Judith Germain considers how training and HR can best work together – alone or in the same department?
Function heads responsible for people are increasingly finding it necessary to justify their existence especially when companies are striving to achieve a substantial Return on Investment and generalists are looking like they will provide a better return. With the Board looking to save costs it can be tempting for them to insist that HR directors amalgamate stand-alone training departments into HR and have one manager responsible for the amalgamated department rather than two. This can also have the side-effect of reducing the need for training or L&D directors.
With HR already fractured into many departments or defined area of responsibilities (such as talent management, recruitment, employee relations, training for example) it can be confusing for the non HR specialist to understand the need or indeed the desire to have this dizzying array of complexity.
Seemingly coupled with HR’s inability to articulate their value and how they can positively affect the bottom line the simplest solution for many is to incorporate training departments into HR and hope for the best.
Amalgamating stand alone training departments into HR – is this a good thing?
One of the things that HR is responsible for is ensuring that employees are effective in their role. When it comes to their ability to perform their role due to capability, HR should be aware of how each employee ‘stacks up’. This is regardless of whether the employee’s training needs are managed by a training department, line manager or HR. The strategic implications of poor employee performance or wasted talent is well documented – so HR needs to be focusing on what’s best for the employee and how that is aligned to the business objectives.
It is important to consider what the function of the training department is within your organisation. It is not uncommon in companies that have a high level of technical specialism, like engineering, media, defence or retail, to name a few, that the training department is most concerned with the ability of the employees to comply with statutory or industry requirements. Giving HR the day to day responsibility of this type of training just reduces HR to a compliance function, often with little real understanding of the importance and unique peculiarities of the technical training. This can have a devastating effect on the overall business performance. This type of specialist training should remain with the experts!
This is not to say that HR should give up its strategic responsibilities for learning and development. That would be madness! Learning and development is a subset of HR in so much as employee relations, comps and bens and recruitment is. It is vital that you do not hamper the business by giving day to day responsibilities to those that cannot add value to a critical business need. In the same way that HR can be given the responsibility for technical specialist training, standalone technical training departments can be given responsibility for soft skills training. The problem with this is that this can be given a low priority and again the business suffers.
Two halves do not make a whole
One of the biggest lost opportunities in learning and development is when the training department is totally divorced from the rest of HR. When this happens the training department is often busy following a training agenda that is not critical to the success of the organisation. For example, providing training courses that employees have identified as a need but are not necessary skills for the organisation or perhaps training individuals that are soon to be dismissed. It is also common for the HR department not to be closely aligned with training which can be detrimental to performance management, talent management and succession planning. I have heard of incidences where HR has placed an employee onto a performance improvement plan and not notified the training department as they didn’t see the causal link.
Competent HR directors will be considering the need of the organisation that they are working within. This may mean that there is no longer a need to have a standalone training manager working in isolation from HR. When the training required is primarily soft skill training then it is possible to have the training department completely absorbed into HR.
With reorganisation of roles and responsibilities across the amalgamated department it may be possible to make the department leaner due to the reduction of similar processes. Where there is a high component of technical training and expertise required then options can include leaving training where it is but ensuring that there is high interaction and connectivity between the department and HR. Another option is to amalgamate training into HR with HR retaining the expertise of the technical training department which may or may not include the training manager.
Training is HR’s responsibility even if it’s not HR’s day job. Sometimes this is lost when we spend a lot of time ensuring that the responsibility for people are fractured into silos that we call recruitment, training and the such like. HR has a strategic and operational responsibility towards the development of employees and the performance of the company. Training has a valuable role to play in the company’s success and learning and development professionals can demonstrate their value to an organisation by taking a holistic and integrated approach.
Judith Germain is founder and principal consultant of Dynamic Transitions, a leadership company specialising in helping organisations and individuals to improve their leadership performance. Judith provides strategic mentoring, assisting in enabling HR to be more credible to the business and delivers innovative leadership programmes. For more information visit www.developing-leadership.com.