Learning Organizations vs. Static Organizations in the Context of E-HRM
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Electronic human resource management (e-HRM) may mean that human resource management must now embrace electronic provisions. The environments that today’s managers work in have changed. The methods through which human resource managers choose to ameliorate an organization have changed. With the current technological revolution taking place, management methods can be catered to electronically. Although applying e-based solutions to human resource management is important, managers must have a clear view of what learning and static organizations may entail in order to add the electronic effect to ameliorate management. Without in-depth knowledge of learning organizations vs. static organizations, e-HRM would become an empty term. In today’s organizations, corporate leaders use strategies such as “downsizing,” “restructuring,” and “merging” in an effort to prevent an organization from collapsing or going bankrupt. Such organizations that go through these processes wish to say goodbye to their past, which may qualify them as what we call static organizations. To depart from static organizations, today’s organizations must strive to become what we call learning organizations in order to remain competitive in a global economy (Petty & Brewer, 2005). Learning organizations are drastically different from static organizations in terms of structure, atmosphere, management philosophy, decision making, and communication. Addressing these indispensable aspects may lead to the rise or fall of an organization in today’s competitive global economy.
Both scholars and practitioners have pointed out that learning organizations are born of static organizations, just like the saying, “failure is the mother of success.” To better understand the attributes of learning organizations, some important aspects of static organizations must be discussed first. Numerous studies (e.g., Arends & Arends, 1977; Baldridge & Dean, 1975; Bennis, Benne, & Chin, 1968; Goodlad, 1975; Greiner, 1971) have indicated that static organizations possess some dimensions that are really worth the attention of corporate leaders, human resources development (HRD), and human resources management (HRM) practitioners. Without the knowledge of static organizations, it will be extremely hard for static organizations to transform themselves into learning organizations. Static organizations are first of all rigid (Knowles, 1978). In these organizations, much energy is given to maintaining permanent departments and committees. Respect is given to tradition, constitution, and by laws. These organizations are hierarchical. In other words, they adhere to a chain of command. Employees’ roles are defined rather narrowly. Both organizational leaders and employees focus on tasks (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969). The organizational atmosphere is impersonal, cold, formal, reserved, and suspicious with personnel managed through coercive power. Employees are cautious and low risk-taking. They tend to avoid errors. It is not an open system (McGregor, 1960). Instead, organizations feature closed systems regarding sharing resources. There is little tolerance for ambiguity. In static organizations, there is high participation at top, but low participation at bottom. Employees are reserved and do not work wholeheartedly for organizational goals. There is a clear distinction between policy making and policy execution. It is worth noting that decisions are made by legal mechanisms and that any decisions are considered final. Communication is one-way communication or downward communication. Feelings are rather repressed or hidden. A natural flow of communication is restricted. These are the basic characteristics of static organizations that prevent today’s organizations from remaining competitive in a global economy. Because static organizations reveal these unproductive practices, HRD and HRM consultants constantly seek to solve these problems. These problems are manifold and solving one problem does not lead to stopping static organizations from collapsing. The best solution is to transform these static organizations into learning organizations that will embrace these problems in a way that these organizations can be reinvigorated again in this global economy (Cramer & Wasiak, 2006). A pertinent question to ask will be: “What are learning organizations?”