Outline Issue of the European perspective of HRD

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  Specific HRD strategies in medium/ small organisations
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  While large companies in Europe share a common outlook on HRD, the perspective in small companies is assumed to be more diverse [R08]. The following featues of HRD activity in small organisations have been identified in research projects:
The management in SMEs is faced with the new learning imperative in working life. To meet this challenge, they need support for developing awareness of and practice in HRD related issues [E13c].
There would appear to be significant gaps in the skills capabilities of European SMEs. Small firms tend to concentrate their efforts in developing and enhancing production-based skills,  but there is a clear lack of competencies in marketing and in cross-job skills [E03c]. 
The lack of financial resources seems to be the main obstacle to the undertaking of training activities. Training oriented enterprises think that government should support them in needs analysis and involve them in defining the contents of training programmes in order to make them more tailored to the real needs of the company [E03b].
Learning by doing is the prevailing method of acquisition of know-how; on-the-job experience is considered as the most relevant way of acquiring 'technical' knowledge, followed by 'mentoring' and the training courses for staff. The best results in terms of improvement of know-how and competencies have been recorded by the enterprises which have temporarily introduced experts in the firm or have incorporated new workers [E03b].
SMEs gain from forming clusters, i.e. structured patterns of interaction. The behaviour of large organisations can act as a role model towards shaping the collective actions of clusters of SME [E03a].
Facilitating 'aggregare learning' or 'collective learning' among SMEs consolidates their market position [E03a] [E03c] E14].
The creation of formalised organisational processes allows, on the one hand, knowledge and informal procedures to become more explicit, thereby increasing the firm's common knowledge; on the other hand, this leads to rigidity, thereby impeding the rapid decision making which is common in SMEs [E08a].

Recommendations put forward by project partnerships include the following:

  • SMEs play an important role in knowledge creation and knowledge storage because they generally allow entrepreneurs and managers a great deal of freedom of action. Policies should be adopted which unleash SMEsí full potential to learn, create and store knowledge [E08b]. 
  • There is a  need for a European Skills Accreditation System. Such a system needs to be attuned to the particular features and requirements of SMEs. It would therefore need to capitalise on the extensive use of informal learning networks used by SMEs [E03c] . 
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO