Evaluation of an Employment Development Plan of Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia

One of the biggest challenges of the modern business era is the retention of a talented and skilled workforce for business organizations. Business organizations are required to employ a dynamic strategy to respond to the needs and aspirations of their workforce. A smart, well designed employee development program can benefit a business organization to great extent in this regard. Prior research indicates that employee development program is linked to higher levels of performance and output. It can create a reservoir of knowledge which can enable business organizations to do better than their competitors.
The aim of the proposed dissertation would be to investigate employees’ development plan at ‘Saudi Aramco’ operating in the Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco is the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is also a fully integrated, global petroleum and chemicals company. It is a world leader in exploration, production, refining, distribution, shipping and marketing petroleum products with operating in various parts of the world. The company manages the world’s largest proven conventional crude oil reserves of 259.7 billion barrels. Its average daily crude production in 2011 was 9.1 million barrels per day (bpd). It also has stewardship over the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves of 282.6 trillion standard cubic feet. The company’s headquarters is in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Its subsidiaries and offices p across the Kingdom. The company also maintains offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Like any major multinational firm, Saudi Aramco has a diverse workforce belonging to various nationalities. The company has more than 56,000 employees from 70 nations; around 7500 of those are expatriates (Saudi Aramco, 2012). The diverse workforce present in the organization needs to be managed in an efficient and effective manner.

The dissertation will try to identify the importance of ‘employees development plan’, investigate the current practices of the company’s employees development plan, evaluate its effectiveness, and identify common obstacles for employees development plan at the company. The dissertation will also propose some recommendations based on its findings for creating a viable employees development program. The dissertation will be divided into five chapters.
The first chapter will be comprised of the introduction, overview of the research, background, and research objectives. The second chapter will detail the research methodology. The third chapter will present a literature review and theoretical background of the research. Fourth chapter will present the findings and analyze the data. Finally, chapter five will present the results and conclusions of the research.
Research Objectives
Investigate to what extent does the company care for its employees through its employees development plan
Identify the significance of employees development plan
Investigate practices of employees development plan
Evaluate the effectiveness of employees development
Identify most common barriers for employees development plan
Research Questions
What is the employees’ attitude towards the company regarding its employees’ development plan
How employees’ development plan benefits the objectives and goals of the company
What is the significance of employees’ development plan for both the company and its employees
To what extent do the employees consider the employees’ development plan at the company efficient
What are the common barriers associated with the employees’ development plan at the company
Literature Review
Definition of employee development plan
Employee development plan has been defined as a set of planned efforts by an organization which facilitates the learning and acquaintance of knowledge, specific skills and behaviors for its employees; all of which are essential for them to be successful in their current jobs (Goldstein, 1993). Dotta (2009) defines it as a “sequence of concurrent activities, initiatives and programs that an organization is involved with to maintain, improve and enhance the skills, capabilities and performance levels of its workforce and other staff members”. Employee development plan encapsulates various individual development plans. According to Department of Defense of USA (2006), an individual employee development plan is “a tailored written plan developed by the supervisor and employee outlining the employee’s developmental objectives and the developmental activity for achieving these objectives. The purpose of an employee development plan is to increase the current proficiency, development, and progression of the employee through a systematic development plan”.
Based on aforementioned definitions, several important points can be stated:
Employees’ development plan is aimed at enhancing the capabilities and competencies of an organization’s workforce.
Employees’ development plan is designed according to training and development need analysis and employee-supervisor negotiation; both of which are governed by organizational goals and objectives.
Employees’ development plan is also crucial for the progression of a career path. Indeed employees development plan and career path complement each other. Although it is not necessary that an employee development plan is linked to specific positions; it is common for organizations to train and develop their employees to occupy critical positions in future.
Employees’ development plan first identifies the developmental objectives of an organization’s workforce. These objectives form the basis of several developmental activities designed to achieve these objectives. It identifies why, what and how to enhance the capabilities and competencies of employees.
Significance of employee development plan
In today’s business environment, which is characterized as multi-faced, highly complex, extremely competitive, and dynamic, organizations are required to be very flexible and adaptable in order to survive and succeed. Employee development, a practice that seeks to assist organisations in meeting their business goals through continuous learning and development (Harisson, 2009) is a critical element for achieving that flexibility and adaptability. So much that often human resource development personnel are qualified as ‘agents of change’ (Harisson, 2009). It is only through continuous, effective learning and development of employees that modern day organizations can acquire the essential competencies to adapt to a new conjuncture.
Best Practices in Employee Development Plan
Numerous studies have recommended several successful approaches towards employee development programs. There is a general consensus among researchers regarding the foremost need for an organization to conduct an analysis of its existing needs and requirements (Jacobs and Jones, 1995; Clegg et al, 2005). According to Jacobs, (1995) an employee development can be rendered meaningless if it does not respond to the organizational needs. Existing needs and requirements can be identified through an effective market analysis, analysis of existing and future labor trends. (Clegg et al, 2005).
Apart from the needs’ assessment, several best practices have been identified by human resource practitioners and researchers. A survey of best practices of 71 companies practicing employee development activities identified three underlying factors important for an effective employee development plan. These are: (1) individual development plans should be developed for key and high potential employees (2) the individual development plans and practices should be strictly aligned with organizational strategies and goals, and (3) the entire workforce should be facilitated for its progression through the developmental process (Reynolds, 2005). Another study prepared by LSA Global (2008) reveals that an effective employee development plan should share the following characteristics:
(1) Strategy driven: employee development plans should be linked with business strategy
(2) Positive cost/benefit ratio: return on investment of employee development plan should be ensured
(3) Employee development plan should be supported by key strategies, systems, structures, policies, and practices.
(4) It should be driven through various channels apart from formal training.
(5) Employees’ abilities should be maximized through shared ownership of development plans
(7) Learning by doing: “real” tasks and on-the-job projects within training environment should be offered
(8) Knowledge and skills acquired should be transferred back to the job:
(9) Development plan should be linked to other people-related programs (for instance they should be conducted by line managers).
(10) Continuous learning process
Rationale for the Current Research
Although there is a large array of literature on human resource development, practitioners often come under criticism for doing very little to evaluate the learning and development solutions that have been designed to deliver whereby significant and often scarce resources are allocated blindly in development plans that are considered to be effective (Harisson, 2005). When undergoing financial stress, organizations often downsize human resource development budgets. Human resource development personnel undergo tight scrutiny in justifying their expenditures and are required to prove the effectiveness of their employee development plans. Thus evaluation of employee development plan is a viable solution.
The importance of evaluation in further signified as the learning and development theory and practices in the modern day is undergoing a considerable change in order to keep up with new circumstantial requirements. In fact, one of the major changes occurring nowadays and in the upcoming years is the organizational changes driven by ‘higher integration between coaching, organisational development (OD) and performance management’ (CIPD survey, 2010: pg.6). Similarly, Sloman (2007) made several important propositions regarding the ongoing change in the employee development practices and approaches (see appendix 1). The shift in the learning and development approach and employee development practices signifies the importance of evaluating the current practices of an organization to see whether they are abreast with the prevailing best practices.
Additionally, employee development approaches and practices of the oil and gas rich Middle Eastern countries and the Gulf Nations is an under-researched area in HRM literature. Moreover, the available literature regarding employee development practices generalizes the Middle East and the Arab World rather than addressing individual countries or companies (Harry, 2007). The existing gap in the literature pays way for the current proposed study to evaluate the employee development plan at Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia.
Research Methods and Approach
Research Philosophy
Identifying a research philosophy is imperative for designing a viable research method as it determines the manner in which information regarding a research problem/question is collected, evaluated and applied. Researcher have identified mainly three research philosophies namely positivist and interpretivist and realist (Galliers, 1991).
A positivist research philosophy perceives reality as a constant phenomenon; something that can be perceived objectively (Levin, 1988). It is a stance of a natural scientist. According to Hirschheim (1985 p.33), “positivism has a long and rich historical tradition. It is so embedded in our society that knowledge claims not grounded in positivist thoughts are simply dismissed as ascientific and therefore invalid”. Interpretivism, on the other hand, seeks to understand reality from a subjective perception in order to make sense of motives, actions and intentions of those that they study. They emphasize the social construct of the reality (Husserl, 1965). Interpretivists contend that reality and its perceptions can be better understood by placing people in their social contexts (Hussey and Hussey, 1997). Realists believe that the existence of reality is independent of human thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
The research philosophy underpinning the proposed research is interpretivism. The research aims to evaluate the employee development plan of Maersk Oil through the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of its employees, managers, and executives; thus it aims to gain subjective insights for evaluation.
Research Approach and Strategy
A research approach can be either deductive or inductive. The premise of a deductive approach is to test a hypothesis, explain casual relationships and enable generalization of a theory. On the other hand, inductive approach focuses upon building a theory by understanding a phenomenon or seeking an answer for a question. The approach adopted for the proposed research is inductive, as this study will look to identify the weaknesses or strengths or the current employee development plan at Saudi Aramco, and answer several proposed questions pertaining to its evaluation.
The research strategy for this study will be exploratory as it will aim at providing insights and understanding of the nature of the phenomenon under study in new light. Within the exploratory approach, this study will utilize both qualitative and quantitative data. On one hand, statistical analysis will carried out for the survey responses which will be distributed among the employees of a company, whilst interviews will be conducted with some senior officials and employees in order to gain insights regarding the evaluation of the employee development program. It will complement the understanding gained through the data analysis results.
Data Collection
According to Yin (1994), there are five ways of collecting data; these are “experimental, surveys, archival analysis, history, and case studies”. This research will utilize a survey strategy. According to Kelley et. al, (2003) “the survey strategy refers to the selection of a relatively large sample of people from a pre-determined population, followed by the collection of data from those individuals. The researcher therefore uses information from a sample of individuals to make some inference about the wider population”. For the purpose of evaluating the employee development plan, a questionnaire will be prepared, reviewed, and distributed to a random sample of Saudi Aramco employees. Survey strategy will allow the researcher to collect a large amount of data within in short time with minimum costs and efforts (Naresh et.al, 2003). Interviews, the qualitative form of collecting data within survey method, will be used concurrently. Semi-structured interviews will be designed and conducted of several senior officials at the company.
CIPD (2010), ‘Annual Survey Report : Learning and Talent Development’, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, {online}
http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/BC060DD1-EEA7-4929-9142-1AD7333F95E7/0/5215_Learning_talent_development_survey_report.pdf (cited on 13th September, 2012)
Clegg ,S. et all, 2005: Managing Organizations: An introduction to Theory and Practice. Sage
Cohen N., 2002?Pressure on AP Moller to Be Open,” Australasian Business Intelligence, April 23,
Department of Defense of USA (2006) The individual development. {online} http://www.usuhs.mil/chr/idp.pdf (cited on 13th September, 2012)
Dotta, P.(2009) ‘What Is an Employee Development Plan?’ {online}: http://www.ehow.com/about_5161579_employee-development-plan.html (cited on 13th September, 2012)
Goldstein I. L., 1993 “Training in Organizations” (3rd Ed.) Pacific Grove, California: Books Cole
Harrison, R. (2005) Learning and development. 4th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Harrison, R. (2009) Learning and development. 5th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Harry. W (2007) Employment Creation and Localization. The crucial human resource issue for GCC. Int Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol. 18, no.1, pp 132-146.
Husserl, E. (1965), Phenomenology and the crisis of philosophy, New York: Harper Torchbooks.
Hussey, J. & Hussey, R. (1997), Business Research: A practical guide for undergraduate and post-graduate students, London: MacMillan Press Ltd
Jacob, R L and Jones, M J. (1995) Structures on Job Training- Unleashing Expertise in the Work
Place. San Francisco. Berrett Koehler.
Kelley, K., Clark, B., Brown, V., and Sitzia, J (2003) Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research. Int. Journal for Quality in Health Care. Volume 15, Issue 3 Pp. 261-266.
Levin, D. M. (1988). The opening of vision: Nihilism and the postmodern situation.
London: Routledge.
LSA Global (2008) ‘Top 10 training best practices for effective learning and development programs’. {online} http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/abstract.aspx?docid=375846 (cited on 13th September, 2012)
Naresh,M. et.al.,(2003) Methodological issues in cross-cultural marketing research. International Marketing Review. 13 (5) 7-43
Reynolds, S.(2005) Training and development managers share best practices and courseware through LearnShare. Toledo Business Journal. 5(2) 155-163.
Saudi Aramco (2012) ‘About Us’ {online} http://www.saudiaramco.com/en/home.html (cited on 17th September, 2012).
Sloman, M. (2007) ‘The changing world of the trainer: emerging good practice’, Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.
Yin, R. K. (1994) Case Study Research. Design and Methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

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