Actualisation – the challenge for HR professionals

HR and L&D people, with carefully selected help from other parts of the organisation, are capable of delivering so much more than is often expected of them says Tim Gibson.

Tim Gibson

Tim Gibson

Dr.Tim Gibson is Head of Learning Services, MoJ Shared Services at HM Government Ministry of Justice, and advisor on e-learning to the Leasing Foundation. Tim has worked in learning and development for the last 15 years in both public and private sectors, in agency and client roles, particularly in financial and professional services. Tim is a PRINCE2 Executive and an experienced LEAN / Six Sigma champion with specific experience in the design, build, rollout and evaluation of blended learning and development programmes. Previously Tim was founder of knowledge=power, a leading training provider in financial services learning that trained over 30,000 UK Independent Financial Advisors, and was co-founder of BT Online, BT’s first internet connectivity and content business.
Tim Gibson

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Introduction from Editor Peter Thomas

The Foundation has just launched the European HR Professionals Network for Leasing and Asset Finance. The network is a forum to discuss the future of the leasing and asset finance industry from an HR professional's standpoint. The network will draw together HR professionals in the industry from across Europe to share best practice, debate current issues and address challenges around themes including recruiting the workforce of the future, developing the future workplace and future organisational challenges for HR professionals.

You can join the discussion over on our LinkedIn Group where we'll posting articles and discussions relevant to HR professionals in the industry.

In this article, Dr Tim Gibson, Head of Learning and Development, SSCL and e-learning adviser to the Leasing Foundation, argues that HR and L&D people, with carefully selected help from other parts of the organisation, are capable of delivering so much more than is often expected of them.

Who should be interested in this?
Human resources professionals in leasing and asset finance.


Actualisation – the challenge for HR professionals

Here’s a situation I’ve seen more than once: having abrogated their transactional responsibilities to shared services to concentrate on loftier matters, central HR professionals can then sometimes feel unloved because very often the transactional is all operations really wants from HR.But wants and needs are often a million miles apart. Mission and vision won’t be set by HR and L&D professionals but they often help set the tone, spirit, culture, ways of working and rewards – and without decent versions of these the organisation may as well forget it.Many HR and L&D people will remember the seminal work of the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, and his hierarchy of needs. It’s most familiar in the form of a five layer pyramid – the lowest level is the physiological, level 2 is safety, level 3 love or belonging, level 4 is esteem, with the topmost layer representing self-actualisation, or the full realisation of one’s potential.Maslow’s pyramid is a useful diagram because it reinforces two central concepts: the first a reminder that you can’t get to the top without moving through the lower levels in turn; and the second that not everyone makes it to the top. Self-actualisation is theoretically possible for anyone, regardless of income, culture or background, but few people seem to manage it. It’s claimed that only 1% of individuals reach this higher state, the major barriers including the ability, desire and opportunity to become self-aware, to learn and so to achieve.The same is true of businesses. Only a tiny proportion of businesses are genuinely as good as they really could be, even the ones that claim to be learning organisations. Often there are plenty of gears spinning but these aren’t sufficiently well meshed to speed the business ahead of its competition and achieve its true potential.As we all know, there's been an inexorable shift over the last few years in corporate L&D from learning as an end in itself toward learning as a means to an end, where the end is often expressed as performance improvement. What's less clear is what exactly is on offer and how exactly these are expected to add value, much less how to pull it off.

I think there's an opportunity for ‘business actualisers’ to systematise this space.

If you believe that getting the very best out of your people should be a goal for every organization – and one that heavily predicts commercial success – then we should be doing everything we can to plug any gaps we see. In theory, this is where front line managers act as the gearbox to their people’s engine with the organisation’s mission, vision and values providing the fuel and the steering.

Performance is a function of people’s ability, motivation and opportunity (or ‘AMO’ – see ‘Bringing Policies to Life: The vital role of front line managers in people management’ by Sue Hutchinson and John Purcell 2003). People’s A, as in knowledge and skills, has been a traditional concern of L&D, but we’ve only turned our attention relatively recently to M and O. Hutchinson and Purcell identified 11 HR practices that are needed to get people’s AMO rubber to hit the business road and they regard the line manager as the principal means of realizing the potential of these various HR principles and practice.

The idea of ‘learning citizenship’ is a way to relate the M and the O – motivation and opportunity – and to help identify opportunities for performance uplift, not to mention feeling better about being at work. It is also a plea for people to help each other recognise and exploit learning opportunities beyond the traditional line management structure, recognizing that many line managers already have too much on their plates.

In an ideal world all workers would help each other get better and happier at work – but of course we don’t live in an ideal world. The challenge for HR and L&D people – whether or not the phrase is in their job title – is to help others business-actualise.

Helping others reach the top level of the pyramid is perhaps the ultimate use of our time and energy.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Actualisation – the challenge for HR professionals by Tim Gibson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.