Garavanand McCarthy (2008) declare that in the recent years, the globaleconomic landscape has become increasingly described by its rapidchanges. Owing to the rapid development of technology, organisationalprocedures and processes have correspondingly changed to meet thefluctuating demands of an ever changing economic world. Therefore, itbecomes apparent that organisations need to “transform” as wellto match up to the demands of an ever changing economic environment.The implication of this is that, for an organisation to meet thepresent-day demands of the market, it has to constantly calibratehigher, its objectives, strategies, procedures, protocols andorganizational culture (Aldag and Kuzuhara, 2015).
Itis the opinion of Fenwick (2008) that organisations are constantlychanging their cultures to lay more emphasis on customersatisfaction, employee skills enhancement, product innovation andprovisions for how to cope with changes in organisational culture.However, as Evans (2003) argues, for organisationalchange/transformation to be successfully executed, it has toencompass the most significant asset in a company human resource. Inother words, to cope effectively with transformational change, anorganisation has to empower its employees and work groups throughenhanced learning processes (Harrison, 2005). I totally concur withthis declaration because I believe that an enhanced employee learningprocess is the only route to the achievement of a fruitfulorganisational transformation. In this essay, I will explain why Istrongly agree with this concept through the lens of varied theoriesand educational frameworks.
Changemanagement is one of the zones that have grabbed the attention ofmany practitioners and scholars that consider “organisationaltransformation” as a perpetual feature in the life cycle of acompany. More recently, the critical role of Human ResourceDevelopment (HRD) in the transformation process has been recognisedby practitioners (Armstrong, 2009). To begin, I will first of allestablish the relationship between organisational transformation andhuman resource development. To achieve this, I will employ Dunphy andStace’s (1993) four scales of organisational change. Dunphy andStace (1993) identify four scales of organisational transformation:
Fine tuning (scale 1): Posits that organisational transformation process is concerned with refining the fit between the organisation’s structure, organisation’s strategy, processes and the people. Some of these changes include refining methods, policies and procedures and developing personnel.
Incremental adjustment (scale 2): Posits that organisational change is effected in response to changes in the business environment, and involves alterations in management processes, business structures, and strategies like expanding the company’s sales territory or shifting significance among company products.
Modular transformation (scale 3): Contends that the process of change is executed even though it is fixated on the realignment of one or more organisational departments rather than the whole of it. Examples of modular transformation changes include changes in executive departmental appointments, or the complete restructuring of some departments in an organisation.
Corporate transformation (scale 4): Posits that process of change is characterised by revolutionary shifts throughout the entire organisation. It entails the restructuring of organisational core values and mission, major changes in organisational structures, procedures and systems across the company.
Itis the view of Dunphy and Stace (1993) that transformational changecan be further classified according to whether it is planned, oremergent. An emergent transformational change can be best describedas an unpredictable procedure of aligning a company to organisationalchange as it emerges. According to this concept, an organisation is asystem that constantly has to sense its environment in order toadjust and maintain its “optimum” or “equilibrium” state(Garavan and McCarthy, 2008). Bunch (2007) defines planned changes asthe anticipated transformations in organisational culture, oftenpredetermined by a company’s executives. Dunphy and Stace (1993)perceptively state that transformational change encompasses both thecorporate (scale 4) and modular (scale 3) scales of organisationalchange. Evidently, transformational change goes way beyondincremental adjustments and fine tuning (scales 1 and 2) both ofwhich make an organisation better with regard to customersatisfaction, and terms of service.
Transformationalchange implies revolutionary changes in organisational structure,strategy and culture. Furthermore, transformational change impliesradical alterations in how employees observe their work, think abouttheir work, and behave at their places of work (Jarvis, 2006).Therefore, it becomes apparent that transformational changeinfluences the interests of different stakeholders within a company.Their concerns and interests, with specific regard to the changeprocess, must to be resolved for the change process to be fruitful.Another implication that emanates from this conception oftransformational change is that, it requires considerable learning(or unlearning) processes, so that individuals in a company can learnto allow new ways of doing and thinking about their work (Rainbird,2000).
Atthis juncture, we now have a clear interpretation on the concept oftransformational change. Now, we shall shift our thoughtfulness tothe precise role of a tactically compelled human resource developmentin the process of executing transformational change in a company.According to Reynolds and Sloman (2004), learning is vital inorganisational change and consequently survival. Aldag and Kuzuhura(2015) argue that the organisations that stand a better chance ofsurvival in today’s murky and turbulent business environment willbe those whose rate of learning will be greater than the rate ofchange implementation. We have also taken stock of the fact thatbusinesses that are well prepared to handle organisational change arethose that place high importance on personal, group andorganisational learning. Therefore, it is safe to reason that humanresource development programs and activities are geared to denotechange because the central philosophy of human resource developmentis about learning and that learning process is concerned with change(Buchanan and Body, 1992).
Accordingto the transformational model coined by Thomas and Mabey (1994),human resource development can underwrite the success of an emergentor deliberate change process by reacting to shifts in externaltrigger factors (causative agents) that cause a change in the courseof strategic bearing (response). Apparently, this has a direct impacton the development practices of a company. In addition to this,Thomas and Mabey (1994) argue that human resource development cancontribute to the success of the change process by internally shapingthe values, attitudes, practices and developing the skills thatenable the company to achieve a competitive edge, and in the process,meet its commercial objectives. Additionally, Thomas and Mabey (1994)observe that human resource development can aid the process oforganisational transformation by incorporating the process ofemployee training in the entire transformation process. Through thelens of Thomas and Mabey’s (1994) three point “model ofworkstation transformation,” it becomes obvious that theapplication of human resource development has a twofold focus on themanagement of organisational transformational change.
Onone hand, human resource development proactively seeks to neutralisethe imbalances occasioned by external changes. On the other hand,human resource development proactively seeks to expect proceduresthat will present internal change, and eventually occasion the bestfit between a company and its environment. Therefore, according toReynolds and Sloman (2007), human resource development is aneffective tool for the management of organisational transformation.This is because human resource development seeks to restoreequilibrium after shifts in external trigger factors cause a changein the course of strategic organisational bearing (internal factor).Furthermore, Reynolds and Sloman (2007) observe that human resourcedevelopment contributes to the success of the change process byinternally shaping the values, attitudes, practices and developingthe skills that enable the company to achieve a competitive edge, andin the process, meet its commercial objectives (Saddler-Smith, 2006).Thus, it is benign to argue that human resource development programsand activities are geared to symbolise change. This is because theprincipal philosophy of human resource development is learning andthat learning process is about change.
Thequestion that begs is what is learning? According to severalscholars, learning is hard to define simply because it has been putto multiple uses. Harrison and Kessels (2004) define learning as achange in an individual, originating from the direct interaction ofthat individual and his/her environment. To Green (2000), learningitself involves the process of change since it is majorly concernedwith the acquisition of new habits, attitudes and knowledge. Learningcan also be defined as a relatively permanent change that come as aresult of experience or practice (Holcomb, 1998). Despite the diversedefinitions of learning, it is apparent that they all point to anacquisition of habits, attitudes and knowledge a process throughwhich behaviour is shaped, changed or controlled. The process oflearning entails some form of change, after which an individualbecomes “new” or “altered.” For transformation to be somewhatlong-lasting, it must be internalised to a substantial degree for itto be “transferred” into future events (Bunch, 2007).
Therefore,for change to be perceived of as progressive and natural, the changemust be acknowledged by the individual learner. An extra fact tocontemplate on is the idea that, alteration (change) is induced as anoutcome of experience or practice. Practice entails repetition ofactions, which means that the change process is intentional (Chappeland Tennant, 2003). However, as Blondy (2007) makes it clear,learning by experience can either be intentionally or spontaneouslyinduced when individuals interact with their environment. It is safe,therefore, to infer that regardless of whether the experience isspontaneous or deliberate, learning through experience is anindividual or personal action. Having shed some light on the varyingdefinitions and nature of the process of learning, we now have asketchy idea of what learning is and how it influences the process oforganisational change. However, this is only a tip of the iceberg.There is a myriad of theoretical contributions from various scholars,practitioners and psychologists that have added educational worth tothe subject of organisational transformation with specific concernfor the learning process (Stewart, 1996).
Thefirst theory we will discuss is the behaviourist theory. Thebehaviourist theory establishes a relationship between behaviour andreinforcement, as pointed out through the works of Skinner (1953).Skinner performed a series of experiments in which he trained his labanimals to perform definite tasks, and after they successfullycompleted the task, he gratified them with food pellets. Skinnerrelated the outcomes of his experiments to humans, contending that ifpeople are rewarded for positively acting on their environment, thenthey will incorporate the desired “rewarded trends” in theirday-to-day routine (Wenger and Lave, 1991). Centred on McGregor’sTheory X, behaviourist theory is premised on the centrality of theline manager as a transmitter of knowledge as well as the provider ofthe rewards (traditional training practice) (Zuboff, 1988). Themanager (trainer) defines what should be cultured, and what measuresto employ when evaluating the learning process (pedagogy). Therefore,the behaviourist theory regards people as dependent and reactive.
Thesecond theory that underwrites our comprehension of the learningprocess is experiential theory. According to Margerison (2003), theexperiential theory highlights mental processes and experiences asthe key elements in the process of learning in so doing, integratingthe cognitive theory of learning. Employing Kolb’s (1984) cycle oflearning, the experiential theory divides the process of learninginto four assimilated stages. Kolb (1984) affirms that the learningprocess begins with a “here and now” practical experience. Afterthe first hands-on experience, an individual then reflects on theworth of the experience. The third stage ensues when a learner startsto internalise the concepts of the particular learning experience(Beattie, 2006). The moment the elementary concepts of learning havebeen internalised in a perspective that is significant to anindividual, it is subsequently converted into intellectual conceptsthat can be tested in practical working circumstances.
Atthis last stage, as Kolb (1984) explains, an individual moves intothe stage of “experimentation,” where he/she tests thepracticality of these internalised concepts at the work place. Oncethis learning process is successful, an individual then moves ontoadditional experiences and toils through the whole cycle again(Margerison, 2003). It is apparent that this theory is individualcentred, emphasising the centrality of the learner in the process oflearning. It is worthwhile noticing that the most interesting featureof this cycle is that it is recurring suggesting a transition fromlearning to practicing. This implies that the process of learning isincessant (Walton, 1999).
Thelast theory we will delve into is the humanist learning theory. Inrecent times, HRD practitioners are increasingly finding themselvesconcentrating on how to augment individuals’ ability to learn. Thishas nurtured the concept of learning-to-learn which is majorlyengrossed with the ability of an individual to learn efficiently fromany state of affairs. Adopting Maslow’s view of humangratification, Knowles (1990) forwards his theory of adult learning(andragogy). An elementary hypothesis Knowles considers is that theability to learn breeds a burning desire for more learning. The senseof achievement occasioned after learning builds an individual’sconfidence and ability to acquire knowledge (Hunt, 1992).
Builton McGregor’s theory Y, andragogy looks at adult learners asnaturally motivated individuals that have the capability to controlwhat they learn and how they accomplish the learning process basedon their previous experiences (Allen, 2007). Therefore, according tothis theory, learners are self-driven in the sense that they do notneed assistance from anyone on setting the learning goals, learningstrategies and evaluation processes of the learning outcome (Blondy,2007). It becomes apparent, therefore, that the role of a linemanager (trainer), through the lens of Knowles (1990) theory, shiftsfrom a teacher to co-learner and helper. Knowles (1990) concept ofandragogy is different from pedagogy (traditional training) in thesense that it is learner-centred.
Havingdiscussed the different theories of learning, I will now explain whyI unequivocally concur with the statement, “To cope effectivelywith transformational change, an organisation has to empower itsemployees and work groups through enhanced learning processes.” Toillustrate the relation of the concepts of transformational changeand learning, I will explain my understanding through a fictitiouscompany, “XYZ.” XYZ has been operational for more than ten years.To upgrade its business operations to match up to the constantlyshifting business environment, the executives of XYZ recognise thatthey have to transform their organisational culture.
XYZis seeking to change its organisational culture to lay more emphasison employee skills enhancement, and provisions for how to cope withchanges in organisational culture. However, for organisationalchange/transformation to be successfully executed at XYZ, it has toincorporate the most significant asset in the organisation humanresource. Therefore, for XYZ to efficaciously shift fromorganisational culture A to organisational culture B, it has toincorporate its employees in the change process. Transformationalchange implies revolutionary alterations in organisational structure,processes, strategy and culture. Furthermore, transformational changeimplies radical alterations in how members observe their work, thinkabout their work, and behave at their places of work.
Armstrong(2009) ascertains that learning is imperative in the achievement oforganisational change and consequently, the survival of a company.In addition to this, Aldag and Kuzuhura (2015) contend that thecompanies that stand a better chance of survival in today’s murkybusiness environment are those whose rate of learning surpasses therate of change. Applying these concepts to XYZ, the implication isthat for the establishment to endure the process of change, theprocesses of learning should proceed at a faster pace than the rateof effecting the change. Additionally, Thomas and Mabey (1994) arguethat human resource development can contribute to the success of thechange process by internally shaping the values, attitudes, practicesand developing the skills that enable a company to achieve acompetitive edge, and in the process, meet its commercial goals andobjectives.
RelatingThomas and Mabey’s theory to XYZ, for the institution to upgradefrom organisational culture A to organisational culture B, its humanresource manager has to internally shape the attitudes, values,cultures and practices in its human resource to equip them with thenecessary skills that will support and enhance the change process.Therefore, it is safe to say that human resource development programsand activities are geared towards symbolising change. This is becausethe fundamental attitude of human resource development is aboutlearning and that learning process is about change. It becomesapparent, therefore, that human resource development does have a roleto play in the process of an organisation’s transformation byenhancing different processes of learning in the company’s humanresource.
ForXYZ to upgrade from organisational culture A to organisationalculture B, the line manager should provide the necessary learningopportunities among its employees. There are different approachesavailable to the line manager of XYZ in the enlightenment of his/heremployees. The line manager of XYZ can opt to use the traditionaltraining method of training his/her employees by defining what shouldbe cultured, and what measures should be employed to evaluate theprocess of learning (pedagogy). Alternatively, the line manager ofXYZ can opt to employ a learner-centred approach to the process iflearning (andragogy). Employing this approach, the line manager ofXYZ can consider his employees as adult learners who are actively incharge of what they learn and how they accomplish the process oflearning.
Tothis extent, I absolutely concur with the notion that for the linemanager of XYZ to cope with transformational change in his/hercompany, he/she has to empower employees and work groups through abalanced learning process (training). A balanced learning process isone that employs both the pedagogy and andragogy approaches toenhance the process of learning in their employees by way oftraining. Through effective employee learning processes (training),the line manager of XYZ can cope with modular and corporatetransformational change in the company because he/she can shape theattitudes, values, cultures, and tendencies of the employees in XYZ,to realign with the realisation of organisational goals.
Withoutan effective process of learning (training), the employee’s values,attitudes and cultures that are expected to “house” thetransformation process will not be appropriately “cultured,”thereby grounding the process of coping with change in XYZ. Withoutproper training, the employees of XYZ cannot fortify thetransformation process because they will not have in theirpossession, the necessary skills, values and cultures that bulwarkand enhance the process of modular and corporate transformationalchange. Therefore, I absolutely concur with the notion, “To copeeffectively with transformational change, an organisation has toempower employees and work groups through enhanced processes oflearning” (training).
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