HRD and Learning Organisations in Europe (Routledge Studies in Human Resource Development)

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To achieve stable and sustainable growth, we will need a well-educated, well-equipped and adaptable workforce.

Learning organisations and HRD — University of Twente Research Information

To cope with rapid change we must ensure that people can return to learning throughout their lives. We cannot rely on a small elite: we will need the creativity, enterprise and scholarship of all our people. The Institute of Personnel and Development IPD - the professional body for HR practitioners - has launched a five year project Harrison in PM to further explore how learning might be encouraged and enhanced in work organisations - moving beyond traditional concepts of training and development - to benefit individuals, businesses and the nation.

From an organisational perspective, this interest in learning suggests an increased focus on HRD, and a changing role for HRD practitioners. In the UK, Kenney and Reid , for example, noted a shift away from a focus on standardised training programmes to an emphasis on the learning process, and to self-directed and self-managed learning. HRD professionals are increasingly concerned with how to harness and co-ordinate learning, rather than become involved in direct training, and how to support individuals and managers in creating opportunities for learning.

Thus, a learning oriented organisation seeks to become a learning organisation, and attempts to achieve this by supporting individual lifelong learning, whether formal or informal, and by encouraging the sharing of this learning in order that all members of the organisation might learn and change and improve performance organisational learning and development. Having briefly reviewed the conceptual basis of the research project, we now discuss the research methods.

The empirical research consists of two stages. Firstly, qualitative research through in-depth case studies and, secondly, a questionnaire survey.

HRD and Learning Organisations in Europe (Routledge Studies Inhuman Resource Development, 3)

Each of the seven partner institutions has identified and conducted case study research in four organisations, producing a total of 28 case studies. This stage has been completed and forms the basis of the results reported later in the paper. The second stage will be a questionnaire survey of a minimum of 20 organisations in each country.

The survey instrument has recently been finalised and the survey organisations are currently being selected. The survey is planned to be completed by the end of July Based on a review of the literature and suggestions from each partner institution, certain criteria were adopted in the process of selecting suitable case study organisations.

These criteria were required to operationalise the concept of 'learning orientated. The size of organisation was decided at between and 1, employees. Organisations were also selected to represent different sectors of the economy. A matrix was developed to categorise the organisations according to two variables: whether organisations operated in manufacturing or service sectors of the economy; and the extent to which they engaged in 'mass production' or adopted a 'customer orientation ,' thus giving four cells.

Each partner agreed to select one organisation from each cell. Thus, in each country the case organisations had to meet six of the 'learning orientated' criteria, employ between and 1, staff and meet the specification of each cell in the matrix. Each partner institution selected four organisations through a telephone interview with the HRD manager of potential and willing case study sites.

A researcher from the institution then spent time in each selected organisation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a number of senior managers, including whoever had board responsibility for HRD policy and, in some cases, the Chief Executive; with the HRD manager; and with a number of HRD practitioner staff. A key element of the interviews was to ask participants to identify factors which they thought inhibited or enhanced learning and the development of a learning oriented organisation. Two open-ended questions were asked:. What factors inhibit or provide obstacles to employee and organisational learning?

What factors support or facilitate employee and organisational learning? Each partner institution prepared reports for their own case study organisations in an agreed standard format. The responses were analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively, and by both individual researchers and the Dutch project management team. The project management team analysed and compared the data, which form the basis of both a formal report to the European Union and a soon to be published practitioner handbook, detailing some of the 'good practices' identified in this stage of the project.

This paper draws upon both the EU report and own our personal analyses of the findings. We now discuss the factors influencing lifelong learning in these learning-oriented organisations.

Here, we report the various factors influencing learning, drawing upon the findings from, and our analysis of, the twenty-eight case studies. First, we examine the four British case studies, and then explore factors influencing learning across the seven European countries.

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One finding of particular interest and potential significance is that the same factors could and did have both supportive and inhibiting influence. To summarise, based on our analysis of findings from the case study reports and overall project report of an EU-funded research project, we suggest in this paper that lifelong learning is influenced by many factors, and the same factors can be expressed in both a positive and negative manner.

The key factors can be grouped into the various stakeholders that is managers, employees and HRD professionals , organisational culture, the structure of work, and resources. A key finding is the changing role of the stakeholders, the attempt to develop a new learning culture, and the restructuring of work. The role of HRD practitioners seems to be one of facilitation, co-ordination and support rather than merely providing training and development.

This is an educational role, informing and encouraging managers and other employees to consider the wider range of opportunities for, and methods of, learning and development. The role is one of being a champion of, and role model for, learning, where learning is not restricted to attending formal courses. This facilitates the development of a learning culture.

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Line manager roles are also changing. Significant inhibiting factors were talked about as: insufficient HRD resources; a traditional culture and entrenched attitudes towards training; business pressures; and poor managerial skills. Key conducive factors included: sufficient HRD resources human resources such as facilitation skills, learning expertise and flexible solutions, as well as financial resources ; management support for learning; and the increasing willingness to learn on the part of employees. It might be that some of the conducive factors are necessary but insufficient conditions for organisations to become learning oriented.

For example, despite increasing HRD resources and senior management commitment, until workload pressures and the organisation of work are addressed, and work time is devoted to learning issues, employees will continue to see learning as extra to their daily work practices, perhaps even unnecessary and worthless. The need to meet targets and a task orientation impedes the development of a learning environment. Conversely, inhibiting factors might not necessarily preclude the achievement of becoming learning oriented. For example, in two case study organisations, despite shift work and daily targets, time is being found to enable learning events to be scheduled in work time and in the work environment.


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A common theme throughout the research has been the motivation for seeking to become learning oriented, which clearly emerges as the perceived improvement in business performance and competitive advantage. However, this seemingly causal relationship has not been extensively evaluated in any of the four organisations, and can be explained as either an act of faith, or mimetic isomorphism - copying what apparently successful organisations seem to be doing. Alvesson M.

Burgoyne J. Chao G.

Training and Developing Employees l Human Resource Management

Dixon N. Easterby-Smith M. Elkjaer B.

Understanding human resource development: a research-based approach

Ellinger AM Managers as facilitators of learning in learning organisations Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens. Fox S. Gass R. Gill J. Horst H.

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