Employee Development for Organizational Success

Employee Development for Organizational Success

Employees are key element of the organization. The success or failure of the organization depends on the performance of its employees. Although there are several factors which play a key role, the organization needs capable employees for its performance and to remain competitive. The organization needs employee development for making the employees capable for becoming more effective and efficient in its day-to-day operations which is essential for its survival. It needs employee development for meeting successfully the challenges of today.

There is a widespread belief that a positive relationship exists between employee development and organizational performance. Normally employee development is related to the organizational performance through various human resource development systems. That is, the organization which offers an array of learning opportunities to the employees to enable them to perform better on their jobs, in turn, enables the organization as a whole to perform better as well. In this way, employee development programs are logically related to organizational performance.

Views on employee development in several organizations in the present day environment have changed dramatically in recent years. Employee development is now recognized as not just a major contributor to the organizational profitability but also is critical for the survival of the organization in the present day competitive market place. In the quest of a sustainable competitive advantage, organizations have finally come to realize that, what sustains is the knowledge that is in people in the organization which can be processed as skills and experienced as performance.

Employees are major assets of any organization. The active role they play towards the organizational success cannot be underestimated. As a result, equipping these unique assets through their effective development becomes imperative in order to maximize their job performance. It also helps in positioning them to take on the challenges of the today’s competitive environment. Hence, the organization requires investing sufficient resources on employee development. Investments in employee development result into employees becoming more productive and more effective in their jobs, thus directly contributing to the bottom line.

Employee development has been defined as a learning activity directed towards the acquisition of specific knowledge and skills for the purpose of an occupation or task. The focus of the employee development is to have improvement in the employee efficiency. Employee development is the planned and systematic modification of behaviour through learning events, activities and programmes which results in the employees achieving the levels of knowledge, skills, competencies and abilities to carry out their work effectively.

Organization can benefit from employee development through winning the ‘heart and minds of the employees’ to get them to identify with the organization, to exert them more on its behalf and to remain with the organization. Employee development is the process of investing in people so that they are equipped to perform well and are part of an overall human resource management approach which also results in employees being motivated to perform.

Employee development has emerged as a major educational enterprise over the past three decades. This increase is associated with a demand in the workplace for employee at all levels to improve performance in their present jobs to acquire skills and knowledge to do new jobs, and to continue their career progress in a changing world of work. Several organizational adages suggest that employees are the key for its successful operation. This emphasis is not empty since it is becoming increasingly clear that no organization can succeed without having skilled and knowledgeable employees. Ongoing employee development is critical to both the short and long term success of the organization.

Employees need development for effective performance of their on the job duties effectively. They need to be developed in order to enable them to grow and acquire maturity of thought and action. Employee development constitutes an ongoing process in an organization. It is a broad, ongoing multi-faceted set of activities, which also include training activities, to bring employees and the organization upto another threshold of performance, often to perform some job or new role in the future.

Employee development constitutes the learning activities, which are directed towards future, needs rather than present needs, and which is concerned more with the growth than immediate performance. On the other hand employee training is the formal and systematic modification of behaviour through learning which occurs as a result of education, instruction, development and planned experience.

Employee development can have two meanings for the employees. It can be perceived as an intrinsic motivator, as they support employees’ growth, learning and development. It can also be an extrinsic motivator, because it gives employees more tools they can use during their work for achieving their goals.

Employee development consists of training the employees to acquire new horizons, technologies, or viewpoints. It enables the employees to have qualities so that they can guide the organization onto new expectations by being proactive rather than reactive. It enables employees to create better products, faster services, and more competitive organization. It is learning for growth of the employees. Helping the employees to grow and develop is what keeps the organization in the cutting edge of competitive environments. Development can be considered the forefront of what many now call the ‘learning organization’. Development involves changes in an organism that are systematic, organized, and successive and are thought to serve an adaptive function.

Employee development is considered as the acquisition of technology, which permits employees to perform their present job to standards. It improves human performance on the job the employee is presently doing or is being recruited to do. Also, it is given when new technology in introduced into the workplace. Education is training employees to do a different job. It is often given to the employees who have been identified as being promotable, being considered for a new job either lateral or upward, or to increase their potential. Education helps the employees to perform their new jobs efficiently and with confidence.

The purpose of employee development is to improve employee capabilities as well as the organizational capabilities. When the organization invests in improving the knowledge and skills of its employees, the investment is returned in the form of more productive and effective employees. Employee development is to be focused on individual performance as well as the team performance. The employee development is required to be linked to the mission and the objectives of the organization and it is to be one of the core activities of the organization.

Employee development can be considered as ‘an educational process that involves the sharpening of skills, concepts, changing of attitude and gaining of more knowledge to enhance the performance of employees’. It is an organizational activity aimed at bettering the job performance of individual employees and the employee groups in organizational settings. It is an attempt to improve current or future employee performance by increasing the employee ability to perform through learning, normally by changing the employees’ attitude or increasing their skills and knowledge.

Employee performance depends on many factors like job satisfaction, knowledge, and management but there is relationship between employee development and performance. Since the employee performance is important for the performance of the organization and hence, the employee development is beneficial for the organization to improve its performance.

Employee development has at least one area of focus, core element and dependent variable. It can also have more than one area of focus and dependent variable. Some of the categories of employee development which form the area of focus and dependent variable are (i) develop or gain knowledge, (ii) develop or gain skills, (iii) improve performance, and (iv) improve organizational efficiency.

To be effective, employee development activities are to take into account that employees are adult learners. The theory of adult learning or ‘andragogy’ is based on five ideas consisting of (i) adults need to know why they are learning something, (ii) adults need to be self-directed, (iii) adults bring more work-related experiences into the learning situation, (iv) adults enter into a learning experience with a problem-centered approach to learning, and (v) adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Having a problem-centered approach means that employees learn better when they can see how learning is going to help them perform tasks or deal with problems that they confront in their day to day work.

At different stages of their careers, employees need different kinds of developments in order to have different kinds of development experiences. Although the initial study in institutions and universities prepare people for their first job, they need to gain knowledge and skills through education and experience as they progress through their career. There are four stages of employee education for development (Fig 1) with different learning outcomes namely (i) functional competence, an understanding of operations, quality costing, finance, accounting, marketing, strategy, information technology, economics, and human resources management, (ii) understanding context and strategy and how organizational processes interrelate, to make sense of societal changes, politics, social values, global issues, and technological change, (iii) ability to influence people, based on a broad understanding of people and motivations, and (iv) reflective skills, to set priorities for work efforts and life goals.

Fig 1 Four stages of employee education for development

Hence for maximizing of the effectiveness of employee development efforts, the organization is required to constantly assess the employees’ current development needs and identify development needs needed to fulfill organizational objectives. This requires the organization to recognize that different employees have different needs and that these needs change over time as the employees move forward in their careers.

Employee development has dependent variables, core-elements and areas of focus. It is to be focused on the three major categories which are knowledge, skills, and performance (Fig 2). These three major areas of focus, and dependent variable and their contribution to employee development are discussed below.

Knowledge – Knowledge is normally defined as the intellective mental components acquired and retained through study and experience. The definition of knowledge is complex and can be interpreted in many different ways. Knowledge is the cognitive capacity of the organization. It is the understanding of relations, and is therefore essential in making operations effective, building organizational processes or predicting the outcomes (performance) of the employees and hence the organization. Knowledge also refers to ‘an organized body…factual or procedural nature, which, if applied makes adequate job performance possible’.

Skills – Skills normally refers to ‘the capability to perform job operations with ease and precision’. It normally refers to the psychomotor types of activity. Like all fields, employee development is also affected by demographic, political, economic and social trends. So the organization needs to focus its efforts on the development of skills and human relations.

Skills are normally classified into three types. The first type skills are technical skills. These skills consist of an understanding of and proficiency in a specific kind of activity, particularly one involving methods, process, procedures or technique. It is occupation related, concrete and functional. The second type skills are human skills. Human skills are the ability to work effectively as a group member and to build cooperative effort within the team / group. The third type skills are conceptual skills. Conceptual skills involve the ability to see the organization as a whole. It involves recognizing how the various functions of the organization depend on one another and how changes in any one part affect all the others and it extends to visualizing the relationship.

Performance – Although several development actions of the organization are normally activity oriented, focus on enhancing human performance is important as it is implicitly result-oriented. Out of work place upheaval has emerged the high performance work organization since it is a catchall phrase for the organizations in a perennial search for better results. For the organizational management, it signals an important message, which is to shift focus from training activities (input) to the performance of individuals and organizations (output). Scholars refer ‘ability’ as cognitive capabilities necessary to perform a job function. Ability cannot function alone but needs the application of some knowledge base.

Fig 2 Dependent variables of employee development

The process of identifying employee development needs is an ongoing function of the organization. There are four reasons for the organization to invest into employee development. These are (i) to bring the employee’s knowledge, skills, and/or abilities to an acceptable level to attain proficiency in job performance, (ii) is to be based on new organizational responsibilities or technology requiring the employee to assume new duties and responsibilities in the current position, (iii) to provide opportunities for employees to develop their potential to work at a higher level of competence and with a broader understanding or keeping up with recent developments in the employee’s profession, and (iv) meeting the development requirements to keep the presence of the organization in the ever changing market intact.

The main point to remember is that employee development needs reflect mission requirements of the organization, performance requirements of the job, and the employees’ career goals. Further, the organization is constantly changing with new thrusts, new technology, new methods, and so forth. It is extremely important that the employees have the flexibility built into them to adapt to these changes. The organizational management is to encourage the employees to seek ways to maintain professional competence and enhance career opportunities.

Employees learn continuously as a natural consequence of doing work, which is good. But this is not enough for employee development in the organization. There is a necessity to have planned employee development programs in the organization. Employee development normally does not necessarily encompass all instances of employee learning. Employee development refers to an integrated set of planned programs, provided over a period of time, to help assure that all the employees have the competence necessary to perform to their fullest potential in support of the organization’s goals. As a process, employee development encompasses the learning of all the employees in the organization and can be delivered through a range of approaches, including off-the-job and on-the-job training programs, educational programs and seminars, job rotations, self-study materials and mentoring programs, among others.

Thus, in practice, employee development can be defined both by the employee level being served and the methods used to deliver programs to the employees. The overall intent of employee development is to provide a systematic path for increasing the employees’ competence, so that the same can increase the competence level of the employee.

Employee development being relatively a new concept, it is to be seen from at least two perspectives.  The first perspective is to view employee development primarily as a mechanism for helping employees to achieve their own self-development and self-enrichment goals. From this view, employees are encouraged to engage freely in relevant learning opportunities, based on their own individual interests and ambitions. In contrast, the second perspective view employee development more from an organizational strategic perspective, with somewhat less emphasis given to self-identified goals, though they are also to be considered. In this perspective, employees are expected to select learning opportunities in the context of agreed-upon development goals based on the needs of the organization.

The organizational environment has a substantial influence on the employee development and, consequently, the organizational performance. Clearly, the employees in the organization do not exist in a vacuum, but within complex systems having their own histories, idiosyncrasies, competing sets of interests and on-going work pressures.

Management behaviours influence the employee development activities. Management behaviours related to employee development can be categorized into four distinct approaches, which approximate the common political systems. These are (i) laissez-faire which means the policy of leaving things to take their own course, without interfering, (ii) co-determination; (iii) meritocracy and (iv) autocracy. Each system has sets of implications associated with it and likely consequences depending on the situation. How to categorize existing systems and to determine the appropriateness of each system under differing conditions is an issue which is to be addressed appropriately.

The individual and group characteristics, such as personality have influence on the employee development. The patterns of thinking of the employees based on their previous learning experiences have an important effect on his willingness to participate in the employee development programs.  In addition, group characteristics based on national and demographic attributes also affect the level and nature of the employee participation in employee development. Knowledge of cultural systems and the relationship of these systems to employee development effectiveness help to design effective employee development approaches.

Concerns for fairness as perceived by different groups can also be important with regards to employee development. Fairness in the allocation of the resources for the employee development has a positive outcome on the employees’ performance which in turn improves the organizational performance.

One more important issue is to match employee development outcomes and job outcomes. Improvements in the employee competence lead to desired levels of organizational performance. In this respect, organization does not necessarily want their employee development programs to prepare experts. Rather, the programs are to develop highly skilled employees who can meet specific organizational requirements. Indeed, there is increasing awareness that employee competence, and by extension employee development, is to be viewed within its proper performance context. Organization needs require employees who can do their jobs with skill. What determines whether the level of competence is appropriate is based on the requirements imposed by the organization.

Further, the relationship between employee development and organizational performance is not a continuous linear relationship. That is, more competence placed on top of what is needed does not necessarily have an additive effect on performance. There is more likely a point of diminishing returns in which more than the required competence can hinder or even reduce performance, not further enhance it. Also, measures of job performance are likely to rise as learning increases, but begin to level off when the learning approaches and then passes whatever level is identified as being appropriate to achieve the desired performance. Hence, the relationship between employee development outcomes and job outcomes is more of a curve than a straight line. In this respect, one of the studies has proposed a classification of employee development, which is comprised of five levels of competence namely (i) novice, (ii) specialist, (iii) experienced specialist, (iv) expert, and (v) master. The classification suggests that increasing levels of knowledge and experience are required to perform more complex work relative to a particular task. While the classification can help in understanding levels of employee development, the classification has not been validated in an actual situation.

One particular concern with the proposed classification outcomes pertains to the current practice of identifying employee competence in organizations. Two rationalistic approaches and one interpretative approach to defining human competence at work have been identified. The two rationalistic approaches include employee oriented and work-oriented. Within the employee-oriented approaches, competence is primarily seen as constituted by attributes possessed by the employees, such as knowledge, skills, abilities and personal traits required for effective work performance. With regard to the work-oriented approaches, activities that are central for accomplishing specific work are identified and then those activities are transformed into personal attributes.

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