Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Development can be thought of as growing capabilities that go beyond those required by the current job; it represents efforts to improve employees’ ability to handle a variety of assignments. Development is beneficial to both the organization and the individuals. Employees and managers with appropriate experiences and abilities enhance the ability of an organization to compete and adapt to a changing competitive environment. In the development process, the individuals’ careers also gain focus and evolve.
At the organizational level of analysis, executives responsible for crafting the broader organizational strategies should establish a system for developing the people who will manage and achieve those identified strategies. The successful CEO is likely to have employee and managerial succession plans on several levels and in several different succession pathways as part of that development.
Specific development needs can be identified by HR planning. Currently, more jobs are taking on the characteristics of knowledge work. People in such jobs must combine mastery of technical expertise with the ability to work in teams with other employees, form relationships with customers, and analyze their own practices. The practice of management increasingly involves guiding and integrating autonomous, highly skilled people.

Changes in Career Development
Merger and acquisition activities, and layoffs for other reasons, have changed the way people and organizations look at careers and development. The “new career” is one in which the individual—not the organization—manages his or her own development. Such self-development consists of the person’s educational experiences, training, organizational experiences, projects, and even changes in occupational fields. Under this system, the individual’s definition of success is a personal definition, not necessarily the organizational view.
Many organizations have promoted this “self-reliance” as the basis for development, telling employees to focus on creating employability for themselves in the uncertain future. However, employability must be defined in such a way that it has value for the employing organization. To connect employability with organizational strategies, the work to be done must be identified. Then current capabilities of the workforce must be inventoried, paying special attention to the missing necessary capabilities. However, in a dilemma of sorts, employers express concern about giving employees unrestricted access to development opportunities, for fear of not being able to retain talent in some of today’s highly competitive labor markets.
Indeed, in fast-paced Silicon Valley, changing companies every year or two is more the norm than the exception. Valued employees are deluged with job offers, and they change jobs at a rate of almost twice the national average. Workers are more loyal to their careers and technologies than to a company. The understandable effect is a hesitancy by Silicon Valley employers to pay for expensive development, only to see the recipients leave and take their newly developed capabilities elsewhere. Not all industries experience these problems of the hightechnology industries, but many firms have similar concerns to varying degrees.
Developing human resources in an organization can help provide a sustained competitive advantage as long as three basic requirements are met:
-The developed workforce produces more positive economic benefit for the organization than an undeveloped workforce.
-The abilities of the workforce provide an advantage over competitors.
-Those abilities are not easily duplicated by a competitor.
To some extent, employers face a “make or buy” choice: Develop competitive human resources, or “buy” them already developed from somewhere else. Current trends indicate that technical and professional people usually are hired based on the amount of skill development they have already achieved, rather than on their ability to learn or their behavioral traits. Thus, there is an apparent preference to buy rather than “make” scarce employees in today’s labor market. However, buying rather than developing human resource capacities does not contribute to the three basic requirements for sustained competitive advantage through human resources.

Developing Capabilities
Exactly what kind of development a given individual might need to expand his or her capabilities depends on both the person and the capabilities needed. However, the following are some important and common management capabilities to be developed:
-Action orientation
-Quality decisions
-Ethical values
-Technical skills
Equally important but much less commonly developed capabilities for successful managers are team building, developing subordinates, directing others, and dealing with uncertainty.
Developing capabilities requires assessing a person’s current capabilities, communicating that assessment to the person, and planning experiences or education to meet the development goals. When organizations take sole responsibility for developing capabilities, research shows that older, longer-service employees, lower level employees, women, and less-educated employees receive less development than do managers.
As noted earlier, when individuals take responsibility for their own development, they are guided by their development needs as they see and define them. The HR Perspective discusses how a growing number of physicians are taking steps for their own development.

Lifelong Learning
Learning and development do not occur only once during a person’s lifetime; lifelong learning and development are much more likely. To professionals, lifelong learning may mean continuing education requirements to keep certified.
Employers may help with some of the lifelong development that is necessary, typically done through programs at work or by paying for tuition reimbursement under specified circumstances. However, much of lifelong learning is voluntary, taking place outside the job or work hours. The learning may have no immediate relevance to a person’s current job, but might enhance confidence, ideas, or enthusiasm. Of course, much valuable development occurs outside formal coursework as well.

The HR Development Process
Development should begin with the HR plans of an organization. Such plans deal with analyzing, forecasting, and identifying the organizational needs for human resources. Also, HR planning allows anticipating the movement of people through the organization due to retirement, promotion, and transfers. It helps identify the capabilities that will be needed by the organization in the future and the development necessary to have people with those abilities on hand when needed. Such capacities can influ-ence planning in return. The specific abilities needed also influence decisions about who will be promoted, and what the succession of leaders will be in the organization. Those decisions influence—and are influenced by—an assessment of the development needs in the organization. Two categories of development planning follow from this needs assessment: organizational and individual. Finally, the success of the developmental process must be evaluated and changes made as necessary over time.

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