Tag Archives: UFHRD2014

UFHRD 2014: 6 June, key note on Exploring HRD Wendy Ruona

The talk aims to discuss the identity of HRD and on its values and practices and whether it should professionalise;  exploring the border zone of sociology of knowledge and landscape of the professions; and in searching for a frame for further conversation and development of the ideology and culture of HRD.

HRD has a strong sense of identity: “we know who we are” as human and organisational development (Hamlin & Stewart 2011) identified common core themes of developing knowledge, skills and competence along with work-related systems and learning in work. Furthermore, the debates on learning and performance are replicated in the literature but that is combined in many definitions so that debate appears to be resolved.

HRD struggled to identify the phenomena of study with an ideology of why we’re interested in the phenomena. The construction of HRD has been validated in both practice and research since 1989 with McLagan’s HR wheel which is research based rather than being a conceptual definition.  Gosh et al 2013 reviewed four journals over ten years and identified training & learning as key themes of the field.

But by positioning HRD as about both individual and organisational development generates a complex and dynamic subject discipline in “the meat grinder”. Also as HRD emerged from training there is a struggle to integrate OD and training and a question on whether this integration is really being explored  in depth.

In relation to this is the question of whether HRD is a generalist of specialist subject. So should HRD programmes include instructional design learning technology but this pushes against the limited time available on programmes against the breadth of subjects to cover. This pushes HRD towards generalisation and may disadvantage student in the job market as they lack of specialist knowledge and skills. This issue is reflected also in research in HRD that lacks a unique disciplinary frame – research could ‘fit’ across many domains of the social sciences – and this breadth may also be shallow compared to other disciplines.

There has also been the emergence of national HRD asking questions on the boundaries of HRD into workforce development and national policies.

The second question is whether HRD is a profession as a self-controlled occupation, that the identity of professions is more concerned with power of control over the work (Friedson 2001). So lawyers and medics control their work. So is HRD specialised, has formal education, executive jurisdiction, sheltered position and an ideology of doing good.

The audience feedback on these characteristics:

– is HRD work specialised: our work is diffused across performance management, quality improvement, change management but there are some areas of specialised practices. So are there specialisms within the umbrella of HRD but are these specialised enough? But is there advantage in being in the space between professions.

– we don’t have executive jurisdiction as the client controls our work

– we don’t have sheltered position as other communities of practice encroaching into the HRD ‘space’ such as change managers, OD, learning design. HRD is seen as a sub-set of HRM

– formal training by occupation: yes,  but in multiple locations across business schools and in education schools and that space in HE is small and tenuous. Also training is not required to practice HRD nor to be successful in HRD

– an ideology of doing good and quality work which also has an altruistic component as contributing to something that society values. While we espouse this, there is a tension with the lack of executive jurisdiction as well as the difficulties of what *is* good work.

So we’d have to conclude that HRD is not a profession.

Are we a discipline? That is constructed by academia as a “branch of knowledge” and we probably are a discipline by the newer and looser definitions. HRD has an identity, cultural attributes, shared objects of study and disciplinary stance along with artefacts of journals, conferences etc. But HRD is not a strong discipline. Using Becher and Trowler (2001) schema we are more fragmented, permeable, unstable and complex.

Also raising the issue of the relationship with human resources (HR) as HRD/ OD ascended the corporate ladder to be more strategic and so converged towards HR. This was validated in a 2008 study with a strong emphasis on internal  consulting to help managers solve people problems. So former management consultants are getting these strategic roles which further dilutes the occupational identity of HR/D.

HRD also relates closely with other specialisms including HR; OD; instructional design, etc……

The issue of professional identity is increasingly important and the social construction of identity should be more central to professional education in HRD. Practitioners experience persistent identity struggles as eg, asHR, or a consultant or your knowledge is too broad and too shallow.

If professional identity is a choice in a pluralistic world then how are we preparing our students for this? Especialy how are we supporting students to act as boundary spanners and integrate new knowledge while maintaining a professional identity.

Future paths for HRD:

1. that we narrow and consolidate back to training and learning

2. focus on the integrated T&D with OD

3. different stance and give up the quest to be a profession and acknowledge there is no such thing as a HRD frame and so expect our students to be boundary spanners across professional domains. We should focus on the discipline of HRD as practice rather than a profession.

Q: on spanning between HE and practitioner?

Comment: that we are already heading down the third path of giving up on being defined as a profession. HRD is a network of networks.

But there is an increased recognition of the value of learning and development specialists including instructional design by businesses. Also recognising that OD is more integrating with concerns of individual learning and development.

A further reflection is that newer scholars have been overly concerned with disciplinary ‘neatness’ rather than entrepreneurial boundary spanning.

UFHRD 2014: 5 June, key note on HRD research and design science, Prof Eugene Sadler-Smith

Back at the UFHRD conference and the post-lunch key note address.

Change dthe title to “(Quite) grupy old men, mars bars and epistemology”. Noted a slide from a talk yesterday as a list of critics of HRD: the grumpy old men including “Sadler-Smith 2014”!

Looked at the issue of relevance and rigour in HRD and critiqued by academics as overly descriptive, needs ot be evidence based and criticised as ambiguous over goals and how to achieve them. But these issues have been present since the foundation of HRD academic journals. It is time to find a solution to the double-bind of relevance and rigour.

Could design science be a productive line of inquiry to resolve some of these issues in HRD research.

Design science positioned in terms of explanatary sciences and field problems and artefacts. Looking to SImon’s work on ‘.sciences of the artificial’. Simon distinguishes between explanatory sciences that describe, explain and preduct the natural and social worlds. While design science is concerned with developing actionable knowledge for designing solutions in the real work (field problems). But these interact, eg, Newton’s second law (explanatory) is used in air travel / engineering (design science), or at the Forth Road Bridge as a solution to the field problem of trains crossing the Firth of Forth. Engineering is a design science as is medicine and more recently in education and management. Leads to the question of what are the field problems in education or management, eg, teaching complicated problem-solving, how to plan for complexity/ uncertainty.

In the case of the design science perspective for HRD, what might be the field problems of research and professional practice? But proactice can be seen as a distinctive component from the research where practice is applied knowledge.

Which brings us to the issue of the artefact. Artefacts have a purpose in addressing a field problem and so are moulded to the context, eg, sunglasses moulded by sunshine. But what artefacts does HRD produce (eg, learning materials, procedures, products…) as central to the process of design.

It is also worth noting that design science is not ‘mode 2’ research as design science is concerned with the product of research, nor applied science and not action research but can be related to all of these.

How to do design science:

1. design proposition; 2. design science logic; 3. testing the logic and 4. applying the logic. The design proposition depends on a logic pf prescription (in this context, use this intervention to generate this desired outcome by achieving a specific mechanism). Creates a logic of Context, Intervention, Mechanism, Outcome (CIMO). Management and HRD literature tends to focus on intervention and outcomes and so ignores the generative mechanisms as these are grounded in explanatory science (as well as decontextualised). It raises the question of what is meant by theory in a CIMO logic.

In the application of the CIMO logic, multiple interventions are often required. This fits well with HRM in terms of strategic HRM/D discussions of bundles of interventions/ practices. Eg, Hodgkinson and Healey (2008) used psychology theory to develop design propositions for scenario planning.

Simon: the essence of the design problems resides in assemblages of components.

Testing the CIMO logic depends in locating generalisations valid across different contexts and is pluralistic in termsof methods. In education, use design based research, using a VLE in science education to promote complex inquiry skills – generates generalised findings and falsifiability.

HRD research and design science – is it of any use? Since 2007 there have been some papers referring to design science in the HRD journals.

But management academia privilege the eexplanatorysciences over design sciences (Van Aken 2005). Design science may assists HRD in overcoming issues of relevance to practitioners in the production of actionable knowledge.

The epistemological implications of a design science in terms of what knowledge is and how it might be created – is there a specific type of HRD knowledge and theory to be produced. Researchers should co-create with practitioners on developing design propositions and that interventions are tested in multiple contexts.

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 2014: 4 June, parallel session on Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation

We’ve now moved to the parallel sessions and I’ll be taking short notes on these.

We’re starting with Lynne Booth, Michelle Blackburn and Simon Warwick (Sheffield Hallam) on the effective use and assessment of web-based collaborative learning. The learning intervention was in the context of a UG programme on business and human resources and the development of a first year course. Also positioned in the context of a institutional emphasis on employability and the student experience to develop tangible evidence of the HR knowledge of students. So the course was based on the production of HR websites by the student groups using Google Sites so outside the VLE but able to use Sites templates.

While group work was popular but not for assessment due to social loafing (and emphasised by employers) so generated a way of differential marking. Groups were self-selected by should be mixed gender and mixed culture with an aim for authentic learning to enhance employability.

The websites were tone developed as a response to a development need identified by a fictional HR manager by email.

Students also had to create a academic reflection on the sites produced.

Students tended not to react to formative feedback but did appear to have a positive effect on placement rates but was difficult to mark. Little evidence of social loafing.

There remains an issue on scalability and support from learning technologists for staff and students. Also, all other modules use more traditional assessments.

Placing the Transfer of Learning at the Heart of HRD Practice with Vivienne Griggs, Dianne McLaren, Barbara Nixon, Joanna Smith of Leeds Met but the research involves both Synaptic Change Ltd and Connecting Housing on testing a transfer of learning model. The research on the model is framed by issues of alignment between L&D and business strategy as well as the use of big data in evaluation of L&D. The model was based on the importance of the line manager in L&D in embedding training and development outcomes in BAU. Also sought to embed evaluation as a process in L&D interventions.

A key focus was to define success criteria for the individual, the trainer, the line managers and the organisation which can be a challenge.

The training was on having difficult conversations which was followed by stakeholder focus groups and interviews on how effective the model was seen for transferring and embedding training and learning. A stakeholder approach including the trainees in defining success criteria was important in the overall success of the intervention. However, there was little preparation by line managers for the transfer of training. Line managers seemed disengaged from the use of the training but peer support was effective. A trainee comments that they would want their manager involved!

There is an issue of scaling the process to larger organisations. Further development to involve sustainability of impacts and supporting peer-support.

Return on Investment: Contrary to Popular Belief, MOOC’s Are Not Free with Marie A. Valentin, Fred Nafukho, Celestino Valentin Jr., Detra Johnson, John LeCounte (Texas A&M) started with a introduction to MOOCs and the research questions on the true costs of MOOCs and the direct and indirect ROE based on Human Capital Theory. The research seemed to be

MOOC providers making revenue from credits; certification; but also recruitment services pay a fee for data on users, text book sales by linking the course to the text book; selling data to third parties and claims for HEI recruitment to mainstream programmes. This was a work-in-progress and was very much orientated to xMOOCs and the VC-backed US MOOC providers.

UFHRD Conference : 4 June 2014, opening key note

The conference welcome is from Dave McGuire of Edinburgh Napier University including a short welcome video prepared by one of his students with a good number of talking heads.

The opening key note address is by Prof Jonathon Passmore [JP] with the title: “Coaching Research: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.

The session looks at coaching research especially on coaching in organisations and a critical review of the literature but is these on the good, the bad and the ugly and

1. why research coaching
2. what makes for good quality coaching research
3. key themes in coaching research and
4. suggested direction of research for the coming decade.

Why research is a question he asks in organisations with the response of there’s no need as “we know it works”. But coaching involves risks and there is a need to demonstrate effectiveness and ROI with positive outcomes for individuals and organisations. But this is difficult in terms of agreeing participation, problems of measurement of intangible benefits which can be difficult to publish.

The quality of research depends on the research question that is clearly defined and bounded; that the research method is appropriate, clearly described for purposes of replication and correctly executed; that results are compared with and positioned within earlier research and that conclusions are appropriate and not over-claiming as well as identifying new questions.

Critical questions to ask f the results from research is to query whether a placebo effect is occurring or that other factors contaminated the research, i.e., other training going on or selection of high performers leading to positive outcomes. Also, can the research be replicated. But few studies meet these criteria.
Can look at phases of coaching studies: phase 1 involving case studies and surveys; phase 2 involves theory development through qualitative research which is valuable in immature research areas like coaching – putting up a straw man to be challenged; phase 3 has seen initial randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and a small-scale (25 – 40 people) but provides important evidence on individual and psychological impacts; phase 4 sees larger RCTs (Passmore & Rehman 2012) and phase 5 sees an increased use of meta-analysis and includes the increase ease of access to data sources as well as the impacts of the ‘computational turn’.

These studies have identified a number of popular themes of coach behaviour attracting lots of papers as did the coach-client relationship. But only limited research on client decision-making on coaching and an increase in research on the impact of coaching.

Coach behaviour research, e.g., Hall et al (1999) involving interviews of coaches and clients identified some tentative behaviours but has been validated by future studies especially around the discursive and collaborative approaches and the power relations and dynamics to work collaboratively. Probing and challenge is an emerging area as a distinction from the empathy focus of counselling. JP cites client work and that senior leaders relish challenge. Aspects of confidentiality are critical to effective coaching including risky behaviour as well as commercial confidentiality and maintaining professional distance is also important in the evidence of effective coaching.

Literature on the coach and coach relationship focus on the develop of an alliance between coach and coach but little evidence of what factors make a successful relationship although these can be inferred from other studies, e.g., empathy

Outcome studies (McGivern et al 2001) as a ROI study based on Jack Philips method of ROI leading to an estimate based approach and then decided to cut the number in half – although this was not really justified. JP assessed this as twaddle and rubbish and we need different methods for HRD (the bad research).

Identified 156 outcome studies between 1998 & 2010. Of these, most are small-scale with 30 or so participants and some RCTs. Miller used quasi-experimental study and found no statistical significance on a beneficial impact of coaching but this may be that the coaching intervention was limited and didn’t lead to behavioural change or that managers tended to revert to a more directive styles. Also. a lot of RCT studies involve students not in organisations but these did show psychological benefits of coaching around resilience and mental health. Passmore & Rehman (2012) RCT of military drivers found that a coaching approach reduced time for training and success rates increased.

Some outcome studies have involved longitudinal research evidencing a longer-term effect of coaching that may indicate that coaching is more effective, deeper learning and greater behavioural change than training interventions.

But coaching still only has a small number of studies and these have a small sample sizes compared to studies in health settings. e.g., conducting RCTs in organisations is difficult. Also, the isolation of variables and factors of interest can be difficult (Hawthorne effect), outcome study methods are often not fully described and that research is often undertaken by champions of coaching with inevitable biases.

Meta-analysis research, e.g., De Meuse, Dai and Lee (2009) but this was only based on four papers only so interesting in terms of being a meta-analysis but based on very little data (the ugly). Teeboon, et al (2013) and Jones (in press) more robust papers. Teeboon found positive benefits  around factors such as coping, goal directed and self-regulation, performance, attitudes and well-being at about the same level as other L&D interventions. So coaching is one of a number of effective interventions available for L&D practice. Jones study is of 24 RCT studies and looked at effect size on style of coaching and found a larger effect size of internal coaches compared to external coaches. Jones found that coaching had a medium to strong positive impact but the findings should be treated with caution given the small number of papers used.

The future of coaching research may be dominated by either (a) a business school use of case studies; (b) an organisational psychology approach model that disconnects scholarship from practice; (c) a medical based approach with an emphasis on evidence based practice that informs experts including scholar-practitioners.

Research needs to aim for larger RCTs involving random allocations involving two or more interventions, a control group and placebo group. Research needs to identify factors for effective coaching. Need larger scale meta-analysis to identify impact effect sizes.

This will improve understanding of efficacy and appropriateness of coaching or other interventions  and then which approaches to coaching are appropriate for different needs and which coaching behaviours are most effective. Also, identifying when is a client ready for coaching in terms of the individual and the organisation (i.e., as managerial support and a supportive culture). Lastly coach behaviour research underpins PG programmes and by professional body competence.