HRD and Adult Workplace Learning Essay Example

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Transformational learning is optimal for the success of an organisation, as it improves ability to adapt to changing circumstances

Human Resources Development and Adult Workplace Learning


This research work addresses issues of adult learning in organisations with specific focus on transformational learning. This work claims that transformational learning is the most viable learning method for achieving organisational success. The following discussion substantiates this contention.

Regarding the basic notions of HRD, adult learning constitutes a crucial concept. It includes, performance enhancement, unceasing quality improvement, knowledge management, organisational learning, change management, and learning organisations[CITATION McL06 p 416 l 1033 ].Thus, organisational learning enables capacity generation and identification of environmental changes in organisations. Moreover, it enables the necessary alterations in their basic assumptions. Regarding the prevailing volatile environment, such continuous change model of learning constitutes a basic means of achieving strategic advantage[CITATION Boc10 p 329 l 1033 ]. This is in addition to its capacity to reduce organisational trauma.

Transformational learning is optimal for the success of an organisation, as it improves ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Transformational Learning

Several management experts have emphasised that success in the volatile global context requires organisations to develop the capacity to adapt and change. As such, success depends significantly upon agility and not momentum. The basic assumptions of business models have short lifecycles. Traditionally, organisations have assessed their basic assumptions, only when forced by major failures or crisis situations[CITATION Boc10 p 329 l 1033 ].

Transformative organisational change and transformative learning have similarities and differences between them. Although, these are processes of change, transformative organisation change emphasises upon system-wide and instrumental objectives. Critical HRD aims to modernise HRD theory and practice. As such, traditional HRD endeavours to favour management and shareholder interests, vis-à-vis the interests of the other stakeholders. Organisational change and transformative learning, per se, are relevant to critical HRD [CITATION Mer13 p 93 l 1033 ]. This is because critical HRD pertains to individual, group, organisation and system change.

Thus, transformational learning provides a new way of observing situations. The thinking is more systemic and permits individuals to develop a holistic view[CITATION Car101 p 4 l 1033 ]. As such, critical reflection is the core of transformative learning. This consists of several skills and dispositions of critical thinking and reflective practice. In addition, transformative learning theory encourages raising queries about the assumptions related to the basic frames of reference[CITATION Yuk15 p 164 l 1033 ]. It is achieved by critical study of others’ assumptions and critical study of the assumptions by oneself.

Despite having the same roots, adult education and HRD have developed in different directions. In the initial stages, adult education’s roots had concentrated upon citizenship for a democratic society. However, HRD’s roots had focused upon workplace performance. All the same, these fields overlap in certain areas: via their focus upon assisting learning in adults, concentration upon constructivism in the age of knowledge, and with respect to wider national and international perspectives of the field of practice. A major difference between them, includes, emphasis upon individual growth, as opposed to the growth of the organisation[CITATION Wat13 p 42 l 1033 ].

Instrumental Learning

Instrumental learning occurs at the individual and group level. It is a distinct process that concentrates upon procedural knowledge, cause and effect relationships, and improved performance and competency. This has been the viewpoint of Cranton and Mezirow. However, the perspective of Mezirow states that the defining traits are not just topical. Thus, instrumental learning consists of a process of problem-solving that is basically different. It consists of hypothesis testing and empirical measurement[CITATION Roe15 p 86 l 1033 ]. On the other hand, communicative learning is based upon reflective discourse for moving from material to abstract concept formation.

Communicative Learning

At the time of communicative learning, adults make analogies between what is familiar to the unfamiliar. After that they use analogic-abductive reasoning to arrive at explanations. This is what happens usually, when learners assess the meaning of abstract concepts that are communicated to them. These concepts include feelings, ideals, moral decisions and values. Several researchers have shown that reflective activities provide several benefits. Some of these are: better self-awareness, emotional support, collegiality, professionalism, organisational learning, and informed practice. Some of the other benefits from such activities are: improved critical thinking in difficult situations, advanced affective development, improved self-esteem, and improved socio-political emancipation[CITATION Roe14 p 326 l 1033 ].

For instance, the organisation, Golden Circle started a process of change, in order to become an agile, adaptive and aligned organisation. This process was in response to substantial deterioration in its competitive status. This change obliged Golden Circle to become an organisation that promoted learning internally and with the collaboration of its supply chain partners. This process started in November 2003 and by December 2005 it showed signs of success. In addition, the Lost Time Injury Rate reduced to 8 from 13; overall equipment effectiveness improved, which enabled better use of assets; internal failures reduced; and $9 million savings against budget was realised. This process made it very clear that results are achieved when there is concentration upon a common goal, measurement and engagement of employees in the process of continuous improvement. There was significant improvement in completing projects. Moreover, Golden Circle had become very good at collaborating internally and externally, learning, absorbing and executing. These are the characteristics of a learning organisation[ CITATION Dun071 l 1033 ]. As such, Golden Circle involves its employees and management at various levels in learning about the relevant portion of their business.

Moreover, organisational learning constitutes a mediator between organisational innovation and transformational leadership. Hsiao and Chang had proposed a structural equation model. Their research sample was limited to 330 individuals. This study affirmed that organisational learning and transformational leadership have substantial positive relationship influence upon organisational innovation. Correlations between transformational leadership, organisational learning and organisational innovation have been observed. The data in the table give below illustrates this. It shows that the alpha coefficients of the measures, means, correlations, and standard deviations. It is clear that transformational leadership is positively and significantly correlated to organisational learning, with r = .689 and p < .001, and with organisational innovation having r = .621 and p < .70 [CITATION Hsi11 p 625 l 1033 ].

HRD and Adult Workplace Learning

[CITATION Hsi11 p 625 l 1033 ].

Furthermore, it has been claimed by several authors, including Fenwick, Wilson, Cervero, and Yoong Ng that learning in business organisations is dominated by profit-making and the power of ownership. As such, transformative learning usually occurs with regard to the main corporate values and prescribed procedures. These ultimately have the object of building human capital. Therefore, transformative learning work role transitions does not always result in a more reflective and holistic perspective[CITATION Iso08 p 81 l 1033 ]. All the same, it leads to the adoption of a dominant perspective.

As such, innovation enables firms, individuals and nations to learn from their joint efforts to develop knowledge and solve problems. Several empirical studies have shown that some types of flexible organisation promote the development of informal groups or communities. Frequently, these informal groups provide a suitable environment for creativity and learning. This results in new services and products [CITATION Ols16 p 210 l 1033 ].A survey, in this regard, was conducted by Dorothy Sutherland Olsen. Her work covered intentional and unintentional learning. To this end, she collected the opinions of employees in innovative work environments. She also gathered opinions of employees’ environments that emphasized learning and competence development. The object being to obtain important instances of learning that contributed to their firms. Finally, she concluded that interviews that included documentation would be of the best procedure[CITATION Ols16 p 214 l 1033 ].Thus, she interviewed HR managers, project managers in R&D and managers. Olsen found that 70% of employee learning was practice-based and on-the-job learning, 20% was from coaching and feedback from more experienced individuals, and just 10% was from courses. Significantly, on-the-job learning was found to take place during interaction with others[CITATION Ols16 p 217 l 1033 ]. Firms were seen to be in favour of promoting flexibility. They were also eager to produce a workforce that was more agile and which could adapt to changing circumstances.


This work analyses the role of transformational learning in achieving organisational success. The benefit of transformative learning theory is that it improves understanding of learning in organisational function changes. This theory goes beyond the theorisation of role learning. It achieves this by expanding from psychological attributes to experiential perspective transformation. As such, organisational learning functions as a mediator between transformational leadership and innovation. Instrumental, as well as communicative learning improves the socio- political emancipation of the organisation.

Thus, it is feasible to describe HRD as a group of planned and systematic activities by an organisation, with a view to develop human capital and talented workforce to attain their highest potential. This system furnishes prospects for developing individual and organisational skills, abilities and knowledge to function effectively in their present and future job requirements. Moreover, adult learning in organisations will facilitate work role transitions via innovation, which in turn promote the success of the organisation. Thus, it can be surmised that transformational learning is the most beneficial method of learning for achieving success in organisations.

Reference List

Bochman, D. J. & Kroth, M. 2010. Immunity to transformational learning and change. The Learning Organization, 17(4): 328-342.

Carroll, M. 2010. Supervision: Critical Reflection for Transformational Learning (Part 2). The Clinical Supervisor, 29(1): 1-19.

Dunne, A. J. 2007. Organizational Learning: Its Impact on an Organization’s Capacity to Build Supploy Chain Partnerships. <>. viewed 17 July 2017.

Hsiao, H.-C. & Chang, J.-C. 2011. The role of organizational learning in transformational leadership and organizational innovation. Asia Pacific Education Review, 12(4): 621-631.

Isopahkala-Bouret, U. 2008. Transformative learning in managerial role transitions. Studies in Continuing Education, 30(1): 69-84.

McLean, G. N. 2006. Rethinking Adult Learning in the Workplace. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 8(3): 416-423.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. 2013. Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco, CA, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Olsen, D. S. 2016. Adult Learning in Innovative Organisations. European Journal of Education, 51(2): 210-226.

Roessger, K. M. 2014. The Effects of Reflective Activities on Skill Adaptation in a Work-Related Instrumental Learning Setting. Adult Education Quarterly, 64(4): 323-344.

Roessger, K. M. 2015. But does it work? Reflective activities, learning outcomes and instrumental learning in continuing professional development. Journal of Education and Work, 28(1): 83-105.

Watkins, K. E., & Marsick, V. J. 2013. Adult education & human resource development: Overlapping and disparate fields. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 26(1): 42-54.

Yukawa, J. 2015. Preparing for Complexity and Wicked Problems through Transformational Learning Approaches. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 56(2): 156-168.