What is a learning organisation?
The term has been around for quite a while. It became even more popular upon the release of the book, The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. Senge in his book defines the five disciplines of a learning organisation as systems thinking, personal mastery, mental modes, shared vision and team learning.
Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing ‘wholes’. It is a framework for observing Inter-relationships rather than things. Systems thinking is more than a problem-solving methodology and it does away with boundaries.
Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening the personal vision, focusing energies, developing patience and seeing reality objectively. It is the discipline that connects personal learning with organisational learning.
Mental modes are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations, or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. Shared vision in an organisation binds people together around a common identity and sense of destiny. A genuine vision causes people to do things because they want to, not because they have to.
Team learning is an approach for raising the collective Intelligent Quotient (IQ) of a group above that of anyone in it. Through team learning, the ‘whole’ becomes smarter than the ‘parts’. Team learning is vital because teams and not indivtduals are the fundamental learning units in organisations.
Gleaning key phrases from samples of many definitions, we generally see that a learning organisation is a system capable of becoming smarter over time, an organisation that continuously improves by anticipating and creating the skills and competencies needed for future success, an
organisation that maximises learning opportunities by nurturing and tapping the collective wisdom of its entire workforce, a setting where people are constantly and spontaneously applying their knowledge in order to improve the quality of goods, services, work, and life itself, an environment where learning is valued as the best and perhaps the only source of competitive advantage and a place where, ultimately, learning becomes synonymous with working.
Although convinced that no full fledged learning organisations yet exist, Pedlar, Burgoyne and Boydell have suggested 11 characteristics of this management model, many of which can be seen in various organisations.
These include organisations that consider strategic planning and policy making a learning process; encourage all the stakeholders of the organisation to participate in major policy decisions; use IT to inform and empower their workforce; structure all accounting and control systems to assist learning; work to please internal customers through constant interdepartmental communication; explore new and meaningful ways to reward people for ideas and actions contributing to innovation and company growth; create organisational structures that provide opportunities for individuals; rely on stakeholders for market data or information; learn from other organisations, for example, through benchmarking; foster a learning climate by encouraging questions, feedback, and experimentation and provide ample self development resources and opportunities to all stakeholders, encourage all employees to take responsibility for their own personal growth and learning.
Why is the establishment of a learning organisation important? What are some of its possible impacts to the future economy? From the classical mode of organisational operations, we are now moving to the era of knowledge management and knowledge economy. The dimensions of business practices may differ. In knowledge management, the available raw data is transformed into information which gets converted into knowledge. It is through this knowledge that organisations learn to modulate their operations to be more customer and business savvy and enhance organisational effectiveness. It is through the successful understanding of this knowledge that we gain the wisdom of practice. The achievement of this wisdom of practice is what the organisations must attain to be highly successful.
Are there any organisations now that qualify as learning organisations? Is this term just another absolute reality that organisations would like to attain or it is just another fad? It would take a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the organisations to attain the status of a learning organisation.
First the organisation must set out the learning and development blueprint. From the blueprint, the policies, procedures and the guidelines will be further developed. The policies must emphasise the spirit of lifelong learning.
Next, the implementation plans must be set out to ensure that learning occurs. The learning includes that which happens in the classroom environment and that which occurs on-the-job.
The momentum of learning depends upon the pace of the individuals. Learning must be associated with the need to change the behaviour of the individuals. If the performance of the individuals is still poor, then another learning cycle may be repeated. This can possibly be done through improvement plans.
An important part of the whole process is education and training. The organisation must believe in education and training. Everyone in the organisation right from the top management right down to base employees must believe in the changes that can be brought about by training.
Training ensures the continuous rejuvenation of the organisation. The business strategy of an organisation continues to change and it is important that everyone in the organisation must understand this very well. All the learning organisation strategies must be well aligned with this business strategy.
Learning is not limited to classroom instruction only. With the emphasis given on information communication and technology (ICT), some of the learning strategies must be aligned using ICT as the communication hub.
Depending upon the types of training programmes, some of those that are knowledge-based can be easily carried out using ICT. With ICT, individuals must own learning and should not see learning as another forced discipline. It would be totally difficult to attain the status of a learning organisation if the individuals do not own learning. This is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations today. An important goal to be attained by the organisation is that learning in the organisation and learning between employees occur all the time.
Besides this, ICT must be further exploited to the maximum to seek business solutions and practices. The Internet provides connectedness to unlimited amounts of information. Through this, some of the best practices from some of world’s most renowned organisations can be easily tapped. Competencies on creativity and innovativeness, too, can be expounded to create organisational changes.
So, what is the anatomy of organisations that qualify as learning organisations? Or is this just another philosophy? Organisations that qualify as learning organisations must believe in employees and create all kinds of strategies so employees can acquire the principles of learning.
Do organisations that carry out voluntary separations or retrenchment still qualify to be labelled as learning organisation? Or have the dimensions of learning organisations changed in today’s management context? These are some of the challenges that we will continue to face.
Abdul Hamid is the managing director and principal managing consultant of EMC Management Centre Sdn Bhd and EMC Management Consultancy Sdn. Bhd.. EMC is principally engaged in the provision of educational programmes, training programmes and management consultancy services. He can be contacted at 03-79574682/4894 or fax 03-79575693 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, visit their website at www.emcgroup.com.my.
New Approach to HR Training
Management development is defined as the series of planned training activities and work experiences designed to improve an employee’s performance and equip him for higher level work ( R. Bennet, Dictionary of Personnel & HR Management, 1992).
The management development process is strategically linked to an organisation’s business plan and strategy. When organisations are said to assign top priority to management development, it means these organisations have good planning processes that are clearly defined with respect to HR. The management development process recognises the flexible nature of an employee’s role.
The provision of a variety of programmes equally strengthens the management development process. Too often, organisations concentrate narrowly on formal training programmes fit the expense of other
programmes such as mentoring, coaching, cross-functional job rotation and project tasks.
Over the years, we, at EMC, have observed the significant growth of consultants and the provision of training programmes. The programmes come in different designs, varieties and offer a mixed approach. Some of the programmes offered are short programmes while others are extended programmes which continue over a much longer duration. The duration of the extended programmes can vary between one day to several days. Both the organisations and the consultants or trainers providing the service must rightfully understand the objectives of the programmes.
The objectives are critical prior to the commencement of the programmes. Once the objectives are established, it will be easier to decide on the strategy to design, implement and deliver the programmes. This decision requires serious thinking on the part of the consultant or trainer and the training coordinator. The training coordinator must at times envision the learning that is expected to occur among the participants or trainees. The participants may not play an important role here as they are the end consumers of the programmes.
Through experience, we often find that at times the training coordinators change a significant amount of information as that proposed by the consultants or trainers. At times, we find that programmes are slashed to only one day when the actual programme is meant to run for two or more days. Is this fair to the participants who will be undergoing the learning? Will the participants and the organisation get the right value from the training programme? What are the benefits that will be realised from these type of programmes? Is cost a major factor to the running of the programme?
The trend these days is changing on the nature and approach of the training programmes. Some organisations to which we are currently providing our services are moving away from two- or three-day short programmes. However, it depends very much on the nature of the learning to take place. If the competencies to be learned are mainly knowledge-based, then one or two days of training may be appropriate. But, if the competencies to be learned Involve things like skills or motives, this duration may not be appropriate.
For short programmes, it is difficult to compute the returns on training investment. Some organisations say that year after year they spend huge amounts on training but performance still continues to stagnate. So what are the benefits of such training programmes? In the first place, training is expected to bring about a marked behavioural changes in the stall and employees and must be assooiated with the elevation of higher productivity.
So What are some of the changing trends? We have observed that employers are beginning to focus more on extended types of training and development programmes. This includes supervisory development programmes, executive development programmes or managerial development programmes. The preferred programmes are those that are modular in nature and which extend over a specific duration. It can have several modules and the programme may extend to even few months.
However, the contact period per month may only be once or twice. This is to lessen down time on the part of the staff and employees. Business operations these days are dynamic and an equilibrium must be reached between training and dally operations. It is difficult to pull out all the human resources from the organisation at the same time. The training must take place and at the same time the business operations, too, must move along smoothly.
In the new trend, participants go through extended training and at the end of the modules, some kind of assessment is carried out. It can be in form of a short test, oral assessment or assignments. Besides the assessment, at times projects are given and these must be completed within a stipulated period of time. Projects selected are those that carry value to the organisation and can be those that elevate productivity, system improvement and bring about cost leadership. Projects may require the efforts of a team to solve problems.
If practised well, the networking and the element of connectedness in the organisation will be greatly enhanced.
Leaders will be developed to lead the teams and such projects improve team work. However, it would be important to ensure team members come from different cultures and diverse backgrounds.
Besides the above, another added advantage of such programmes is the training material can be modulated to suit the clients’ needs. In this way, participants get maximum Value from the programme.
Such training programmes with the right approaches can even be used for career development. Staff and employees who have excelled in these programmes can be given the opportunity to take on higher responsibilities. This is one of the important characteristics of learning organisations.
Through EMC’s experience, in organisations where such extended training programmes have been carried out, some projects done by the participants include projects on customer complaints, shared values and improving operational processes.
This has brought about great value to the organisations. Such programmes if carried out well can act as catalysts in enhancing operational effectiveness.
Training is an important event, which if carried out successfully, can bring about marked changes in an organisation. However, What is important is that the approach, mode of the programmes and the expected participation of the stall are important considerations to be made prior to training. The organisation must first set out the objectives of the programme and what needs to be accomplished by the programme. If the past training approaches are not giving good returns and have not brought about value to the organisation, the organisation must think of new approaches and if possible reengineer the whole training approach and methodology.
Abdul Hamid is the managing director and principal managing consultant of EMC Management Centre Sdn. Bhd.. EMC is principally engaged in the provision of educational programmes, training programmes and management consultancy services. He can be contacted at 03-79574682/4894 or fax 03-79575693 or e-mail email@example.com. Alternatively, visit their website at www.emcgroup.com.my.
Essentials of Evaluation in Training
Organisations spend a significant amount of money on both formal and informal education, training and development programmes. This is further supplemented by the contributions made to the HR Development Fund, a portion of which is claimable by organisatlons under various schemes. As the demand for new skills and competencies together with the need to elevate productivity continues, organisations will demand results-oriented HR development programmes to keep them growing and competing in a constantly changing market. Management generally wants to know in precise, quantifiable terms whether a programme works and why they should continue with the programme.
Evaluation is an integral part of a process that begins even before the instructional design stage of the programme. To yield reliable and useful information, evaluation techniques and tools must be based on essential assessment results and programme objectives. If not integrated and as an independent function, evaluation may be ineffective as it may not be able to measure success.
Evaluation, if successfully carried out, can be used to determine if the training has achieved its objectives.
Programmes that are structured and designed properly have objectives; those elements that specify what must be accomplished during training. Without their clear focus and direction, trainers and facilitators would not be capable of determining whether the programmes have accomplished its purpose.
Evaluation helps to assess the value of courses, seminars and workshops. Evaluation also entails to the identification of programme areas that need improvement. Some of these areas may include presentation methods, subject content, instructional/training environment, methods, scheduling, facilities and the use of equipment, if any. Each of these variabies can have an effect on quality and can be improved to increase the value and the success of the programmes.
Evaluation can also help to decide to continue or eliminate a programme. The use of a cost/benefit analysis can indicate whether or not a programme justifies the cost. Knowing the value of a programme in terms of its cost and benefits can help to eliminate unproductive programmes and expand those that yield results. It can also indicate ways of improving programmes and results. A good evaluation system helps to identify the proper audience for future programmes of this type. Follow-up evaluations point out the most valuable benefits of a programme. Potential trainees/participants can use this information to determine if they should participate in the programmes.
Evaluation helps to review and reinforce key programme points. Follow-up evaluation measures the accomplishments of the participants and make them aware or realise the importance of using the skills and the competencies they have learnt. Evaluation is an important base that can be used to sell the programmes to the higher or top management and the participants. The evaluation process can yield important marketing information that can be used to make the programmes attractive to managers and employees. Most important of all, evaluation can be used to manage the training activity to meet the organisational goals, acquiring and distributing resources, appraising employee performance and assessing development and the delivery systems.
What is generally missing Is the set criteria, competencies and the standards against which the evaluators compare employees’ performance after training. This needs to be established early when programme needs are identified and well-casted in a precise statement of the learning objectives.
A broad range of methods, tools and techniques are available for every evaluation approach. Options include direct observation, comparison of assessments taken before and after training, interviews, reports, follow-up testing, questionnaires and surveys. The most effective approaches include combinations of these, though some are more appropriate than others depending on the nature of the training and focus of the evaluation. For example, the best choice for measuring the skills for repairing a personal computer is direct observation and the worst is through a survey.
Generally the evaluation criteria can be broken down into different levels based on participants’ reaction: what the participants have learned, their on-the-job behaviour, their attitudes and the effects ot their training on the organisation.
Evaluation of reaction determines if the participants were satisfied with the training. Training personnel can evaluate how well participants liked a particular programme by measuring participants thoughts and feelings about the programme’s design, content, focus, instructional methods, materials, facilities, instructors/facilitators and the usefulness or applicability of the training. This kind of evaluation does not include assessment of learning and is therefore easier to conduct.
Evaluation determines what new skills and competencies including knowledge participants acquire and demonstrate. This is a more difficult assessment approach and measures how well participants have learned the principles, skills, techniques and information. Rather than measuring on-the-job performance, methods for assessing learning must indicate objectively and quantifiably how well and how much of the material learners were able to understand and retain.
Some of the learning evaluation methods include paper and pencil type tests, job simulations and skill activities.
Evaluation of the attitudes determine if the training has changed the opinions, values and the beliefs of participants.
Management gurus agree that employee attitudes i.e. their opinions of the job, work place and superiors, for example, directly affect behaviour which can have a significant impact on individual as well as organisational performance.
Questionnaires, interviews and observation are the traditional means for measuring attitudes before and after training.
Evaluation of the behaviour can determine how the training has affected the way participants perform on the job. Behaviour evaluations focus on measuring the changes training brings about in behaviour or performance on the job. This kind of evaluation aims to determine whether or not the participants perform on the job. This evaluation aims to determine whether or not the participant has transferred new skills and competencies acquired during training to the work setting.
Evaluation of the results determine the impact of the training on the organisation specifically to the accomplishment of the goals and objectives. Trainers/facilitators relate the evaluation of the results to the organisational gains and improvements. These include increased productivity, savings, quality, decreased absenteeism, errors, grievances or even reduced occupational safety problems. To analyse the effects of the programme on the organisation, it is important to compare the pre- and the post- training data. Results evaluation measures the monetary impact of a programme and is therefore much more difficult than the other measurements.
However, it has the highest value for the organisation.
Abdul Hamid is the managing director and principal managing consultant of EMC Management Centre Sdn. Bhd.. EMC is principally engaged in the provision of educational programmes, training programmes and
management consultancy services. He can be contacted at 03-79574682 / 4894 or fax 03-79515693 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, visit their website at www.emcgroup.com.my.
Management Development – A Business Strategy
Solid links to business, human resource and management development planning processes and objectives give the management development process its strategic importance within an organisation. The assessment design and the management development programmes available to executives/ managers should reflect organisational goals and managerial needs. Too often, management development efforts are based on general management principles applicable to any organisation.
In reference to strategic management perspective, management development specialists must look over and above and offer a broad range of management development activities rather than just traditional training programmes.
Tight budgets and time constraints may limit the list of ideal programmes ranging from formal, group activities to informal, self development endeavours. These may include self development opportunities, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate education programmes, affiliation of professional associations, committee and task force memberships, project assignments, on-the-job coaching, mentoring programmes, succession planning, on-the-job training, job rotation, executive/manager programmes, management training programmes, adventure learning, retreats, assessment centres and performance appraisals.
On the whole, the management development process demands that evaluation data include far more than what has been learned in any of the programmes. In addition to assessing acceptance of the programmes, organisations want to see how management development and training is affecting the bottom line. Proper planning of the management development process includes planning the evaluation data and data gathering strategies to make necessary changes for uncovering individual and organisational benefits.
What needs to be gauged are learned skills and competencies; improved behaviour and attitude; increased knowledge; possible job promotions and upgradings brought about by the programmes; improved job performances; favourable returns on investment from the training and better integration of the company’s management styles.
In planning the evaluation strategy,the generally asked questions can be:
1.What business strategy or goal does particular management development programme or a training programme address?;
2.What are the learner attitudes toward training programme?;
3.What are the best and most costeffective methods for measuring the programme’s results?;
4.Who needs the evaluation information and when to regularly inform all staff about management development and training results through reports, employee newsletters, bulletin boards, e-mail?;
5.Who is responsible for the evaluation and specify these responsibilities including evaluation report writing?
It can be said that the real essence of management development in most organisations is least developed. Generally, the total organisational value is not seen and most management development is focused only towards the provision of training.
Even training provided is generally more for immediate operational needs and strategic components are missing. Less emphasis is placed on the tactical/strategic aspects of management development. An important question that must be answered is:
1.What are the changes that have been brought about by training and development programmes?;
2.Have the programmes successfully brought about a value to the career development and succession planning?;
3.Can future job openings be offered to internal staff?
From the assignments we have done with several organisations, we observe that more work is needed in the area of career development and succession
We know that any business existing in a given environment provides opportunities and challenges. From the understanding of the environment, a vision is established setting out the role the organisation wants to play in that environment. A strategy is also established that expresses the path the organisation wants to take to fulfil the vision. The strategy assumes certain organisational capabilities. Building organisational capability requires very specific talents or competencies.
The connection between the competence of people and the overall business direction is the vertical link. No HR management tasks or jobs should be allowed without a clear understanding of the connection between it and the business needs. In simple language, every HR process, tool or system must be integrated to leverage talent to fulfil the organisational vision.
The same goes for management development activities. No management development programme should be carried out if it does not provide the value and is not aligned in the fulfilment of the vision and/or the business concept.
The organisation must get the maximum value for the implementation of any programme and these programmes must provide great benefits to the organisation. Most of the time, organisations do not seriously build in to the management development strategy training and development activities that benefit the organisation.
Understanding the organisational core competencies and the critical success factors are also important in getting the maximum value from work. Even in setting out the competencies of the staff, it would be important to realign the required competencies with the ‘wants’ of the organisation.
Abdul Hamid is the managing director and principal managing consultant of EMC Management Centre Sdn. Bhd. and EMC Management Consultancy Sdn. Bhd. He can be contacted at 03-79574682/4894 or fax 03-79575693 or e-mail email@example.com. Alternatively, visit their website at www.emgroup.com.my.
One important aspect of project human resource management is team development. The thrust of HR projects in most organisations, however, has traditionally been focused on individuals. Thus, project assignments, opportunities, and rewards have been designed around individuals rather than groups or teams.
It has become apparent that this contributes to rivalries, competition,
favouritism and self-centredness, which collectively counter the focus or two of the most important functions of quality organisations: customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.
It is important here to make a distinction between team building and team development. Team building is a process that helps a team become more effective whereas team development is an on-going process that takes into account all the stages of the team’s growth.
Team development includes both enhancing the ability of stakeholders to contribute as individuals as well as enhancing the ability of the team to function as a team. Individual development is the foundation necessary to develop the team. Development as a team is critical to the project’s ability to meet its objectives.
The central role of teams is important and there is a need for such team competencies such as cooperation, interpersonal communication, cross training and group decision making.
The predominant practices generally encourage individual advancement. This is built into the management system by such practices as management by objectives, individual performance evaluation, professional status and privileges, and individual promotion.
To counter these dysfunctional trends. HR projects must be focused on fact finding regarding its key processes: selection, performance evaluation, rewards, and development. Through the use of scientific steps, the alternating PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle, and appropriate total quality tools, the certification of all HR processes can take place.
The best way for HR departments to lead project initiatives is to make sure that their function is improving its own processes using the total quality steps, cycles, and toots. How many HR departments, for example, systematically benchmark their policies and procedures and practices with the best practices in the industry?
For most HR professionals, it would mean carrying out additional training in statistics and applying quality practices to HR processes.
HR team development projects will necessarily entail the balancing of empowerment and responsibility/authority issues in the organisation.
A team empowerment continuum with specific responsibilities can help determine how much empowerment each team is able and willing to assume. This would be in areas such as housekeeping; training each other; equipment maintenance and repair: production; scheduling; quality responsibilities; continuous improvement; managing suppliers; external customer(s) contact; hiring team members; cross-functional teaming; scheduling; choosing team leaders; equipment purchase; design; budgeting; product modification and development; team member performance evaluation; disciplinary process as well as making compensation and benefits decisions.
Teams may move progressively through levels of empowerment, taking on more responsibility and authority.
The process of responsible team empowerment, however, does not occur automatically and in isolation, but rather is the result of the managed convergence of three factors: the stage of system development along the involvement/empowerment continuum: the maturity (task, psychosocial and moral) level of followers; and the extent of adequate and accurate information sharing.
At the micro-system level, process involvement steps that project teams need to take, include defining problems through implementing solutions, conducting evaluation and entailing different ranges of employee involvement and ownership. Patterns of business process improvements become part of the micro-system decision making tradition.
At the macro-system level, the organisational dimensions of structure, authority, idea sources and stakeholder intensity can also entail different ranges of employee involvement and ownership; from compliant involvement to empowered ownership. The macro-system structure and the dynamics determine whether empowered ownership will be supported at strategic design level.
Responsible team empowerment is the managed alignment of micro- and macro-system support for empowered ownership. Without this alignment, the gap between empowerment rhetoric and reality will widen, leading to a form of organisational cynicism that erodes the ethical work culture necessary for world class productivity.
Responsible managers cannot preach teamwork without providing and monitoring the actual micro- and macro-system that support it.
Abdul Hamid is the managing director and principal managing consultant of EMC Management Centre Sdn. Bhd. and EMC Management Consultancy Sdn. Bhd.. He can be contacted at 03-79574682 / 4894 or fax: 03- 79515693 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Management in HR (Part 2)
Many organisations have finally acknowledged the contemporary nature of management by projects and the applicability of project management techniques in their business processes.
(This is the second part of a three-part series on how project management affects the function of HR.)
Two factors have offered the impetus in the growth of project management. The first is the advent of pertinent information technology systems.
These are capable of addressing masses of data with a technology that has seen a phenomenal increase in performance and reliability with unprecedented decreasing costs. These systems have made it possible for virtually anyone to utilise the analytical techniques that are inherent in the original project management concepts (such as the Critical Path Method – CPM).
For long, this had been the preserve of the main frame and systems analysts but desk top computing altered that scenario and made it affordable for virtually anyone remotely interested in planning a project.
The second is the acceptance of project management as a discipline. These developments have finally resulted in many organisations acknowledging the contemporary nature of management by projects and the applicability of project management techniques in their business projects.
However, this new philosophy of management is relatively new and a number of organisations have had to seek external help in determining the applicability and inculcating project management in their processes. While there are limited consultancy organisations offering specific expertise within the wide arena of project management, very few can counsel these organisations on total aspects of project management.
The Project Management Institute, Malaysia Chapter (PMI) presently based in University Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is actively propagating the importance of the recognition of project management in Malaysia.
Project Human Resource Management
These are the processes required to make the most effective use of the people involved with the project. It includes all the project stakeholders – sponsors, customers and individual contributors, to name a few.
In simple terms, it involves everyone who forms an element in the circle of values. The major processes involved are: organisational planning – identifying, documenting and assigning project roles, responsibilities and the reporting relationships; staff acquisition, mobilisation and deployment – getting the human resource needed to work on the project; team development – developing individual and group competencies to enhance the performance of the project; and managing current tasks and additional tasks – the current ongoing administration tasks must be managed in addition to the new tasks as set out for the prooject(s).
These processes interact with each other and with the processes in other knowledge areas as well. Each process may involve the effort of one or more individuals or groups of individuals based on the needs of the project. Although the processes are presented as discrete elements with well-defined interfaces, in practice they overlap and interact in many ways. The relationship is integrative. Equally important are skills and competencies such as leading, communicating and negotiating including some aspects of general management.
Delegating, motivating, mentoring, coaching, counselling, time management, diversity management and empowerment are other necessary skills. Match these skills to the needs of the specific project. The different profiles of various individual must complement one another to ensure the success of the project.
Other helpful skills and competencies are team building, dealing with handling conflict and emotional intelligence. Performance evaluation, recruitment, retention, employee-management relations, occupational safety and health, financial management and some general aspects of HR administration are all useful aspects of managing a project with success.
The details given above are directly applicable to leading and managing people on projects and the project manager as well as the Project management team must be familiar with it.
Besides this, the project manager must always have in mind that the temporary nature of projects bring about personal and organisational relationships that are generally ‘temporary and new’. The project management team must ensure the selection of techniques that are appropriate for such transient relationships.
The nature and the number of project stakeholders may change as the project moves from one phase to another of its life cycle. As a result, techniques that are effective in one phase may not be effective in another.
The project management team must be aware of the techniques that are appropriate to the current needs of the project. HR administrative activities are seldom a direct responsibility of the project management team.
However, the team must be sufficiently aware of administrative requirements to ensure needful compliance.
In handling two major projects, I had the experience of building the HR divisions of two major multinational organisations – one being a disk drive and peripherals manufacturer and the other being a manufacturer of computers and related products.
The tasks can be complex as the HR practitioner must be well-versed with changing business strategy. In such set ups, the manpower planning strategies can change significantly over a short period of time due to the environmental factors. Project management principles must be well understood to complete the tasks and projects on time due to the world demands for such products.
Initially, the strategy was to build up manpower strengths (headcounts) of only one thousand employees.
Within two months, my team had witnessed a change of plan to two thousand and then to four thousand and subsequently to almost six thousand employees.
It may sound easy and neat on paper but hiring even one employee during the time when operators were critical was really difficult. My team had to quickly innovate new strategies to source the manpower from villages and the nearby areas. Recruitment was expanded to using various creative advertisement approaches, meeting up with the village headmen, getting the school leavers in time and creating an awareness of job opportunities in the location.
The next important task was to prepare the operatives for training and be ready to run the manufacturing lines within the next three months. The training was undertaken at a different location in another State and the operatives were housed in apartments in that particular State during this training period. The challenge was to make sure that any labour turnover which occured be quickly replaced to make sure that there was a sufficient pool to run the lines.
At the same time, I was also given the responsibility to manage the HR functions in the same plant where the operatives were being trained in that particular State. The project undertaken was complex and keeping these operatives motivated and communicating the changes and the plans was a big challenge for my team.
Employees in other positions who were given the opportunity to be relocated to the new plant had to continue attending to their regular jobs and yet supporting some of their new managers who were also undergoing training in the other State. The technical staff, too, were located at the plant to undergo training. Smooth transfer of the operatives and the technical staff from the facility where they were undergoing training to the new plant was another arduous task.
In the company manufacturing computers, the tasks undertaken were entirely different. Competitive wages had to be offered to the employees. Job progression charts and job evaluation exercises had to be developed to attract calibre manpower. Getting the operatives was relatively easy but the challenge was to put all of these operatives into relearning entirely new systems and team development.
From a conveyor manufacturing concept, the systems were later transformed to team concept. To source IT specialists in locations south of Kuala Lumpur was not easy in 1995. My team had to innovate plans to source the manpower for base critical positions from Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malaysians working in Singapore.
We had to carry out intensive training for the staff both locally and Overseas to attain our objectives. We had to carefully engineer the right formula for the transfer of technology.
This was one of the biggest challenges we had to face in moving the industries to greater heights in light of the MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor, Kulim high-tech and the other high-tech parks across Malaysia).
Abdul Hamid is the managing director and principal managing consultant of EMC Management Centre Sdn. Bhd.. He can be contacted at 03-79574682 / 4894 or fax: 03-79575693 or e-mail: email@example.com.