Building novice capacity through action learning coaching
Carter, Angela Danielle
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Even now, with the ever increasing pace of business and the critical need for competent human resource development (HRD) practice apparent, Watkins’ (1990) description of HRD practitioners as being ‘shoeless shoemaker’s children’ remains accurate. Novice HRD practitioners often are subject to one-sided development opportunities that are neither in keeping with these urgent business demands, nor sufficient in addressing the novices’ individual learning needs. This study, sponsored by a local chapter of Association for Talent Development (ATD), provided for this disparity with an account of personal and professional development and capacity building for novice HRD professionals through action learning coaching. Data from 10 participants were gathered from an initial questionnaire, audio and video recordings from virtual synchronous action learning set meetings using Adobe Connect, researcher observations, and post-set interviews. Participants were novices in the industry with less than 3 years of experience, and the study design was a case study approach using action learning action research (ALAR) methodology. Findings supported the use of action learning coaching as an effective tool for development, and participants reported learning facilitation skills, listening skills, and mindfulness, and incorporated them in their work. While it is true that action learning is best undertaken with experienced facilitation, the conclusions drawn from the study indicate that learning took place even when action learning was imprecise and messy, enacted by novice action learners and their similarly noviced action learning coach. Action learning coaching enabled capacity building within the participants, who took the resultant learning back to their workplaces and lives. Finally, a conclusion was drawn from the study that implied action learning coaching—while drawing from action learning and coaching traditions—was a unique methodology that warrants further study and exploration. This research contributes to both theory and practice in the use of action learning coaching for novice development, and adds to the body of knowledge about their integration. Further work is now required to explore the impact of action learning coaching, to entertain a more vigorous study of novice HRD practitioners, and for the HRD community to provide shoes for its own.