Along with staffing, compensation, labor relations and employee safety, human resource development, or HRD, is one of the key functions of a company's human resources department. It is crucial to ensure that employees have the necessary skills to perform their jobs up to par with the company's expectations and that the company's workforce is competitive and can adjust to changing business needs. Training, performance evaluation and succession planning are all keys to the HRD process.

Basic HRD Introduction

Starting from onboarding and continuing until departure, HRD involves providing necessary training and development activities and regularly evaluating employees' performance to determine any gaps in skills or performance.

Also part of the human resource development process are the mentoring relationships that employees form with their managers, which can help employees reach their long-term goals within the organization.

In addition to helping employees perform at their best to succeed in their current roles, HRD looks ahead to succession planning and the need to replace employees in key roles.

Importance of Human Resource Development

HRD offers companies and employees several benefits at the organizational level. Companies with strong HRD programs can be more competitive since their employees have learned skills to keep up with the changing industry, and their employees tend to be more productive, engaged and satisfied.

The company also finds it easier to retain employees when they feel competent and know the company is supportive of their career goals and learning. Further, HRD helps with succession planning since evaluation and training activities can identify some key candidates for future positions and avoid an otherwise costly recruitment process.

Initial and Ongoing Job Training

To achieve the goals of human resource development, companies must provide effective training and developmental activities that help employees perform well in their specific roles. This training begins with the onboarding process when employees learn from their leaders and colleagues about how the company operates and completes an initial training period that might consist of job shadowing, coursework, coaching and independent study. It continues with activities assigned to address any company needs.

Some types of training and development activities that are part of the human resource development process include:

  • Traditional instructor-led training: When your company needs to teach challenging topics, it might have an inside trainer lead lectures or it might hire an outside company that has its own training program. For example, this method might work for teaching a new technology or training new customer service professionals for a call center. This is often a costlier and more time-consuming training method than other options.

  • Online training: Whether you create in-house online training courses or use those from existing corporate training providers, online training might consist of watching videos, reading supplemental books and websites, taking quizzes and skills assessments and interacting through chat rooms or forums. Some programs include live instructor-led lectures as well. There are also special types of online training, such as webinars that can teach a specific skill in a few hours or less.
  • Hands-on training: This form of development gets employees engaged in handling actual work scenarios as soon as possible. You can have a manager or peer teach the employee or take advantage of methods like role-playing activities or online scenario programs to teach the required skills.

  • Personal mentoring and coaching: This ongoing HRD activity helps build relationships between managers and employees and offers personal feedback and advice throughout employment. This can begin during onboarding as employees learn to do their jobs and continue based on feedback from informal reviews, daily work performance and formal evaluations.

  • Independent learning: Your employees might do their own research, take advantage of tuition assistance for formal education programs of interest or join professional organizations and groups to learn more about their fields.

Employee Performance Evaluation

Appraising employee performance is another key in the human resource development process since it allows managers to assess employees' strengths and weaknesses and determine appropriate developmental activities to resolve skill and performance gaps. Managers can choose from various appraisal systems, each with unique pros and cons.

  • Management by objective: This performance evaluation method begins with having managers and employees set position-related goals and determine clear action steps to achieve those goals. This provides a clear baseline for managers to use when assessing individual employee performance and ensures that feedback will more likely help employees in their actual positions. It also can keep employees more engaged and motivated since they'll feel they have a say in the process.

  • 360-degree feedback: Rather than just considering input from an employee's direct manager, this appraisal method solicits information from peers and other direct reports. This often involves using feedback forms where evaluators can submit anonymous ratings and comments about the employee's performance and qualities. This feedback helps managers create appropriate development plans and can help assess soft skills and behaviors. However, it's not designed to assess job-specific skills, objective goals or achievement of specific performance objectives.

  • Employee ranking: This method can help managers identify their highest and lowest performers among those in the middle of the rank. While this can help with identifying those needing the most training and those who may be ready for promotion, it has some drawbacks. It doesn't look at the strengths that could be possessed by workers who are not at the top, and there's always the chance that managers may not rank employees fairly.

  • Skill grading: Rather than ranking employees overall, this performance evaluation method assesses employees on a scale — often from one to five — for soft and hard skills. It is narrower in focus since it doesn't provide a broad picture of performance, and it suffers from reliability issues due to bias like employee ranking does.

  • Behavioral and trait evaluation methods: Managers can personally observe employee behavior on the job to determine competence and performance. If they need to identify specific employee traits, a trait-focused appraisal can provide some character information, although subjectivity can be an issue. As an alternative, managers can use a rating scale that combines both behaviors and traits for a personalized approach for jobs that require specific personal characteristics, like caring.

HRD and Succession Planning

Having key employees suddenly leave the organization can cause disruption that harms the company's stability, performance and financial success. Determining the company's most influential roles along with education, skill and experience requirements allows managers to identify possible successors from within the company during regular performance evaluation.

Managers can work together with employees to determine who shows interest in taking on these roles in the future — or even those just interested in general management positions — and then come up with an HRD plan that aligns with the career goal.

For example, development activities for an employee interested in general management opportunities might involve some job shadowing and coaching from a current manager at that level. For positions that require extensive training, the company may assign a long-term training program with periodic assessments to evaluate whether the employee is ready to move on to the next step.

The company's HRD efforts may also show that there are some talent gaps in the organization that create a need to seek outside hires for key positions. If this is the case, you can use your list of key roles and requirements to create detailed job postings and choose screening methods for use in recruitment. You'll also have a better idea of the training the outside hire will need to get up to speed quickly.