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Advantages/Disadvantages of keeping Learning and Development Sections distinct from HR?

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I work for an organisation that up to now has maintained separate but co-operating HR and Learning and Development Sections. There is a proposal that L and D would in the future be managed by HR. From within L and D, there is a sharp intake of breath but we aren't really clearly articulating what our concerns are. Our field of work demands that staff are able to explore tensions, grey areas and the balance of risk in their learning and in their practice. We are trying to approach this with an open mind and I would truly like opinions from both sides of the argument.
Bridget Rothwell

8 Responses

  1. Is it a proactive or reactive HR team
    I’ve worked under both set-ups and I think the answer depends on the focus of the HR team/Director. My preference has been to be separate from HR, but now I am part of an ‘OD’ focused team I can really see the benefits.

    If the HR team is too reactive or ‘personnel’, policy and procedure orientated then I think it can be a constraint on the creativity and flexibility of the training team – and can limit the candid comments from students. However, if the HR team/director is more forward thinking, focusing on true ‘HR’ or ‘Organisational Development’ then I think there is a lot of advantage coming under one room.

    Advantages can be:
    – T&D having a greater role/impact on HR practices e.g. rather than just running the training on performance reviews, they can re-design the process.
    – T&D hear more about personnel issues (e.g. someone’s illness or performance problems) which can impact training or which T&D can help resolve
    – T&D hear more about HR issues and can then play a strategic role in helping implement them.

    Annah

  2. HR managing L&D
    I think it is a great idea. It shows your organisation is evolving, and that HR is the trusted group speaking for the whole employment function and perhaps getting more involved with major resource management and organisation design. I can not be the other way around.

    Don’t sit back and wait for HR to make a new agenda. Positively state what value you can add in a combined structure; expect change; and voluteer for front line HR roles. The new model will almost certainly put an HR person in between you and the line.

    Good luck

    Paul Strange

  3. coming at it from another direction
    What is the motivation for moving L&D into HR?
    I am working with one particular organisation where the L&D team enjoys direct access to the line management because it is viewed as a “line critical” function rather than a “head office support function”. This keeps the line of
    communication short and gives the Training managers direct access to the managers and teams whose performance they are trying to improve.
    Ultimately however it isn’t the STRUCTURE that matters, it is what people do and the way that they do it. So if you are going to do it I agree with previous commenters….get in there and make it happen rather than watching it happen!

  4. We’re in the same boat!
    I can empathise with you completely – being in a very similar situation myself. I am against being incorporated into the HR team as we currently sit within a continuous improvement department, working alongside the performance-oriented Head Office teams. Since we have been in this position I have seen a massive improvement in co-operation with other departments and, most importantly, the impact that the training team have had on the business. We are very aware of operational priorities and issues, which we then use to form our T&D strategy.

    I am concerned that if the move were to happen we would lose this link and gain nothing. I already work very closely with HR and get involved with a lot of HR initiatives as much as I need to. It won’t be as easy to work in such close co-operation with the operational teams if we weren’t in the same department!

  5. Operational or support function?
    I have an RAF background, where training is an integral part of the operational aspects of the business and HR is a completely separate support function; therefore I am uncomfortable with L&D being part of HR. Although HR ownership can be made to work, it can also relegate L&D to a support function, perceived as relevant only to individuals outside their main job.

    L&D is essential for proper job performance, from initial or induction training to new procedures, team performance and a whole lot more. It needs to be embedded within the operations of the business at all levels, and that often isn’t possible to the extent required if HR owns it.

  6. HR should be part of the system
    Having worked in both forms of L&D, where HR have no control/input and where L&D was a sub function of HR, my thoughts are this.

    I would think that in Learning organisations that HR should be the people that police and enable any company policy, no matter what they policy is. As a result of this HR should then engage the relevant people and processes to facilitate OD. This could be any type of L&D activity, and ensure that the various Business Units confirm to corporate policy/philosophy.

    The major issue I have seen however is that generally HR has a very weak understanding of their employers business, yet a strong understanding of the people, so in two of my employers I observed well meaning OD, but HR could not fully tune into the ‘on-the-ground’ issues because they were a little bit (or even mainly) disconnected from understanding of the business that meant that Knowledge and Skills Blending worked as I think it should.

    Where L&D had no linkage to HR, I observed a lot of wasted effort becuase each BU was trying to do it’s own thing.

    I do not class myself as an HR specialist, but I would say that like any community within an organisation, what really matters is cross-communication of objectives and understanding. This should then make it less important where a specific OD or L&D function sits.

  7. Depends on your organisation
    I have worked in training within the HR function and separate to it. I think it really depends on your company or organisation which works best. If your dealing with a large manufacturing plant in which 50/60 % of the workforce are in the ‘production field’ it makes more sense to organise/co-ordinate and manage training within that department itself rather than HR. The ‘them and us’ factor can become a barrier in this instance, HR being seen as a foreign body interfering with normal practice. It is also more practical that employees who are familiar and experienced in the manufacturing process are involved with the company’s Internal training.

  8. HR vs Personnel
    If your department works as a true Human Resources department then the two aspects of Recruitment, Selection, Industrial relations against Performance Management, Orgainsiational development, Personnal development and Training should blend very well. If on the other hand you have a more traditional Personnel Deparment and Training Department, it may be difficult to get the two to work well. The key issues is to agree what the new department will look like and what it will acheive for the business, so that all members are working together. In truth there is a real opportunity for development for all, if folks are willing to take it.

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