Organizations nowadays are looking at human resource as valuable asset that can provide sustained competitive advantage. If a human resource in an organization can not provide organization with strategic advantage, the human resource management in the organization is said to be ineffective. Human resource departments these days are not just looking at managing the workforce, recruiting and training but also looking at providing a platform for increased work-life balance of the employees so that they can remain committed to the organizational goals by delivering high productivity. Human resource development is defined as a set of intentional activities by an organization to increase employee's skills, abilities or knowledge, and direct these skills and abilities for the company's benefit (Marsick and Watkins 1990). The term refers to the planned procedures through which the human capital of the organization grows to people behind that function or to the outcomes of developmental procedures. Traditionally, within this concept understanding, the existence of different dimensions of strategy, perspectives, contents and process helps strategist avoid the unexpected difficulties of a single isolated practice on its impact on organizational performance. This paper discusses the ways in which HRD can play strategic role in the organization, basing on sorted HRD literature perspectives. The paper also discusses the benefits of HRD and obstacles in achieving the strategic objectives.
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Significant evolution has taken place around HRD and strategic role of its. This requires scholars to contribute to the richness of the strategic significance of the concept, the strategic requirements of the firm need to do research from many theoretical perspectives, to focus on internal resources and processes, to be a large part of the discussion. For this reason, it can be said that the recognition of the internal component has made it possible for the issues of contributing value to the business performance, issues of knowledge skill and ability to meet business objectives, issues of gaining synergy from human resource process and practice through horizontal alignment,ect, among other people related issues to truly find their way into the strategic arena (Ulrich, 1997). Some other literatures of scholars see human resource development as a philosophy of management (Beer and Nohria, 2000). Moreover, the focus of human resource management among studies is its strategic logic in its application. This leads to some researchers adopt the findings of the study of HRD also from the view point of strategy models. For instance, Schuler (1989) and Walton (1999) created integrated frameworks to research different aspects of HRD through an approach to business strategy. Strategy here is understood as the direction to how the company will achieve its objectives. This is done by implementing strategic planning and systematic processes.
In another dimension, many writers as (Mccracken and Wallace 2000, Boxall and Purcell 2000) intend to create a model and then this model will be applied to all related people and activities in the organization, from recruitment, training, development, appraisal…). This requires an underlying assumption that all these human resource activities share the same basic nature and play a similar kind of role in relation to strategic management. However, there are exceptions, for example, if we wish to analyze the contribution of HRD as a whole, to business performance, each activity has to be considered. So that, HRD has many applications in modern literature.
Luoma (2000) works well represented human resource development literature within this definition: The traditional approaches that can be formed based on conventional views on the strategic role of human resource development; and Organizational Approach to internal capabilities as a central source of competitive advantage to the concept (HRD) application. With the traditional approach to human resource of Louma (2000), it is that human resource development is driven by development needs within the organization and some concept of the subject have their interest in the outer world of the company. Mabey and Salaman (1995) has a general view of the role of human resource development in relation to strategy within this framework is to see strategy as a means to assess and address skill gap in the organization. The task that is being carried out in the organization has been further broken down into certain role, and that a competence profile has been identified for each of the role. The company can then pursue its strategy if it's entire people live up to their roles and possess the appropriate competencies. On the contrary, the reverse will be the case when people fail to accomplish their roles; they face a skill performance opening. This requirement can be closed with the help of human resource development (Pettigrew and Whipp1991).
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The adoption of human resource development as the above demands constant monitoring of factors affecting the expected performance of people issues and processes within the organization. For instance, a change in any area has to be translated into new competences profiles and any noticeable failing area is closed by human resource development initiatives (Torraco and Swanson 1995). The strategic logic behind this process (HRD) implies that the development within these internal arrangements is being drivern from the objectives of the organization rather than from those of individual personnel. Robinson and Robinson (1990) stressed that since the development is driven by the organizations objective, the approach often tends to be rational, deliberate and a sequential process, starting from the needs assessment and ending in the phase of evaluation were the results achieved are compared with the learning objectives set earlier in the process. This is strategic in the sense that unless the emerging needs are being taken care (Organizations interest), the implementation of the organization strategy can b compromised by the organization. This development need approach within the organization gives HRD a vital role in the strategy implementation of the situation. Consequently, when the company is forging ahead towards its objectives, and the critical parts within the organization face a lack of appropriate competence, HRD is used to close the performance skill requirement and so assisting the progress.
Some literature studies on HRD also have their strategic logic influenced by interest in the outer world development trends (Beer 1980, Butler et al 1991, French and Bell 1990). In comtemporary business environment, those responsible for HRD unavoidably encounter a constant stream of external development options available. The continuous supply-from the environment, of these developments, form trends that organizations find very difficult to ignore. The reflections of these trends are (i) Total Quality Management (ii) Teambuilding (iii) Empowerment (iv) Management Development Programmes etc. This trends, Jackson and Schuler (2003) suggest; that synergies can be achieved when bundles of its practices are horizontally aligned with the organisations set objectives- this position the writer re-emphasized; can contribute to a define set of behaviours and performance expectations within the organisation. Likewise, and most recently Guest (2002) strengthened this position that in addition to the above, it is important to have functional and process integration to achieve the economies of scale expected from the application of these practices. The strategic functional integration both writer suggest, emphasize the need to have a high quality human resource development process mechanism to ensure enormous strategic impact. However the strategic rationale behind this horizontal alignment with human resource practices is not only in the direct benefit organisations get for their businesses, but also in the risk of losing in competitiveness, if these trends were ignored.
According to Agyris (1989) the internal learning process can be seen as a set of learning experiences to shape employees behaviour where participant are required to make use of skills related to solving problems and interaction between individuals etc. This set of strategic learning activities (as critical reflection, tacit learning and action learning) are designed to facilitate organisational learning. Garavan (2007) posit that the capacity of the human resource development plans to focus on these learning activities is dependent on its capacity to cultivate a working environment of openness with accessibility of information and involvement of individuals at all levels in the organization.
Furthermore, some writers (Burgoyne 1988) see this strategic learning perspective of human resources development as one of the ultimate level of the strategic integration of management development and business planning. Alternatively, this thinking has led to the second element of Luoma (2000) works on the idea of organisational approach to the internal capabilities as a source of competitive advantage introduced earlier at the onset of this discussion. According to the theorist (Prahalad and Hamel 1990, Pfeffer, Ghoshal and Bartlett 1998) arguing for this theoretical perspective the strategic management literature has traditionally emphasised factors within the organisation about the way people act, and that these factors, when harnessed, will be very difficult for competitors to copy. This is because they constitute knowledge, skills and processes developed over time into workable combinations within the context of a particular organisational setting (Long and Vickers-Koch 1995).It is assume here that the term organisational setting in this respect stands for two important aspect required for the strategic process of human resource development; and they are (i) The Organisational Structure and (ii) The Human Resource Strategy applied.
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That is to say, in this theoretical perspective, the decisions on structuring are based on the nature of competencies required in different operations. These studies presented frameworks for using the resource based theory in aligning organisational structure with strategy. The central debate within the literature studies emphasize the role of organisational capability as a critical source of competitive advantage- and thus as the determinant of structural decisions. Moreover other research studies on the strategic nature of human resource development process in an organisation structure, is close to Beer et al (1984) age long Matching Model distinction between strategy and organisations structure- that structure follows strategy . The underlying assumption behind this theory is that human resource development strategy and an organisations structure follow and feed upon one another- and this is influenced by environmental forces. The environmental influence the writer assert emerge from the fact that- there must be a fit between competitive strategy, internal human resource development policies and a fit among the elements of human resource practices( ie action learning etc). This relationship is said to be reactive in the sense that human resource strategy is submissive to corporate strategy (Boxall 1992).
The importance of the HRD in this way is to effectively feed the targeted individual behaviour with all those human resource practice that guide employee's behaviour in the organisation. For the most part, issues relating to competences emerge in the course of facilitating this process- but even at that, this is not enough to provide the organisation with the requirement, of the capabilities we search to introduce in the understanding of the strategic nature of human resource development. The competences has to be processed to turn into capabilities, alongside sustained and reinforced with the help of other aspects of human resource management i.e. Selection, Appraisal, and Reward (Ulrich and Lake 1990). For this reason human resource development gives the guideline for these practices and thus create a framework for human assets to be exploited and developed (Schuler 1992). This makes the strategic nature of the human resource development concept apparent again. Since at first, human resource development can be used for creating organisational capabilities, that calls for the alignment of other HR practices and secondly it can also be used for the modification of organisation structure to generate desired behaviours, it follows that according to this capability driven approach, human resource development thus support strategy by making the process of strategy happen.
Similarly strategic action process is required to institute the work habit and culture required for the implementation of human resource development policies. For this reason and to effectively shape the organisation working culture in line with strategic human resource development systems; the key to implementing this internal consistency is to institute the visions and values to develop the desired work habits within the organisation- and an effective leadership structure will be the platform to set the scene for this process, like Garravan (2007) suggested in the dynamic framework for strategic human resource development: that leaders set the agenda for the organisation by conferring legitimacy on human resource development policies through strategic action processes, their strategic influence to the human resource development course will be concern with showing bottom-line results i.e. Creating employee commitment to the vision, establishing the fit of all those SHRD systems introduced previously with organizations processes, peple and resources.
Consequently, the beauty of these analogies is that, to understand the strategic significance of human resource development, one has to search in depth, the thinking, theories and research studies on the concept (SHRD), and then try to connect these postulations with our understanding of the concept application. The main premise of this reflective exercise is to unearth the strategic logic in the notion of human resource development, and also to comprehend that its application process consists of a multi- level concept whose contribution to the organisation is to enhance its performance in the long-term. This Human Resource Systems processed, can be rewarding if a clear, measurable SHRD systems is put in place, alongside the right leadership structure and culture by the organisation - for this will go a long way to facilitate this process.