Learning Organizations vs. Static Organizations in the Context of E-HRM

Learning Organizations vs. Static Organizations in the Context of E-HRM

Victor C.X. Wang (California State University, Long Beach, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-883-3.ch090
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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.
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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?”

Key Terms in this Chapter

IQ: This refers to one’s intelligence quotient, a measurement of intelligence based on standardized test scores. Although IQ tests are still widely used in the United States, there has been increasing doubt voiced about their ability to measure the mental capacities that determine success in life. IQ testing has also been criticized for being biased with regard to race and gender

Merging: Merging refers to the process of being combined or becoming combined. Organizations often merge into one in order not to waste resources. For example, recently K-Mart and Sears in the United States of America merged into one company where customers can use the same credit card issued by Sears to shop at both K-Mart and Sears. This kind of merging will facilitate their management at both Sears and K-Mart. Many universities and colleges in developing countries have merged into mega universities in order to better serve students

Learning Organizations: Learning organizations refer to innovative organizations that strive to transform themselves from static organizations to learning organizations. Anything that does not work for these organizations is bound to be changed in a timely manner. In this article, learning organizations are flexible, people-centered, and operated through supportive power with high participation at all levels. Decisions are treated as hypotheses and their system is open. Communication is multidirectional. Above all, employees’ energy is released rather than suppressed. Learning organizations are full of learning facilitators instead of knowledge dictators. Leaders in learning organizations serve as resource persons, linking employees to learning resources. Leaders in learning organizations reward their employees in a fair and open manner. Leaders in learning organizations are creative leaders that strive to release the energy of their employees. They understand that power they hold need to be delegated rather than reinforced through coercion. Coercion is a technique mostly used by leaders who do not believe in the Y assumptions of human beings. Creative leaders in learning organizations have faith in pent up energy of human beings. Therefore, they utilize a facilitative approach to their leadership styles

Ambiguity: This is the noun from the adjective ambiguous which means confusing, able to be understood in different ways

Restructuring: Restructuring refers to the process of reorganizing an organization, often to make a work force smaller in order to be profitable in a global economy. Restructuring often occurs as a result of organizational leaders changing their management philosophies. Sometimes, organizations have to shut down in order to do restructuring. Leaders and employees in these organizations need to reflect upon their practices to find out where things have gone wrong. Often times, they find conflict between leadership and management. Leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Management is about coping with complexity whereas leadership is about coping with change

Dimension: It this article, it is used as a countable noun. Thus, it means a measurement of something in one direction

Hierarchical: This is the adjective form of the noun hierarchy which means an organization from higher to lower by rank, social status, or function. In this article, it also means that a static organization is too rigid. It adheres to a rigid chain of command

Downsizing: Downsizing refers to the process of making smaller, especially a work force or business. In this article, it also refers to laying off employees. Although this may not be the best solution to existing problems in today’s organizations, this technique may help ease the shrinking operating budget of an organization. Employees are meant to produce surplus value. If they are unproductive for whatever reasons, their jobs should be terminated and handed over to those who can produce surplus value

Static Organizations: In general, static organizations refer to organizations that are not moving or changing in the right direction. In this article, static organizations refer to organizations that are rigid, task-oriented, controlled through coercive power without proper participation expected at all levels, and so forth. Any decisions made in these organizations are considered final and communication is top-down. Many factors lead to static organizations. Confusion between management and leadership is a huge factor that leads to static organizations. Employee morale is another factor. The level of education of employees also contributes to static organizations. When examining static organizations, it is always a good idea to approach them comprehensively. One single factor alone does not necessarily lead to static organizations

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