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HR Glossary

Table of Contents
HR Glossary
Adult Learning
Behaviourism
Change Management
Cognitive Psychology
Cultural View of Organisations
Discovery Learning
Diversity
Employability
Employability Skills
Employee Referral Program
Explicit Knowledge
HRD
HRM
HR
Humanist
Human Resources (HR)
Human Resource Development (HRD)
Human Resource Management (HRM)
Human Resource View of Organisations
Information Processing Model
Instructional Systems Design (ISD)
ISD
Knowledge Creation
Knowledge Management
KSAOs
Management Development
Learning Organisation
Needs Analysis
OD
Organisational Development (OD)
Organisational Learning
Organisational Structure
Orientation
Performance Management
Politics
Political View of Organisations
Psychological contract
Realistic Job Preview
RJP
SECI
Short-term Competitive Advantage
Structural View of Organisations
Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Tacit Knowledge
Training & Development Evaluation (Process)
Training & Development Evaluation (Product)
T&D Design
T&D Evaluation
T&D Implementation
360-degree Feedback
This page explains terms commonly used in relation to human resource management,
training and development and related fields. The content aims to be critical so managers
can appreciate the assumptions and weaknesses of each definition. Entries with an " "
mark conform to the Editing Guidelines.

This page is under constant modification


The content on this page is expected to change significantly in the future.

Why not make a contribution?

Adult Learning

Adult learning refers to learning by adults as opposed to that by children. This distinction
is based upon several characteristics of adult learners that are considered to impact on the
approach to learning that is required. Those characteristics include 1) developed
personalities, 2) rich life experience, 3) greater motivation, 4) busier schedules, 5) greater
responsibilities in other parts of their lives, and 6) more clearly defined life goals. The
distinction between adult learners and child learners is based upon the premise that
people develop following a life-cycle. However, with more diversified and vocation-
oriented middle and high school programs now available the distinction is less clear.
Further, in some countries university education remains foundational often lacking the
flexibility called for by adult learning. Irrespective of this, the adult learning concept is
important for managers. In order to maximise training effectiveness, and more generally
organisational performance, managers must recognise the needs of organisational
members. That is, adults require more challenging tasks, greater input into the planning,
implementation and evaluation of learning, more flexible opportunities and material
relevent to their interests and experiences.
Behaviourism

Behaviourism is a school of psychology that views learners as passive objects and


learning the result of conditioning by environmental stimulus. The focus of this approach
is on conditioning the learner through the use of reinforcement, such praise or rewards, to
encourage desired behaviour and punishment, such as imposing of some penalty, to
discourage undesired behaviour. This approach to learning ignores the inner workings of
the learners mind, learner needs and most importantly learner goals. Although now a less
accepted approach to learning, behaviourism does show managers the importance of
environmental conditions in promoting learning, and more generally desired behaviour,
in organisations.

Change Management

A field of management encompassing all activities related to the design, implementation


and evaluation of a change intervention.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is a broad school of psychology that focuses on the mental, or


cognitive, functions of the mind. This differs from behiourism, which is concerned with
obervable behaviour, and attempts to explain how learning and development occurs
inside the mind regardless of whether a change in obervable behaviour occurs. One
important product of cognitive psycology thinking is the information processing model.
By focusing on invisible mind functions, cognitive psychology shows managers the
importance of considering the existence of learning that may not result in behavioural
change (see product evaluation for an example of this applied to learning intervention
evaluation). Conversely, managers must remain aware of the risk of wasting scarce
organisational resources introduced by excessive concern with cognitive development at
the expense of concern for performance improvements, that is behavioural change.

Cultural View of Organisations


One perspective of organisations (in addition to the structural, political and human
resource views). The cultural view sees organisations as theatres, and organisational
behaviour as arising from the rites, rituals and routines in the organisation. Under this
view, behaviour is explained by adherence by organisation members to these rituals and
routines. Stories of past organisational experiences also influence what present
organisational members think and do, such as at 3M with the case of the employee who
was fired after refusing to give up on a project despite protests from supervisors but
continued to come to the office and work on the project unpaid. The employee was later
reinstated in a much higher position and the supervisor removed. The cultural view
reveals oft overlooked sources of meaning for members, providing a useful tool for
managers. It misses, however, more individual influences on behaviour such as ambition,
competition and development needs.

Discovery Learning

A learning theory that promotes learning as a highly subjective activity, the result of
which is determined by learner involvement in experiences and discoveries gained
through that involvement. While it is mostly accepted that some degree of facilitation
improves learning outcomes, this concept remains important for the HR professional
since is serves as a reminder of the importance of individual needs and characteristics and
consideration of these for any training or development activity.

Diversity

The existance of differences between individuals within a group, whether a work team,
organisation or national population. With continuing social-demographic change among
other reasons, this is a critical issue for managers. Although often considered in terms of
demographic differences, diversity can also be considered in terms of status, relational
and cognitive differences. All forms of diversity are relevant for managers since they
impact on group outcomes and therefore ultimately organisational performance.

Employability

Employability is the condition where people possess the knowledge, skills, attitudes and
other characteristics (KSAOs) sought by the labour market, and therefore are able to find
new employment easily if their existing employment relationship ceases. The concept is
based on the notion that skills and abilities are the deciding factor in hiring decisions.
Because of this application to countries such as Japan, where a broader whole character
approach to recruiting is common, is questionable. However, even in Japan, as traditional
Japanese management practices such as lifelong employment become less common
employee unease is likely to increase. One effective measure against this effect is the
implementation of activities that improve employability. In particular, employer support
for employee acquisition of KSAOs is attracting manager's attention in today's business
environment where long term employment can no longer be guaranteed. .

Employability Skills

Employability Skills is the term used to refer to the 8 basic competencies recognised by
the Australian Government as required by all workers, irrespective of profession, in the
21st century. They are 1. communication, 2. teamwork, 3. problem solving, 4. initiative
and enterprise, 5. planning and organising, 6. self-management, 7. learning, and 8.
technology. Other western developed nations have also defined such competency sets and
although the terms used in each differ, a consistency is evident amongst them.
Understanding of these 8 competencies is critical in order to develop effective work and
learning systems in organisations. Consequently, Employability Skills is a critical issues
for managers. .

Employee Referral Program

One approach to recruiting. Employee referral programs seek to identify potential


employees by soliciting referrals from existing organisational members. Employees who
refer candidates that are later selected for employment often receive a reward of some
kind, such as a cash payment. Employee referral programs offer several benefits to
organisations. Firstly, they may generate a stream of recruits without incurring the
significant costs associated with advertising in the mainstream media. Second, selection
is simplified since the pool of candidates are generally of a higher quality. This is because
existing employees are usually reluctant to refer people they feel would not perform well
for fear of it reflecting poorly on themelves. Also, candidates referred in this way often
already have a knowledge of the organisation's purpose and culture superior to that of
publicly recreuited candidates, meaning there is less chance of disappointment from
unrealised expectations. Care is required when considering such programs, however,
since for example, it is possible employees may refer candidates they believe are not
suitable, simply to receive the reward offered.

Explicit Knowledge

All tangible, codified knowledge posessed by an organisation visible in the form of


products, services, processes, blueprints, designs and similar artifacts. The tangibility of
this form of knowledge means it is readily transferrable within and between
organisations, through knowledge management and knowledge acquisition processes, and
as such can only provide short-term competitive advantage. More sustainable competitive
advantage can only be achieved through knowledge creation.

HRD

See Human Resource Development

HRM

See Human Resource Management

HR

See Human Resources

Humanist

A broad approach to psychology focused on higher-level needs of individuals.

Human Resources (HR)

All people involved with, or contributing to, an organisation. Often used to refer to
employees. Resources implies something that is finite and valuable and that contributes
to organisational goal achievement.

Human Resource Development (HRD)

A field of knowledge concerned with developing competitive advantage through the


building of organisational members' skills and knowledge.

Human Resource Management (HRM)


Management efforts focussed on human resources. This field is characterised by an
appreciation the value of people to organisations.

Human Resource View of Organisations

One perspective of organisations (in addition to the structural, cultural and political
views). The human resource view suggests poor organisational performance is the result
of a mismatch between the needs of people and the organisation. When people's high
level needs, such as self-realisation and autonomy, are not met motivation and finally
performance will suffer. While behind this view of organisations lies the assumption that
employees have high expectations of employers, it is easy to imagine cases such as
workers with little experience where this is less applicable. It can also be said that this
view of organisations places too much emphasis on human needs and, in doing so,
overlooks factors such as the impact of disputes between competing factions over scarce
organisational resources. Despite this, the human resource view shows that managers
must respect and consider the human needs of employees. .

Information Processing Model

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Instructional Systems Design (ISD)

A widespread rational approach to training, or learning intervention, development


including at least four stages: 1. Assessment, or Needs Analysis, 2. T&D Design, 3. T&D
Implementation, and 4. T&D Evaluation.

ISD

See Instructional Systems Design

Knowledge Creation
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Knowledge Management

Organisational activities directed at the application of existing explicit knowledge to the


development of short-term competitive advantage through creation of new products and
processes. Successful organisations will implement processes that facilitate the
collection, storage and sharing of knowledge between all employees.

Knowledge management alone cannot provide sustainable competitive advantage


however and must be supplemented with knowledge creation.

KSAOs

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other characteristics. A mental framework often used in
human resource analysis. The analysis is applied to jobs within the organisation. The
results are then used throughout the HR function including job design, recruitment,
training and development and organisational change.

Management Development

A broad term that covers a range of HRD interventions aimed at improving management
performance. It can be considered to lie somewhere between organisational development
and management skill training.

Learning Organisation

An organisation in which organisational learning takes place, providing it with a


sustainable competitive advantage over other organisations. The term is usually not
applied to organisations that have learnt at some time in the past, but rather those that
continue to do so. This is considered by many a theoretical state, and one not achievable
in practice. However, the potential relationship with superior performance serves to
remind managers of the importance, and also the complexity, of learning in organisations.

Needs Analysis
Unfortunately, occasionally refered to as training needs analysis, a process whereby
organisational circumstances are examined from an human resource perspective and
needed interventions identified. While training is amongst the myriad of possible
interventions it is certainly not the only, or even main, one. In order to ease complexity
needs analysis is often approached from three organisational levels:

• Organisational, or strategic
• Task
• Individual

It is important to note, however, that a valid finding requires integration of output from
each level of analysis. Only after each level has been examined and the results compiled
can the human resource professional confidently suggest possible interventions.

OD

See Organisational Development

Organisational Development (OD)

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Organisational Learning

The learning process whereby an organisation proactively evolves and develops in


response to changes in its environment. This learning process takes place at multiple
levels, beginning with learning by individual organisation members, then learning by
teams, which is suggested to then lead to the changes in organisational processes
considered to be evidence of learning at the organisational level. Much debate continues
surrounding the use of this term. However, many agree that the process, in some form or
other, is critical for sustainable competitive advantage.

Organisational Structure

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Orientation

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Performance Management

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Politics

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Political View of Organisations

One perspective of organisations (in addition to the structural, cultural and human
resource views). The political view sees organisations as a collection of competing
groups, with differing interests, goals and control of resources. Under this view,
behaviour in organisations is explained by the bargaining, negotiating and power plays of
these groups. People will do what is most likely to achieve the goals of their group rather
than what may be best for the organisation as a whole. While politics exist in any social
group, this view of organisations overlooks the ability of people to help others without
seeking personal gain. For managers, the political view shows the importance of political
skill for working effectively in organisations. .

Psychological contract

An unspoken understanding formed between an employee and employer at the


commencement of employment regarding opportunities available to the employee in the
new position, particularly those related to professional development. The term 'contract'
is used because it is considered, by the employee, as such and failure on the part of the
organisation to deliver 'as promised' can be expected to produce a response to that effect.

Wise organisations will grasp the ethical and business cases behind this and adjust their
systems appropriately such as through careful consideration of job design, provision of
training and development opportunities as much as possible, both internal and external to
the organisation, and inclusion of Realistic Job Previews (RJP) in their recruitment
procedures.

Realistic Job Preview

An intervention by recruiting employers to ensure candidate employees receive a


complete and fair view of the position for which they are applying. This is typically
performed as part of the recruitment process and includes seminars, introduction to
current or past employees or access to internal organisational documents. Use of
employee referral programs is also effective.

In addition to the strong ethical argument that organisations should operate in good faith
and all dealings with people should be performed with consideration of them as such, the
business argument for minimising recruitment costs by pursuing only candidates most
likely to be satisfied with the position is also appealing.

RJP

See Realistic Job Preview

SECI

Socialisation-Externalisation-Combination-Internalisation, a theory of learning in


organisations. The four terms represent stages, although not necessary sequential,
interacting in a continous cycle. Individuals develop tacit knowledge gradually over time
through shared social experiences, such as apprentices from masters or members of a
project team. Individuals then can share some of this with others by making it explicit,
such as the project team developing a 'new' idea. New explicit knowledge can then be
combined with existing ideas and systems in the organsiation. For example, a process
may be adjusted to include the new idea. This explicit knowledge in turn affects the
further creation of tacit knowledge within individuals and the process continues on.

Short-term Competitive Advantage

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Structural View of Organisations

One perspective of organisations (in addition to the political, cultural and human resource
views). The structural view sees organisational performance as determined by formal
reporting relationships between departments, superiors and subordinates, and colleagues.
It suggests superior organisational performance can be achieved by designing the correct
structure and that poor performance is the result of an unsuitable one. This view is
grounded in the notion that people follow organisational rules and that information flows
follow reporting relationships. Another weakness is its ignorance of political, cultural and
emotional motives. Despite this, this view shows that managers must consider the impact
of organisational design, including business unit size and formal position relationships,
on performance while also taking into cnsideration the other organisational views. .

Sustainable Competitive Advantage

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Tacit Knowledge

All intangible knowledge posessed by an organisations members existing in the form of


intuition, insight, reasoning and skills. It develops mostly unnoticed through member
participation in everyday organisational activities and cannot be easily quantified. It is
this form of knowledge, however, that, through considered knowledge creation
interventions, promises a source of future explicit knowledge. .

Training & Development Evaluation (Process)

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Training & Development Evaluation (Product)

Evaluation of training and development (T&D) interventions focusing outcomes (what


T&D does for the organisation), rather than process (how T&D is designed). A well
known example is the four-stage approach first proposed by Kirkpatrick. It comprises of:
1. participant reaction - was the learning experience interesting for individual
participants?
2. learning - how much was actually learnt?
3. changes in on-the-job behaviour - did participant performance improve once back
on the job?
4. business impact - did financial and other performance indicators improve?

Additions have been proposed such as return-on-investment (ROI) as a 5th stage. In any
case, T&D impact can be considered to cascade down through the levels, particularly
from 2 to 4(5). This is demonstrated by the idea that learning is required for changes in
work behaviour, which are required to produce business impact, which in turn is required
to yield improved ROI.

Although variations of this approach have become the almost defacto standard for
training and development evaluation, many organisations still do not perform evaluation
at the higher levels due to factors such as cost and the difficulty in determining the degree
that organisational outcomes are the result of T&D interventions rather than the myriad
of other factors impacting on the organisation.

T&D Design

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T&D Evaluation

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T&D Implementation

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360-degree Feedback

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