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IS IT TIME TO REPLACE HRD MANAGERS BY KNOWLEDGE

AND LEARNING MANAGERS?


T. V. Rao
HRD (Human resources development) Managers and HRD Departments were created in this
country essentially to promote a learning culture. In the consulting report that created the first
HRD department in India at Larsen & Toubro in the year 1975 the IIMA Consultants have
outlined the following roles to the HRD function and to the HRD Managers:

Developing enabling capabilities in individuals and the system


Integrating the development of the people with Organizational development
Maximizing the learning opportunities of Individuals in organizations through
various mechanisms, autonomy and responsibility
Decentralization, delegation and shared responsibility
Balancing change and adaptation
Building feedback and reinforcement mechanisms etc.

The HRD Function was differentiated from the Personnel Function based on the finding in
L&T that creation of a learning environment through HRD tools suffers if the same group of
people are to look after personnel (essentially monitoring, control, and maintenance roles)
and development functions. It was integrated also into the HR function along with
differentiation as a lot of development issues depended on personnel policies and both
functions were required to work hand in hand. Since the time India had the first dedicated
HRD Manager (L&T appointed Dr. D F Periera as DGM HRD) in the year 1975, the population
of HRD Managers has grown in the country. Perhaps HRD is one area where such
designations came in the US much after India had them. India took the lead. Unfortunately the
growth of the role is not in proportion to the needs in this area. If any, the role of HRD
Managers over a period of time has shrunk tremendously.
Today most organizations seem to use the HRD Managers for people maintenance and
control roles rather than development roles. HRD roles are supposed to derive their power
from their expert knowledge, networking and facilitation skills, and from the employee they
serve. The HR Manager (new name for the traditional Personnel Manager popularised in mid
eighties to keep up with times) derives his power from his association with policy making,
implementation, and closeness to CEO. In spite of the need for competency building in a
globally competitive environment real Human Resources Development has not got the
attention it deserved. HRD Audit by the author of over a dozen Indian companies in the
recent past have revealed that the real HRD Managers envisaged two decades ago are
getting practically extinct. The HRD roles are being reduced gradually to recruitment and
retention roles essentially involving salary revisions, ESOPs, performance Appraisal and
reward systems. There is very little effort made or time left for competency building, creation
of learning environment and to aligning HRD with business strategies. Dave Ulrich's books
indicating the changes needed in HRD roles are widely read and quoted but very little of it is
followed.
It is in this context worth examining if creating a new Role called Chief Learning Manager or
Chief Knowledge Manager will help Indian corporate sector.

CLMs and CKMS


The Davos World Economy Forum conducted a survey of how the US CEOs look at the
future. The survey revealed that 94% of the CEOs mentioned that globalisation as a priority
area, 88% mentioned knowledge Management as a priority area, 79% stated that reducing
costs is a priority area, 78% mentioned that creating global supply chains us a priority area
and 76% mentioned cross country optimisation of manufacturing as a priority.

Knowledge Management is defined by Anderson Consulting as "The systematic process of


acquiring, creating, capturing, synthesizing, learning and using information, insights, and
experience to enable performance". In this way, knowledge management is the engine that
transforms ideas into business value.
In another definition, KM is defined as the new discipline of enabling individuals, teams and
the entire organization to collectively and systematically create, share, and apply knowledge
to better achieve the business objectives.
According to some authors KM is not a HR, IT or other domain but a strategic business
development issue.
Organizational learning is a parallel process: a continuous and strategically used process. A
learning organization is an organization that learns continuously and thus transforms itself.
There are no universally accepted definitions of these terms.
According to one estimate made by Dr. Dede Bonner, President New Century
management Inc, USA there are likely to be anywhere between 50 to 250 Chief learning
Officers and Chief Knowledge Officers in the world. This is growing. Some of the
organizations having such titles include:

Bank Boston
Coca-Cola
Ernest & Young
Ford Motor Company
General Electric
Hewlett-Packard
Prudential Insurance Company
Sun Microsystems
Unisys
US West
Pillsbury Xerox Corporation
US CIA
British Petroleum

Other titles like Managing Partner of Knowledge Management (Anderson Consulting);


Director of Knowledge Management, Knowledge Coordinator, Knowledge facilitator,
Knowledge leader, KM Consultant, Senior Knowledge librarian, Learning Coordinator,
Learning specialist, Organizational Architect, Director of Organizational Effectiveness. Vice
President Knowledge Management is also known to exist. They draw between $80,000 to $
750,000 a year in terms of salary.
Chief Knowledge Officers (CKOs) are the focal points to leverage the organizations'
knowledge into tangible business results and to gain competitive market advantage.
Chief Learning Officers are the focal points to leverage an organization's learning into tangible
business results to gain competitive market advantage.
These positions are new, the responsibilities are evolving gradually and duties vary among
different companies.
Sample of responsibilities for CKOs and CLOs include:
Strategic planning at the highest levels of the company
Ability to integrate diverse groups and work across all functions; develop the culture; build
awareness of knowledge management or organizational learning.
Design and implement a knowledge and or learning infrastructure to tie together
corporate databases, employees' tacit knowledge and paper files.
Consulting activities, organizational effectiveness
Work closely with CEOs

Dave Ulrich and team in their most recent book on "Leadership for results" (HBS, 1999)
have outlined the following four skills for the CLOs:
1. The CLO knows appreciates and influences business strategy including customer
relationships and financial performance
2. Understands the nuances of making change and applies the change
3. Understands the essence of information and knowledge management and creates an
organization in which learning occurs
4. Maintains focus on training and development but is sensitive the entire array of HR
practices.
Responsibility for building the next generation Leaders rests with the CLOs CKOs.
The CLOs and CKOs perform multiple roles like that of a Consultant, Entrepreneur,
Technologist, Environmentalist, and a Champion of knowledge and Learning. The roles and
responsibilities are gradually evolving. It is in many cases a strategic as well as a possible
informal role for the HRD professionals. This role represents a unique and historical
opportunity for HRD managers to influence senior managers, impact the company's bottom
line and build professional credibility.

COMPETENCIES REQUIRED INCLUDE:

Visionary outlook;
Strong people orientation and interpersonal skills,
Familiarity with technology and best practice studies'
Experience or capability in strategic thinking'
Familiarity with knowledge management tools
methodologies
Strong customer service orientation
High level of flexibility

or

the

newest

learning

The conditions for the success of these roles fall into two categories: organizational values ad
organizational systems and structures. On the values front, supportive senior management,
rapid expansion mind set, culture of high trust, belief that knowledge and learning offer
competitive advantage and customer orientation. The organizational systems and structures
include good IT systems, integrated HR, IT and business units, strategic planning systems,
measurement tools and standards.
It is estimated that KM is a 7.2 Billion-Dollar market in the US (Dataquest). KM involves
getting people to disseminate best practices, measuring results. Two out of three are people
issues and KM deals with these.
Performance Technology (PT) Knowledge management and HR professionals seem to be
synergistic roles.
It is high time probably to give a new life to HRD, at least in some organizations, by abolishing
the HRD roles and creating a new agenda for change and competence building through CLOs
and CKMs. The hope is that at least through title changes the lost focus on learning can be
brought back. This of course need not apply to those HRD Managers who are doing excellent
job already in promoting learning and competence building.
__________________________________________________________________________
Author is Chairman of TVRao Learning System and can be accessed on
tvraoad1@sancharnet.in