Tag Archives: human resource development

UFHRD 2014: 4 June, parallel session on Theory & Foundations of HRD

We’re in to the next parallel sessions and again I’ll be taking short notes on these.

Discourses in HRD: Complexity, Continuity and Contradictions, Jean Kellie, Brian Milsom (University of Hull). The research was framed by the integrationist agenda of HRD with HRM and a functionalist approach around effectiveness and unitarist approach the deproblematises the ‘fit’ between the individual and organisation. The alternative is a critical perspective (Garavan 2007; Valentin 2006) drawing attention to the different meanings attached to HRD by different stakeholders. Researching HRD professionals and the discursive devices used in the promotion of HRD in organisations and how this is influenced by dominant discourses within organisations and this may result in competing and complementing discourses and how public and private discourses on HRD may be reconciled.
The research used 20 semi-structured interviews. Found evidence of competing discourses including tensions between organisational and individual discourses. In particular, linking identity troubles centred on the discursive practices of the HRD practitioners.

A Question of Identity: The Meanings of Identity and the Significance of Identity as a Theoretical Foundation for HRD, Russell Warhurst (University of Chester and Aalto University Finland). The study focuses on Management Development (MD) which is a major area of HRD activity as an empirical study on identity work. Brown 2014 meta-analysis of identities in organisations and much research in identities is on identity as an outcome of HRD interventions.

There are massive problems in issues of definitions of professional identity. This research adopts a constructivist perspective with identity as a project of becoming and identity work and hence identity shift. Identity is formed through discourse “it is through narrative that we define ourselves”.

Through the analysis of interview data, a sub-group of “higher than average” learners demonstrated considerable personal learning and team and organisational learning. These managers displayed certain distinct characteristics: strong sense of managerial sense – a differentiated sense of self; secure sense of managerial self – claimed selves to be creative change agents; evidence of self-doubt questioning their capabilities; and strong commitment to future managerial self – strong commitment to their managerial careers. These four facets can be understood as a precursor to an unusual appetite for learning and as new resources for identity work.

Gold and Holman (2001) management education should concentrate on the significance of identity for readiness to learn.

Q on whether found evidence of earlier identities that echoed forward to their managerial identities. Non-higher learners tended to maintain their earlier professional/ specialist identities.

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. [question of maintaining epistemological purity]

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?


Space & flows of practice: exploring the relationship between Web 2.0 technologies and a practice perspective on HRD.

Here is a paper abstract accepted for the upcoming UFHRD conference in Brighton:

This paper explores through an analysis of technology enhanced professional learning (TEPL) using social software a practice based approach to understanding and framing human resource development (HRD) and communities of HRD practitioners. Social software has been described as employing web 2.0 technologies in supporting ‘digital social networks’ supporting interactions between social entities (Kieslinger & Hofer 2007, p7) through computer-mediated-communication to form online communities (McAfee 2009). These technologies can include applications such as blogs and micro-blogs, discussion forum, wikis, etc. (Wagner & Bollojou 2005). The use of social media to enable collaborative and peer-to-peer professional development activities has become increasingly common in recent years (McCulloch, et al 2011; Bingham and Conner 2010).

The practice perspective perceives learning and knowledge as relational processes (Cook & Brown 2005) where learning is understood as a social, collective and active process. Learning and knowledge are not possessed (Cook & Brown 2005) but rather are something that people do together (Geiger 2009). In the context of TEPL it can be seen that the main mechanism of practice is textual (Koole 2010). Hakkarainen (2009) points specifically to technologies that generate epistemic artefacts providing a material representation in the digital world of agents’ intangible ideas. Online, such artefacts can be seen specificially as text or discourse objects (Bartel & Garud 2003). So through TEPL using social software, practices are interactions between people and these discourse objects (Orlikowski 2007; Hussenot & Missonier 2010). This interaction can be understood as a process of learning where actors in a network (Aceto et al 2010, p6):

…learn by making and developing connections (intentionally or not) between ideas, experiences, and information, and by interacting, sharing, understanding, accepting, commenting, creating and defending their own opinions, their viewpoints, their current situations and their daily experiences.

Furthermore, such objects and interactions generate consequences that are separate from the intentions of the original authors (Alvesson and Skoldberg 2009, p234).

Lawless et al (2011) describe human resource development as a social and discursive construct. HRD as a can be seen as a practice that is defined by how it is discussed and what discursive resources are mobilised in the practice of HRD (Francis 2007).

This paper explores how HRD practices are assembled in networks (Fenwick 2010) in open online environments for TEPL. The study research sites are two regular open Twitter “chat” events focused on HRD practices and as a learning resource for participating in the events. The research approach uses Actor-Network Theory as a socio-material and practice framework operationalised using Discourse Analysis. The research analyses the interactions between people and discursive objects to explore how HRD practices are identified and framed.

The research finds that specific networks evolved within the “chat” events as actors sought the enrolment of others through processes of translation (Mitev 2009). The dominant discourses of HRD as performance based were replicated (Lawless, et al 2011; Francis 2007). Common discursive repertoires between the two sets of event participants were identified and a number of common viewpoints taken as black-boxed “givens” that acted as obligatory passage points for participants to pass through to be enrolled in specific networks. Clear positions of identity discourses emerged to differentiate members from “others” outside the specific communities (Bragd et al 2008). Noted ‘other’ actors included (pejoratively) ‘management’ and ‘regulations/ compliance’ requirements. A distinction could also be noted in how certain HRD practices were discussed as being for a more particular group of actors able to engage effectively in self-directed learning as against those perceived as lacking the competences to engage in such learning activities.

Rather than realizing the democratic potential of the “architecture for participation” of web 2.0 (Martin et al 2007), the research found that strategies for the containment or management of discursive struggles were often mobilised (Alvesson & Deetz 2000; Alesson & Wilmott 2002) to generate a “co-ordinated management of meaning” (Oswick & Robertson 2009, p186) in the framing of HRD practices. So, as has been argued with workplace learning in general, these open environments for professional development are socially constructed and regulated learning spaces (Billet 2004, p320). Discourse objects act as boundary objects (Denham 2003), a space of negotiation, translation and tensions between actors where (Antonacopoulou 2005, p5):

…tensions capture both the socio-political forces as well as the ‘elasticity’ and fluidity of organizing as different processes and practices connect to provide new possibilities.

Furthermore, the framing of HRD practices could not be identified through the development of a single discourse object but rather as an accumulation of micro-practices of individual actors (Pachler & Daly 2009). So the learning network assemblages framing HRD practices can be understood as textscapes (Keenoy and Oswick 2004) whereby HRD practices can be understood in a particular way in that particular virtual space at that particular time. Thus, a focus of analysis is placed on what Scardamalia & Bereitner (2008) termed ‘ideational content’ focusing on the linkages and patterns between utterances rather than specific text objects themselves. Actors could be identified operating as generalisers summarizing and “black-boxing” certain practices while localisers attempting to translate generalized practices to local micro contexts (Nicolini 2009). So HRD practice can be framed as rhizomatic (Cormier 2008) in that is shaped, reshaped and negotiated by actors in the practice at that time and space.

So it is suggested here that HRD practices can be conceived as the practices of the bricoleur who (Wiseman 2000):

…works with materials that are always second hand … The bricoleur is in possession of a stock of objects (a “treasure”). These possess “meaning” in as much in as much as they are bound together by a set of possible relationships, one of which is concretised by the bricoleur’s choice.

This paper argues that analysing the discursive strategies of actors in open web 2.0 spaces provides an opportunity to analyse discourses of HRD practices as they emerge through the interaction of actors within networks; that these networks and learning practices extend beyond specific organisational or institutional boundaries and that these discursive practices are rhizonomic and hence what can be framed as practices of HRD is in a constant state of fluidity. HRD practices can be understood as bricolage whereby HRD practice is constantly in an “interactive moment” (Shotter 1993, p3). However, it is also suggested that such networks of HRD practices are sites of discursive struggles that can be (unconsciously) contained to inhibit expansive learning (Fuller & Unwin (2004) and constrain new opportunities.  Furthermore, this paper argues that HRD practices and practitioners need to engage with the flows of knowledge interactions and artefacts as they form wider networks of learning that flow beyond, across and between the traditional boundaries of the organisational structure.