage (Millmore, Lewis, Saunders, Thornhill & Morrow 2007, p. 371). Learning can be viewed as both a means to an end and an end in itself (Millmore, Lewis, Saunders, Thornhill & Morrow 2007, p. 371). The learning organisation builds on and incorporates the principles underpinning organisational learning (Millmore, Lewis, Saunders, Thornhill & Morrow 2007, p. 371).
Importance of evaluating training for organisations like Aurora
Kirkpatrick's evaluation model
Reaction: Reaction is how the participants of a training program feel about the various aspects of a training program (Naugle 2000, p. 1). This model has to do with if whether the participant has positive or negative feelings of the instructor, material and the general experience of the training program (Naugle 2000, p. 1). According to Kirkpatrick's theories, the learner would not reap the fullest benefits if he/she does not have positive feelings about the training program (Naugle 2000, p. 1). When a learner values the environment and enjoys the learning experience the learner would be more willing and receptive to the learning experience (Naugle 2000, p. 1). When the learner is more willing to learn, he/she is also able to take in and retain much more information (Naugle 2000, p. 1). By keeping the students interested and excited about the specific training program, the learners display a positive image about the company, and in turn attract other potential employees to the organisation (Naugle 2000, p. 2). Keeping students interested and positive should be at the forefront of any learning process conducted by any teacher (Naugle 2000, p. 2).
Learning: In this model a measurement is made of the knowledge acquired, skills improved, or attitudes changed during the specific training (Naugle 2000, p. 2). In most cases training should lead to increased knowledge of concepts, development of skills, or a change in attitude (Naugle 2000, p. 2). According to Kirkpatrick (1971) knowledge, skills, and additional change is not the ultimate goal of training.
Behaviour: This, the third level has to do with whether the participant of the training program would use the knowledge and skills learned to improve how he/she goes about doing their required jobs (Naugle 2000, p. 3). With regards to training, the process of using what you have learned and applying it in a job situation is called transfer of training (Naugle 2000, p. 3). It can sometimes be quite difficult for students in applying what they have learned in a controlled environment, and then applying that learning practically when doing their daily working activities (Naugle 2000, p. 3). Participants in learning programs should be able to interpret the things they have learnt practically and logically if the learning program is to be deemed successful (Naugle 2000, p. 3). In order for organisations to ensure that their employees are able to interpret their learning practically and logically, the conduct performance assessments, assessing how their employees are performing and also coping with their newly acquired skills (Naugle 2000, p. 3). By conducting these performance assessments, organisations are encouraging employees to apply what they have learned effectively, keeping their employees on their toes, so to speak (Naugle 2000, p. 3). Kirkpatrick speaks of five general guidelines that could aid in measuring behaviour change after training:
The need for a clear and systematic assessment of behaviour prior to, as well as after the educational experience (Naugle 2000, p. 4).
The appraisal of performance should be done by someone familiar with the employee's before and after the training has taken place (Naugle 2000, p. 4).
The third guideline is the comparison of before and after appraisals of performance or using a statistical analysis (Naugle 2000, p. 4).
Performance or behaviour change should be assessed at least three months after the training has been completed (Naugle 2000, p. 4).
A Control group that didn't receive the training can be used to compare the outcomes of the training with a group that has received the specific training (Naugle 2000, p. 4).
Results: According to Kirkpatrick (1960b) the results of training can be directly translated into overall increased performance of employees, and the organisation as a whole. It is important to implement a number of assessment tools in order to evaluate the performance of not only employees, but also the management staff that plan and implement their training (Kirkpatrick 1996, p. 6).
Benefits of Knowledge Management for Aurora
Knowledge management is fast becoming on of the most important facets of any organisation. In order to stay ahead of the competition, it is important to focus on the attainment and management of knowledge. There are many advantages to be gained by making knowledge management a focus point of the organisation. Through effective knowledge management it is possible to gain entrance into new markets, gaining a competitive advantage over competitors and in turn increasing revenue (Ncube 2008, p. 85). The overall efficiency of the organisation can also be improved, because knowledge is used effectively by the correct people or employees.
Through knowledge management it is possible to increase innovation and creativity (Ncube 2008, p. 85). By increasing innovation and creativity the organisation can enter new facets of their specific market, and also increase the depth of their capabilities. The increase of innovation and creativity can also lead to new ideas being discovered more frequently and more effectively.
Effective knowledge management can also lead to the organisation being more adaptive and responsive to change, more flexible in difficult situations, and also more dynamic in situations where effective problem solving is needed (Ncube 2008, p. 85).
Managing change is a very important factor for any organisation that is focussed on moving forward and making a success (Ncube 2008, p. 85). Change can be difficult for many organisations to manage, but when change management is done through managing knowledge, it should theoretically be almost impossible not to ensure that the changes are effective.
Knowledge management would be a sensible practice for almost any organisation, because there are many advantages to it, as shown in the above paragraphs. It is true that there are like with anything also negative aspects to knowledge management, but when knowledge is managed effectively, and everyone in the organisation is positively influenced by knowledge, it opens the door to countless possible scenarios of success. By managing knowledge effectively, it is possible for an organisation to move ahead of competitors, creating a competitive advantage that would not necessarily have been possible without the effective management of knowledge.
The HR practitioner plays a very important role in many factors that contribute to the attainment of a competitive advantage. HR practitioners should be aware of this fact, and able to do what is required of then in order to attain the competitive advantage. Another important part of what the HR practitioner is supposed to do is training employees, ensuring that they are always performing their duties at the highest possible level of excellence. HR practitioners should also be in tune with the strategic plans of the organisation, making an effort to implement these plans, and infusing them with the various HR functions.
It is important for the Human Resource practitioner to be aware of the advantages that learning offers to their organisation, and also how to manage, initiate and implement learning. The main focus of a learning organisation is to create a competitive advantage through developing employees to be as efficient as possible. HR practitioners should also be aware that the five people behaviours set out by Peter Senge can help immensely with the attainment of a competitive advantage for the organisation. Effective learning can create the difference between a highly effective and efficient organisation, and an organisation that is just lying at the bottom of the drinking well.
It is of great importance to do evaluations at all level, to ensure that organizational learning and in fact the progress of employees is kept within the aim of the organization. Kirkpatrick's roles are very good guidelines for any organization to follow to ensure that employees are trained and educated to the exact standard set out by the organization. It is important also to keep track of the progress of employees, and also aiding and supporting the throughout the entire training process. The training and education of employees should be a very high priority of any learning organization, because after all, it is the employees that help in the attainment of a competitive advantage foe the organization.
Gaining a competitive advantage is one of the most important components to success for any organisation. Competitive advantage can be defined as anything a firm does especially well compared to rivals (David 2009, p. 39). Competitive advantage can also be attained when a organisation owns something another firm doesn't, or is able to do something a competitor is not able to do (David 2009, p. 39). Gaining a competitive advantage is for many, if not all organisations an integral part of being successful and moving forward. It is not always easy to gain a competitive advantage, especially in the difficult economic times we find ourselves in, but when the right means are followed, it can lead to the organisation being extremely successful.