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HR: the biggest obstacle to Organisational Learning?

In most organisations, HR is the guardian of people development.

Organisational Development (OD) often, bizarrely, falls under Human Resources (HR). HR, itself, oversees talent management – attraction, retention and engagement of staff – and Learning and Development (L and D). Thus means that leadership development, coaching and mentoring is often in the hands of the OD/ HR team, and often off the “radar” of other senior executives.

If the HR team understands your business operations well, as well as your market differentiator (competitive advantage), you may yet win. In my experience, though, people do most often what they are rewarded for doing, and HR is seldom rewarded for strategy execution, bottom-line increase or market-share optimisation. Likewise, HR leaders are seldom equipped to deliver 21st Century leadership development and brand management, which requires partnership with Marketing and Operations, at a bare minimum.

For this reason, we continue to see “bums on seats” strategies for training, as opposed to dynamic action-learning, foreign-opportunity-immersive, simulation and practice-rich methods applied. OD and HR is most often caught up with legal compliance and listen to disciplinary disputes most often. Yet this is seldom why they joined their profession, and doesn’t necessarily give meaning or add inspiration to their days.

I do believe it’s time for HR to move beyond being a nominal – in name only – business partner, and become one in essence. This is a radical paradigm shift, one which is embraced by Dave Ulrich in his 2012 book, “HR from the Outside In,” in which he affirms that HR needs to “give value or give notice”.

Why not invest in the development of the HR team, so that they become strategic ambassadors of your cause, rather than unfulfilled purveyors of products?

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