Development of human resources -- Part 4
This is the fourth in a series of articles which originally appeared in Tappi Journal in 1995-96, to introduce methods addressing the development of individuals and organizations through the field of Human Resource Development. (The article has been updated, and is reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.)
There is an increasing need for individuals to take charge of the development of their own
learning and careers for a variety of reasons: There is increasing rate of change of our
organizations and in the knowledge and skills we need to perform our jobs. Career ladders
are rapidly shrinking or disappearing as reorganizations lead to flatter structures. There is an
ever-increasing need for us to keep learning to keep up with the rapid growth in knowledge
and the rate of change of our workplace environments. And, involvement in one's own
development fosters greater commitment to the process than other-directed activities.
LEARNING IS NOW OUR RESPONSIBILITY
Career development (CD) is now the primary responsibility of individuals in organizations. A
recent survey of Human Resource Development Directors (1) indicates that they consider
CD to be their least important function. This correlates with recent trends of disappearing
corporate career paths and job security. Just as the responsibility for employee retirement
planning is no longer a corporate function, the responsibility for learning and for the
development of career paths has been downloaded to the individual employees.
Personal learning project management is a new skill for most people, one for which they
have not been adequately prepared. The good news is that this responsibility also brings
increased control over one's learning and career development, and the opportunity for a more
stimulating and motivating work life.
The purpose of this article is to help you develop plans for individual career development
for yourself and for other employees in your organizations. This process results in a
document that has been referred to by such terms as an individual development plan, a
learning contract, MBO (management-by-objectives) for personal learning, a personal
"curriculum" for learning, and a plan for personal career advancement. The results may also
be applied to the "development" section of most performance appraisal forms.
EXAMPLES OF PERSONAL LEARNING PROJECT MANAGEMENT
These methods have been used recently in a variety of university and industrial settings:
- Industrial environments. At the Niagara Division of Consolidated Papers (2), employees
draft individual development plans, both individually and in consultation with the Training
Manager. This process occurs annually, much like a performance review. The individual
development planning process is focused on personal development and career growth, and
is kept separate from other HR management functions such as reviews for salary,
promotion, and retention purposes.
Individual development plans can, and often should, include formal training programs,
but the focus is on the learning and the individual, not on the organization's curriculum
and courses. If used correctly, a compilation of the learning needs from these individual learning plans (coupled with studies of organizational needs) can lead to more efficient
planning of training efforts by the organization.
- University teaching and learning. At leading universities that focus on quality learning,
education and training, learning contracts are often used in courses to shift the
responsibility for learning from the instructor to the students (3). Individuals design,
develop and implement their own plans for learning in their courses, in a process similar
to the use of the industrial individual development plans previously referred to. This
works especially well with adult learners who bring a variety of skills, knowledge and
experiences to their studies, and who also have a variety of needs for learning and
development because of the diversity of their working environments. It also benefits more
traditional students who learn "how to learn", and who need project management skills
- Pulp and paper education. This process has been used very successfully in a senior course
in pulp and paper process operations at the University of Minnesota (4). The students
felt that their learning was more interesting and exciting because they had the ability to
choose (actually, to propose and contract-for) their learning projects. They also assigned
themselves more work, and therefore learned more, than with traditional methods of
instruction. As a bonus, they developed their skills in engineering project management as
applied to projects of direct interest and importance to themselves.
- Industrial and corporate internships. This works especially well for individualized
learning experiences such as on-campus student research and development projects, and
for off-campus learning such as for corporate internships.
STEPS TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT AN INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN
We use standard forms to help the learners follow a systematic process to prepare their
learning contracts, individual development plans, or learning project management strategies.
Here is what should be included in a personal learning plan:
For each objective, identify the following:
- Assessment. First, identify your current skills, knowledge, abilities, and interests. A
previous article in this series (5) describes the needs assessment process.
- Goals. Identify the new skills, knowledge, and experiences you would like to acquire and
have. Do these goals match your personal and career interests? Are your goals in
agreement with your organization's goals, mission and vision?
- Learning purpose. Identify the gap between the current situation and the desired outcome.
This will produce a statement of purpose that should clarify why you want to learn
something, and what specific skills, knowledge and abilities you wish to develop.
- Learning objective(s). Identify what skills, knowledge, and abilities are to be acquired or
enhanced. Remember that this is only a plan, not a rigid promise; your plan can and
should be revised as your goals change and as learning occurs.
- Target date. Identify when you plan to complete the work for this part of your learning
- Learning strategies. Describe how you plan to do it, and what process you plan to
follow to accomplish your objective. For example, strategies could include: reading and
study, interviews and discussions with appropriate people, mill trials, networking and
communication, reflecting on your own experiences, classroom study, literature review,
synthesizing and writing.
- Learning resources. Identify what resources you plan to use to help you with this
learning process. These resources might include, for example: literature, mentors, co-
workers, other professionals for networking, vendors or suppliers, classes, technical
conferences, professional association involvement, equipment manuals, laboratory trials,
production workers, teachers and instructors, field experience, your supervisors, and a
variety of learning technologies including computers, the Internet, and perhaps even your
mill's DCS (digital control system).
- Outcomes and products. List the evidence you will develop to show the accomplishment
of your objectives. What deliverables will you have produced by this process? What
objects can be used to validate your learning experience? This could include, for
example, a log or journal of your studies or observations, a literature review and
bibliography, written and oral reports, lists of questions, obtaining specific career
objectives, and more.
- Evaluation plan. Describe the method you will use to validate your deliverables and to
evaluate the success of your learning project. In other words, what criteria and means will
you use to determine if you were successful in reaching your learning goals?
- Initial feedback and revision. Before starting to carry-out your individual development
plan, confer with your supervisor (instructor, mentor, or HRD-manager if available) for
feedback, for another view of your learning needs and strategies. This will help insure that
your learning will not only be based on your personal needs but will also be relevant to
your organization's goals, results, and profitability. The more independent sources you
can use, the better -- seek additional feedback from your co-workers, colleagues, family
- Summary of results. After completing the projects in your individual plan, you should
evaluate the success of these activities. What insights have you gained? What new
understandings do you have? What new skills, abilities and knowledge have you acquired?
What experiences did you have, and what did you learn from them? How do you feel
about this process?
- Next steps. You should review the accomplishments and successes of this project with
your supervisor (and others, as appropriate). Then update your learning plan for the next
cycle. Remember that learning and growth are processes that may, and should, continue
- Johansen, K., Kusy, M., Jr., & Rouda, R., "The Business Focus of HRD Leaders: a picture of current practice", 1996 Academy of Human Resource Development Conference, Minneapolis, February 1996.
- Stout, D., "Performance Analysis for Training", Niagara Division of Consolidated Papers Inc., 1995.
- Kusy, M., Jr., Introduction to Human Resource Development -- class notes, University of St. Thomas, 1994.
- Rouda, R., "Pulp and Paper Process Operations: class notes for learning contracts", University of
Minnesota, 1995 (unpublished work).
- Rouda, R. & Kusy, M., Jr., "Needs assessment - the first step", Tappi Journal 78 (6): 255 (1995).
Bob Rouda is a consultant on human resource development and process engineering, and is a research
associate and student of organization development and change management at the University of St. Thomas. He has practiced education and training in the paper industry for 20 years. Mitch Kusy is professor
of organizational learning and development at the University of St. Thomas, and is a practicing organization development consultant.
other articles in this series:
- Human Resource Development: Beyond training - a perspective on improving organizations and people
- Needs Assessment - the first step
- Organization Development - the management of change
- Career Development - personal career management and planning (this article)
- Managing Change with Large-Scale, Real-Time Interventions
- High Performance Training
This page is maintained by Robert Rouda.
CONTACT webmaster for information.
Last update 5/4/96.