UFHRD Conference 6 June 2013

Day two of the UFHRD Conference at Brighton University Business School.

The opening Keynote is by Prof. Aleksy Pocztowski speaking on “Adding Value from HRD in International Assignments”. Talking about HRD at work and as a part of the HR function and general management in the context of international assignments. There is a case to be made for the role of HRD in supporting value creation in international assignments. The presentation is based on a review of the literature and some initial research on international assignments.

The international dimension of HRD: involves a range of intervention including formal education, training and development, learning processes and managing change. The scope of HRD is flexible and can range from issues of training through learning processes to HRD strategy design. HRD in international context is not just an issue for MNC’s but also for smaller * medium sized enterprises.

Challenges from the international working for HRD include barriers to communication, cultural issues including prejudices but there are also opportunities in terms of creativity, flexibility, talent development and attraction.

The dilemma for HRD in terms of its growing importance in terms of contemporary challenges while at the same time, there is doubt in the capability of HRD to create and supply added value in practice.

International assignments (IA) tend to be short-term to longer-term assignments but also the emergence of alternative forms of IA such as international commuter, virtual assignments etc.. These require different HRD interventions. IA undertaken for a number of reasons including market expansion, knowledge transfers, employee development, control of subsidiaries, transfer organisational cultures. Notes that lack of local talent is a less prominent in reasons for IA. The challenges for expats in IA include language and cultural differences, interpersonal relationships with key stakeholders which point to importance of new competences in international environment.

Success factors in IA are organisational; individual and social. More specifically the research identified the main success factors are individual and social competences and motivation while problem areas include under-defined goals and lack of organisational support. Most important individual factors include motivation,  family situation and language competence, persistence/ resilience.

The role of HRD divided in to three subprocess – preparation, expatriation, repatriation.

Preparation include job design, competence development, recruitment and selection.

Expatriation: HRD support adaptation to host country including culture-shock and maintaining work-life balance

Repatriation: support for reverse culture-shock, staff retention (especially for medium sized enterprises).

HRD also has a role in learning performance and change management in IA.

Typical HRD interventions include provision of training; coaching/ mentoring; performance support; career development and change management. HRD as learning strategy development and as change agent and general operational role. HRD practices such as individual and group development, OD, etc located in HR function so HRD overlapping with HRM processes.

Their research found that IA tended to be mainly supported by central HR functions rather than HR subsidiaries or external providers. So relationship between HR HQ and subsidiary is crucial in all three stages of IA (preparation, expatriation, repatriation).

Conclusions: the success of IA requires motivated and competent people although this is not always met; for HRD a key challenge is providing added value to  individuals and organisations and there is a need for further development of the evidence base and development of the international HRD as an academic domain.


1. is there a role for HRD in developing families for IAs?

There is an issue for the role of HRD outside work and some MNCs do provide development to families. However, alternative forms of IA become less problematic in terms of family impact.


We’re now having a short briefing on a conference to take place in Krakow, Poland on International Human Resource Management 24-27 June 2014. This will be the latest of the IHRM conferences running since 1980s. Krakow has five Universities including one of the oldest in Europe. The host of the conference is Krakow University of Economics. The conference will focus on the challenges of globalisation and internationalisation as well the affects of current economic difficulties across the globe.


Now on to the main paper sessions with Jamie Callaghan on the “Paradigm & Practice of Critical HRD Research: competing interests?”. HRD as a field emerged in 1960s with an ultimate focus on performance improvement in organisations. Critical HRD (CHRD) emerged in 1990s as challenge to performative discourse predominantly in Europe/ UK than USA. CHRD combines critical management studies and critical pedagogies with a focus on meaningfulness, the individual employee and challenging dominant paradigms – whose interests do we servc?

There have been limited explorations of how CHRD might differ from HRD research in general (Valentin 2006). But emphasis of CHRD is anti-positivist so tend to exclude quantitative approaches. CHRD tends to be dialogical and phenomenological and do may be seen as inherently qualitative.

But does argue that a critical constructivist approach may include quantitative methods as a means to generate change in a language (numbers) that may persuade senior executives.

The research has taken a large data set of interview data analysed using quantitative methods to highlight differences of oppression from the data for LGBT people.

The key is to use any method available to leverage actual change.


1. Surely all research in HRD as an applied domain should be to affect change? Also suggests that CHRD as cited above is a critical emancipatory HRD and that is what makes it different from HRD research and privileges research where the aim is to discover and revealing something to lead to some form of emancipation. Is this what you are arguing as quantitative methods doesn’t sit with this privileging of emancipation.

One of the criticisms of CHRD and critical research is the lack of praxis – that is application of the research. What is important is what you achieve in terms of emancipation not the process/ methods used to leverage such change. For example, the use of quantitative analysis of CEO pay to highlight pay inequalities and the payment of bonuses where company performance declining.

2. How is meaningfulness conceptualised in CHRD?

Acknowledge that meaningfulness is a loaded term to use.

Now o to Rob Poell talking on the role of HRD in organisational change and the professional development strategies of the actors in an organisation. The paper is based on a case study of a change study looking at professional development study. The paper has been accepted as a chapter in a book by Stephen Billlets on professional adult education.

HRD is thought of as tool of management to support change but the evidence of impact is limited and could this gap be explained through perspectives and approaches to organising professional development. That professional development is seen as too didactic and should be seen as a more strategic and micro-political endeavour.

There are three main approaches to professional development from a more training focus to a learning focus and then on to a proposed strategic and micro-political focus to HRD. The learning perspective tends to focus n self-regulated learning and self-directed learning in work so the manager facilitates process and HRD acts as a coach and learners and self-directed partners. The micro-political framework focuses on negotiation of HRD processes and content to advance processes of different stakeholders. The organisation is a constellation of competing actors and facilities.

The HRD processes are made up of organisation structure and culture; actors are concerned with their views and position in the organisation; HRD processes are structured around learning paths and programmes. Actors are key in terms of negotiating between the other two categories. So a key concern is with interactions between actors to develop HRD processes along with HRM and work processes. Also of importance is the creation of the learning programme which is a way of creating experiences for other employees as either explicit learning activities or implicit experiences such as work place experiences that people learn from. So includes both creating and directing experiences.

The case study is an organisational change project of about two years duration to introduce a new working method for healthcare workers. Key question is how the individual workers created their own learning programmes in the context of the change programme. Involved 5 teams of about 15 people each with a team leader. The workforce was well educated and professional.

Learning may occur in 1:1 sessions with a work counsellor (supervisor?), team meetings and ad hoc training. Professional development tended to be self-directed although there was some support and direction from the organisation.

The learning programme was organised to promote the new working method based on a manual developed by experts that management wanted to  implement. A project group was formed but with limited input from workers. A highly systematic learning programme was devised including identification of learning topics and learning groups were formed.

The programme had positive feedback but many learning plans not implemented as intended. For example, individual learning plans were not developed and goals of the programme were shifted over the two year period.

A qualitative study was undertaken from the employee perspective. Five learning pathways were identified:

1. a practice-orientated learning path focused on improving daily work processes

2. knowledge-orientated learning path – seeking new scientific insights/ learning new knowledge

3. job-orientated learning path – career focused rather than learning focused

4. socia-orientated learning path – focused on skills of collaboration

5. personal learning path – focused on their private lives

But many had no real learning theme.

Conclusions: learning programme was centralised and systematic. Learning groups acted as platforms for departmental and team learning plans not individual learning plans. So individuals generated own learning paths through the programme. HRD practitioners aligned with a managerial view of the learning programme as a tool to implement new work practices but also tried to support individual professional development.

Individual participation in the programme varied in terms of approaches to professional development but many workers did not consider their professional development through the learning programme. So learning programmes are a key platform for professional development but professional development is individually directed and so can differ from intent of management and HRD. So learning programme implementation can be ‘unfaithful’ to the intention of the programme but allowing that flexibility does enable individuals to pick-up aspects of the changes while a more directive approach may well lead to rejection of the overall learning programme.

Questions/ discussion:

1. This research points to the importance of mid-mgt as main points of providing the flexibilities that make these learning programmes valuable.

Rob agrees that the role of middle managers was evident in the case programme.

2. Also the flexibility of leanring paths may reflect the learning preference of participants (and hence to eg, MBTI type assessments).

3. Could learning preferences also be influenced by profession/ industries?

4. There was little evidence of control of learning paths

5. Did the individuals suggest ways they would prefer to be supported given that individual learning plans did not materialise?


Now time for a coffee break


Back now at 2pm for the next keynote from Prof. Wayne Cascio on “Investing in HRD in Uncertain Times”

We are all interested in HRD to have an impact and create a legacy on peoples’ lives. We are currently living in uncertain times and as a result, decision-makers become scared and consumers want to save money given  high levels of debt to GDP, uncertainty in regulation, taxes including corporate taxes.

There have been a number of changes alongside these relevant to HRD in terms of workforce demographics and technological change alongside globalisation leading to increase competition for jobs. Also point to the impacts on industries on technological change citing iTunes’ impact on record sales, separate cameras also declined as a market due to the rise of smart phones. Companies a desperate to be seen to a good employer to be able to access global pools of talent.

Three more big changes: (1) increase workforce flux with increased worker demands/ expectations as well as increases in mobile, contractor workforce; (2) diversity as a result of global labour markets leading to greater cultural diversity of the workforce; (3) managers less defined by technical skills and more by emotional and cultural awareness and relationship building skills – see for example Google’s project oxygen – the best managers allow their employees to breathe and be a person. Which provides important opportunities for HRD.

Changes to the labour market (see Academy Management Annual) and rise of labour market intermediaries, eg recruitment agencies, online job boards, headhunters etc.

Other intermediaries include LinkedIn, temporary help agencies to manage changes in labour demand and in Europe about 30% of the workforce are temporary.

And companies that train people less are those that use more temporary workers as they are unwilling to provide firm-specific training. So those with longer-term relations with the employer and in mission-critical workers are the ones to receive training.

Changes in HRD expenditure:

2008 – 9 saw a decline of 11% decline in HRD spend each year but since has been increasing mirroring growth in global economy. Training still is a neccesssity given the declining half-life of knowledge.

New trends: (1) new public-private partnerships (see Airbus Alabama where the state is funding a training centre to retain Airbus in the State); (2) building a local workforce or labour pools through “near-job” training. Higher value jobs still require to be sourced from wider global labour pools.

So workplaces are more transient, borderless and seamless (24/7).

Developments in technology: (1) rise of the internet as 2006 – 2011 where the proportion of the global population with access to the internet has risen from 18% to 35%; (2) growth of cloud competing where storage, processing and managing data is handled by networks on the internet giving companies and consumers access to cheap and unlimited storage. This is projected to grow to 2.5bn people using cloud computing across 15bn devices by 2015.

So 21st century organisations increasingly flat and extended to consumers, suppliers etc… places an emphasis on managing such networks being as important as managing internal organisational operations. This places a focus on the complexities of such a networked world. Players are becoming more interdependent.

Companies are substituting capital for labour with expectations of doing more with fewer workers as well as replacing workers with those with competences required by these newer economies. 95% of workers who lost their jobs were in mid-skills occupations and if unemployed for 6 months + then tend to require major skills re-training. This presents HRD challenges and opportunities to make a significant contribution to societal wellbeing. The expectations that innovations/ transformations will continue.

Innovations in HRD:

Technology Delivered Instruction (TDI) to build job relevant knowledge and skills. TDI is a significant growth area and reflects the demands for flexibility from the workforce. Alongside increase demand for just-in-time training delivery and so increase in supply opportunities as access to the internet becomes increasingly ubiquitous (at least in the more developed world). Workers want flexible access to learning. Also cites MOOCs as a tremendous threat to higher education and the debate on the awarding of credits and the protection of university reputations. For example, Boeings’ training on the dreamliner to provided through TDI usin interactive 3D environments and is made available to them on a memory stick to provide on-demand knowledge and training. The big question is whether TDI provides a pay-off in terms of: self-efficacy – 20% higher for TDI users; knowledge; skills; understanding and retention were all higher for TDI. Also haptic technologies provide an even more effective for learning and active involvement is a key variable.

Social media for learning: especially through technology enabled collaboration: 2007 only 7% used wikis in a learning environment which increased to 24% in 2012; 2007 11 % companies used CoPs and communities of interest in learning environments which increased to 33% in 2012. In 2012 26% of US organisations use social media for employee development initiatives (see O’Leonard 2013).  But formal training is not going away but rather social media is being used as a complement to more traditional HRD. Intergenerational learning is also important including reverse mentoring.

But what is the relative effectiveness of such tools and have the most impact on long-term learning and training transfer, what factors and circumstances provide more effective learning?

Developing leaders in an uncertain world: the best companies in leadership development see greater market value. For example, P&G has a razor like focus on succession planning seen through promoting from within and managers cannot be promoted until their reports are ready for promotion.

General Electric provide extensive technology to deliver leadership development and spend $1bn per annum

IBM ha a long history of leadership development including extensive action learning initiatives working on real business problems as well as having a strong succession planning focus.

Common features: strong senior management commitment; tied to business strategy; provide a lot of feedback to employees; promote experimentation and willing to make investments in development.

So in an uncertain world, HRD spend may decline in the short-term but no evidence of longer-term declines. But HRD needs to meet the new challenges of new organisational forms, new technologies and the pace of change is not going to decline.

But can soft skills and mentoring/ coaching does not transfer as effectively to online environments?


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